Christianity did not enter in Africa with the European slavers of the 15th century. It happened well before that event. We will tell you how it was introduced and what was the role of Ethiopia – which is said to be home to the Judeo-Christian tradition – in this phase of history. This article comes in addition to our first writings on the black virgin Isis, on the African origins of Christmas, and especially on the true origins of Christianity. To capture the historical context of the subject, we will first answer the following two questions:
Who are the Ethiopians?
The largest group of population in Ethiopia today is called Kushitic. As Kush was the ancient name of Sudan in the Pharaonic era. Present-day Ethiopia was the eastern province of ancient Sudan. It was this Kushitic people who would occupy at first the Arabian Peninsula. Black Arabia was thus called Saba and its people were called the Sabean people. The Sabeans were going to mix with the Arabs who later came to the area. This miscegenation will extend to Ethiopia.
There is therefore in Ethiopia mainly related Sudanese (Oromo, Somali, Afar etc …) and related Sudanese / Sabeans, mixed with Arabs (Amhara, Tigray etc …). This explains why Amharic and Tigray are Semitic and non-African languages. So, Ethiopians are, by and large, Africans.
What did Ethiopians worship before Christianity?
Ethiopia as well as the rest of Africa was vitalist (animist) before the arrival of Christianity. This vitalism still exists among the Oromo, who are in number, the first people of the country. We studied the religion of the Oromo and Somali here. As for the Amhara, the second most numerous people, everything suggests that they also practice African Spirituality. The Sabean Vitalism on which Islam will be built in Arabia is attested in Ethiopia. It is therefore a mirror of what the Amhara did. If the whole country was vitalist as we conclude, what about the Judaism of the Falasha and the Jewish descendants of the Queen of Sheba? We will answer further.
Egypt, the roots of Christianity
-663, under the reign of the legendary Sudanese Pharaoh Taharqa, the Assyrians invaded Egypt. The occupation was exceptionally violent. Waset (Thebes), the most venerable city and untouchable religious capital of the black history, is ransacked. Foreigners went as far as skinning African resistance fighters and exposing their skins to terrorize the population. Despite the liberation, the Egyptians – refractory to the warlike customs according to the African philosophy – remained marked by this unleashing of brutality. This is the beginning of the decline of the pharaonic civilization.
The Greeks took the country in -332. Respectful of the Pharaonic civilization to which they owe theirs, they were nevertheless unable to pronounce Ki Kuh Ptah, which means temple of the Creator. The Greeks deform the name into Ae-gyp-to. It is Aegypto which will give Egypt and Copt. The Egyptians of the lower age, those of the decline, were therefore called Copts.
In front of the wars that shake the world, the Copts decide – following the Egyptian tradition of civilizing humanity – to spread Ma’at’s African philosophy (harmony, order, peace, justice) around the world. Aisata Mari-Amen (Isis beloved of Amen (God)) represents the love of God, the one that soothes the spirits.
The ancient Africans thus raise the daughter of God to the rank of deity of the highest order. The Egyptian priests, known as Kher Sesheta (guardians of the divine mysteries), embarked on proselytizing and relied on African Spirituality, centred upon the worship of Aisata Mari.
It is the term Kher Sesheta that is at the origin of Christ. Cheikh Anta Diop tells us so in Civilisation ou Barbarie on page 391 that “the term “Christ” would not be of Indo-European origin. It comes from the Egyptian pharaonic expression Kher Sesheta: “he who watches over the mysteries,” and were applied to the deities, Osiris, Anubis.”
The followers of the teachings of the Kher Sesheta are thus miscalled Christians, a name given to them by foreigners, by deformation of an African appellation. The ones that literature calls Christians before the 4th century, are the followers of the Kher Sesheta, that is, those who practiced early African spirituality born in the Great Lakes and Southern Africa, a spirituality centered by the Egyptians of the time around the cult of Aisata Mari, to bring Ma’at into a world full of pains.
What was the cult propagated by the Kher Sesheta?
It is essential to return to the foundations of African Spirituality to understand. In summary, Aisata Mari is the wife of Usirey (Osiris). She is the one who helped him to resurrect in order to preside over the last judgment, to justify or not the dead ancestors. She allowed him to reincarnate by conceiving by immaculate conception the child King Horo (Horus), the divine child born to save the creation. The teachings of the Kher Sesheta embodied, of course, the absolute foundation of African spirituality, namely, God who is the creative energy and resides in all things. Equality between men and women was enshrined in accordance with African tradition.
The Kher Sesheta made baptisms, which mimic the exit of Amen-Ra (God) from the primordial water of the Nun at the beginning and which represents the birth and rebirth of life. They practiced the Eucharist which recounts the story of the violent death of Osiris killed by his brother Sutey (Seth / Satan). In their temple, they presided over public confessions of sins. In the pure African tradition, they were also healers. Great connoisseurs of energies, the Kher Sesheta led paranormal rites like the Vodou priests. They were therefore for the lay people, miracle workers. This was the religion of the Copts, their Vitalism.
