@Tesfaw 1 year agoSewasewer
ሀገራችን ኢትዮጵያ ገና ያልተጠኑ የበርካታ ጥንታዊ ሥነጽሁፎች ባለቤት ናት እና ዘመናትን ያስቆጠሩ ሥነቃላዊና የጽሁፍ ፍልስፍናዎች ባለቤትም ናት፡፡
ከአስራ ሰባተኛው መቶ ክፍለ ዘመን በፊት ከሌሎች የአፍሪካ ሀገሮች በተለየ መልኩ በርከት ያሉ የፍልስፍና ስራዎችን በመስራት በቀዳሚነት የምትጠቀሰው ኢትዮጵያ፤ በጥንታዊው የግእዝ ቋንቋ ከተጻፉት የፍልስፍና ስራዎቿ መካከል ከፊሎቹን በትውልድ ካናዳዊ፣ በምርጫ ደግሞ ኢትዮጵያዊ የሆነው ፕሮፌሰር ክላውድ ሰምነር ወደ እንግሊዝኛ ቋንቋ በመተርጎም፣ በዓለም አቀፍ ደረጃ እንዲታወቁ ሲያደርግ፤ ሌሎች በርካታ በግዕዝና በአረብኛ ቋንቋዎች የተጻፉ የጽሁፍ ስራዎች በጥንታዊ ቤተእምነቶችና ቤተመዛግብት ውስጥ ተቀምጠው ይገኛሉ ።
ፍልስፍና በጥቅሉ የተጻፉትንና በቃል ከትውልድ ትውልድ የሚተላለፉትን የጋርዮሽ የማህበረሰብ ወጎች፣ ልማዶች፣ጥበቦች፣ የእውቀት ዘርፎችንና አስተሳሰቦችን፤ በጠባቡ አተያይ ደግሞ በግለሰብ ፈላስፋዎች በአንድ ዘመን ተሰርተው በጽሁፍ የተላለፉትን ስራዎች ብቻ የሚመለከት ነው፡፡ በቃል ከትውልድ ወደ ትውልድ የሚተላለፉ ማኅበረሰባዊ ፍልስፍናዎች በተረትና ምሳሌ፣ በምሳሌያዊ አነጋገሮች፣ በዘይቤዎች፣ በቅኔዎችና በወጎች ሊገለጡ ይችላሉ፡፡ ስለ ጾታ ልዩነት፣ እድሜ፣ ፖለቲካ፣ ስነምግባር እንዲሁም ስለ ህጻናትና አረጋውያን ያለውን ነባር ፍልስፍና ማህበረሰቡ ባሉት የሥነቃል መከወኛ መንገዶች ያቀርባል፡፡ ለዚህም ነው ምሳሌያዊ አነጋገሮች የረዥምና ውስብስብ ማሳመኛዎች አጭር መገለጫዎች ናቸው የሚባለው፡፡
እነ ዶክተር ክላውድ ሰምነር እና ወርቅነህ ቀልቤሳ በሥነቃላዊ መንገድ የተላለፉትን የኢትዮጵያውያንን ፍልስፍና ከኦሮሞ ህዝብ ቋንቋና ባህል ውስጥ አውጥተው ያሳዩባቸውን ስራዎች በአብነት መጥቀስ ይቻላል፡፡ ቀደምት አባቶቻችን መላው አፍሪካ ባልሰለጠነበት ዘመን ቀድመው ባህላችንንና ታሪካችንን በድንጋይ ቀርጸውና በብራና ጽፈው ስላስተላለፉልን ኢትዮጵያ ከስነቃላዊ ፍልስፍና ባሻገር በጽሁፍ ፍልስፍናም ተጠቃሽ ስራዎች አሏት፡፡ ምንም እንኳን በዘመናዊነት ስም ጥንታዊ ባህላችንንና ቋንቋችንን ረስተን የጽሁፍ ሃብታችንን ሳንመረምር፣ በርካታ ዘመናትን የራሳችንን ስናንቋሽሽ፣ የምዕራባውያንን ስናደንቅ ብናሳልፍም፣ ጉዳዩ ያብሰለሰላቸው በጣት የሚቆጠሩ ኢትዮጵያውያንና በርካታ ምዕራባውን የቻሉትን ያህል ለማሰባሰብ፣ ለማጥናትና ለዓለም ለማስተዋወቅ ችለዋል፡፡
በዚህ ረገድ እነ ፕሮፌሰር ጌታቸው ኃይሌ፣ ታደሰ ታምራትና ስርግው ሃብለሥላሴ ከሃገር ውስጥ እንዲሁም ፕሮፌሰር ፓኦሎ ማራሲኒ፣ አሌሳንድሮ ባውዚ፣ ሪቻርድ ፓንክረስትና ክላውድ ሰምነር ከውጪ ሃገር ቀዳሚ ተጠቃሾች ናቸው፡፡ ካናዳዊው ክላውድ ሰምነር Classical Ethiopian Philosophy በተባለው መጽሐፉ ከግዕዝ ወደ እንግሊዝኛ ቋንቋ ተርጉሞ ያሳተማቸው የፍልስፍና ስራዎች- መጽሐፈ ፊሳልግዎስ፣ አንጋረ ፈላስፋ፣ የስክንድስ ህይወትና አባባሎቹ፣ ሀተታ ዘርዓያዕቆብ እና ሀተታ ወልደ ህይወት ናቸው፡፡ እነዚህ ስራዎች በተለይ አፍሪካውያን የጽሁፍ ፍልስፍና ስለሌላቸው ፍልስፍና በአፍሪካ ውስጥ የለም በሚል ባለፉት ሶስት አስርት ዓመታት ሲሞግቱ ለነበሩ ምዕራባውያን፤ የማያዳግም መልስ በመስጠት ለአፍሪካ የፍልስፍና ታሪክ ብርሃን የፈነጠቁ ናቸው፡፡
