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An East African empire that dates its acceptance of Christianity from the fourth century, and its dynasty from Solomon. It was said that Frumentius* and Edesius of Tyre were taken prisoners to Abyssinia, but on gaining favor with Emperor Ezana were set free and began to evangelize the country. About 340 Frumentius was consecrated bishop of Ethiopia by Athanasius in Alexandria. At the close of the fifth century, nine monks reportedly came from Syria, and the Ethiopian Church was confirmed in the Monophysitism that had characterized the original link with Alexandria. The Christian influence declined as Islamic influence spread in Africa, and the church was cut off from contact with other Christians, except for the Coptic Church.* Both the Coptic connection and the isolation are significant factors in the history of a land long shrouded in mystery, beset even today by paganism in the interior, and with a church overlaid by superstition and syncretism, one in which Judaism is still a potent feature.

In 1268 the old dynasty was restored; the church took new life, but excesses of zeal led to the forcible baptism of conquered tribes. Attempts to bring the church into communion with Rome ended with the martyrdom of Dominican missionaries. Only the Abyssinian monastery in Jerusalem retained relations with the West.

When the Muslim onslaught was renewed early in the sixteenth century, an appeal to Rome brought further attempts at reunion in exchange for Portuguese aid, and during the pontificate of Julius III (1550-55), Portuguese Jesuits entered the country. They impressed the court, but alienated the clergy. In 1614 belief in Christ's two natures was imposed on pain of death. The Monophysites resisted but were defeated, and the emperor Susenyos became a Roman Catholic. In 1626 this was proclaimed the official religion, but in 1632 Susenyos's son succeeded him, the old religion was restored, the Jesuits ousted.

In 1634 Peter Heyling* introduced Protestantism into the country, but he too was finally expelled. Later Franciscan efforts proved to be not only unrewarding but dangerous, and the indigenous church was to reach its nadir from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century because of doctrinal difficulties and isolation. The church was suspicious of change as interference with God's established order, and with education controlled by the clergy they wielded immense power. The isolation continued until 1935 when Ethiopia was opened up, not by missionaries, but by the military might of Mussolini. Many clergy, including two bishops, suffered martyrdom, and almost all non-Italian missionaries were expelled.

After World War II, the Ethiopian Church broke with the tradition that its abuna should be a Copt sent from Egypt. In 1951 the patriarch of Alexandria consecrated an Ethiopian catholicos-patriarch, and in 1959 the church became independent of Egypt. It is distinctive in several ways. Its canon includes some of the apocryphal books; it observes the Sabbath, circumcision, and the difference between clean and unclean meats. The ark is to be found in every church and at every outdoor festival. The church holds that Christ has one nature, but insists He is perfectly human as well as perfectly divine (though it has known divisions on this point). There are two kinds of clergy: the somewhat illiterate priests responsible for administering the sacraments; and the educated lay clerks who chant the church offices in the long-dead Ge'ez tongue, and teach in the schools. Monasticism is widespread. Each church has its school, and until about 1900, church schools were the sole source of education. A translation of the liturgy has now been made into Amharic, in which language a revised version of the Scriptures was authorized in 1960. More than one-third of Ethiopia's twenty- four-million population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Priests number some 170,000, parishes more than 11,000.

The country is now open to foreign missionaries, albeit with some restrictions in this very tradition-conscious land. Emperor Haile Selassie moved resolutely in advancing national education. He participated in the 1966 Berlin World Congress on Evangelism and was host to the meeting of the World Council of Churches central committee in Addis Ababa in 1971. Deposed and imprisoned in 1974, he died in 1975.

J.M. Harden, Introduction to Ethiopian Christian Literature (1926); H.M. Hyatt, The Church of Abyssinia (1928); DeL. O'Leary, The Ethiopic Church (1936); A.F. Matthew, The Teachings of the Ethiopian Church (1936); D. O'Hanlon, Features of the Abyssinian Church (1946); J.S. Trimingham, The Christian Church and Missions to Ethiopia (1950); M. Daoud (tr.), The Liturgy of the Ethiopian Church (1954); R. Crummey, “Foreign Missions in Ethiopia,” Bulletin of the Society for African Church History, II, 1 (1965); E. Isaac, The Ethiopian Church (1967); M. Abir, Ethiopia: the Era of the Princes (1968); E. Ullendorff, Ethiopia and the Bible (1968); M. Geddes, Church History of Ethiopia (1969).