The Egyptians with their cross of Ankh roam the East and Europe. It is this cult of the black virgin Aisata Mari that they will spread from Greece to England, from Paris to Poland. They help the poor, care for the sick, comfort slaves and women – who are excluded from European societies. Everywhere, humanity, generosity and sincerity of Africans are welcomed.
Roman repression and the transformation of the Coptic Religion
Even before their arrival in Egypt, the Romans were already repressing the worship of Isis, which was spreading inexorably in their capital. The Egyptologists Jean Leclant and Gisèle Clerc say so in Inventaire de la Bibliographie des Isiaca, on page 127 “Before prevailing in Rome, the Isiac cult was in the beginning subject to the official attacks. On several occasions in -59, -58, -53, -48, the (Roman) Senate gave the order to destroy the altars and the statues.’’
In -33, Rome invades Egypt. The Romans lead an empire that encompasses the Mediterranean but conquered people who were resistant to authority. Faced with the oppressive Roman power, people continue to embrace the Coptic Religion and its African ideal of Ma’at. The Kher Sesheta therefore represent an obstacle to Roman domination. Moreover, their success enrages Jewish elites who compete with them. All these facts are at the origin of the persecution of the first “Christians” mentioned in the Bible.
Until about 300, Roman emperors multiplied attacks. In 202 Septimus Severe dissolves the religious school of Alexandria in Egypt and prohibits conversions. This is probably the justification for the burning of the Alexandria Library reportedly perpetrated by the Romans. Everywhere the Kher Sesheta are killed and die as martyrs.
The terrible persecutions against Africans and their followers are futile and the Coptic religion remains strong. Around the year 300 Rome then decided to form its own universal religion to control its subjects spiritually. Thus, begins the birth of Christianity which will be ratified by the Council of Nicaea under the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325. The large outlines will be refined during the following councils.
The elements of Aisata Mari-Amen’s cult and of African Spirituality in general are copied and transformed. Mari becomes white. The figure of Jesus Christ – the messiah and Jewish saviour – fictitious character taking up the myths of Osiris, Horus and the life of the martyred Kher Sesheta Issa, is adopted and raised. God is separated from his creations according to the Western dualistic vision. The holy land leaves the Great Lakes and southern Africa to find itself in the East by probable mimicry with Judaism. The siege of Christianity is installed at the Vatican in Rome. Women are relegated as inferior to men, according to the European vision.
The Bible, that holy book which content and orientations have been decided by the Romans, is an association of real facts, fiction, numerous Egyptian stories which are very often misunderstood and truncated and to which the Europeans added their vision of war, their patriarchal vision and of slavery that opposes itself to the African values. The believer is not meant to know God anymore through knowledge as it is taught by the African initiatory tradition, he must believe without questioning what’s written in the Bible. He then becomes a believer.
After having demonized – within a Fatwa mindset – the Coptic religion, Rome continued to kill and enslaving the worshipers to the Cult of Aisata in Egypt, and imposed its religion. Christianity enters in Africa in the beginning of the 4th century, after almost 400 years of physical, spiritual and cultural violence perpetrated against Africans. The Coptic Vitalism surrenders, the last temples of Aisata are shut down and then destroyed successively.
To survive, the Coptics decided to recognize the precepts stated by Rome and use the elements of Christianity such as the Jew messiah Jesus Christ but also the clerical organization. They are forced to syncretize their religion with Christianity. Vitalist practices such as the dances and the drums remained. This is how the orthodox Coptic Christianity appeared which is the Cult of Aisata Mari, unwillingly adapted to the Roman precepts in order to survive. This is how the orthodox Christianity in the whole world, from Greece to Russia, from Romania to Syria, appeared. It is this religion reformed under the severe control of Rome that will enter in Ethiopia.
The introduction of Coptic Christianity in Ethiopia
According to the Ethiopian tradition, the entry of Christianity into the country dates from the 1st century with the Apostle Philip. Which would be attested by the Bible. But the Bible does not say that at all. In the Act of the Apostles chapter 8 verses 26 to 40, this is what is said:
“26 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.”[a]
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.”[b]
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.”
There are many problems with this text and the interpretation made by the Ethiopians. The first thing is that Ethiopia at that time was the name given to Sudan and not to present-day Ethiopia. Ethiopia comes from Aethiopius meaning ‘’ burned face ‘’ (black) in Greek. The name originally designated Sudan and then all of Africa. That’s why in the Middle Ages in Europe, one of the names given to all blacks was Ethiopian. It is quite late in history that the word Ethiopia will be restricted only to the present territory.
The biblical text concerning St. Philip speaks therefore of a Sudanese, who was furthermore a minister of Candace. Candace was the title of the queens of ancient Sudan. The second thing is that it is not stated at any time in these ancient writings that St Philip went to Africa or what happened to the Sudanese minister. Whatever this text may say, it does not state at any time that St Philip is at the origin of Christianity in present-day Ethiopia.
According to the story of the Christian historian Rufinus in 410, the entry of Christianity in Ethiopia dates from the 4th century. At that time, Christian merchants roamed the Red Sea. This is not surprising because there were Arabs, under Roman rule, at the Council of Nicaea. Trade between Rome and Africa is attested up to Kenya. The influence of these Romanized merchants was growing, and they moved to Aksum in Ethiopia where they practiced their faith openly.