የጥንታዊ ኢትዮጵያውያን ፍልስፍና፤ የውጪ የጥበብ ስራዎች ውርስ ትርጉምና ወጥ (original) የፍልስፍና ስራዎች በመባል ይከፈላሉ፡፡ በኢትዮጵያ የሥነጽሁፍና ታሪክ ውስጥ በመጀመሪያው ክፍል እንደተጻፈ የሚነገርለት የመጀመሪያው የፍልስፍና የጽሁፍ ስራ መጽሐፈ ፊሳልግዎስ (physiologus) ይባላል፡፡ ይህ የፍልስፍና ስራ በሁለተኛው መቶ ክፍለ ዘመን እንደተጻፈ የሚነገርለትን የጥበብ ስራ ከግሪክ ወደ ግእዝ ቋንቋ በመተርጎም የተሰራ ሲሆን ትርጓሜውም ተራ ሳይሆን ከኢትዮጵያ የባህልና የቋንቋ አውድ ጋር በማዛመድ የተሰራ ነው፡፡ ፊሳልግዎስ በአምስተኛው ክፍለ ዘመን መጀመሪያ ወይም አጋማሽ አካባቢ ከፍተኛ የመጽሐፍ ክምችት በሚገኝበት ምናልባትም በግብጽ ሀገር በሚገኝ ገዳም ውስጥ በሚኖር ኢትዮጵያዊ ጸሐፊ እንደተጻፈ ይገመታል፡፡ ፈላስፋው ሰምነር የጥንታዊ ድርሳናት ተመራማሪው (philologist) ፍሪትዝ ሆሜል (Hommel) በ1877 ዓ.ም በለንደን፣ ፓሪስና ቬና ቤተመዛግብት ውስጥ የሚገኙ የግእዝ ብራና ፊሳልግዎስ መጻህፍትን ከጀርመንኛ ትርጓሜው ጋር በማገናዘብ ካዘጋጀው የተስተካከለ ቅጽ (critical edition) ላይ የተረጎመው ሲሆን ከካርሎ ኮንቲ ሮሲኒ የ1951 ጣልያንኛ ትርጉም ጋርም አመሳክሮታል፡፡ ፊሳልግዎስ ለመጽሐፉ ደራሲ የተሰጠ ስያሜ ሲሆን ይህም እንስሳትን፣ ዕጽዋትናና የማዕድናትን ምንነት የሚገልጽና በተምሳሌት (symbolism) የሚያስቀምጥ ነው፡፡
በኢትዮጵያ የስነጽሁፍ ታሪክ ውስጥ ከፍተኛ ግምት በሚሰጠውና ሁለተኛው ክፍለ ዘመን በመባል በሚታወቀው የአጼ ዘርዓያዕቆብ ዘመነ መንግስት (1434-68) ፤ መጽሐፈ ፈላስፋና የስክንድስ ህይወትና አባባሎቹ የተባሉ ሁለት የፍልስፍና መጻህፍት ወደ ግእዝ ቋንቋ ተተርጉመዋል፡፡ ምናልባት እነዚህ ትርጉም ስራዎች እንዴት የኢትዮጵያ ፍልስፍና የሚል ስያሜ ሊሰጣቸው ቻለ የሚል ጥያቄ ይነሳ ይሆናል፡፡ ሰምነር እንደሚለው፤ ምንም እንኳ ስራዎቹ ትርጉም ቢሆኑም ኢትዮጵያውያን የራሳቸው የሆነ ወጥ የአተረጓጎም ስልት ስላላቸው ኢትዮጵያዊ አሻራ ይይዛሉ “Ethiopians never translate literally: they adapt, modify, add, subtract. A translation therefore bears a typically Ethiopian stamp” (ኢትዮጵያውያን በትርጉም ሂደት ላይ ከራሳቸው ባህልና አውድ ጋር ለማዋሃድ ሆነ ብለው የመጨመር፣ የመቀነስና የማሻሻል ባህል ስላላቸውና ፍጹም ኢትዮጵያዊ አሻራ አንዲኖረው በማድረግ ስለሚተረጉሙ ነው፡፡) መጽሐፈ ፍልስፍና፤ አንጋረ ፈላስፋ ወይም የፈላስፎች አነጋገር በመባል የሚታወቅ ሲሆን ከ1510-1522 ዓ.ም አባ ሚካኤል በተባለ ኢትዮጵያዊ ከአረብኛ ቋንቋ ወደ ግእዝ የተተረጎመ ነው፡፡
