International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
e-thi-o'-pi-a (kush; Aithiopia):
1. Bible References:
Winckler long ago proved that the Assyrians designated a district in Northern Arabia by the same name which they ordinarily applied to Ethiopia. Skinner (Genesis, 1910, 208) thinks the Hebrews also made this distinction and were therefore entirely right when they spoke of Nimrod as "son of Gush," since the earliest Babylonian dynasty had as a matter of fact a Semitic origin. There may be other references to an Arabian district, but undoubtedly the African Kush must be the one generally designated. This is referred to once in the New Testament and over 40 times in the Old Testament. Many secular monuments speak of the high honor paid to women in Ethiopia., and Candace (Acts 8:27) seems certainly to have been an official or dynastic name for a number of Ethiopian queens. One of the pyramids of Meroe was Candace's-her picture can still be seen at Kaga-and to her belonged the wonderful treasure of jewelry found in 1834 by Ferlini and now in the Berlin museum. Petronius (24 B.C.) raided Ethiopia for Rome and stormed the capital, but Candace sent ambassadors to Rome and obtained peace. The "eunuch" who may have been the treasurer of this very queen was probably "no black proselyte but a Jew who had placed the business ability of his race at the service of the Nubian woman" (W. Max Muller). In the Old Testament Ethiopia is spoken of with great respect, and several Bible characters are named Cushi (2 Samuel 18:21 the King James Version; Jeremiah 36:14 Zephaniah 1:1); even Moses married an Ethiopian wife (Numbers 12:1), and Ebed-melek the Ethiopian is helper to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:7). It is a great land situated beyond the frontiers of the civilized world (Ezekiel 29:10), yet with Jews in its farthest district (Ze 3:10). It is very rich (Job 28:19 Isaiah 43:3); is engaged in trade with Arabia (45:14), and its citizens are proud of their nationality (Psalm 87:4). Again and again the relation of Cush with Sheba is mentioned (Genesis 10:7, 28 Isaiah 43:3, etc.), which latter statement is strangely corroborated by the recently discovered Sabean inscriptions throughout Abyssinia. Its typical inhabitants have a color as unchangeable as the leopard's spots (Jeremiah 13:23), are careless (Ezekiel 30:9), but very warlike (Ezekiel 38:5 Jeremiah 46:9), giving "infinite" strength to Nineveh (Nahum 3:9), but who can be resisted by Israel because of Yahweh's favor (2 Chronicles 16:8 Isaiah 20:5; Isaiah 36:6). Yahweh is interested in the history of Ethiopia as well as Egypt (Isaiah 20:3), loves the children of Ethiopia as the children of Israel (Amos 9:7), and the time is coming when Ethiopia shall yet stretch out her hands to Yahweh (Psalm 68:31). Cush and Mizraim are correctly mentioned as political unit (Isaiah 20:4 f), and several kings of Ethiopia are mentioned by name-Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:9), So (2 Kings 17:4) and Tirhaqah (2 Kings 19:9 Isaiah 37:9). The statements concerning these kings have been pronounced incorrect because it seemed that Zerah could not possibly be an equivalent for Usarkon or So for Shabaka-the known kings of Egypt at those periods-and also because the reigns of Shabaka and Tirhaqah did not begin until after the dates at which in the Hebrew records they were called "kings of Ethiopia."
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. (SeeW. M. Flinders Petrie, Hist of Egypt, III, 280-309; Egypt and Israel (1911), 76-78.)
2. The Church in Abyssinia:
Sem influence entered Abyssinia at least as early as the 7th or 8th century B.C. (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 A.D., 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 A.D.) 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 A.D.) 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. (Seeespecially The Mohammedan World of Today, by Zwemer, Wherry, and Barton, 1907; Missionary World, 1910-11.)
3. 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" 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.
4. 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 A.D., 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).
Camden M. Cobern