Today's Ethiopia is Ethiopia of the Holy scriptures,
History and Antiquity
Of the lands and peoples of the Middle East and NorthEastern Africa mentioned in the Holy Scriptures and in ancient historical documents and on which light has been shed by various archaeological discoveries, Ethiopia and the Ethiopians occupy a leading place. In order to understand this clearly, one has to look into various sources. Who are the Ethiopians? Where does their geographical location ……? These are some of the questions to be raised. No doubt, the answer to these questions are found in the texts and interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, in ancient historical documents, and in archaeological findings.
According to anthropological studies, Ethiopians are among the peoples that come under the category of dark skinned. The area they inhabit was also named Ethiopia in relation to the their colour. The cytological root of the word “Ethiopia” came from the Greek language “Aithiops” to mean “people with burnt faces,” The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint translates “cush” by “Ethiopia.” Since then, it has been applied to the people of this country. According to very early Ethiopian traditions, however, the name Ethiopia was used after one of its ancient Kings, Aithiops I.
The archaeological and historical investigation of the people and its geographical location indicates that this designation was used for the lands lying to the South Egypt and extending up to India. The people who inhabited this vast region were generally known as Ethiopians. As time wet on, the people of this region came to be known by the different states, with their own cultural affinities and religious variations. As a very specific term, the name “Ethiopia” was identified with the region of the source of the Nile and its valley, an identification which has continued to this day with its own historical legacy. Moreover, Ethiopia is noted for its precedence in her state formation in the region and has existed ever since, preserving her freedom, integrity and history. It is a living example for the preservation of the evidence found in Holy Scriptures, ancient historical documents and archaeology.
Nevertheless, a new falsification of Scripture has come to the fore, which is quite contrary to the history of the region, its designation and its geographical location as well. This is the publication of a revised Bible by the American Bible Society, the Good News Bible in 1976. The new publication has two amazing mistranslations, which amount to deliberate distortions. The earlier accepted translation of the Hebrew word “Cush” into “Ethiopia” and the “Ethiopians” used in the Greek, Latin and Geez Versions is now deliberately altered and instead “Sudan” and “Sudanese” are used. On the other hand, it left uncharged the word “Cush” in Genesis 2:13, “…. And the second river is Gihon; it flows around the country of Cush” and the word Ethiopia in the New Testament (Acts 8:26) is not changed into Sudan.
It is not clear why the American Bible Society intended to alter the word “Ethiopia” into “Sudan” without valid historical investigation. There is no historical basis for making this change. It is rather misleading, directing people’s attention to a wrong concept, and thus needs to be promptly challenged. The Bible Society of Ethiopia and Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church strongly protested and denounced this malicious act as it is not grounded on genuine interpretation of the Bible and history. The act also forced them to exchange a couple of letters with the office of the United Bible Societies in the hope of make them realize their error.
The office of the United Bible Societies recognized the deliberate alteration by the American Bible Society. It noted that the word “Cush” of the Hebrew Version included the areas of today’s Sudan and today’s Ethiopia and as such it was unnecessary to change “Ethiopia” into the “Sudan”. It also gave assurances that further reprints of the Good News Bible would be stopped. However, the newly revised edition of the Good News Bible is in circulation all over the world and in disseminating a wrong impression to millions of people. The various letters exchanged with the office of the United Bible Societies asking them to correct the mistake done, now put in the achieves, could not be an effective corrective to the initial error. Thus, it becomes, accessory to issue this short message to enable readers gain a correct understanding of the history how Ethiopia came to acquit its name.
It is clear that the distribution of people in the world is determined by the geographical conditions. Even if it could be assumed that peoples of the world had no variation in their nature, their spatial distribution (low land, high land, temperate zone) and the climatic conditions (hot, cold, airy place) their experience could have some effect on their way of living and their colour.
Thus, we see that the designation of places and of people seem to be related. For example the word “Ethiopia” was derived from the colour of the people which might have been a result of the impact of the surrounding climatic condition. From this assumption, we believe that it would be wise to see the designation of “Ethiopia” and “Ethiopians” into three aspects based on historical facts and Holy Scriptures.
. Tribal Offspring
. Geographical Location
. Foreign Relations.