ETHIOPIA ē’ thĭ ō’ pĭ ə. Nubia, a country in the N Sudan, S of Egypt.


In the NT, “Ethiopian” trs. Αἰθίοψ, G134, whose etymological meaning is prob. “dark-faced” (Acts 8:27).


The Biblical Ethiopia is Nubia, in southernmost Egypt and the N Sudan, not the modern Ethiopia (also called Abyssinia). Ethiopia is often associated with Egypt in the Bible (e.g. Ps 68:31; Isa 20:3-5; Ezek 30:4, 5). More specifically Ethiopia is located S of Egypt (Judg 1:10) and S of Syene (Ezek 29:10), modern Aswan, the southernmost important city of Egypt. This location of Ethiopia agrees with the Egyp. references to K’š (which corresponds to Heb. כּ֥ושׁ) and with Herodotus II. 29.


The first historical reference to an Ethiopian in the Bible is the incident of the Cushite (i.e. Ethiopian) slave who carried to David the news of Absalom’s death (2 Sam 18:21-23, 31, 32).

There were Ethiopian mercenaries in the army of Shishak, a Libyan king of Egypt, when he invaded Pal. about 918 b.c. (2 Chron 12:3).

An attack on Judah by Ethiopians and Libyans (2 Chron 14:9-15), led by Zerah the Ethiopian, was repulsed by King Asa (913-873 b.c.). These attackers may have been mercenaries in the Egyp. army settled in southern Pal. by Pharaoh Shishak. Possibly these mercenaries are also the Ethiopians near the Arabs (2 Chron 21:16), though some scholars think the reference is to the close contact of the S Arabians with Africans across the Red Sea.

2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9 mention Tirhakah’s (the king of Ethiopia) attempt to check Sennacherib’s invasion of Pal. in the time of King Hezekiah. The Assyrians mockingly called Tirhakah “a bruised reed” (2 Kings 18:21 KJV) and defeated him at Eltekeh. In Egypt, Tirhakah was again defeated by the Assyrian king Esar-haddon and retired to Ethiopia. These defeats of Tirhakah may be referred to by Isaiah (Isa 20:3-5). Tirhakah ruled about 689-664 b.c. as the third and last Pharaoh of the Twenty-fifth, or Ethiopian Dynasty of Egypt. The Ethiopian control of Egypt under this dynasty explains why Ethiopia was called the “strength” of Thebes, Egypt’s southern capital (Nah 3:9). This brief Ethiopian empire included Egypt for about fifty years. Tirhakah’s nephew and successor as king of Ethiopia, Tanut-Amon, was defeated by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who destroyed Thebes in 663 b.c. (Nah 3:8).

The Letter of Aristeas 13 states that Pharaoh Psammetichus II (593-588 b.c.) used Jewish mercenaries in his campaign against Ethiopia, which is also mentioned by Herodotus II. 161. He or a Pharaoh soon after, settled a Jewish garrison on Elephantine Island to guard the border between Egypt and Ethiopia.

Ebed-melech, who secured Jeremiah’s release from the cistern (Jer 38:7-13), was an Ethiopian eunuch who held a high position in the household of King Zedekiah of Judah (597-587 b.c.). He believed in God, and Jeremiah promised that he would be safe in the coming capture of Jerusalem (39:15-17).

King Ahasuerus of Persia (usually identified with Xerxes, 486-465 b.c.) included Ethiopia at one extreme of his empire (Esth 1:1; 8:9 and in the Additions of the Apocrypha, 13:1; 16:1). Darius I of Persia also mentions Ethiopia in his list of provinces.

