I asked them, being from Judea, whence they got that language which they spoke, whether it was one of the languages of the nations which they had learned on the coast of the Red Sea. They apprehended, but it was mere conjecture, that the language which they spoke was that of those nations they had found on the Red Sea, after their leaving Judea and settling there; and the reafon they gave was certainly a pertinent one; that they came into Abyssinia, speaking Hebrew, with the advantage of having books in that language; but they had now forgot their Hebrew*, and it was therefore not probable they should retain any other language in which they had no books, and which they never had learned to express by letters.
I asked them, since they came from Jerusalem, how it happened they had not Hebrew, or Samaritan copies of the law, at least the Pentateuch or Octateuch. They said they were in possession of both when they came from Jerusalem; but their fleet being destroyed, in the reign of Rehoboam, and communication becoming very uncertain by the Syrian wars, they were, from necessity, obliged to have the scriptures translated, or make use of the copies in the hands of the Shepherds, who, according to them, before Solomon's time, were all Jews.
I asked them where the Shepherds got their copy, because, notwithstanding the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, who was the foreign obstacle the longest in their
- We see this happened to them in a much shorter time during the captivity, when they forgot their Hebrew, and spoke Chaldaec ever after.