The Ethiopic version of IGT comprises chapter eight of Ta’amra ’Iyasus (Miracles of Jesus), a large biographical work compiled from various canonical and noncanonical sources. Sylvain Grébaut published the IGT section of the Miracles in 1919 as part of his ceaseless efforts to publish the entire text (“Les miracles de Jésus: Texte éthiopien publié et traduit,” Patrologia orientalis 12.4 : 555-652). His edition was based on a late manuscript of the Bibliothèque nationale (d’Abbadie 168, 19th c.) with four others employed in the apparatus. Since his day it has been determined that the compilation derives from an Arabic Gospel of John (CANT 44) written in the tenth or eleventh century from Syriac sources and perhaps translated into Ethiopic in the fourteenth century. This Arabic original, however, did not contain the IGT material; the childhood stories seem to have been added to the Ta’amra ’Iyasus in the Ethiopic milieu at a later date.
The origin of the IGT episodes is difficult to determine. Several scholars have suggested direct translation from a Greek original. If so, the text would have been introduced into Ethiopia prior to the seventh century. A Syriac or Arabic original introduced after the Muslim conquest is more likely. The contents of IGT in Eth represent the short recension (lacking chs. 1, 10, 17 and 18), but ch.12 is placed at the end of the collection along with the story of Jesus Rides the Sunbeam. Notable also is Eth’s version of ch. 13 which is cast here as a story of Jesus learning his father’s trade without any hint of the miraculous in his actions.
The following translation was made directly from the Ethiopic by Paul-Hubert Poirier of Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses, Université Laval. It is the only English translation of the text currently available. Chapter and verse divisions follow the standard numbering of Tischendorf’s Greek A text except chapter six which is significantly longer in the Ethiopic and other versions. The original divisions are supplied in parentheses.
Eighth Miracle which our Lord and our Saviour Jesus Christ did when he was a young child.
(1) 2 1 When the Lord Jesus Christ was an infant and was in those days about five years old and was playing near a stream, running water, filtering it through sand, running it into a cistern, making it come down pure and limpid and purifying it skilfully.
2 He took from the silt mire and mud, and he fashioned twelve birds. And at that time it was the day of Shabbat. And there were with him many children playing.
(2) 3 And a Jew saw him while he was doing that with the children. And he went to Joseph, his father, and accused the Lord Jesus, saying, “On Shabbat he made mud and with it twelve birds, which is not permitted on Shabbat.”
4 When Joseph heard (it), he went to the Lord Jesus. He admonished him and said, “Why do you do such a thing which it is not permitted to do on Shabbat?” When the Lord Jesus heard these words, he clapped his hands and made them to fly away and said to them, “Go and fly to the men who stand there.” And these birds flew, crying and saying, “Praised be the Son of the Lord.”
(3) 5 A Pharisee saw him. And he was shocked and afraid. He went and told (that) to his friends.
3 1 And so the son of Hannah the scribe went with the Pharisee. Himself took a branch of willow and made to flow out the water that the Lord Jesus had gathered and he dried up the pool.
2 Then the Lord Jesus, seeing that he had done that, said to him, “Without fruit, may your seed (or offspring) be arid! And the shoot of your fruit be like a branch which has no life.”
3 And at once the child became arid.
(4) 4 1 Another time, the Lord Jesus went with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And while running, a child stroke the chest of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord said to the child, “May your body not grow.” The child died at once and felt. And those who saw the child which had died lamented. And they said, “Where is this infant from, for everything he says happens at once.”
2 And the parents of the child which had died mourned him and bemoaned him. And later they went to Joseph and said to him, “Since you have such a son, you cannot stay with us in our city. Either give order that he bless us, or depart from here.”
(5) 5 1 Joseph admonished the infant. Coming up to him, he said to him, “Why, my son, are you doing such things? Now, then, these people will hate us. And the Lord Jesus answered Joseph and said, “If the men had not known the word of the wisdom of my Father, they would not know the punishment of their children. Moreover, even what is hidden was made manifest to them, in order for them to understand. And those who have not found this malediction, those too have at once found their judgement. And those who are indignant about it are blind.”