The Ethiopians who were to follow Antiochus Epiphanes, king of the N, or Syria (175-163 b.c.), after his conquest of Egypt (Dan 11:43) may refer to mercenaries in his army. The exact meaning, however, is uncertain in this context.

Sibylline Oracles V. 194 mentions the capture of Syene by the Ethiopians. This may refer to an expedition into Egypt sent by an Ethiopian queen with the title Candace, in 24 b.c. (Strabo, XVII. i. 54).

Acts 8:27 mentions “Candace the queen of the Ethiopians.” Candace was a Nubian royal title, prob. corresponding to “queen mother.” The queen who ruled at Meroe (then the Ethiopian capital) with this title at that time was Amantitere (a.d. 25-41). See Candace. That her treasurer should visit Jerusalem and should be reading Isaiah is not surprising in the light of Jewish contacts with Nubia. Some have suggested that he was a proselyte or even a Jew. See Ethiopian Eunuch.


The Bible several times refers to “the rivers of Ethiopia” (Isa 18:1; Zeph 3:10), presumably the Nile, the Blue and White Niles, and the Atbara. The papyrus boats used on these rivers (Isa 18:2) are pictured in Egyp. reliefs and paintings, and they are still used in modern Ethiopia. The merchandise of Ethiopia (Job 28:19; Isa 45:14) included the topaz as a precious product of that land. Egyptian records list among the imports from Ethiopia: gold, precious stones, incense, ebony, ivory, ostrich feathers and eggs, leopard skins, greyhounds, cattle, gazelles, bows, shields, and slaves. Isaiah (18:2) calls the Ethiopians “tall and smooth.” Not only are some of the Sudanese tribes tall, but they also have little body hair, and very smooth skin. Jeremiah (13:23) implies that the Ethiopian’s skin is black. The prophet also (46:9) lists Ethiopians with shields among the soldiers of the Egyp. army; small wooden models of shield-bearing Nubian soldiers have been found in Egyp. tombs.

Prophecies about Ethiopia.


E. A. W. Budge, The Egyptian Sudan (1907); J. W. Crowfoot, The Island of Meroe (1911); F. L. Griffith, Meroitic Inscriptions, I (1911) and Meroitic Inscriptions, II (1912); G. Reisner, “The Meroitic Kingdom of Ethiopia,” JEA, IX, (1923), 34-77; E. A. W. Budge, A History of Ethiopia, Nubia, and Abyssinia (1928); T. Säve-Söderbergh, Ägypten und Nubien (1941); D. Dunham, The Royal Tombs of Kush, I (1950), II (1955), III (1952), IV (1957); A. J. Arkell, A History of the Sudan (1955); E. Ullendorff, Ethiopia and the Bible (1968).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(kush; Aithiopia):