(Ethiopia and the surrounding regions)
a) Tribal Offspring :-
The Holy Scriptures assert that the peoples of the world are the descendants of Adam. Even then, the climatic conditions over the past Centuries brought about colour differentiation among peoples.The word “Ethiopians” meant “men with burnt faces” and the name “Ethiopia” was given to this land in relation to the colour of its people. According to Graeco-Roman historians and geographers the etymological root of the world “Ethiopia” is Greek-coined from two words and it was mainly given to this particular area land dark-skinned people. The first mentions of the Ethiopians in ancient Greek literatures was in the epics of Homer, a Greek poer, who lived ca 500 B.C. Homer mentioned Ethiopia twice in the Nied and once in the Odyssy. In his writing about the Ethiopians and their country, Homer expressed their kindness and indicated that they lived at the end of the inhabited world, and that they were a people whom the gods liked to visit. In his references to the Ethiopians who lived at the end of the inhabited world, Homer indicated that some of the Ethiopians lived near the horizon where the sun sets while some of them lived at the other end of the horizon where the sun rises.
What did Homer mean by the Ethiopians who lived at the end of the inhabited world? To understand this concept, we need to refer to the writings of other ancient historians and geographers. By the end of the inhabited world, Homer meant the regions to the south of Egypt and extending up to India, a concepts that became much clearly by the days of Herodotus. Herodotus, the well known Greek historian, who lived in the period between c. 400 and 300 B.C. traveled throughout the Middle East into Egypt and stayed therefore some years where he was able to learn more about the Ethiopians from various sources. According to the information he got he believed that there were two Ethiopian regions: the first of which was the land adjoining Egypt, and the second was the bit farther to the south of Egypt. Since he had written about the Ethiopians, who lived farther to the south, his reference could somehow fit with today’s Ethiopia.
He further indicated that the geographical location of Ethiopia is to the south of Egypt along the Red Sea. He related that these people lived longer and were fish eaters. As indicated above, Homer was the first man to use: his designation. Traditionally, however, it was derived from an Ethiopian king Aethiops I, of the second millennium. But, on the other hand, the words “Ethiopia”, “Ethiopian” and the “Ethiopians” were used in the Septuagint in place of the word “Cush” in the Hebrew Bible. The word “Cush” in Hebrew had a three fold meaning. In the first place it was used as a proper noun, since Cush was one of the sons of Ham (Gen, 10:6). Then it was used as a tribe, Cush and Cushites, given to the sons of Cush. In this sense it has also been generally applied to the black race as a whole, even though this designation cannot be readily accepted. Thirdly it was used as a name of a region, from the south of Egypt as far as India, where people of sunburn faces live. Hence, the second and the third meanings of the word Cush well fit to this particular area.
A question may arise as to how the similarity started between “Cush” on the one hand hand and “Ethiopia and the Ethiopians” on the other. The Old Testament, which is believed to have been written starting from about 1500 BC, (in C 1500-400 B.C.) was translated from Hebrew into the Greek in C. 284 B.C.
The Septuagint translated the Hebrew word “Cush” as Ethiopia and the Ethiopians in Greek.
It is thus clear that the region was identified at the land of “Cush” in the Old Testament since the time that Moses lived. Historically the land continued to be known as the land of the Ethiopians begging with the writings of Homer. In one way of the other both “Cush” in Hebrew and “Ethiopia” in Greek respectively were conventionally used to indicate this specific region and its people, as it will be clear from the following points:-
1. “And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with a host of a thousand, and three hundred chariots and came unto Mare’ Shah, 2 Chronicles 14:9.
2. “ So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah: and the Ethiopians fled,” 2 Chronicles 14:12.
3. “Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubin a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen,” 2. Chronicles 16:8.
4. “ Moreover the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the philistines, and the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians” 2. Chronicles, 21:16.
5. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots?” Jeremiah 13:23.
6. “Now when E’bed-Mele’ch the Ethiopian, one of the eunuch who was in the King’s house, heard that they had put Jermiah in the dungeon,” Jer. 38:7.
7. “Then the king commanded E’bed-Mel’ech the Ethiopian saying take from hence thirty men with thee” Jeremiah 38:10.
8. “And E’bed-Mel’ech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah put now this old cas clouth and rotten rugs under thine armholes under the cords,” Jeremiah 38:12.
