An international team directed by Dr. Curt Niccum, associate director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts (CSART) at Abilene Christian University, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities for a project to produce print and digital editions of Old Testament books in Ge’ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia.
The team is led by Niccum and Dr. Steve Delamarter, retired professor at Portland Seminary, and also partners with other ACU faculty – Dr. Brent Reeves, associate professor of management science and computer science, and Dr. James Prather, associate professor of computer science – and students in the College of Biblical Studies and the College of Business Administration.
The NEH project, “The Emerging Text: The Textual History of the Ethiopic Old Testament,” will take place over the next three years. An international team of scholars will publish textual histories of eight books of the Ge’ez Old Testament. Prather and Reeves will lead a team to develop online tools for accessing, analyzing and manipulating the data produced by the project.
For each of the eight books, at least 30 manuscripts will be examined to identify eras during which Ethiopian Christians modified their biblical text. These alterations will be analyzed and the manuscript best representing each new emerging state of the text will be transcribed in full, producing four to eight parallel versions that visually highlight the chronological development of the text.
The project is significant for several reasons: its attention to a little known non-Western translation of the Bible, the production of a text based on a larger number of manuscripts than has been used in previous editions, a survey of the entirety of Ethiopia’s textual history, and the creation of a digital repository with tools and processes for future research open to scholars and students alike.