1. Location, Extent and Population:

Critically speaking Ethiopia may refer only to the Nile valley above the First Cataract, but in ancient as in modern times the term was often used not only to include what is now known as Nubia and the Sudan (Soudan), but all the unknown country farther West and South, and also at times Northern, if not Southern, Abyssinia. While Ethiopia was so indefinitely large, yet the narrow river valley, which from the First to the Fifth Cataract represented the main agricultural resources of the country, was actually a territory smaller than Egypt and, excluding deserts, smaller than Belgium (W. Max Muller). The settled population was also small, since in ancient as in modern times Egypt naturally drew away most of the able-bodied and energetic youth as servants, police and soldiers. The prehistoric population of Northern Nubia was probably Egyptian but this was displaced in early historic time by a black race, and the thick lips and woolly hair of the typical African are as well marked in the oldest Egyptian paintings as in the latest. But by the side of these natives of K’sh, the artist also represents various reddish-brown varieties; for from the beginning of historic time the pure Negro stock has been mixed with the fellaheen of Egypt and with the Sere population of the Arabian coast. The rulers of Ethiopia were generally of foreign blood. The Negroes, though brave and frugal, were slow in thought, and although controlled for centuries by cultivated neighbors, under whom they attained at times high official prominence, yet the body of the people remained uninfluenced by this civilization. The country which we now know as Abyssinia was largely controlled, from the earliest known date, by a Caucasian people who had crossed the Red Sea from Arabia. The true Abyssinians, as Professor Littmann shows, contain no Negro blood and no Negro qualities. In general they are "well formed and handsome, with straight and regular features, lively eyes, hair long and straight or somewhat curled and in color dark olive approaching brown." Modern discoveries prove their close racial and linguistic connection with Southern Arabia and particularly with the kingdom of Sheba (the Sabeans), that most powerful people whose extensive architectural and literary remains have recently come to light. The Sabean inscriptions found in Abyssinia go back some 2,600 years and give a new value to the Bible references as well as to the constant claim of Josephus that the queen of Sheba was a "queen of Ethiopia." The Falashas are a Jewish community living near Lake Tsana, of the same physical type and probably of the same race as other Abyssinians. Their religion is a "pure Mosaism" based upon the Ethiopic version of the Pentateuch, but modified by the fact that they are ignorant of the Hebrew language (Jewish Encyclopedia). It is uncertain when they became Jews. The older scholars thought of them as dating back to the Solomonic era, or at least to the Babylonian captivity. Since the researches of Joseph Halevy (1868), some date within the Christian era has seemed preferable, notwithstanding their ignorance of Talmudic rules. However, the newly discovered fact that a strong Jewish community was flourishing at Syene in the 6th century BC makes it clear that Jewish influence may have been felt in Ethiopia at least that early. Although Abyssinians are noted for their strict adherence to ancient custom, Jewish characteristics are prominent all over the entire country. The opening formula of the king in every official letter--"The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has Conquered!"--is no more Jewish than scores of ordinary phrases and customs. Although it is barely possible that some rites, like circumcision and observance of the Sabbath, may have been received from the ancient Egyptians or Christian Coptics (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge Encyclopedia) yet a strong Hebrew influence cannot be denied. All travelers speak of the "industry" of the Falashas and of the "kindliness and grave courtesy" of the Abyssinians. Besides those named above there are many communities of mixed races in Ethiopia, but the ancient basis is invariably Negro, Semitic or Egyptian