2 And Joseph got angry and pulled him hard ears and cheeks.
3 And the Lord Jesus said to him, “It will be enough for you to search for me and not find me. As for you, you have not known me perfectly and you have forgotten.”
(6) 6 1 There was a famous teacher, whose name was Zacchaeus. And (Jesus) heard him conversing in this way with his father Joseph.
2 And this teacher, whose name was Zacchaeus, was saying to Joseph, “If you want that this infant be instructed, give him to me, so that I myself instruct him, because I will love him more than his young men and I will honour him more than the elders, so that he too become a friend for the children and moreover become a teacher.”
3 Joseph answered and said to him, “Who is this who could take this infant and instruct him, for a great cross is appropriate for this infant?”
(7) 4 The infant answered and said, “Amongst the words you have said, Teacher, you have named something strange: I am different from you, and I do not have, like you, a family of flesh. And you are the only one who has been found in the Law. Because, before you were born yourself, I myself was. And while you expect yourself to become a father, now then you will be instructed by me. And nobody else has seen the form of the cross which I have sworn to carry. And it is fitting for me that myself, having to be crucified, I reject your own works, because you do not know how you were born and where you come from. I alone know exactly when you were born and until when you will be here.”
(8) 5 And they began to cry and to be astonished, while they were saying, “We have seen great wonders and marvels. Never have we heard such words, either from the priests or from the masters or from the Pharisees and the scribes. Then indeed, where was born this infant? Because he is about five years old and we see that he speaks thus. Never have we seen such a thing.”
6 And once more, the Lord Jesus answered and said to them, “You are astonished, nevertheless you do not know what I have told to you. As for me, I know whence you were born and, which is more than that, I know that from my Father and he himself knows me.”
7 And when they heard that, they were completely (astonished) and could not speak. And the Lord Jesus came near and said to them, “I have played with you because you are small in knowledge and of little intelligence.”
(9) 8 While Zacchaeus the teacher was persuading Joseph, his father, he said to him, “Give him to me, I have to instruct him.” He persuaded him and took him (= Jesus). And he went into the school. Once in, the Lord Jesus kept silent. Zacchaeus the teacher began to teach him the letters. He said to him, “Say â€›Alpha’.” The Lord Jesus did not answer. The teacher got angry and slapped him on the head. The infant said to him, “While he is struck with a hammer, will (an infant) learn? You speak yourself like a resounding bronze and like a ringing bell, without any sound of word or wisdom or science.”
9 And the Lord Jesus began from Alpha up to the end and with great accuracy he told him (the letters). Once again, the Lord Jesus answered and said, “Those who do not know â€›Alpha’, how will they teach â€›Beta’? O hypocrites, learn yourself first â€›Alpha’ and then, I will believe you, when you will have known the interpretation of Alpha and Beta.”
10 And then, the Lord Jesus began to tell to the teacher the first form (of letter). And he said to him, “What is the stroke of the triplicate? There are many … and pull of the hand, return and rising of the (writing) instrument, straight, triplicate, upright and curved.”
7 1 The teacher was amazed and astonished of some many names. And after he had been astonished by his words, he cried, lamented and said, “Woe to me who have brought myself affliction upon my head.
2 “Take him out of here, please! It is not convenient that he remains on earth. Truly a great cross is convenient for whoever will be able to reveal this infant and teach him. As for me, I am inclined to place his birth before the flood and the days of Noah, because I myself wonder which womb bore him, which bosom gave him birth, and which mother raised him. As for me, I do not stand it, I am amazed, I have deceived myself. I am miserable, who have thought to have found a disciple, it is rather him who has become for me a teacher!
3 I have no rest, I cannot run away out of the country, I cannot look at the infant. I am myself strongly (surprised) at the eloquence of his mouth, I cannot (understand) what has exposed this infant, because I see intelligence before his eyes. Moreover (I am surprised at) the eloquence of his mouth and the purity of his language.
4 Whether he is the Lord or an angel, I do not know.”
8 1 Then the Lord Jesus laughed and said, “Which is not fruitful will be fruitful. The blinds will see the fruit of life which has opened (their eyes).”
