Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch and the rich heritage of the Ethiopian Church



In the Psalms we read that “Ethiopia will stretch out her hands to God (Psalm 68.31).” We see the beginning of this passage being fulfilled in the conversion story of the Ethiopian Eunuch.


We do not know much about the Christian presence in Ethiopia after the Eunuch returned there, but we do know that Christianity was firmly established there by the 3rd century CE and that Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated a bishop for Ethiopia in the early 4th Century. Along with Armenia, Ethiopia was one of the first countries to become a Christian state, and the Ethiopian Church to this day maintains a rich and vibrant Christian heritage.


The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world, and maintains ancient Catholic Orthodoxy, and has it’s own traditions of liturgy and music. Ethiopian liturgical music features drumming and clapping and spirited singing.


The monks at Aksum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, claim to have the Ark of the Covenant, which Solomon gave to Menelek his son. Menelek is his son through a union of Solomon with the Queen of Sheba.


The Ethiopian Church has the longest canon of Scripture, containing not only the Deuterocanonical books found in Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic Bibles, but several others, such as the Book of Enoch and Jubilees. 

The full name of the Ethiopian Church is the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The term, Tewahedo, refers the single nature of the Person of Christ, which is both fully human and fully divine.

The Christian heritage of Ethiopia had it’s beginning in the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch.


The Five Pillars of  The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
 The Five Pillars of Ethiopian Orthodoxy represent an essentialist, Catholic Orthodoxy. In this sense it is very wise, and is a touchstone for true Christianity:

  1. Mystery of Trinity
  2. Mystery of Incarnation
  3. Mystery of Baptism
  4. Mystery of Communion
  5. Mystery of Resurrection

The Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch, from the Acts of the Apostles

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert.
27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot."
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth."
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?"
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"
37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.


- Acts 8.26-40 NKJV




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