Recently, some other posters and I have heard some startling claims from the Ethiopian Orthodox on the board, and in some links that they have provided.
1. Ge'ez and linguistic Claims
The claim that Ge'ez is the mother tongue of all human language and a language imbued with some sort of divine power over and against other languages. Here is an example from Gebre:
"..Ge'ez... the very language that was spoken in the Garden of Eden! This was the very speech that Adam and Eve used to converse with the animals and with the Holy Trinity."
2. Ark of the Covenant
A focus on the Ark of the Covenant literally being in Ethiopia, against historical evidence, and amidst shadowy events like the Patriarch of Ethiopia backing out of displaying the Ark to the public after promising to.
3. Genetic Claims
Claims that Ethiopians are directly descended from Solomon, are more closely related to how Adam and Eve originally looked, etc.
4. Liturgical Claims
The claim that Ethiopia has maintained an unbroken liturgy from King David's time.
5. Ethiopia = Zion?
Are these sorts of superstitious, nationalist and racial claims a regular part of Ethiopian Orthodoxy in Ethiopia and in the diaspora?
Let me try to briefly address each issue in question:1.
Our Tradition does indeed maintain that the ancient and mystical Liturgical language of Ge'ez is the oldest language in existence, and is in fact the language that Adam and Eve used to converse with the animals and God prior to the Fall. I think brother Habte Selassie posted some comments in support of this Tradition, explaining that Ge'ez predates Hebrew and Arabic. I imagine that sister Hiwot and brothers HaileAmanuel, Hiywot, and other EOTC members of this forum can elaborate on this point. I will try to provide a reference soon, but here is some good information from N'bure-Id Ermias Kebbede Welde-Yesus, from his book “Servant of Ethiopia: The Kingdom of God”[/i]: Ge'ez is the first and original language that is referred to in Genesis 11/1 as "Now the whole earth had one language and one speech." This Divine Truth is authenticated by the following simple and unique characteristics of Ge'ez:
a) The inherent, literal and dual meaning of the word Ge'ez is "The First" and "The Free".
b) Each of the alphabets of Ge'ez constitutes and is identified by seven characters and phonetics, based on the Divine Number of Seven.
c) The first character of the alphabet of Ge'ez, as the basis and the key for the rest of the six characters, being itself non-phonetic, i.e., without vowel or soundless like a consonant, is designated as "Ge'ez", i.e., "The first".
d) The first character of the alphabet of Ge'ez "A" was used by the Biblical God for the first time into the making of the word that related to the specific name, "Adam", the name constituting both the first male and female human beings created in the Image of the Divine Creator.
e) While all the other languages and alphabets of the humans derive their designations from the names of the peoples who speak and write them, Ge'ez is the only language that is called by its own name that relates its unique status and nature.
f) There is a universal and conventional knowledge about the initial words that virtually all babies that are born of the human beings to inhabit the face of the Earth, whatever the language spoken and the alphabet written of the family and community to which they belong and in which they are reared, utter, right at their early infancy. It is invariably: "Ab Ab Ab", in short "Ababa!", which literally means in Ge'ez, "Father Father Father" meant to address the biological male parent, and "Im Im Im", in short "Im'ma!" which literally means in Ge'ez, "Mother Mother Mother" meant to address the biological female parent.
g) Ge'ez opens its alphabet by the first character "A", called "Aleph" in Ge'ez and closes with the "Last" character "O", called the "Seventh", both referred to as "Alpha" and "Omega" by the then contemporary Greek vernacular. When the Creator, known to and addressed by Ethiopians in their Ge'ez terminology as "Igziab'her", became Incarnate, born of the Holy Virgin Mary and revealed Himself to the world as Lord Jesus Christ, He affirmed the Divinity, Seniority and Originality of Ge'ez by assigning to Himself the same characters and nature of the Ge'ez Alphabets with His Apocalyptic Words that says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." This Divine Verification of the identity of the Language of Ge'ez demonstrates the Divine Truth that Ge'ez has been, not only the Divine Language God used to communicate with Adam and Eve, but also remains the Sacred Language by which He conveyed His Messages to humanity and His Faithful Ethiopians continue to worship Him.(Rev. 22/13)
It is worth noting here that the above specifics are substantiated by series of archeological and paleontological discoveries in modern times. 2.
Our Tradition maintains that the Ark of the Covenant is indeed in Ethiopia. It is believed that the Ark is located in St. Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Axum. We have a book of Holy Tradition called The Kebra Nagast
(“The Glory of Kings”) which gives a detailed history of how the Ark of the Covenant came to rest in Ethiopia. In spite of numerous efforts to do so, there is actually no historical or archaeological evidence to disprove our claim.3.
As for the genetic claims, this is not an essential part of our Tradition or our Faith. However the ethnic features of most Ethiopians portray a beautiful amalgamation of sub-Saharan African and Semitic blood. This fact indeed corresponds to the biblical and historical account of the Queen of Sheba’s meeting and procreative relationship with King Solomon. 4.
I’m not sure what you mean by “has maintained an unbroken liturgy since David’s time”. We are Orthodox Christians, and our Liturgy is thoroughly and purely Christian. In fact, although most Ethiopian Orthodox Christians practice circumcision as a customary tradition, we confess in our Divine Liturgy: “Henceforth let us not be circumcised like the Jews, for we know that He who had to fulfill the law and the prophets has already come.”5.
The concept of Ethiopia literally being Zion is a Rastafarian idea, not an Ethiopian Orthodox doctrine. However, as Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, we believe that the hand of God will remain upon the nation and people of Ethiopia. We believe according the Scriptures that Ethiopia was part of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:13), and that Ethiopia has a divine prophetical promise that she will continue to “stretch forth her hand unto God.” [Psalm 68:31]
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is not exclusive, nationalistic, or prejudicial. Our Church embraces the evangelical mission given by Our Lord to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. [St. Mark 16:15; St. Matt 28:18-20] As His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie said: “This age above all ages is a period in history when it should be our prime duty to preach the Gospel of Grace to all our fellow men and women. The love shown in Christ by our God to mankind should constrain all of us who are followers and disciples of Christ to do all in our power to see to it that the Message of Salvation is carried to those of our fellows for whom Christ the Savior was crucified, but who have not had the benefit of hearing the Good News… As we do not practice or permit discrimination within our own nation, so we oppose it wherever it is found.” 6.
In regards to the age of the earth, our Church does in fact teach that the earth is approximately 7,000 years old. This age has been derived at by holy monks who have deduced the age of the earth from a detailed examination of the Book of Jubilees (which is part of our biblical canon) according the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For more information on this topic, click on this link: http://www.ethiopianorthodoxchurch.org/old%20ver/ethiopian_calender_Gregorian_calender_2009.html
Thank you for your interest in our Church and our Faith. Please be assured that we are Orthodox Christians. It is unfortunate that our Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Faith has been so misunderstood. I think these misconceptions and confusions are due to the erroneous connection of our Church with certain fallacious aspects of the Rastafarian movement, and also to the prejudicial stereotypes portrayed by the media which make Ethiopian Christianity appear to be merely another form of exotic African superstition.
I think it is most helpful if all Orthodox Christians respect one another’s cultural traditions. Other Orthodox Christians may be skeptical about our claim to have the Ark of the Covenant or our teaching that Ge’ez was the language of Eden, and there is nothing wrong with asking us why we hold to these traditions. But we should be careful that we don’t disparage, mock, or challenge each other’s sacred traditions and customs, for we all come equally as sinners to receive the very Body and Blood of Christ, in which is our salvation.
If I have mis-stated or misrepresented anything here, I ask that my Ethiopian Orthodox brethren correct me.