መጽሐፉ መጀመሪያ በግሪክ እንደተጻፈና በ809 ዓ.ም አካባቢ ሁናይን ኢብን ኢስሐቅ በተባለ የሜሶፖታምያ ተወላጅ ወደ አረብኛ ቋንቋ የተተረጎመ ነው፡፡ መጽሐፈ ፈላስፋ በ1953 ዓ.ም በሊቀመዘምራን ዕቁበጊዮርጊስ አንጋረ ፈላስፋ በሚል ወደ አማርኛ ቋንቋ የተተረጎመ ሲሆን በውስጡም ከጠቢቡ ሂቃር ጥበብ ጀምሮ፤ የቅድመ ሶቅራጠስ የግሪክ ፈላስፎችን የሶቅራጠስን፣ የአሪስቶትልን (አሪስጣጣሊስ) በተለይ ደግሞ የፕሌቶንና (አፍላጦን) የፕሌቶን ተከታዮች አነጋገሮች አካቶ የያዘ የፍልስፍና ስራ ነው፡፡ ሦስተኛው የኢትዮጵያውያን የፍልስፍና መጽሐፍ የስክንድስ ህይወትና አባባሎቹ በሚል ርዕስ የተጻፈው ነው፡፡ በጀርመን ሀገር ከሚገኘው የግእዝ ብራና መጽሐፍ ላይ ወደ እንግሊዝኛ ቋንቋ የተመለሰው ይህ መጽሐፍ፤ የሲግመንድ ፍሮይድ (Oedipus complex) ንድፈ ሃሳብ የተመሰረተበትን ታሪክ በጽሁፍ ይዘው ከተገኙት አምስት የዓለማችን ቋንቋዎች (ግሪክ፣ ላቲን፣ ሲራይክ፣ አረቢክ እና ግእዝ) መካከል አንዱ መሆኑን ይናገራል፤ ክላውድ ሰምነር። ከአረብኛ ቅጂ ላይ የተተረጎመው መጽሐፉ በሶስት ክፍሎች ተከፋፍሎ የቀረበ ነው፡፡ የመጀመሪያው ክፍል የስክንድስን ህይወት ታሪክ፤ ሁለተኛው ክፍል ሃያ አምስት ጥያቄዎችና መልሶቻቸውን፤ እንዲሁም ሦስተኛው ክፍል ደግሞ አንድ መቶ ስምንት የፍልስፍና ጥያቄዎችንና ጠቢቡ ስክንድስ የሰጣቸውን ምላሾች ይዟል፡፡
የመጨረሻዎቹ ሁለት የፍልስፍና መጻህፍት ከላይ ከቀረቡት ሦስት ስራዎች በእጅጉ የተለዩ ናቸው፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ የጽሁፍ ፍልስፍና ከጥበብ (wisdom) ስራዎች ወደ አመክኖአዊ (rational)፤ ከውርስ ትርጉም ወደ ወጥ (original) ስራነት ለመሸጋገሩ ህያው ምስክሮች ናቸውና - የዘርዓያዕቆብ (ወርቅዬ) እና የተማሪው የወልደ ህይወት (ምትኩ) ሐተታዎች፡፡ በአስራ ሰባተኛው ክፍለ ዘመን (1599-1692) የህይወት ታሪኩንና የፍልስፍና ስራዉን ብራና ዳምጦ፣ ቀለም በጥብጦ፣ በመፃፍ ያቆየልን ኢትዮጵያዊ አመክኗዊ (rational) ፈላስፋ ዘርዓዕቆብ፤ በሃይማኖተኝነቱ፣ በስነጽሁፍ ስራዎቹና በብርቱ አስተዳደሩ ከሚታወቀው የአስራ አምስተኛው ክፍለ ዘመን (1434-68) ኢትዮጵያዊ ንጉስ አጼ ዘርዓያዕቆብ የተለየ መሆኑን ልብ ልንል ይገባል፡፡ ፈላስፋው ዘርዓያዕቆብ፤ አጼ ዘርዓያዕቆብ ካለፈ ከ1.5 ምዕት ዓመት በኋላ በአጼ ሱስንዮስ የንግስና ዘመን እ.ኤ.አ በ1626ዓ.ም የተነሳ ፈላስፋ ሲሆን ሐተታ የተባለውን ፍልስፍና የሰራውም ለሁለት ዓመታት ያህል ለብቻው ዋሻ ውስጥ ተደብቆ በቆየባቸው ጊዜያት ነበር፡፡የዘርዓ ያዕቆብና የተማሪው ወልደህይወት ሐተታዎች፤ በይዘታቸውም ሆነ በአቀራረባቸው ተመሳሳይነት አላቸው፡፡ “ሐተታ” የተባለው የፍልስፍና መንገድ አንድን ጉዳይ ደረጃ በደረጃ እየጠየቁ ጥልቅ ወደ ሆነ ምርምር የመግባትና በዚህም አንድ እውነተኛ እውቀት ላይ የመድረስ ሂደትን ያመለክታል፡፡