2. History:

The ancient Greek writers are full of fantastic and fabulous stories about Ethiopia. Sometimes they become so puzzled in their geography as to speak of Ethiopia as extending as far as India; their notes concerning the miraculous fauna and flora are equally Munchausian. Homer praises the Ethiopians as the "blameless race," and other writers rank them first among all men for their religious knowledge. This latter notion may have had its origin from a priestly desire to consider the Ethiopian reverence for the priesthood--which had the power of life and death over the kings--as the Divinely ordained primitive custom, or it may have sprung from the fact that the Egyptian "Land of the Gods" was partly situated in Southern Abyssinia. It is suggestive that the Hebrew prophets never fell into these common errors but invariably "gave a very good idea of geographical and political conditions" (W. Max Muller). The oldest important historic document referring to Ethiopia is from the IVth Dynasty of Egypt. when Sneferu laid waste the land, capturing 7,000 slaves and 100,000 cattle. In the VIth Dynasty the Egyptians reached as far South as the Second Cataract and brought back some dwarfs, but did not establish any permanent control. In the XIIth Dynasty Egypt’s real occupation of Ethiopia began. Usertesen III records his contempt by saying: "The Negro obeys as soon as the lips are opened. They are not valiant, they are miserable, both tails and bodies!" Notwithstanding this satiric reference, these naked Ethiopians clad in skins and tails of wild animals, compelled the Pharaoh to make several campaigns before he could establish a frontier at the Second Cataract beyond which no Negro could come without a permit. That the natives were not cowardly may be seen from the songs of triumph over their subjection and from the fact that every later Pharaoh encouraged them to enlist in his army, until finally the very hieroglyphic for archer became a Nubian. The XVIIIth Dynasty pushed the frontier beyond the Third Cataract into the splendid Dongola district and often boasts of the rich tribute from Ethiopia., in one case 2,667 "manloads" of ivory, ebony, perfumes, gold and ostrich feathers besides cattle, wild beasts and slaves. The chairs of ivory and the jewelry sometimes shown seem barbaric in style but excellent in workmanship. Copper and bronze factories and great iron foundries date also to a very early time in Ethiopia (PSBA, XXXIII, 96). The Ethiopian gold mines where hundreds of criminals toiled, with ears and noses mutilated, made gold in Egypt in the 15th century BC as "common as dust." The choicest son of the Pharaoh, next to him in power, was proud to be called "Prince of Kush." Amenhotep IV (1370 BC), the religious reformer, built his second greatest temple (the only one of his works now existent) in Nubia. The XIXth Dynasty sought to colonize Ethiopia., and some of the most magnificent temples ever built by man can be seen as far South as the Fourth Cataract. For over five centuries Egyptian rule was maintained, until about 1000 BC a war for independence began which was so successful that the victorious Ethiopian kings finally carried their armies against Thebes and Memphis and for a century (763-663) ruled all Egypt from Napata--which in religious architecture became the Southern Thebes--and for another century (and even at times during the Ptolemaic era) controlled upper Egypt. While the leaders of this revolution were doubtless descendants of exiled priests from Thebes, yet the mixture of Ethiopian blood is plainly discernible and is perhaps also shown in their "Puritan morals" (Petrie, III, 276) and spirit of clemency, so different from the legitimate Pharaohs. Shabaka = So (715-707) and Taharka = Tirhaqah (693-667), both mentioned in the Bible, were the last great kings of Ethiopia. When Tanutamen, son of Shabaka and nephew of Taharka (667-664), was forced by Ashurbanipal to give up his claim to Egypt and retire to the South, the influence of Ethiopia ceased. Cambyses (525-521) made Ethiopia tributary clear to the Third Cataract(compare Eze 30:4), while King Ergamenes, near the close of the 3rd century BC, broke forever the power of the Egyptian priesthood. Though the Romans held a nominal protectorate over Ethiopia, it was of so little importance as to be scarcely ever mentioned. After being expelled from Egypt the Ethiopians still continued to honor the gods of Thebes, but, as foreign influence ceased, the representations of this worship became more and more African and barbaric. Even after Christianity had triumphed everywhere else, the Nubians, as late as the 5th century AD, were still coming to Philae to give honor to the statue of Isis (Erman). In the 6th century AD a native king, Silko, established a Christian kingdom in the Northern Sudan with Dongola as its capital. This raised somewhat the culture of the land. In the next century the Arabs made Nubia tributary, though it took an immense army to do it. For six centuries thereafter Islam demanded a tribute of 360 slaves annually, and other treasure, though innumerable campaigns were necessary to collect it. The Nubian kings refused all overtures to become Moslems, and Christian churches multiplied along the banks of the Nile. In the 8th century Egypt was invaded by 100,000 Nubians to repay an insult given to the Coptic patriarch and to the sacred pictures in the Egyptian Christian churches. In the 13th century, David, king of Nubia, not only withheld tribute but invaded Egypt. He was terribly punished, however, by the Arabs, who sacked churches and tortured Christians clear to the Fourth Cataract. This was the beginning of the end. By the close of the 15th century almost every Christian altar was desolate and every church destroyed.

3. Bible References:

Recent, information, however, makes it clear that both Shabaka and Tirhaqah exercised royal authority in the Delta before they were given it farther south, and that the Hebrew transcription of names was very easy and natural. (See W. M. Flinders Petrie, Hist of Egypt, III, 280-309; Egypt and Israel (1911), 76-78.)

