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[PANEL] 1302 ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANITY: GLOBAL INTERCONNECTIONS AND LOCAL IDENTITIES - FROM LATE ANTIQUITY TO EARLY MODERN TIMES
Martin TAMCKE, Professor, Georg-August-Universität Gottingen, Germany
Stanislau PAULAU, Georg-August-Universität Gottingen, Germany
AFEWORK Hailu Beyene; Philip Michael FORNESS; Michael MUTHREICH; Stanislau PAULAU;
Bernadette McNARY-ZAK; Konstantin WINTERS; Philipp STENZIG; Lina ELHAGE-MENSCHING;
Wolfgang HAHN; Martin TAMCKE
“Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Aethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten.” This often-quoted passage of the British historian Edward Gibbon precisely illustrates a characteristic and highly problematic feature of the still predominant historiography of the Ethiopian Christianity: It is being depicted as isolated and static. The panel aims to question this approach and invites to look at the phenomenon of the Ethiopian Christianity from the perspective of its global interconnections.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was largely shaped through its interaction with other clusters of the Christian Orient, remarkably so with the Coptic and Syriac traditions. Apart from these networks, it was influenced by more sporadic, but nevertheless decisive interactions with the Latin Christian world. One of the most vivid results of these global interactions is the existence of Ethiopian Catholic and Protestant communities, which contribute to the complex negotiations of the identity within the Ethiopian Christianity itself. Ethiopia ‒ and the Ethiopian Christianity ‒ was, therefore, neither forgetful of the world, nor was it forgotten by it.
Presenters are invited to investigate global interconnections of the Ethiopian Christianity from various disciplinary perspectives, be it history, theology, musicology, visual arts, mission studies or anthropology. Thereby special attention deserves the question about the influence of these global interconnections on the transformations of local identities. One might focus not only on the influences of various traditions on the Ethiopian Christianity but also vice versa, to ask, how did elements of the Ethiopian Christianity contribute to the religious traditions outside of Ethiopia.
This panel is continued by the panel no. 1305 ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANITY: GLOBAL INTERCONNECTIONS AND LOCAL IDENTITIES - 19TH–21ST CENTURIES.
A HISTORICAL REFLECTION ON 14TH CENT EWOISTATEAN MOVEMENT: A CASE FOR PRE-MODERN ETHIOPIAN GLOBAL INTERCONNECTIONS [Abstract ID: 1302-11]
Edward Gibson’s conclusion that ‘Ethiopians slept for thousand years, forgetful of the world by whom they were forgotten’ – this until the advent of the Portuguese - seems a reflection that comes without a thorough analysis of important historical documents that no doubt amend the presupposition. Indeed there are Ethiopic sources that narrate the relation Ethiopians had with the global world though in a micro-level. One of the Ethiopic sources from 14th cent Gädlä Éwosṭatéwos relates that Abba Ewosṭatewos was the founder of Betä Ewosṭateans (an Ethiopian Christian movement which was distinguished for its vigorous contention in support of the observance of Sabbath). This paper tries to discuss the journey of Abba Ewosṭatewos and his three disciples (Bakimos, Märqorewos, and Gäbrä-Iyäsus) to Armenia via Cairo, and opt to contribute some thoughts to highlight one of the earliest Ethio-global interconnections.
A NEW LETTER OF SEVEROS OF ANTIOCH PRESERVED IN ETHIOPIC: THE ETHIOPIAN TRADITION AND THE HERITAGE OF LATE ANTIQUITY [Abstract ID: 1302-12]
Severos of Antioch (c. 465–538) stands as one of the most celebrated figures in the development of miaphysite Christology. The Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopian traditions all honor him as a saint. His works, condemned within his lifetime, primarily survive in Syriac and Coptic translations from late antiquity. Texts from the early Solomonic period attests to Severos’s popularity as a saint and author in Ethiopia. This presentation explores a previously unidentified letter by Severos in Ethiopic translation as evidence of interconnections between the Ethiopian tradition and the Coptic and Syriac churches. This letter appears in a fourteenth-century collection of homilies and is designated as a homily to be read on the Thursday of Holy Week. This letter is not known in any other language. The first part of this presentation will situate this letter within its late antique context. The addressee of the letter, Caesaria, was a patrician and from a prominent family. Severos wrote several letters to her, and she appears in both hagiographical and historiographical works. Severos responds in this letter to her exegetical question regarding the origin of evil. The theological nature of this letter matches that in Severos’s correspondence with Caesaria in general. The second part of this presentation focuses on the transmission and translation of this text into Ethiopic. I will especially consider how this text reflects a broader trend in the transmission of Severos of Antioch’s works into Ethiopic in the early Solomonic period. At least four other works by Severos were translated into Ethiopic around this time and became part of liturgical collections. A life of Severos survives in Ethiopic from around the year 1400, and he found a place in the Sənkəssar. This letter thus represents an important discovery for late antique Christianity as well as for understanding the Ethiopian tradition’s understanding of its relationship to other Christian communities.
