Biblia Negra O Rastafari

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The Queen of Sheba and
Her Only Son Menyelek
(Këbra Nagast)
translated by

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge

In parentheses Publications
Ethiopian Series
Cambridge, Ontario 2000

Preface
This volume contains a complete English translation of the
famous Ethiopian work, “The Këbra Nagast,” i.e. the “Glory of
the Kings [of Ethiopia].” This work has been held in peculiar
honour in Abyssinia forseveral centuries, and throughout that
country it has been, and still is, venerated by the people as
containing the final proof of their descent from the Hebrew
Patriarchs, and of the kinship of their kings of the Solomonic
line with Christ, the Son of God. The importance of the book,
both for the kings and the people of Abyssinia, is clearly shown
by the letter that King John of Ethiopiawrote to the late Lord
Granville in August, 1872. The king says: “There is a book
called ’Kivera Negust’ which contains the Law of the whole of
Ethiopia, and the names of the Shûms [i.e. Chiefs], and
Churches, and Provinces are in this book. I pray you find out
who has got this book, and send it to me, for in my country my
people will not obey my orders without it.” The first summary
of thecontents of the Këbra Nagast was published by Bruce as
far back as 1813, but little interest was roused by his somewhat
bald précis. And, in spite of the labours of Prætorius, Bezold,
and Hugues le Roux, the contents of the work are still
practically unknown to the general reader in England. It is
hoped that the translation given in the following pages will be

ii

Preface
of use tothose who have not the time or opportunity for
perusing the Ethiopic original.
The Këbra Nagast is a great storehouse of legends and
traditions, some historical and some of a purely folk-lore
character, derived from the Old Testament and the later
Rabbinic writings, and from Egyptian (both pagan and
Christian), Arabian, and Ethiopian sources. Of the early history
of the compilation and itsmaker, and of its subsequent editors
we know nothing, but the principal groundwork of its earliest
form was the traditions that were current in Syria, Palestine,
Arabia, and Egypt during the first four centuries of the
Christian era. Weighing carefully all that has been written by
Dillmann, Trump, Zotenberg, Wright, and Bezold, and taking
into account the probabilities of the matter, it seemsto me that
we shall not be far wrong if we assign the composition of the
earliest form of the Këbra Nagast to the sixth century A.D. Its
compiler was probably a Coptic priest, for the books he used
were writings that were accepted by the Coptic Church.
Whether he lived in Egypt, or in Aksûm, or in some other part
of Ethiopia matters little, but the colophons of the extant
Ethiopic MSS. ofthe Këbra Nagast suggest that he wrote in
Coptic.
In the succeeding centuries, probably as a result of the
widespread conquests of Mu˙ammad and his Khalîfahs, the
Coptic text was in whole or part translated into Arabic, and
during the process of translation many additions were made to
it, chiefly from Arabic sources. Last of all this Arabic version
was translated into Ethiopic, and propernames underwent
curious transformations in the process. According to the
colophons of the MSS. in the British Museum, Oxford, and
Paris, the Arabic translation was made from the Coptic in the
409th “year of mercy,” when Gabra Mas˚al, commonly known
as Lâlîbalâ, was reigning over Ethiopia, i.e. between A.D. 1314
and 1344. And the same authorities say that the Ethiopic
iii

Këbra Nagasttranslation was made subsequently by one Isaac, of whom
nothing is known save that he was an enthusiastic Christian
visionary and patriot. His knowledge of history and
chronology was defective, and his comparative philology is
unusually peculiar, even for the period in which he lived.
In the colophons Isaac says: “I have toiled much for the
glory of the kingdom of Ethiopia, and for the going...
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