4. The Church in Abyssinia:

Sem influence entered Abyssinia at least as early as the 7th or 8th century BC (see above), and the kings of Axum claimed descent from Menelek, Son of Solomon, but the first certain information concerning the kingdom of Axum comes from the middle of the 1st century AD, at which time Axum was a rich capital, and its ancient sacredness was so great that from that period clear down to the 19th century the kings of Abyssinia would travel there to be crowned. There is no reason to doubt that Frumentius (circa 330 AD) was the first to introduce Christianity. Merope of Tyre, according to the often-told story, when returning from India with his two nephews, was captured and killed off the Ethiopian coast, but the two boys were carried to the Abyssinian king; and although one perished the other, Frumentius, succeeded in converting the king and his people to Christianity, and later was himself consecrated by Athanasius of Alexandria as the first Metropolitan of Ethiopia, taking as his title Abu Salama ("Father of Peace"). From that time until now, with but one single interruption, the Abuna ("Father") has always been appointed by the Patriarch of Alexandria and, since the 13th century, has been by legal necessity not a native Abyssinian, but a Copt.

After the Council of Chalcedon (450 AD) condemned all as heretics who did not accept the "double nature" of Christ, both the Egyptian and Abyssinian churches separated themselves from Rome, believing so thoroughly in the Deity of Christ as to refuse to accept His humanity as essential "nature." In the 5th century a great company of monks entered Abyssinia, since which time the monastic tendency has been strongly marked. About 525, Caleb, king of Axum, attacked the Homeritae across the Red Sea--either for their persecution of Christians or their interference with his trade--and for some half a century controlled a large district of Arabia. At this time Abyssinian trade was extensive. Greek influence was also felt, and the Christian cathedral at Axum was a magnificent work of architectural article The early churches were protected by heavy surrounding walls and strong towers. The invasion of Africa by Islam in the 7th century required 300 years of battle for the preservation of Abyssinian liberty and Christian faith. It alone of all the African states succeeded in preserving both--but its civilization was destroyed, and for 1,000 years it was completely hidden from the eyes of its fellow- Christians in Europe. Occasionally during those centuries a rumor would reach Europe of a "Prester John" somewhere in the Far East who was king of a Christian people, yet it was a thrilling surprise to Christendom when Pedro de Cavilham in the 15th century discovered this lost Christian kingdom of Abyssinia completely surrounded by infidel pagans and bigoted Mohammedans. When, early in the 16th century, the Negus of Abyssinia sent an envoy to the king of Portugal asking his help against the Moslems, the appeal was met with favor. In 1520 the Portuguese fleet arrived in the Red Sea and its chaplain, Father Francisco Alvarez, 20 years later stirred the Christian world by his curious narratives. Not long afterward, when the Arabs actually invaded the country, another Portuguese fleet was sent with a body of military, commanded by Christopher de Gama. These 450 musketeers and the six little pieces of artillery gave substantial aid to the endangered state. Father Lobe tells the story. The Abyssinian king must have been grateful for such help, yet presently the strenuous efforts of the Portuguese clergy to convert him and his people to the Roman Catholic faith became so offensive that Bermudez, the most zealous missionary, was compelled to leave the country and the Jesuits who remained were mistreated. Other efforts to win the Abyssinian Christians to renounce the Monophysitic heresy and accept the doctrine and control of Rome were somewhat more successful. Early in the 17th century Father Pedro Paez, an ecclesiastic of much tact, won the king fully to his faith, and under his direction many churches were erected and advantageous government works carried on. However, his successor Mendez lacked his conciliatory ability and, although a punishment of seven years’ chastisement was proclaimed against recalcitrants, the opposition became so violent and universal that the Negus Sysenius finally abdicated in favor of his son Fasilidas, who in 1633 sent all Jesuits out of the country and resumed official relations with the Egyptian church. Since then, although many efforts have been made, no controlling influence has ever been obtained by Rome. Once more, for over a century, Abyssinia became completely hidden from the eyes of the outside world until James Bruce, the explorer, visited the country, 1770-72, and made such a report as to arouse again the interest of Christendom. The translation of the Bible, which was made by his Abyssinian guide, was adopted and published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and in 1829 the Church Missionary Society sent out Gobat and Kugler as the first Protestant missionaries to Abyssinia, who were followed shortly after by some Roman Catholics. Owing chiefly to the opposition of native priests the Protestants were expelled in 1838 and the expulsion of the Roman missionaries followed in 1854. In 1858 a Copt who had been influenced as a youth by a Protestant school, became Abuna, and Protestant missionaries were again admitted, but succeeded in doing little permanent work owing to the political disturbances while King Kesa (Theodore)--the Napoleon of Africa--was attempting to consolidate native resources and build up an African empire. At this period the influence of Great Britain began to be felt in Abyssinia. After the suicide of Theodore (1868) and especially after Menelek II had succeeded in making himself emperor (1899), this influence became great. During the 20th century missionaries have been able to work in Abyssinia without much danger, but the Moslem influence is so preponderating that little has been attempted and little done. The religion of the Crescent seems now almost completely victorious over the strange land which for so many centuries, alone and unhelped, held aloft in Africa the religion of the Cross. (See especially The Mohammedan World of Today, by Zwemer, Wherry, and Barton, 1907; Missionary World, 1910-11.)