2 At once all those who had been cursed by him looked (at him). Therefore there was no one who dared to provoke him.
(10) 9 1 One day, while the Lord Jesus was playing on the roof with young children, one of them fell off and died. When the other children saw him (dead), they run away, and the Lord Jesus remained alone.
2 The parents of the one who had died said to the Lord Jesus, “It you who have thrown down this infant.” He said to them, “As for me, I have not thrown him down.”
3 And when they had debated with him for a long time, the Lord Jesus descended into the tomb and went towards the corpse of the one who had died. He called him with a loud voice and said to him, “Tell, NÄhu, whether it is I who threw you down.” For such was the name of the child. And the child said, “No, my Lord.” The parents of the child having seen (that) were amazed and terrified. They glorified the Lord.
(11) 11 1 After our Lord Jesus Christ had reached the age of seven, his mother, our Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary, doubly (virgin), sent him to draw water. While they were going and jostled each other on the road, his jug broke down.
2 The Lord Jesus spread the coat of which he was covered, wrapped the water inside and brought it to his mother. The Lady Mary was amazed at all that and she kept in her hearth what she saw.
(12) 13 1 Then the Lord Jesus reached the age of eight. As to Joseph, he was a carpenter. He made nothing else than yokes, beams and ploughs. A farmer brought him a log and he sawed it up. The Lord Jesus said to his father, “Father, show me how to saw up.” And Joseph showed him.
2 The Lord Jesus took his measures to saw up. He trimmed and squared off the wood. He showed it to his father Joseph and said to him, “Is this how you want me to do now?”
(13) 14 1 When Joseph saw that he was intelligent, he wished him to be instructed and that he did not remain idle, and he led the Lord Jesus towards a teacher. Again he said, “Say: ‘Alpha’.”
2 The teacher got angry at him and stroke him. At once the teacher fell and died.
3 The Lord Jesus went back to his parents. And he was ordained not to go out of his parents’ so that, if he was to curse someone, (this one) would not die.
(14) 15 1 There was besides another teacher and he said to Joseph, “Give me your son so that I myself instruct him properly.” He took the Lord Jesus.
2 The Lord Jesus took a book, read what was written, opened his mouth and recited (it) by heart so that the teacher fell to the ground, terror-stricken, and implored him. Many people gathered there. They talked together so that all those who lived there were amazed.
3 Joseph heard and hurried, because it seemed to him that they were killing Jesus. The teacher said to Joseph, “It is not a disciple that you have given to me but a teacher.”
4 And Joseph took the Lord Jesus and they went back home.
2 The Lord Jesus did nothing else than blowing on his hand, where (the serpent) had bitten, and he cured him. As for the serpent, he died immediately.
(16) 19 1 The Lord Jesus was about twelve years old. Joseph and our Lady Mary went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover, as they were used to do. Once there, they celebrated and returned home. And while they were coming back, the Lord Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. They did not know (but) it seemed to them that he was behind on the road.
2 When they reached their country, our Lady Mary and Joseph looked for him among his kindred and among their relatives, and they did not find him. When they saw him missing, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. At the seventh hour, they found him in the temple, sitting among the doctors who listened to him and were asking him questions. And all those who were listening to him were astonished at him. He admonished the priests and he explained to them the writings of the Prophets and the hidden symbols which are in the Law.
3 Her mother said to him, “O my child, why have you done such (a thing) to us? For we have been afflicted while searching for you, I and your father.” The Lord Jesus answered and said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I was with my Father?”
4 The scribes and the Pharisees said to our Lady Mary, “Is it you, Mary, the mother of this child? For you are blessed in your fruit, because we have never seen or heard someone as illustrious in wisdom.”
5 The Lord Jesus rose and followed his parents. His mother, our Lady Mary, kept all these words and put them in her heart. The Lord Jesus grew in stature, wisdom and grace, before God and men.
(17) Again the Lord Jesus did a miracle. When sun entered through the window, the Lord Jesus straddled the sun ray and went to Orient and Occident, as far as reached the sun ray.
(18) 12 Again he sowed five grains of barley and harvested five hundred bags, which he gave to the poor.