Two brothers from ancient Lebanon – Frumentius and Aedesius – were rescued in the country after their sinking. Frumentius rose to the rank of king’s counsellor and established relations with the Christian merchants, which he encouraged in their faith. King Ezana converted in 330, to the point of hunting pagans (vitalists). Frumentius went to Alexandria in Egypt, at the time the siege of Christianity in Africa, to organize the Church in Ethiopia. He was made first bishop of Aksum by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Athanasius. Thus, Coptic Orthodox Christianity entered Ethiopia and until 1951, the head of the Ethiopian church was a Coptic sent by Alexandria.
Ethiopia therefore became Christian after Egypt and after the other Roman possessions in Africa, that is to say Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Sudan, under the Roman influence, officially adopted Coptic Orthodox Christianity in the 6th century.
What about the Queen of Sheba and the Falasha?
According to the Ethiopian tradition, the Queen of Sheba had a child with the Jewish King Solomon. The lineage of the kings of Ethiopia who descend from it would thus be of Jewish origin. Yet no text originally says that. You can read the Bible passage here, at no time are we talking about a relationship between the two, but a visit from the strong-willed queen to Solomon, who tested him with difficult questions. She then returned to her home.
The writers of the Koran, obviously inspired by the Bible which was known in Arabia, add elements in Surah 27. They speak of a correspondence between the two before their meeting, and by the way they associate the vitalist practices of the Sabeans – notably the African cult of the sun messenger of God – to the Devil and the disbelief. The Queen, finally submitted to the Hebrew king, gives herself to Allah with Solomon the Jew.
In the same way, the Falasha or Beta Israel – these well-known Ethiopian Jews – would be Israelites who accompanied Menelik, son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia. But as we have just seen, there is no proof of a relationship between Solomon and the Queen.
In reality, the historicity of Menelik son of Solomon dates from the 14th century, from an Ethiopian religious book called Kebra Nagast. Before that, there is nothing about it. The Kebra Nagast also adds elements attributing the Queen – during her visit to Solomon – in the chapter 28 the following statement “From now on I will no longer worship the Sun, but God that created the Sun, the God of Israel”. And she may have visited him several times until she got pregnant. We can see perfectly the continuity of the Bible as well as of the Koran and the invention of a legend over the time. So, The Kebra Nagast appears – and we say it respectfully but with lucidity – as a book which came to ‘complete’ and to exaggerate all that wasn’t said before.
Why did the Christians of Ethiopia write the Kebra Nagast?
The reasons here seem to be the same as these that motivated the Black Hebrews or the Nation of Islam in the USA, whose theories get us stumped: To invent an Eastern origin to satisfy an acquired religious identity. We can see it with some Ugandans today, Cameroonians, Congolese, Ivorians. They attribute themselves Jewish origins in a movement of rejection of Africa which is perceived as pagan and diabolic – in accordance with the philosophy related to the three revealed religions – and therefore with a desire of spiritual purity.
Christianity presenting itself as the heir of Judaism; inventing Jewish origins means to approach as closer as possible to the source of God, to his chosen people. In a word, it is a spiritual alienation. Everything makes us believe that the Kebra Nagast was written in the same spirit. The whole current Black Jewish movement which is spreading all over the African world such as mushrooms, was born or was catalysed by this mediatized idea from Ethiopia in 1980 that there could be Black Jews. This same idea lies over the Kebra Nagast.
As for the Rastafari movement, it was founded upon a strict belief in a Marcus Garvey’s prediction, who spoke of the advent of a great king redeemer of Africa.
The emperor Haile Selassie, with his Judaeo-Christian aura from the Kebra Nagast, was seen as being that redeemer. This explains the cult of his person and of Ethiopia from the Rastafari.
Professor Shlomo Sand, Israeli historian and specialist of the Jewish question, refutes thus the Israeli origin of the Falasha and said in a lecture that ‘The Ethiopian Jews are the product of a conversion’.
From this article, the following points should be noted:
- Christianity was imposed on Africa by the Romans, after 400 years of violence resembling that of European slavers later.
- Christianity entered Africa through Egypt.
- The Egyptians adapted themselves by founding Coptic Orthodox Christianity.
- It is this Coptic Orthodox Christianity that has been disseminated to Ethiopia and Sudan.
- Ethiopia is the 6th African country to have known Christianity, after the 5 in North Africa under Roman rule.
- All confusion about Ethiopia’s founding role in Christianity comes from the Kebra Nagast, a 14th century book, certainly written in a spirit of spiritual alienation.
By: Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)
- Egyptian origins of Christianity and Islam, Sarwas Anis Al-Assiouty
- Orthodox Ethiopian
- Black Jews : les Juifs noirs d’Afrique et le mythe des Tribus perdues, Edith Bruder
- The Centralization Process of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church: An Ecclesiastical History of Ethiopia During the 20th Century, Stephane Ancel
- The University of Vermont
- Country Studies
- Histoire de l’Afrique noire, Joseph Ki-Zerbo