5. Beliefs and Practices:

In creed, ritual, and practice, the Abyssinian church agrees generally with the Coptic. There are seven sacraments and prayers for the dead, high honor is paid to the Virgin Mary and to the saints; fasts and pilgrimages are in much favor; adults are baptized by immersion and infants by affusion. A blue cord is placed about the neck at baptism. An extract from one of the Gospels, a silver ring, an ear pick and a small cross, often very artistic, are also worn about the neck. No charms or beads or crucifixes ("graven images") are worn. The Jewish as well as the Christian Sabbath is kept sacred, and on an average every other day during the year is a religious holiday. The people are ignorant and superstitious, yet impress observers with their grave kindliness and seem at times eager to learn. The clergy can marry before but not after ordination. Priests must be able to read and recite the Nicene Creed (the "Apostles' Creed|Apostles’ Creed" is not known), but do not understand the Ge`ez language in which the liturgies are written. They conduct many and long services and attend to the ceremonial purifications. Deacons must also be able to read; they prepare the bread for the Holy Sacrament and in general help the priests. The monastic clergy have chief care of the education of the young--though this consists mainly in Scripture reading--and their head, the Etshege, ranks next to the Abuna.

The ancient churches were often basilican, but modern native churches are quadrangular or circular. The Holy of Holies always stands in the center, and is supposed to contain an ark. Tradition declares that the ark in the cathedral at Axum is the original ark from Solomon’s temple. An outer court surrounds the body of the church, which is freely used by laymen and as a place of entertainment for travelers. Very crude pictures are common. These show both Egyptian and European influence, and are probably not merely decorations but have a relation, as in Egyptian thought, to spiritual advancement in this life or the next (compare Budge, Introduction to the Lives of Maba’ Segon and Gabra Krestos, 1898). The services consist of chanting psalms, reading Scriptures and reciting liturgies.

6. Abyssinian Literature:

The Abyssinian canon (Semanya Ahadu) consists of 46 Old Testament and 35 New Testament books. Besides the usually accepted books, they count Shepherd of Hermas, Synodos (Canons), Epistles of Clement, Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 4 Ezra, Ascension of Isaiah, Book of Adam, Joseph ben Gorion, Enoch and Jubilees. The Ethiopic texts of the two latter give these books in the most ancient form, and their discovery has led to much valuable discussion. The use of the Ge`ez language in which these are written dates back to a time shortly before the introduction of Christianity. From the 5th to 7th centuries AD, the literature is almost exclusively translated from Greek writers or adaptations of such writings. Quotations abound from Basil, Gregory, Ignatius, Athanasius, Epiphanus, Cyril, Dioscurus, etc. The second literary period begins 1268, when the old "Solomonic" Dynasty regained its place and continues to the present; it consists mainly of translations from the Arabic. In both periods the topics are few: liturgies, hymns, sermons, the heroic deeds of the saints and their orthodoxy. Each saint uses the four Holy Gospels, as David his four stones, to kill every heretical Goliath (compare Goodspeed and Crum, Patrologia Orientalis, IV, 1908). A large place is given to miracles and magic prayers and secret names (compare Budge, Miracles of the Virgin Mary, 1900, and "Magic Book of Disciples," JAOS, 1904). The legends or histories are occasionally well written, as the famous "Magda Queen of Sheba" (English Translation by Mrs. J. Van Vorst, 1907), but usually are as inferior in style as in thought (compare Littmann, Bibliotheca-Abessinica, 1904). A few specimens of "popular literature" and many Abyssinian "proverbs" are extant (JAOS, XXIII, 51-53; XXV, 1-48; Jour. asiatique, IV, 487-95).