9. “Go and speak to E’bed-Mel’ech the Ethopian”, Jeremiah 39:16
10. “In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopian afraid,” Ezekiel 30:9.
11. “Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword,” Zephaniah 2:12.
b) Geographical Location :-
As we have seen earlier, Homer made a fair attempt to indicate the characteristics of the Ethiopians and the region they inhabited even if he failed to give the exact location of Ethiopia in very specific terms. His successors, however, were able to indicate the exact location of Ethiopia and of her people among whom were the historian Herodotus and the geographer Strabo.
Herodotus, as referred to above, obtained his knowledge of Ethiopia from his discussions with other scholars and perhaps people familiar with Nubia and the areas beyond it in his long sojourn in Egypt. From the south of Egypt as far as Cinnammomophorous, near to “India,” He also believed that there were two Ethiopian region: the first part was near Egypt, and the second was that of the fish-eaters, which was a bit farther to the south of Egypt. The latter region was probably the present day Ethiopia. But, in general. Herodotus claimed that both of these regions were one and the same.
Strabo, who made use of the studies of Aratosthenes, Agathrchides and other scholars, indicated that the boundaries of Ethiopia were: Egypt to the north (in which Eicphanine was the border line (, and the land of Ciannammomophorous to the south (the land to the Indian Ocean). He pointed out that the Nile River, that flows to the North, has its source in Ethiopia (i.e. Lake Tana). The tributaries of the Nile indicated by Strabo were, Astabus, Astaboras and Astasobas.
Diodor, like Herodotus, behaved that there were two separate Ethiopias: the land between Egypt and Meroe, and from Meroe to its South East. According the him, the latter part was the region of the two main rivers of the Nile and the area of the Red Sea. He too was unable to give the precise extent of the southern boundary of Ethiopia. Moreover, he indicated that the source of the Nile was at the foot of a great mountain in the heartlands of Ethiopia and that the Nile had a length of 12,000 miles and three tributaries, Pliny, the Roman geographer, explained that Ethiopia’s boundary in the north was Syene, in the east the ocean and in the west Libya. He again failed to give the exact boundary line of the southern limit. Pliny assumed that the position of Ethiopia was towards the south, tilted from the northeast to the southwest. He also attempted to give the distance between Meroe and the Indian Ocean, both by land and by sea. The tributaries of the Nile known to Pliny were Astapus (the Blue Nile), a river from the high and which cut through the middle of Ethiopia; Astaberas (the Atbara) in the left side and Astasobas (the White Nile) to the right side.
The most clearly defined indications of Ethiopia was given by Claudius Ptolemy, the geographer. According to him. Ethiopia was next to Egypt, both Egypt and Libya being to the North of Ethiopia and the interior of Libya being to the West. Ptolemy and Strabo commonly agree that the source of the Nile was in one of the Ethiopian lakes, even thought the former gave different names and geographical location from the latter. More significant, Ptolemy showed the location of Ethiopian port Adulis, Aksum and Colole on his map. He also mentioned Aksum as the capital city of Ethiopia.
By the time Egypt was under the rule of the Ptolemies during the Hellenistic period, and as a result of the relations of Ethiopia and the Middle East, the knowledge of scholars about the geographical location of the area and its people became more definite than before. Documents in papyrus and other manuscripts that elaborated these facts were uncovered. A case in point is the periplus of the Erythrean Sea, which described the Aksumite Empire and its trading activities. According to this document, the southern boundary of Ethiopia was Maschophagi, in the north Berbera and the Red Sea in the East.
As the beginning of the fourth century A.D. Rufinus mentioned the introduction of Christianity and establishment of Churches in Aksum. He also shows that be had a good knowledge on the politics, trade and literature of the region. Cosmas Indicoplcustes, who later wrote the Christian Topography, has left us very valuable information on the trade, politics and literature of Aksumite-Ethiopia. He also mentioned the strengthened diplomatic relations between Aksum and the Byzantine Empire. Gradually, as of this period, the knowledge of the geographical location of Ethiopia with its surrounding regions became widely known.
The various sources about ancient Ethiopia and the archaeological discoveries so far undertaken could only be seen and recognized vis-à-vis the contemporary culture, language, religion and other aspects of life. In any case, the fact remains that the present day Ethiopia is the ancient historical and geographical Ethiopia. Thus, from the various sources and historical documents, on the geographical location of Ethiopia, it is clear that Ethiopia is the land of the sun burnt faces, who inhabited the region to the south of Egypt.
