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Beauty of the Creation (Sena Fetrat).

This creation is a beauty, the kind of book one simply has to hold and touch, its mottled blue-and-white rough-textured cover a delight. The slim volume contains the text of the Sena Fetrat in both Geez and Old Amharic, with each in turn accompanied by notes and an English translation. The notes are extensive and instructive, and the translation is ably accomplished, balanced between literal renditions and comfortable English flow. One would expect no less from a project involving Dr. Getatchew. Still one of the joys of reviewing a book like this is having the opportunity to pose some questions, and so I will.

Naturally there are a few places where I would prefer a slightly different English translation as, for example, The Beauty of the Creation for the title of the work. Similarly I would suggest "his renown" rather than "the remembrance of him" for zekru (p. 77, para. 1).

In a few places I would argue for a somewhat different understanding of the text, such as "master" for bal (p. 77, para. 4) rather than "wealthy." Admittedly bal appears in a string of adjectives, and ideally that consistency of syntax should be maintained. More important, however, the referent is God, and "wealthy" has strong, inappropriate connotations.

Another such case concerns the lessons taught by the author of the Sena Fetrat, in which he compares the creation to the world we inhabit (e.g., p. 42, para. 7; p. 78, para. 7; p. 79, para. 15; p. 80, para. 16). He claims, for example, that God created light after darkness to teach us that the Kingdom of Heaven, the light-filled world that comes later, is preferable to our present world of darkness. In all these lessons, amsal is rendered as "example," e.g., the creation of light after darkness is "an example of the Kingdom of Heaven." I think the concept is, rather, "model" or "symbol."

The origin and transmission history of the Sena Fetrat are discussed, but would benefit from further clarification. In his foreword, Ullendorff states: "The relationship between the Amharic and Geez texts is complex, and it must not be assumed that one is necessarily a straight translation--or even a paraphrase--of the other," but the editors say in their introduction: "The Sena Fetrat ... was originally composed, we presume, in Geez and later translated into Amharic." Is this simply a difference of opinion? Furthermore, the claim is made that the Sena Fetrat was most likely translated into Amharic during the 17th century "when the theological implication of the unction ... was a burning issue among the Ethiopian theologians." Since the unction is not mentioned in the Geez text, nor is reference to it found in all the Amharic manuscripts, how can the translation be dated with certainty, not only those manuscripts which insert this concept?

Other questions remain concerning the relationship of this text both to the Qebat (Unction) sect and to the Saggocc, the sect that believes in three births for Christ. The Qebat sect's choice of the Sena Fetrat as a vehicle for their theological expression begs for further development, as does the statement that ideas of importance to the Saggocc appear in this text.

As in other volumes there are, of course, occasional misprints in English, in Ethiopic, and in the footnote numbers. In a few instances, an Ethiopic word meant to be inserted by hand is missing.

These few notes and questions only highlight the service the editors have performed in making the Sena Fetrat available in such an accessible manner. We eagerly await their next installment.
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Author:Devens, Monica S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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