Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Readings for the Epiphany

Psalm 72.1-7, 10-14

[1] Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
[2] He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
[3] The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
[4] He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
[5] They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
[6] He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
[7] In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
[10] The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
[11] Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
[12] For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
[13] He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
[14] He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

Reading Isaiah 60.1-6

[1] Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
[2] For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
[3] And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
[4] Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
[5] Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
[6] The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.

Gospel Matthew 2.1-12

[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
[2] Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
[3] When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
[4] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
[5] And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
[6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
[7] Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
[8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
[9] When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
[11] And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
[12] And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Queen of Sheba

"I am black and beautiful..."

- Song of Solomon 1.5 NRSV

And this Queen of the South was very beautiful in face, and her stature was superb, and her understanding and intelligence, which God had given her, were of such high character that she went to JERUSALEM to hear the wisdom of SOLOMON; now this was done by the command of God and it was His good pleasure.

- Kebra Nagast  

Ethiopian Icon of Queen Makeda's visit with Solomon

Foundational to the grand narrative of Ethiopia is the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, which is mentioned in the Bible and in the Kebra Nagast. The Kebra Nagast (the Glory of Kings) is a 14th-century account written in Ge'ez of the origins of the Solomonic line of the Emperors of Ethiopia, which is considered sacred among both the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Rastafarians. It recounts the momentous visit of the Queen of Ethiopia (Queen of Sheba), Makeda, to Solomon in greater detail than the Bible, and speaks of Solomon and Makeda having relations and conceiving a child together, Menelik I.  Menelik would later rule in Ethiopia and begin the Solomonic Dynasty in Ethiopia, which would only end in the 20th century with reign of his Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I. The Kebra Nagast also recounts that Menelik I, as a young man, visited King Solomon, and that some of his priests stole the Ark of the Covenant, and brought it back to Ethiopia. Ethiopian Orthodox, Ethiopian Jews, and Rastafarians believe that the Ark rests in Auxum Ethiopia to this day, and is kept in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion.
Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where the Ark is kept.

The Bible says that the Queen came "to prove [Solomon] with hard questions (1 Kings 10.1)," and in the beautiful language of the King James version, "when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart (1 Kings 10.2)."   The Kebra Nagast portrays her as already possessing wisdom and and being highly intelligent. She is portrayed both in the Biblical witness and the Kebra Nagast to be a very powerful and wealthy ruler.

The Kebra Nagast says that the Queen "was very beautiful in face." Some Bible scholars suggest that the Song of Solomon is written about King Solomon and Makeda. The New Revised Standard Version in chapter 1, verse five has the female lover say in a straight-forward translation, "I am black and beautiful..."

I am very disappointed that the Orthodox Study Bible mentions her as being from "Southern Arabia," with no mention of her being black or Ethiopian. This avoidance or denial of her African or Black heritage seems unnecessary, and appears a throw back to scholarship from the dominant culture that downplays the achievement of African cultures.

The Queen of Sheba was ruler of an Empire that included modern day Yemen, Eritrea, and Ethiopian (source: The Original African Heritage Bible). According to Archbishop Yeschaq of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and professor at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, Makeda reigned in Auxum in Ethiopia. St.  Josephus calls her the "Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia."

The story of Queen Makeda highlights the African presence in the Biblical narrative, and her legacy is an example of the great cultures in ancient Africa.