If we again look into the Bible, “Ethiopia” was direct translation of the Hebrew “Cush” which was mainly used to indicate the region to the south of Egypt as far as India. This becomes clear from the following quotations of the Bible.
1. “And when he heard say Tirakah King of Ethiopia, Behold, he has come out to fight against thee,” 2 Kings 19:9.
2. “Now it came to pass in days of Ahasurus (this is Ahasurus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty provinces),” Esther 1:1.
3. “… and the deputies and rulers of the province from India unto Ethiopia, a hundred and twenty and seven provinces…” Esther 8:9.
4. “… Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God,” Psalm 68:31.
5. “…behold philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia,” Psalm 87:4.
6. “The Topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure Gold,” Job 28:19.
7. “… to the land of shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,” Isaiah 18:1.
8. “And the Lord said, like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia,” Isaiah 20: 3.
9. “And he heard say concerning Tirakah King of Ethiopia, he has come forth to make war with thee,” Isaiah 37: 9.
10. “… Ethiopia and Seba for thee,” Isaiah 43: 3.
11. “… Thus saith the Lord, the labour of Egypt and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans men of Stature, shall come over unto thee,” Isaiah45: 14.
12. “Ethiopia and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people and Chub…” Eze. 30:5.
13. "Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them, allof them with shield and helmet," Eze. 38: 5.
14. “But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps,” Daniel 11: 43.
15.“Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were her helpers,” Nahum 3: 9.
16.“From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering,” Zephaniah 3: 10.
C) Foreign Relations (Ethiopia and the Surrounding Regions)
In the Old Testament: be it either “Cush” in Hebrew or “Ethiopia” in Greek, this particular region had well established foreign relations and contacts with its neighboring states particularly: Arabia, Persia, Israel, Egypt and Libya, which are documented in the Old Testament. Because of this contact these states developed an interaction of trade, culture and religious similarities among themselves. These countries also show some basic similarities in trading items; incense, frankincense; cultural and religious antiquities; sistrum, drum, the ark and sacrificial offering vessels, In all these Ethiopia takes the lead as the source of history for the past contacts between these countries.
Ethiopia was one of the earliest countries to accept monotheism. The quotation, “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God” is further strengthened by the views of the historian Budge, who indicated that no time was Ethiopia ever was out of the ways of God. There are various historical sources and texts of Holy Scripture to substantiate the points mentioned above. For example, there are sufficient indications about the Queen of Sheba in the Old Testament (1 Kings 10: 1-13,2 Chronicles 9: 1-12) and in the New Testament about Queen of Azeb (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31)
It is historically believed that the Queen of Sheba or Azeb was the queen of today’s Ethiopia and that she accepted monotheistic creed. The Queen of Sheba had a good knowledge of the neighboring regions because of the trade and the interactions of the peoples between Ethiopia and countries of the Middle East. She was particularly impressed by the fame of Solomon, King of Jerusalem, and went to visit him, accompanied by many her officials.
She looks with her very precious stones, a hundred and twenty talents of gold, perfume and other rich gifts, abundant in her country but some new to others, as a present. In Jerusalem, she was able to prove the truth of what she had heard about the wisdom of Solomon, the attendance of his court, the administration of his palace, the discipline of his army and his law. She gave thanks to God and Solomon, who revealed this knowledge and wisdom to her and happily returned to her kingdom. This is stated in the above Biblical quotation, in other historical sources and traditions. The Queen also brought the Old Testament with her. Later, monotheistic Christianity and its Jewish practices were spread in the country. Such Jewish practices which are still practiced as Christian practices are circumcision, and other cultural aspects. Ethiopia was thus one of the first countries to receive creed among other ancient states and its people were termed as “the land of God.” Moreover she became the first country to receive Christianity.
