Church History

DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

“May the kings of Sheba and seba bring gifts” (ps.72:10)

Based on prophesy of King David on psalms 72:9-10, “may the Ethiopians bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and Isles render him tribute, May the kings of Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him”, when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod, the wise men from the East came to Jerusalem “and going in to the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (mt. 2:1-11). According to Ethiopian tradition one among the kings that gave tribute to Jesus in Bethlehem is an Ethiopian king Bazen.

As the prophet Isaiah prophesized, ” A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of midian and Ephah; all those from sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankin cense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Is. 60:6) ,it is believed that the one who rendered gold tribute was the Ethiopian king. So, since Ethiopian has known Christ and has celebrated his birthday beginning from the time of his birth, the assertion of the church as an ancient one is appropriate.

FROM THE 1ST – 4 TH CENTURY

“Here is water! What prevents me not to be baptized” Acts 8:36. An Angel of the Lord Said to Philip “Rise and go towards the south to a desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza”. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked. “So you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its Shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth. And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me not to be baptized?” And Philip said,” If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down in to the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoining (Acts 8:26-39).

As the Apostle Luke reported, Christian Faith and baptism was introduced into Ethiopia in 41 AD, through Bakos, the eunuch of the Ethiopian Queen Candace. The Ethiopian Bakos is the first to introduce to the world the formula, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Unlike Jews and Muslims, who still are in difficulty to accept Jesus’ Son ship of God, he believed Jesus as the Son of God and taught this true faith to his people. Since then the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes and teaches Jesus’ Son ship of God. Bakos, the first harvest of the Gospel during the apostolic era by embracing Christian faith, is a corner stone for the beliefs and order of worship of the Ethiopian Church. With his pilgrimage, Bakos fulfilled the obligations of Mosic and Gospel rules, and made his name and the name of his country mentioned in the Bible

As the ancient church historian Eusabious of cesarean reported, returning home, Bakos taught about Christ for his people what he heard form Philip. And the Ethiopian church was founded since this time. Since St. Philip is the godfather of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the church remembers him by building a church and engraving a tablet of law in his name. The church also counts on in the power of his prayer and inters cession

In addition to St. Philip, according to church historians Rufinus and Socrates, the Apostles St. Mathew, St. Nathanael St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas evangelized in Nubian (Sudan) and in different districts of Ethiopia.

In the 4th century AD., as St. Paul testified the high priesthood of Jesus saying, ” For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest. holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26), the Ethiopian church sent St. Frumentius Abba Salama to Alexandria to bring a high Priest that is from the line of ordination of the Apostles, appointees of the high priest Jesus. Saint Athnatiyos, the then patriarch of Alexandria, ordered Abba Salama himself and sent him the Ethiopia.

Even if Ethiopia embraces Christianity in the 1st Century Ad, it was given the bishopric chair, according to the rule of the Synod, in 330 AD. In the 4th century, during the reign of Abraha and Aşbaha, Christianity was preached in Ethiopia Officially by the bishop Abba Salama and it became the well established notional church that recognized worldwide. Since Abba Salama reviled the light of the Gospel throughout the country making his seat at Axam, he was called Abba Salama, lit, “Reviler of light”.

Since this time sacraments of the church began to be administered in their full form. Saint Frumentius appointed priests and deacons in order to help him spread the Gospel throughout the country. Especially he ordered Abraham, who was the high priest of the Jews, a bishop renaming him as Hazbe Qeddas. With the evangelization of Hazbe Qeddas the people of Noba, Saba, Nagran, Tagray, Amhara and Angot, Qeta, and Zebegdur believed in Christ, were baptized, and became Christians (Guidi 427-430). St. Frumentius has translated Holy Scriptures from Syraic, Hebrew and Greek in to Geez. He has changed the old lived writing style of sabaic to the present style from left to right. In addition, he added the sylabic orders from the 2nd to the 7th on the exiested single sylobic order.

After the time of Abba Selama until the beginning of the 20th century, only Egyptian bishops were coming to Ethiopia. However, in two instances in between, Abune Teklehaymanot and Abune Filippos were ordained bishops. Since Egyptian bishops were strange to the people, culture, and language of the country, their service was limited only in giving ordination. Other church affairs were performed by Ethiopian monks and scholars. So that, the Ethiopian church had and still has its own church order, caricalem and tradition.

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