ዘርዓያዕቆብ በጥንታዊት ኢትዮጵያ የትምህርት ሥርዓት፤ በንባብ ቤት፣ በዜማ ቤትና በቅኔ/ሰዋስው ቤት ያለፈ ኢትዮጵያዊ ክርስቲያን ፈላስፋ ሲሆን እርሱ በነበረበት ዘመን የነበሩ ሃይማኖታዊ፣ ማህበራዊ፣ፖለቲካዊና ሥነምግባራዊ አስተሳሰቦችን በአመክኗዊ ሐተታ (rational inquiry) በመታገዝ ይመረምርና ይተች ነበር፡፡ የዘርዓያዕቆብ ፍልስፍና የፈጣሪ ህግን ከሰው ህግ፣ የተፈጥሮ ሥርዓትን ከሰብዓዊ ሥርዓት፤መለየትንና በአንድ አምላክ አማኞች ሃይማኖት ውስጥ የሚገኙ ተገቢ ያልሆኑ የሰው ሥርዓቶችን አስወግዶ በእውነተኛው የተፈጥሮ/የፈጣሪ ህግ ብቻ መመራት ላይ ያተኩራል። በተፈጥሮ ህግና በምክንያታዊነት መነጽር በመታገዝ ስለሃይማኖት መከፋፈል፣ስለሙሴና ነቢዩ መሀመድ ህጎች፣ ሐሰተኛ እምነትን ስለመለየት፣ ስለአምላክና ስለሰው ህግ፣ስለ እውነተኛ እውቀት ምንጭ እንዲሁም ስለጋብቻና ምንኩስና ተፈላስፏል፡፡
ፕሮፌሰር ቴዎድሮስ ኪሮስም፤ የፕሮፌሰር ክላውድ ሰምነርን መንገድ ተከትሎ የዘርዓያዕቆብን ፍልስፍና ከፈረንሳዊው የአውሮፓ ዘመናዊ ፍልስፍና መስራች ሬኔ ዴካርት (Rene Descartes) ሥራ ጋር በማነጻጸር፣ ኢትዮጵያ በፍልስፍና ታሪክ ውስጥ የነበራትን ሚና ለተቀረው ዓለም አጉልቶ አሳይቷል፡፡ የዘርዓያዕቆብ ፍልስፍና ዛሬ ሊታወቅ የቻለው ካናዳዊ ዜግነት ባለው ሰምነር አማካኝነት ነው፡፡
1) Ethiopian Philosophy, vol. II: The Treatise of Zara Yacob and Walda Heywat by Claude Sumner
2) አዲስ አድማስ ጋዜጣ
@Haset 1 year agoSewasewerNicely put,thank you Tesfaw! Here is a little more about Zera Yacob and his treatise,
Zera Yacob was born in 1599 Ethiopian calendar near Axum, in northern Ethiopia, and as a youth received a thorough traditional education in poetry and scripture—Ethiopia had long been a literate and Christian country. Afterwards he spent several years teaching. In 1626 king Susenyos, under the influence of Portuguese Jesuits, converted from Orthodox to Catholicism, triggering a period of religious and civil unrest. Zera Yacob avoided taking sides, but his neutrality won him no friends. He was eventually denounced to the king and fled, taking with himself little more than a book of Psalms. He spent the next two years in seclusion in a cave near the Tekeze River, meditating and praying over the psalms. There he reflected on the disagreements between followers of different faiths, and this led him to reject all revealed religions as equally unsupportable, and to adopt instead a rational. He remained devout in his own way, convinced of God’s goodness and providential concern, for