Ethiopic Bible Selections - Pages 6 and 7
Eusebius and his Letter to Carpianus
Copyright © The British Library Board
The illustration depicts Eusebius of Caesarea (260-339 A.D.), a bishop in Palestine, and his pupil Carpianus. On the facing page is a copy of the famous letter Eusebius wrote to Carpianus in which he explains the similarities and the differences among the first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, also known as the Synoptic Gospels. These Gospels tell the story of Christ from His birth to His resurrection in much the same general sequence. The content of Christ's teaching is the same in many details, but the order of presenting it varies. For example, Matthew and Luke have different accounts of Christ's birth. In Matthew the author is keen to legitimise his birth by tracing the genealogy of his parents back to Adam and Eve, while Luke is much more focused on the miraculous nature of the birth itself in a firm historical context. Eusebius sets out the parallels and variations in these Gospels on the following pages in a series of tables, known as canon tables.
Birds as ornaments are common in the illuminations of Ethiopian Gospels. The story of Adam and Eve in paradise is embellished with a variety of birds, an arrangement which copies closely the ornamental pattern of the canon tables of Eusebius. The elaborate patterns framing the canon tables of Eusebius are also meant to symbolize the Fountain of Life.