In the New Testament (Acts. 8:26-29) it is stated how an Ethiopian eunuch of Queen Candace, who was in charge of her treasure, met Philip the deacon, while returning to his country from Jerusalem after Pentecost. When they met, the eunuch was reading Isaiah 53:7-8; “ He was led as a sheep to the slaughter: and like a lamb dumb before his Shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away; and who shall declare his generation: for his life was taken from the earth.” Philip told the eunuch that this quotation was prophesied about Jesus Christ and that the prophecy had been fulfilled. The eunuch readily believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and was then baptized by Philip, where upon he continued his journey to his country. Therefore, as ancient religious writers like Eusebius indicated, the eunuch of Queen Candace was the first man to be baptized after the Apostles and Ethiopian was the first country to be christianized after Jerusalem.
We have now seen that the Ethiopians live in a specific geographical location known as Ethiopia. We have also seen that the word “Ethiopia” was used as common name of the people however, as the population greatly increased; population movements in search of better living conditions became a common occurrence. The earlier family groups gave way to complex societies who led sedentary lives in particular areas and who developed special attachments to these areas. And there by a feeling for a particular are developed. In like manner, the Ethiopian led their own type of societal life in their country of Ethiopia. Surprisingly enough, some societies never achieved the strength tht others did. Population movements in the area with its varying nature left its own imprints on the region. Some came under the domination of foreign power, lost their power, and inherited external culture and language to the extent of accepting foreign designations for their locality. On the other hand, Aksumite-Ethiopia preserved her territorial integrity, freedom, culture and language with little foreign interference and domination. When the scholars who were in the time around the birth of Jesus Christ, or those who came after him spoke of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian language, its culture and the introduction of Christianity, they undoubtedly wee referring to Aksumite-Ethiopian and its people. While the historical reality is s this, what is the intention of the American Bible Society to replace “Ethiopia” with “Sudan,” “Ethiopian and Ethiopians” with “Sudanese”. Or, is it possible to designate by the name of “Sudan” the whole of the black people?
According to the Bible, the Sudan, as we know it today, was part and parcel of the Biblical Ethiopia or the Biblical Cush did include today’s Ethiopia. Hence what is referred to in the Bible as “Ethiopia” usually meant all the lands to the south of Egypt up to “India” which definitely embraces the Sudan and Ethiopia.
It is said that the etymological root of the word “Sudan” is the Arabic language, which literary means “black”. The name was later given to the present day Sudan and is in no way indicated in the Bible or ancient historical sources. The only historical reference so far in only about Nubia with its Capital Napata and later Moroe. Therefore, the deliberate use of the “Sudan” instead of “Ethiopia” with no historical foundation is not only to deny the historical and Biblical significance of present day Ethiopia, but also to deny the Bible itself.
We have seen that in historical words as well as in the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament the word “Cush” was translated into “Ethiopia”. S this word was further translated into various other languages these have followed the Septuagint as their basic model and have used the word “Ethiopia” avoiding the use of other alternate place names. It would also be appropriate to compare the translation of the Bible into Greek, Latin, and Geez versions with the recent Good News Bible edition. The following verses would suffice to show the distorted, unhistorical translation of “Ethiopia” into the Sudan.
Vers. From the
|Good News Bible|
A black man Sudan
The people of Sudan
Other Biblical translations have more or less followed the same pattern. It would again be necessary to see other English Versions like the King James Version, Revised Standard Version, Jerusalem Bible and Living Bible with the words of the Good News Bible.
2 Chronicles 12:3
Beyond the rivers of Sudan there is a land where the sound of wings is heard.
A black man
Thus, in general, the word “Ethiopia” in the above verses indicates a somewhat general and compact interpretation that needs further explanation. While it remains a fact that the source of the Nile is Ethiopia (Cush in Hebrew), why has it been so necessary for the American Bible Society to keep this verse as it is while it has everywhere changed “Ethiopia” into the “Sudan”?. It is also not clear why the Society used the “Sudan” in all of its translations except in this particular verse. Moreover, it has left unchanged the word “Ethiopia” in Acts 8:26 of the New Testament. Is it because there was some difference between the “Ethiopia” of the Old Testament and the “Ethiopia” of the New Testament as the Society Claims?. As the Society has translated “Ethiopia” of the Old Testament into the “Sudan” does “Ethiopia” of the New Testament meant today’s “Ethiopia”? We leave the answer to them. But, to us, the answers to both is there was one Ethiopia. Whereas several quotations confirm that “Ethiopia: was comprised all the lands to the south of Egypt up to “India,” it would historically be unacceptable to consider the small strip of land south of Egypt as the “Sudan”. In their communiqué to the office of the United Bible Societies the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and the Bible Society of Ethiopia have Expressed their opposition to the unhistorical revision and distorted translation of the Good News Bible.