himself personally and for human beings generally. In 1632 Susenyos abandoned his attempts to impose Catholicism on the country. He abdicated, and died not much later; his son Fasiladas lost no time affirming his commitment to the Orthodox faith, drawing the sectarian conflict to a close. Zera Yacob came out of hiding, finally making his way to the town of Enfraz, not far from Gondar and Lake Tana. Here he found employment doing writing for locals and teaching their children. One of these children was Walda Heywat. In 1667, with Walda Heywat’s encouragement, Zera Yacob wrote his short (roughly twenty-page) treatise, which was simultaneously the first autobiography and the first philosophical work in Ethiopian history. He died in 1692, but Walda Heywat later put down his own thoughts as well, very much in the same vein as those of his master, though marked by a less personal style, and at just slightly greater length. The two treatises (their common title, “hatata”, means something like ‘investigation’) are primarily concerned with showing the errors of various religions, and they correspondingly treat of various moral topics; they are also concerned to put confidence in God on a rational footing, and so to defend the goodness of God in the face of evil and injustice. These two treatises are something very close to the only philosophical works produced in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the colonial period. What we see in these treatises is rather what in other circumstances might have been the start of a philosophical school. As Claude Sumner has said, Zera Yacob’s treatise is “an absolutely original work,” and if philosophy in Ethiopia starts with Zera Yacob it also ends with Walda Heywat.
