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Law and Grace: The Seamless Faith of Ethiopian Orthodoxy

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The Ethiopian Church, established in 330, is the second earliest “national” church created on the model of Emperor Constantine’s conversion of the Roman Empire. Today Christianity comes in numerous variants. But Ethiopia’s church alone privileges Mosaic tradition as the bedrock of its theology. The rational for this is “The Glory of Kings,” a book inspired by 1Kings10: 1–13. It tells how a Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia) visited King Solomon in Jerusalem, and that their son brought the Ark of the Covenant to her capital. The Ethiopian Church identifies this site as the Church of Mary of Zion in Aksum. To this day it maintains that the Ark (in Ethiopian, the tabot) remains there in an adjacent chapel. Most important of its Mosaic traditions is that a church is not a church without a copy of the tabot on its altar. But historical explanations of when and how these traditions, and even the “Book of Kings,” came into being are beset by controversy owing to the dearth of contemporary sources.

Affiliations: 1: Professor emeritus of History, Roosevelt University, USA,


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