The first memorandum of the Bible Society of Ethiopia to the United Bible Societies on 17 August 1977 indicated the criticisms and opposition it had received from its Customers and Bible readers against the translation of “Ethiopia” into the “Sudan”. The Ethiopian Bible readers, greatly surprised and enraged, were urgently asking the Society to publish an immediate response on the subject. The Society further pointed out that it was unable to trace any disparity in wording in the use of “Ethiopia” in all of the four English versions except the Good News Bible. Unable to give a satisfactory answer to the questions forwarded from the Ethiopian Bible readers, the Society Expected a Justifiable clarification from the United Bible Societies it is were not to stop the further circulation of the Good News Bible in Ethiopia.
The United Bible Societies reply on 19 September 1977, was as follows:
Traditionally the Hebrew Cush has been translated by “Ethiopia a practice which goes back to the Septuagint, which translated the Hebrew word consistently (but not always) by Aithiopia. But it appears that the Hebrew Cush does not refer specifically to what is Ethiopia today, but usually to a region roughly comparable to the country of Sudan today. It might be even more restricted to Nubia. As Ezek. 29:10 makes clear, Cush was on the Southern border of Egypt and this is hardily true of Ethiopia today. The articles on “Cush” and “Ethiopia” in lexicons and Bible dictionaries uniformly define “Cush” as the territory South of Egypt corresponding roughly to the present Sudan… They point out that during the height of its power Cush had its capital at Napata, near the Fourth Cataract, but later it was moved south to Meroe about half way between the Fifth Cataract and Khartoum.
We were faced with various choices (1) transliterate “Cush” but we tried to avoid such meaningless equivalences: (2) translate “Ethiopia” throughout, but we felt that the modern Ethiopia does not correspond, to the biblical Cush: (3) translate “Nubia” but it does not exist today us a national entity; (4) translate “Sudan” which does exist as a national entity and is more nearly equivalent to the biblical Cush than any other African nation.
It is interesting to notice that NEB is quite inconsistent in its translation of the term. It has Ethiopia in Esth 1:1, 8:9; Job 28:19, Nabia/Nubian in Ps 68:31, 87:4; Isa. 43:3; 45:14; Jer. 13:23; else where it has Cush/Cushite(s)
What we have tried to do in the GNB is to match as closely as possible the geographical extension of the modern English word with the territory referred to by the biblical word. Something similar to this was done in Acts 27:27, which in Greek speaks of the Adriatic Sea. But what is today known as the Adriatic is not the place the ship was during the storm, to TEV has “the Mediterranean.”
We hope this explanation will be of help in answering those readers who are disturbed by the text of the Good News Bible.
The example we have just seen could not be readily accepted because. “Ethiopia” and “Cush” could not be compared in such an example.
And again, the Bible Society of Ethiopia sent a letter to the office of the World Bible Society in Kenya on 10 April 1979. The memo it received was not that much satisfactory to its expectations. The main content of the memo, however, indicated its fear that the matter would manifest political inclinations as it had received various suggestions and discontents from several people. The letter also outlined the main administrative committees decision on 7 May 1979 to stop the circulation of 2000 copies of the Bible available in the store and to present the case to the meeting of the General Board, as soon as possible.
A similar letter on 16 May 1979 indicated that the word “Ethiopia” was discussed by a sub-committee of the United Bible Societies and that the minutes would be delivered at the earliest time possible. It also expressed the hope that the discussion would be a favorable one and would lead to an agreement. Furthermore, the office of the United Bible Societies sent a similar letter on 25 September 1979, which elaborated that the whole problem was mainly connected with traditions that had created a wrong impression. The letter vaguely tried to indicate in which the new translation would have used the “Sudan” instead of “Ethiopia” if there had been any Biblical and historical evidence. Thus, the Society somehow recognized that mistake have been done.
