The Magi in Ethiopic Tradition


  • Witold Witakowski



Literature, History, Magi, Manuscripts, Ge'ez, Gǝʿǝz


The paper traces various extra–biblical strains of tradition concerning the Magi (MT 2,1–12) in Geʿez literature. The Magi (mäsäggǝlan, säbʾa sägäl) are present in various Ethiopic compositions, both translated from other languages and original. The compositions discussed include inter alia apocryphal literature (The life of Adam and Eve, The Miracles of Jesus, The Book of the Birth of Mary, The Miracles of Mary), homiliaries (that for the feasts of Mary, and that for the feasts of the Archangel Raguel), and two commentaries on the Gospel.

The tradition, as seen in the texts reviewed, is not consistent, and various stories, sometimes contradicting each other, are told about the Magi. Those strains of tradition which are not of local origin (as are the names of the Magi), come from a number of external sources with roots in early Christian literature. Some elements of this tradition (the Virgin with the Child visible in the star, the origin of the gifts from the Cave of Treasures, Zärädäšt as the ancestor of the Magi, and many thousand men forming their retinue) can be traced back to Syriac apocryphal and exegetical literature.


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How to Cite

Witakowski, W. 1999. The Magi in Ethiopic Tradition Aethiopica 2 (1999) 69-89. DOI: