Historical and Philological Analysis of Mäṣəḥafä Ḥaṣ urä Mäsqäl: From the Comparative Perspective of Four Manuscripts

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Addis Ababa University


The Ḥaṣurä Mäsqäl (Lit.Fence of the Cross) is the general title of a group of Gə’əz prayer texts that glorify and praise the cross; meant for prayer and worship. The four versions of this text, two authored by the Prophet Jeremiah; and the others by unknown author(s), have the form of hymns or long prayers with distinctive “protective” features “against evil and enemies”. The Ḥaṣurä Mäsqäl is one of the countless unstudied literary resources available in Gə’əz, an ancient and rich Ethiopian language; deserving exploration to answer questions that have relevance to the religious and secular understanding of the country. This thesis research was hence undertaken with the objective of making an analysis of the philological and historical context of the text; specifically: (i) to give a general description; and (ii) to compare and contrast the four versions of the book to show similarities and differences of ḤM. A comparative study of the four MSS found: one in Gojjam at Adet, two at the National Archives Library of Ethiopia, and the fourth one at the Institute of Ethiopian studies was conducted. The main data sources were the four versions of the Ḥaṣurä Mäsqäl, which were documented through digital meanses, copied to a computer and translated into English. This was complemented by additional information obtained from resourceful persons of the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥədo Church (EOTC) and data analyzed qualitatively. Descriptions of the manuscripts are provided by indicating, in some cases, number of pages, the materials used, the contents and dates; and presented in Gə’əz with its transliteration and translation in English. Linguistic properties in terms of phonetic, morphology and syntax have also been studied. The contents have been presented in Gə’əz and English; followed by differences and similarities among the texts; and lastly, the historical, religious and cultural values delineated. The analysis made led to the following conclusions: a) the four versions mostly begin in a similar way usually in the Name of the Trinity, one God; b) the ḤM as compared with similar religious texts is a holy book which subscribes to the teachings of the Church; c) agrees with the historical, Biblical, religious, cultural and other interpretations of the Church; and it may be the only book that presents such a serious and detailed discourse on the Holy Cross; d) it teaches how to exercise devotion to God, fasting, praying, and believing regularly; e) covers the doctrine of God (Theology), the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Christology), the doctrine of Salvation (Sotereology), the doctrine of St. Mary (Mariology), and the doctrine of the Church (Sacramentology). Based on the conclusions, the following recommendations were forwarded: a) translation and accessibility to contemporary readers to assist the construction of norms among the youth for awareness of the repositories of its fathers, thereby narrow generation gap; b) further comparative analyses of different versions of the texts to authenticate authoritative versions; c) develop a culture of cataloguing according to genres (like history, religion, etc), in order to assist philological research; d) collaborative work of stake-holders (Church, government, researchers, and others) to preserve the literary resources for future generations; e) support researchers interested in studying such untapped knowledge resources.



Mäṣəḥafä Ḥaṣurä Mäsqäl