The meeting of the Holy Synod of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church on 18 November 1986 examined the discontent of the Bible Society of Ethiopia about the Good News Bible addressed to the office of the United Bible Societies on 2 June 1979; and the answer given by the latter. Secondly, it also assessed the disparity of the Good News Bible from other English Versions. The Holy synod found that the new unhistorical translation was too surprising as it was deliberately designed to distort the real history and identify of Ethiopia known in the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments. Above all it is recognizable that it was intentionally done so that Ethiopia and the all Ethiopians would have no trust in and thus develop an attitude of enmity towards the office of the United Bible Societies. The Holy Synod also learnt that the office of the United Bible Societies had a similar attitude with that of the Good News Bible from its communiqué to the Bible Society of Ethiopia on 19 September 1987.
The Holy Synod was therefore persuaded to prevent the circulation of the Bible in Ethiopia by law unless and otherwise the Society amended its mistake in accordance with the normal Bible translation, and it also stopped the further circulation of the Good News Bible in any country. The decision of the Holy Synod mentioned above was communicated to the following offices on January 6, 1987.
- AH world Bible Societies
- International Bible Society of England
- United Bible Societies of Africa
- World Council of Churches
- Lutheran World Federation
The United Bible Societies memorandum of 12 March 1987 expressed its assurances that it would take further research on the issue and to notify its findings. The next response on 5 August 1987 reflected the conclusion reached by its translation experts. The agreement reached by the experts indented their preference to use the word “Ethiopia” as it is more appropriate and acceptable than the “Sudan”. On the other hand, they believed that the use of “Cush” will mislead readers since it is against the accepted usage if it is translated to indicate only the Sudan. “Cush” as it is well known embraces all the lands to the sough of Egypt, which meant Ethiopia and the Sudan. To avoid such ambiguity, the society suggested the use of footnotes for further clarification.
This resolution was again presented to the joint meeting of the American Bible Society. United Bible Society, United Bible Societies’ translation sub-committee and the administrative board of the American Bible Society. The joint committee decided to use “Ethiopia” in any future Bible editions. Nevertheless, it also indicated the impossibility of correcting the already printed books under circulation and that no more printing will be done until the printed books are sold.
In general, it seems that the previous letter exchanges brought about a satisfactory result. However, the various letters in the archives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Holy Synod and other offices of Bible Societies are not by themselves a viable solution. Since Bible is being published and circulating all over the world, it again becomes necessary to start a new effort to correct the distorted concept of history and geographical location.
Therefore, as indicated so far, it should not be taken that the Biblical “Cush” and “Ethiopia” have a contradictory concept. “Cush” and “Ethiopia” have long existed as a general name of our region as given in the Bible and by ancient historians and geographers. “Ethiopia” and “the Ethiopians” is also the name of the people in this region. Even if “Cush” and “Ethiopia” has been the general name of the region, other local names have gradually merged. Aksum and Nubia are cases in point Aksumite-Ethiopia gave way to the present day Ethiopia with its distinct political boundary whereas others had completely changed their previous names, as Nubia was changed into Sudan.
Hence, even if the Biblical “Cush” or “Ethiopia” meant all the lands to south of Egypt up to “India” the designation basically meant the lands of today’s Ethiopia and the Sudan. Therefore, the names “Cush” or “Ethiopia” include the Sudan. But, to take “Cush” only for the “Sudan” completely reduces the identity of today’s Ethiopia from its concept of ancient Ethiopia and there by gives a distorted impression. That is why we argue that the use of the “Sudan” is not in line with the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. On the one hand, it distorts history and on the other hand it affects ones historical identity so much so that it surprisingly pitiful.
Therefore, to distort history, to challenge the identify of the nation and to disappoint the people is to cultivate an attitude of enmity. Once such a deliberate Biblical interpretation has been done, we re speculating whether it might have further political manifestations. We are unaware that any new development of Biblical interpretation of words and a new concept of geographical location has come to light after 3000 years. Nevertheless, the suggestion to amend the mistranslation has no bearing on the relations between the two sisterly nations of Ethiopia and the Sudan. They have their own political spheres and power, and are countries at peace and friendship. They also had their ancient common designation, “Ethiopia”, given to them by the Bible ancient historians and geographers. This discussion, we hope, will also be a reminder to all of us of their common historical heritage, without affecting in any way their present political and cultural identities.
Today’s Ethiopia is Ethiopia of the Holy Scriptures, History and Antiquity.
Resolution of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church