'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'
St Matthew 28: 19
Charity No. 282910
To write about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's external relations as a whole, it would be of paramount importance to start from the ancient history of the country itself, whose name is identified in the Holy Bible as the very name of its faithful inhabitants as indicated in the following biblical text: “ Ethiopia stretches her hands to God”.( Ps. 67:31).
As a matter of fact, history and tradition give clear evidence that the Holy Land, Jerusalem was followed by Biblical Ethiopia to receive the Law of the Old Testament, by which the relationship of the two lands has become historically notable forever.
The people of the two lands of God made their relation more closer by:
Sharing the faith and order of the Old Testament.
Getting together as one people of God once a year in the Holy Land, and observing the Jewish Paschal (Passover)
Practising the same Mosaic Law.
Despite the geographical distance between the two countries, the above mentioned historical and traditional factors have been the basis for the close relationship between the two Biblical Lands. This is regarded as the first chapter on the church’s, pre-Christian external relations.
(a) The Root of this Relationship
As far as the history and tradition are concerned, the root of this contact between the two lands of God, is the monotheistic belief, which has its roots in the Old Testament’s Semitic and Hamitic (Cushitic) heritage. On this ground, the two lands have come to share the same monotheistic belief, language and biblical tradition through their Semitic legacy.
As Shem and Ham themselves are the son's of Noah, who was protected from the flood with his family because of his faithfulness to God, it is clear that their descendants entered the country with their beliefs. Consequently, their offspring are in the lands of Israel and Ethiopia; and continue their socio-economic contact based on this common Monotheistic faith.
The visit of the Queen of Sheba, admirably quoted in the Holy Bible (Mat. 12:42; 1Kings 10: 1-9), was an outcome of this continuous contact. If there had been no previous contacts between the two lands, the Queen of Sheba would have had no better knowledge of the Holy land than the peoples of other lands.
After her visit to Jerusalem, the relationship between the two lands of God was getting more closer. This facilitated Ethiopian believers to go to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. This was the main reason why Biblical Ethiopia kept her historical contact with the Holy Land.
(b) Outcome of the Historical Contact
After the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem - which occured about one thousand years before Christ - the blessings which Ethiopia obtained in the spiritual and social spheres was considerably great. To highlight the area of these blessings, it was after this visit that Ethiopia came to be:
a. The possessor of the Old Testament.
b. The seat of the Ark of the Covenant.
c. Ministered by appointed priests.
d. The implementer of the laws of the Old Testament under an organised hierarchy of priests.
Also, after the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, a group of Levites came to Ethiopia with the books of the Old Testament and Ark of the Covenant. As a result, Ethiopia entered into a new era, wherein it started worshipping God, not according to the Law of Conscience, but according to the Mosaic law of the Old Testament. Even foreign writers like Budge state that at no time was Ethiopia seperated from God.
Its long history of belief in One God, and its close relations to the Holyl Land, are symbols of the identity of the nation whose life is like a mirror that reflects the past into the present. Like the Israelites to temporal and secular authorities, Axumite Ethiopia also shared the same responsibilities for the nation's spiritual and social wellbeing.
Axum is the most sacred place of Ethiopia from where monotheism spread all over the country. The reference to Ethiopia in the holy Bible and early Church history, refer to Axumite - Ethiopia, the home of the Ethiopian language and culture which embraced both Judaism and Christianity. The contemporary culture, language, religion and other aspects of life can only be understood in relation to the various sources of ancient Ethiopia and the archaeological discoveries. According to these sources Axum is the main centre of this heritage. Moreover, the Ark of the Covenant, given to Moses, rests in this ancient sacred city. This in brief constitutes the external relation and the results obtained therefrom by the Ethiopia of the times of the Old it is Testament. This is what can be cited as the true testimony for the reality of its historic and ancient existence.