In late Roman Egypt, a woman of high-standing named Caesaria corresponded extensively with Severus of Antioch, a bishop who had relocated to Egypt in exile. A few complete letters from their correspondence survive, and many fragments are scattered in florilegia, in biblical catenae, and as quotations in other works. The present paper argues that a reading for the Thursday after Easter found in an Ethiopic homiliary for the season of Pentecost contains three genuine excerpts from their correspondence. These three excerpts discuss the origin of evil and the resurrection of the dead, drawing on both the biblical text as well as the writings of Gregory of Nyssa. The excerpts offer important information about Severus’s correspondence with Caesaria as well as the circulation of early Christian writings in early Solomonic Ethiopia. An edition and translation of the excerpts follow in the appendices.
Ted Erho first drew the text under discussion to my attention, furnished an initial transcription of the Ethiopic text, encouraged me to prepare an edition and translation of it, and provided critical feedback on the entire article. I am grateful to him as well as a number of other colleagues for their assistance in preparing this study, including Christoph Begass, Ralph Lee, Meseret Oldjira, and Amsalu Tefera. Ewa Balicka-Witakowska kindly provided me with images of the manuscript from Däbrä Saḥel. This essay has also benefited from comments made on related presentations at the 20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies at Mekelle University, the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, and the Oberseminar des Lehrstuhls für Mittelalterliche Geschichte II in Frankfurt am Main. This research was funded by the Leibniz Project “Polyphony of Late Antique Christianity” and the BMBF-Project “Cultural Exchange from Syria to Ethiopia.”
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