Saturday, 11 April 2015

Leslie Groce: Symbolic Imagery of the Cross in "Ephremic" and Ethiopic Literature

This paper outlines Daniélou’s framework of symbolic biblical hermeneutics with particular focus on the cross, and develops a definition of Judaeo-Christianity that is applied to demonstrate the continuity and connection of symbols in Ethiopic and ‘Ephremic’ literature with early Syriac literature, in particular the Odes of Solomon.  Daniélou identified four pertinent categories of symbols relating to the Cross: the shape or sign of the Cross; wooden material; the vivifying action of the Cross; and the global nature of redemption through the Cross.
This framework will be applied to Ethiopic and ‘Ephremic’ accounts of events in the lives of the Old Testament Patriarchs: Noah, Abraham and Moses. Particular attention will be given to the multi-semiotic usage of ዔፅ, qays, meaning ‘wood‘, tree‘, or ‘cross‘, and how it invites salvific significance to be attached to many items made of wood, or actions performed in the shape of the Cross used to enhance symbolism in many cases. Such symbolic interpretations are rare in the Dəggwā (the Ethiopic hymnal), but this paper will illustrate how diverse the set of symbols found in the andəmta (the Ethiopic patristic commentary) are and in the ‘Ephremic’ tradition are unified in the Kəbra Nagaśt through the potency of wood.

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