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Information and Notes: The Octateuch


Bibliographic reference: Dillmann, Augustus (ed.). Veteris Testamenti Aethiopici Tomus Primus, sive Octateuchus Aethiopicus, 3 fasc., Leipzig, 1853–1855.


THIS is the first digitized version of the Ethiopic Octateuch (Orit), i.e., the first eight Books of the Old Testament: the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.  It follows August Dillmann’s critical edition of the Ethiopic Octateuch, published in Leipzig in 1853–55.  Dillmann’s work was scanned; the images were turned into text using an OCR software developed especially for this purpose; and careful proofreading of the entire text followed.


Each chapter is directly accessible from the main menu.  Dillmann’s Ethiopic verse numbers were replaced by Arabic numerals, and moved from the page margin to between the verses. (Note that verse numbers follow the Septuagint; hence the occasional discontinuities where the Ethiopic translation omits a Septuagint verse). Dillmann’s corrigenda, as well as a few other typos I came across, were corrected. (In return, new typos were undoubtedly inserted; please report them.)


Dillmann’s is not the most recent scholarly edition of the Ethiopic Octateuch. It was followed by Boyd’s edition of 1909.  A few non-scholarly editions have been published in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  I preferred Dillmann’s edition for several reasons:

Dillmann's Octateuch, page 1 (Gen. 1:1–12)

·        First and foremost, Dillmann’s is the only complete scholarly edition of the Ethiopic Octateuch (Boyd’s was discontinued after Leviticus). 

·        Secondly, Dillmann reconstructed the best available text based on several manuscripts, unlike Boyd, who reproduced the best available manuscript (with all its mistakes).  In this, as Boyd observes, Dillmann made “a compromise […] between practical and scholarly aims, in that the one edition is intended for the use of both the Abyssinian Church and European critics”.  It is this inclusive “compromise” which makes Dillmann’s a more suitable text for today’s World-Wide Web. 

·        Thirdly, to quote Boyd again, Dillmann’s edition is “marred by its use of a type unfamiliar […], obsolete and difficult to distinguish”. The digitized edition thus reanimates a text almost inaccessible for readers accustomed to modern Ethiopic fonts.


For Dillmann’s use of brackets, see his Critical Apparatus, p. 10f.  In general terms,

·        Parentheses ( … ) mark an Ethiopic addition to the Septuagint.

·        Square brackets […] mark an omission corrected according to later Ethiopic manuscripts.

·        Asterisks * … * mark rare additions (mostly of omitted names) by Dillmann himself.


Dillmann’s meticulous Critical Apparatus could not be included in this version.  It is available within the scanned version of this work by Google Books.


Ran HaCohen

September, 2009