I have called this article Bete Israel rather than Beta Israel, which actually seems to be more common, because that seems more appropriate.  (Bete is the second letter of the Hebrew Alefbet while Beta is the second lettter of the Greek alphabet.)  They are also known as Falasha, also spelled Felasha, or Emigrants. They are a community of Jews from North and North-Western Ethiopia.  There are several theories as to where and how these people came to be Jewish or came to be where they are.

  1. The Bete Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan.
  2. They may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. (This is Etheopian tradition not witnessed in teh Bible.)
  3. They may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago.
  4. They may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and settled in Ethiopia.

It actually could be some combination of any or all of these. Without regard as to which theory may actually be correct (and each theory has its support), the authenticity of the "Jewishness" of the community became an issue.

The Jews do not really have rabbibical councils that authoritatively rule on such things but as early as the 16th century, Egypt's Chief Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Avi Zimra (Radbaz) declared that Bete Israel were indeed Jews. In 1855, Daniel ben Hamdya, a member of the Bete Israel, was the first Ethiopian Jew to visit Israel, meeting with a council of rabbis in Jerusalem concerning the authenticity of the Bete Israel. By 1864, almost all leading Jewish authorities accepted Bete Israel as true Jews.

More reciently some have undertaken genetic studies to determine if Bete Israel are related by blood to the Jews. The results have generally been that they are more related to the local Etheopian population. This is more a ethnic test than a spiritual test. I know Jews who are Asian and Hispanic and as such not related to Israel by blood. Israel has always been far from an ethnically closed club. Indeed in Exodis we find:

A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:38)

The point of this page is what is contained in their scriptures. Their scriptures are called Mäṣḥafä Kedus. The language of the writings is Ge'ez.

The holiest book is the Orit (from the Aramaic "Oraita" for "Torah"). Torah is often translated as law but teaching is perhaps more apropiate. The list of books in the Orit contains some of what the rest of Jews call the Former Prophets.

Orit (Torah)


The rest of their Bible has secondary importance. Just as for the rest of the Jews the Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Writings (Kethuvim) are of less importance. Wikipedia calls the next section the Deuterocanon and they are listed in the following table. Some will seem familiar from the Christian Apocrypha/Deuterocanon. Some are part of the Ethopian Christian canon.

Deuterocanonical books
1 and 2 Esdras
1 and 4 Baruch
Testament of Abraham 
Testament of Isaac
Testament of Jacob


The other categoy is what Wikipedia calls the Other writings:

Ge'ez English Comment
Nagara Muse The Conversation of Moses  
Mota Aaron Death of Aharon  
Mota Muse Death of Moses  
Te'ezaza Sanbat Precepts of Sabbath  
Arde'et Students  
Mäṣḥafä Sa'atat Book of Hours  
Abba Elias  Father Elija  
Mäṣḥafä Mäla'əkt Book of Angels  
Mäṣḥafä Kahan Book of Priest  
Dərsanä Abrəham Wäsara Bägabs Homily on Abraham and Sarah in Egypt  
Gadla Sosna The Acts of Susanna  
Baqadāmi Gabra Egzi'abḥēr In the Beginning God Created  
Zëna Ayhud Jews Story  
fālasfā Philosophers  


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Israel 2/10/14

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/ejhist.html 2/10/14

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5987-falashas 2/10/14