Treatise of Zera YacobIn the name of God who alone is just. I shall describe the life, the wisdom and the investigation of Zera Yacob who said: “Come and listen, all you who fear God, while I tell you what he has done for me.” Behold, I begin. In the name of God, who is the creator of all things, the beginning and the end, the possessor of all, the source of all life and of all wisdom, I shall write of some of the things that I have encountered during my long life. Let my soul be blessed in the sight of God and let the meek rejoice. I sought God and he answered me. And now you approach him and he will enlighten you; let not your face be ashamed. Join me in proclaiming the greatness of God and together let us extol his name. I was born in the land of the priests of Aksum. But I am the son of a poor farmer in the district of Aksum; the day of my birth is 25th of Nehase 1592 AD, the third year of King Yacob. By Christian baptism I was named Zera Yacob, but people called me Worqye. When I grew up, my father sent me to school in view of my instruction. And after I had read the Psalms of David my teacher said to my father: “This young son of yours is clever and has the patience to learn; if you send him to a higher school, he will be a master and a doctor.” After hearing this, my father sent me to study “Zeyma”. But my voice was course and my throat was grating; so my schoolmaster used to laugh at me and tease me. I stayed there for three months, until I overcame my sadness and went to another master who taught me “qine”. God gave me the talent to learn faster that my companions and this compensated for my previous disappointment; I stayed there four years. During those days, God as it snatched me from the claws of death: for as I was playing with my friends I fell into a ravine, and I do not know how I was saved except by a miracle from God. After I was saved I measured the depth of the ravine with a long rope and found it to be twenty-five fathoms and one palm deep. Thanking God for saving me, I went to the house of my master. After this I left for another school to study the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. I remained ten years in this type of study; I learned the interpretations both of the Frang and of our own scholars. Oftentimes their interpretations did not agree with my reason; but I withheld my opinion and hid in my heart all the thoughts of my mind. Having returned to my native Aksum, I taught for four years. But this period was not peaceful: for in the XIX year of King Susneyos, while Afwons, a Frang, was Abuna, two years after his arrival a great persecution spread all over Ethiopia. The king accepted the faith of the Frang, and from that time on persecuted all those who did not accept it. While I was teaching in my district, many of my friends came to dislike me. During this period there was no real friendship and as a result men became jealous of one another. I surpassed the others in knowledge and in love of one’s neighbor and I was on good terms with all, even with the Frang and the Copts. And while I was teaching and interpreting the Books, I used to say: “The Frang say this and this” or “The Copts say that and that,” and I did not say: “This is good, that is bad,” but I said: “All these things are good if we ourselves are good.” Hence I was disliked by all; the Copts took me for a Frang, the Frang for a Copt. They brought a charge against me many times to the king; but God saved me. At that time, a certain enemy of mine, Walda Yohannes, a priest from Aksum and a friend of the king, went to bring a charge against me, since the love of kings could be won by perfidious tongue. This betrayer went to the king and said this about me: “Truly this man misleads the people and tells them we should rise for the sake of our faith, kill the king and expel the Frang.” He also said many other similar words against me. But being aware of all this and frightened by it, I took three measures of gold which I possessed and the Psalms of David, with which I prayed, and fled at night. I did not tell anyone where I was going. I reached a place close to the Takkaze River, and the next day, as I felt hungry I went out in fear to beg the farmers for some bread. I ate what they gave me and ran away. I lived in this manner for many days. On my way to Shoa, I found an uninhabited location. There was a beautiful cave at the foot of a deep valley, and I said to myself, “I shall live here unnoticed.” I lived there for two years until King Susenyos died. At times I would leave the cave and go to the market or to the country of the Amhara as they took me for a hermit who goes about begging and gave me enough to appease my hunger. People however, did not know where I dwelt. Alone in my cave, I felt I was living in heaven. Knowing the boundless badness of men, I disliked contact with them. I built a fence of stone and thorny bush so that wild animals would not endanger my life at night, and I made an exit through which I could escape if ever people searched for me; there I lived peacefully praying with all my heart on the Psalms of David and trusting that God was hearing me.