7. Nubian Literature:

The modern Nubian does not write, and his ancient predecessors wrote but little. Even in the days of the Pharaohs the hieroglyphics in most Nubian temples were written so poorly as to be almost unintelligible, and in later pre-Christian monuments put up by native rulers the usual tablets accompanying the Divine tableaux are often left blank. Some centuries before our era the necessary monumental inscriptions began to be composed in the Nubian language, though still written in hieroglyphics. Shortly after the beginning of the Christian era a native cursive writing begins to be used on the monuments, closely resembling the Egyptian demotic, from which undoubtedly its alphabet was derived (F. L. Griffith in Areika). Finally, after Nubia became Christian (6th century), another native system appears written in Greek and Coptic letters. Lepsius found two such inscriptions on the Blue Nile and numbers have since been discovered, but until 1906 these were as unreadable as the other two forms of Nubian writing. In that year Dr. Karl Schmidt found in Cairo two precious fragments of parchment which had been owned by some Nubian Christians of probably the 8th or 9th century. One of these contained a selection of passages from the New Testament--as was ascertained by comparing it with the Greek and Coptic Scriptures. By the aid of bilingual cartouches several proper names were soon deciphered. New inscriptions are now being brought to light every few months, and undoubtedly the translation of this important tongue, which contains the "history of an African Negro dialect for some 2,000 years" and also the religious history of the long-lost Christian church of the Sudan, will soon be accomplished. The other fragment found by Schmidt was a curious Hymn of the Cross, well representing the ancient Ethiopian hymnology:

"The cross is the hope of Christians; The cross is the resurrection of the dead; The cross is the physician of the sick; The cross is the liberator of the slave," etc..

--James H. Breasted in Biblical World, December, 1908; Nation, June 2, 1910.

8. Exploration:

Scientific observation of Nubia began with Burckhardt (1813), Cailliaud, and Waddington (1821), and especially with Lepsius (1844), but excavation in the proper sense was begun by the University of Chicago (1905-7), followed (1907-10) by expeditions sent out by the Royal Academy of Berlin, University of Pennsylvania, University of Liverpool, and Oxford University.


Besides the works quoted above, among recent Encyclopedias, see especially Encyclopedia Britannica (11th edition) (11th edition) and New Sck-Herz; and among the more recent books: James T. Bent, The Sacred City of the Ethiopians (1893); Glaser, Die Abessinier in Arabien und Afrika (1895); A. B. Wylde, Modern Abyssinia (1901); R. P. Skinner, Abyssinia of Today (1906); Th. Noeldeke, Die athiopische Litteratur (1906); Louis J. Morie, Les civilisations africaines (1904); Littmann, Geschichte der athiopischen Litteratur (1907); W. Max Muller, Aethiopien (1904); Petrie, Hist of Egypt (1895- 1901); J. H. Breasted, Temples of Lower Nubia (1906); Monuments of Sudanese Nubia (1908); A. E. Weigall, Report of Antiquities of Lower Nubia (1906); E. A. W. Budge, The Egyptian Sudan (1907); Kromrei, Glaubenslehre und Gebrauche der alteren abessinischen Kirche (1895); M. Fowler, Christian Egypt (1901); Dowling, Abyssinian Church (1909); "Meroe," the City of the Ethiopians, by Liverpool University Expedition (1909-10); University of Pennsylvania Publications, Egyptian Dept., Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., Expedition to Nubia, I-IV (1909-11); Archeological Survey of Nubia; and Egyptian government reports.

Camden M. Cobern