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The oldest, most complete Gospel book on Earth is in Ethiopia

Daniel Esparza - published on 07/06/16

The “Garima Gospels” are dated somewhere in between the years 330 and 650

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The world’s earliest known illustrated copy of the Gospels, the Garima Gospels, has been saved for centuries in a remote Ethiopian monastery.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.
Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

The astonishingly beautiful Garima Gospels are named after a monk, Abba Garima, who arrived in Ethiopia in 494, from Constantinople. Legend says he copied the Gospels in just one day because God delayed the sun from setting so the monk could finish his work. The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery, near Adwa, in northern Ethiopia at 7,000 feet.

Sixth century portrait illumination of Mark from Gärima 2, likely the earlier of the two Gärima Gospels
Sixth century portrait illumination of Mark from Gärima 2, likely the earlier of the two Gärima Gospels

The survival of the book is the more surprising considering all throughout its history, the country has suffered different invasions, and that, in 1930, a fire destroyed the monastery’s church.

Carbon tests give a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia.
Picasa 3.0
Carbon tests give a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia.

It is not as if these texts were forgotten or unknown. Actually, they have been often mentioned by travelers since the 1950’s (in particular, the British art historian Beatrice Playne) but they were thought to be dated from the 11th century, at the earliest. Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia, according to a post originally published by Ancient Origine.

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