After prayer, when I was not engaged in any kind of work, I used to meditate for whole days on conflicts between men and their depravity and on the wisdom of their creator who is silent while men do evil in His name and persecute their fellow men and kill their brothers. For in those days the Frang prevailed. And not only the Frang were strong in their persecutions but my own people were even worse than they. Those who had accepted the faith of the Frang would say: “The Copts have denied the rightful see of Peter, and are therefore the enemies of God;” and so they persecuted them. The Copts did the same in defense of their faith. I said to myself: “If God is the guardian of men, how is it that their nature is thus deeply corrupted?” and I said: “How does God know, or is there anyone in heaven who knows? Or if there is one who knows, why does he remain silent on men’s depravity while they corrupt his name and act with iniquity in his holy name?” I said in my prayer: “O my Lord and my creator, who endowed me with reason, make me intelligent, reveal to me your hidden wisdom. Keep my eyes open lest they slumber until the moment of death. Your hands made me and molded me; render me intelligent that I may know your precepts. My feet have nearly stumbled and the ground under them has nearly given way; and the labor stands before me.” While I was praying in such and similar ways, one day I said to myself in my own thought: “Whom am I praying to or is there a God who listens to me?” At this thought I was invaded by a dreadful sadness and I said: “In vain have I kept my own heart pure” (as David says). Later on I thought of the words of the same David, “Is the inventor of the ear unable to hear?” and I said: “Who is it that provided me with an ear to hear, who created me as a rational being and how have I come into this world? Where do I come from? Had I lived before the creator of the world, I would have known the beginning of my life and of the consciousness of myself. Who created me? Was I created by my own hands? But I did not exist before I was created. If I say that my father and my mother created me then I must search for the creator of my parents and of the parents of my parents until they arrive at the first who were not created as we are, but who came into this world in some other way without being generated. For if they themselves have been created, I know nothing of their origin unless I say, ‘He who created them from nothing must be an uncreated essence who is and will be for all centuries to come, the Lord and master of all things, without beginning or end, immutable, whose years cannot be numbered.”’ And I said “Therefore there is a creator, else there would have been no creation. This creator who endowed us with the gifts of intelligence and reason, can he himself be without them? For he created us as intelligent beings from the abundance of his intelligence and the same one being comprehends all, creates all, is almighty.” And I used to say: “My creator will hear me if I pray to him,” and because of this thought I felt very happy. “I would pray to my creator with great hope and love, and with all my heart I would say: “You, Lord, know the thought of my heart from afar. Indeed you know all that was and all that will be; and all my paths you know beforehand.” Hence it is said: “You know from afar. For God read my thoughts before I was born “and I said: “O my creator, make me intelligent.”
