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Christianity Matthew and Mark in Ge'ez

Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. Ethiopia, 1721–30.  NYPL, Spencer Collection.

Ge'ez, the Semitic language of the ancient kingdom of Aksum in present-day northeast Ethiopia, is an ancestor of the current Amharic tongue. The heavy, vibrant style of the manuscript's illustrations is typically Ethiopian.

In the first image featured in the gallery, derived from Matthew 10, Jesus instructs his twelve disciples, grouped six on each side of him. Jesus' halo and central position distinguish him from the others. Jesus the teacher holds up his right hand, raising two fingers. The first disciple to the right receives the instruction with an open, upturned hand; the next disciple takes the teaching to heart; the third seems about to pose a question. The scaled trees behind them seem to mimic the teacher-disciple paradigm.