Information about Ge'ez
Ge’ez is the liturgical language of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Ge’ez is also known as Ethiopic, is one of the first few ancient languages the Bible was translated into as early as the 4th and 5th centuries C.E. According to some Biblical scholars, Ge’ez words are also present in some Hebrew Scriptures (O.T.). In fact, certain non-canonical writings are extant in their full version in Ge’ez only, e.g. the Book of Enoch.
Ge’ez Christian tradition is the oldest in existence in the Sub-Saharan Africa. It traces its origin to the time of the Apostles. In recorded history, Christianity became the state religion of the Axumite Empire (the cradle of Ethiopian and Eritrean civilization) in 330’s C.E. In the centuries which followed, monasticism was introduced from Egypt and liturgical practices developed. Both the monastic life-style and the liturgical practices have made very little changes throughout the centuries.
The Ge’ez liturgical hymn (ziema) is credited to St. Yared who lived around 6th century. He is known as Mahletaty Yared, which means Yared the Composer. The Ge’ez Christian tradition kept the liturgical dance and the drum part of its sacred ritual as part of its celebration, which is markedly African. This is a clear testimony of its unique African identity and antiquity.
In Eritrea and Ethiopia, Christians make up to 50% of the total population, the majority of whom being of the Orthodox-Tewahdo tradition. Though Ge’ez is no more a spoken language, it is used for liturgical services, which can rightly call Ge’ez the sacred language of this ancient African Church.