Later on I thought, saying to myself: “Is everything written in the Holy Scriptures true?” Although I thought much about these things I understood nothing, so I said to myself: “I shall go and consult scholars and thinkers; they will tell me the truth.” But afterwards I thought, saying to myself: “What will men tell me other than what is in their heart?” Indeed each one says: “My faith is right, and those who believe in another faith believe in falsehood, and are the enemies of God.” These days the Frang tell us: “Our faith is right, yours is false.” We on the other hand tell them: “It is not so; your faith is wrong, ours right.” “If we also ask the Mohammedans and the Jews, they will claim the same thing, and who would be the judge for such kind of argument? “No single human being can judge, for all men are plaintiffs and defendants between themselves. Once I asked a Frang scholar many things concerning our faith; he interpreted them all according to his own faith. Afterwards I asked a well-known Ethiopian scholar and he also interpreted all things according to his own faith. If I had asked the Mohammedans and the Jews, they also would have interpreted according to their own faith; then, where could I obtain a judge that tells the truth? As my own faith appears true to me, so does another one find his own faith true; but truth is one. While thinking over this matter, I said: “O my creator, wise among the wise and just among the just, who created me with an intelligence, help me to understand, for men lack wisdom and truthfulness; as David said, no man can be relied upon.” I thought further and said: “Why do men lie over problems of such great importance, even to the point of destroying themselves?” And they seemed to do so because although they pretend to know all, they know nothing. Convinced they know all, they do not attempt to investigate the truth. “As David said: “Their hearts are curdled like milk.” Their heart is curdled because they assume what they have heard from their predecessors and they do not inquire whether it is true or false. But I said: “O Lord! Who strike me down with such torment, it is fitting that I know your judgement. You chastise me with truth and admonish me with mercy. But never let my head be anointed with the oil of sinners and of masters in lying: make me understand, for you created me with intelligence.” I asked myself: “If I am intelligent, what is it I understand?” And I said: “I understand there is a creator, greater than all creatures; since from his overabundant greatness, he created things that are so great. He is intelligent who understands all, for he created us as intelligent from the abundance of his intelligence; and we ought to worship him, for he is the master of all things. If we pray to him, he will listen to us; for he is almighty.” I went on saying in my thought: “God did not create me intelligent without a purpose, which is to look for him and to grasp him and his wisdom in the path he has opened for me and to worship him as long as I live.” And still thinking on the same subject, I said to myself: “Why is it that all men do not adhere to truth, instead of believing falsehood?”The cause seemed to be the nature of man which is weak and sluggish. Man aspires to know truth and the hidden things of nature, but this endeavor is difficult and can only be attained with great labor and patience, as Solomon said: “With the help of wisdom I have been at pains to study all that is done under heaven; oh, what a weary task God has given mankind to labor at!” Hence people hastily accept what they have heard from their fathers and shy from any critical examination. But God created man to be the master of his own actions, so that he will be what he wills to be, good or bad. If a man chooses to be wicked he can continue in this way until he receives the punishment he deserves for his wickedness. But being carnal, man likes what is of the flesh; whether they are good or bad, he finds ways and means through which he can satisfy his carnal desire. God did not create man to be evil, but to choose what he would like to be, so that he may receive his reward if he is good or his condemnation if he is bad. If a liar, who desires to achieve wealth or honors among men, needs to use foul means to obtain them, he will say he is convinced this falsehood was for him a just thing. To those people who do not want to search, this action seems to be true, and they believe in the liar’s strong faith. I ask you, how many falsehoods do our people believe in? They believe wholeheartedly in astrology and other calculations, in the mumbling of secret words, in omens, in the conjuration of devils, and in all kinds of magical art and in the utterances of soothsayers. They believe in all these because they did not investigate the truth but listened to their predecessors. Why did these predecessors lie unless it was for obtaining wealth and honors? Similarly those who wanted to rule the people said: “We were sent by God to proclaim the truth to you;” and the people believed them. Those who came after them accepted their fathers’ faith without question; rather, as a proof of their faith, they added to it by including stories of signs and omens. Indeed they said: “God did those things;” and so they made God a witness of falsehood and a party to liars.
Reference: The Treatise of Zara Yacob and Walda Heywat by Claude Sumner