Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Although Ethiopia is well known in the Bible and other secular literature, she is better known for her history which is based on “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” which has become the basis of her belief and religious practices. (Ps. 110; Pro 1:7)
Ethiopia and Ethiopians occupy a prominent place alongside those countries and places which are well known in Holy Books, ancient historical manuscripts as well as researches in archaeology around the Red Sea and the Nile Valley.
According to ancient history, the word Ethiopia denotes a geographical stretch of land which represents the area south of Egypt and goes as far as the Indian Ocean. The word “Ethiopia” is derived from two Greek words which is also a name given to the people living in the area. The fact that the country is called Ethiopia is also an indication of the shade of the color of the skin of the people living in it. The geographical expanse called Ethiopia appears to have covered different areas and sizes at different times, but the center has always been the area where the Blue Nile has its source. The Bible, as a unique book which tells about the beginning of all things, says: “And the name of the second river is Ghion: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.” (Gen 2:13) and the Lord’s prophet King David says also “Ethiopia stretches out her hands unto God.” (Ps. 67:31) The name Ethiopia is referred to at several places in the Holy Bible and the prophets of the Old Testament have mentioned the name Ethiopia. The Greek Poet, Homer, who lived around 800 B.C. has described Ethiopians and the place they inhabited in his writings. After Homer, the famous historian Herodotus who lived from 400-300 BC has also described the Ethiopians and the area they lived in his writings. He indicated the place as the area south of Egypt and around the Red Sea extending as far as the Indian Ocean. Describing the Ethiopians he said, “They lived a long life.” All these facts clearly demonstrate that Ethiopia is located in the eastern part of Africa and is a country with a long recorded history. In spite of the fact that worship in one true God has always been the basis of the Ethiopian religious practices for a long time, it was at the time of the Queen of Sheba that significant steps were taken to strengthen the belief. After having received information about King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba made the journey to the palace of King Solomon in Jerusalem, to see with her own eyes all that she heard about him. This journey was also intended to introduce Ethiopian civilization in return. The relationship that followed created conducive conditions for the introduction of the Old Testament teachings and belief in Ethiopia. It was at this time that the Ark of Zion was brought to our country. From that time onwards, the Old Testament became the basis of the religious belief,-practice and teachings of the people and Ethiopia became the seat of the Ark of the Covenant (IKgs. 10:1-9). Because of these historical, cultural and religious relationships with Jerusalem, the Ethiopians used to travel to the Holy Land, crossing the deserts on foot and animal back which was really a hard and a difficult task. The constant journeys made by the Ethiopians to the Holy Land made them owners of centers of worship in the City of David. This ownership of worshipping centers in Jerusalem is a symbol of honor and pride not only to Ethiopians but also to all black peoples as a whole. This historical and religious relationship also opened the way to Christianity in Ethiopia. The Holy Bible tells us that an Ethiopian eunuch who happened to be in Jerusalem for the purpose of worshipping in the 1st century A.D. brought Christianity to Ethiopia (Acts. 8:26-39). But the establishment of the Bishopric and the administration of all the Sacraments was started in the 4* century A.D. when Frumentius was appointed by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius, as the first bishop of Ethiopia. This again marked the beginning of the religious relations between Alexandria and Ethiopia. Ethiopia, even before the Birth of Christ and the introduction of Christianity used to follow the teachings of the Old Testament (Laws of Moses) as its religious basis. After the introduction of Christianity, both the Old and the New Testament became the bases of her Christian belief. The teachings of the Old and the New Testaments as the bases of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and development has a long history which has come down to the present time. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is one of those Orthodox Churches which reject the Chalcedonian religious conferences and their decisions. But it accepts and strictly follows:
- a. The work and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- b. The action and teachings of His Apostle
- c. Through the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit the decision taken by the 318 Holy Fathers in the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 AD; the decision taken by the 151 Holy Fathers in the Council of Constantinople in the year 381 AD and the decision and teachings of the 200 Holy Fathers in the Council of Ephesus in the year 431 AD. It also accepts the Holy Fathers who came afterward at different times and whose teachings completely agree with the above mentioned Councils’ decisions.The time between the 4th and the 7th century A.D. was a time when satisfactory religious activities and spiritual guidances were performed.
- a) Schools as Centers of Qene (Poetry) and writings were developed.
- b) Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures were developed
- c) Schools of church music were introduced and developed. The second half of the 19th century was also a time when Emperor Theodros came to power and the reunion of the country was thus initiated heralding the beginning of modern Ethiopia.