HOW DID ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANS GET TO KNOW THE PARISIAN CEPHALOPHORIC MARTYR BISHOP DIONYSIUS? [Abstract ID: 1302-02]
In the west Dionysius the martyr bishop of Paris quite soon came to be identified with Dionysius the Areopagite (8th/9th century). In the east on the other hand Dionysius the Areopagite was well known but never identified with a bishop in Paris bearing the same name. Anyway, in the Ethiopic translation of a homily on the crucifixion of Christ ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite (actually being the “Narratio de vita sua”, CPG 6633) we find the story of Dionysius’ decapitation in the West. It is added at the end of the homily to further depict his life and martyrdom. The earliest manuscripts of this homily go back into the 14th century or even a little before that time. The addition is extant in manuscripts from the 18th century at the latest. The “Narratio de vita sua” by itself does not comprise such a report and in the oldest translations of it into Ge’ez, found in a homily on Passion Week of Benjamin I of Alexandria (ca. 590-662), it is not to be found either. So, how did Ethiopian Christians get to know this story? By the Portuguese in the 16th century, by members of the Society of Jesus in the 17th century or was it transmitted otherwise? With a view to text transmission a cogent answer may be given.
INVENTED INTERCONNECTIONS: GÄBRÄ MÄNFÄS QƎDDUS, PETER HEYLING, AND CONTESTED IDENTITIES WITHIN ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANITY [Abstract ID: 1302-06]
Gäbrä Mänfäs Qǝddus and Peter Heyling are figures of the utmost symbolical importance. As probably no one else, they embody two major streams in Ethiopian Christianity – Orthodoxy and Protestantism. While Egyptian Gäbrä Mänfäs Qǝddus, one of the most venerated saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, represents the monastic ideal and is known as „the head of the hermits“ (rǝᵓǝsä baḥtawǝyan), German Peter Heyling is often considered to be the founding father of the Protestant movement in Ethiopia and hence an adversary of traditional Orthodox piety. Either of these foreigners could be treated as an example of how global networks contributed to the making of Ethiopian Christianity, there is, however, another aspect which deserves closer attention: Interestingly enough, there had been attempts to identify Gäbrä Mänfäs Qǝddus with Peter Heyling, suggesting that they were, in fact, the same person. The paper analyzes the genealogy of this invented interconnection between Egyptian ascetic and German missionary and evaluates its role in shaping confessional identities within Ethiopian Christianity.
OF MOTHERS AND MONKS: AN EVOLVING CHRISTIAN TALE [Abstract ID: 1302-22]
Among the 14C manuscripts in the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library (EMML 1763 ff. 84v-86r; Addis Ababa/Collegeville, Minnesota) resides the “Homily in Honour of St. Frumentius Bishop of Axum.” The homily, likely delivered annually to commemorate the anniversary of its namesake, includes a legendary account of the christianization of the Axumite Kingdom (Ethiopia). Providing a useful entry point for examination of the shifting role of motherhood in the transmission of the legend, this paper builds on the foundational linguistic and historical work of A. Dillman and G. Haile, and applies a gendered lens to the homily, its ancient sources, and its inclusion in the Synaxarium (Hamle 26). This approach makes it possible to trace and explore the presence and impact of variant presentations of motherhood as a biological category in distinct contexts. Appeals, or lack thereof, to biological motherhood in these sources demonstrate decisions that illuminate its understated significance in the legend.
PARIDE DE GRASSI'S ACCOUNT OF THE 1481 ETHOPIAN DELEGATION TO ROME [Abstract ID: 1302-07]
In 1481, a group of six imperial Ethiopian ambassadors arrived in Rome to make an almost outrageous proposal before the Holy See: that their Emperor himself submit to Papal authority, his clergy to Roman liturgy, and that his army may even take part in yet another military campaign to topple the terrible menace that is the Mamluk Sultanate based in Cairo. Even the greatest optimists among the Roman dignitaries must have had doubts regarding that the offer sounded too good to be true. And when in 1483 a Franciscan monk travelled to Ethiopia in order to negotiate the exact terms for the anticipated imperial submission, neither the infant emperor nor his ruling council seemed to remember any such agreement. Nonetheless, it is this visit, mentioned above, that Paris de Grassi, the papal master of ceremonies, described as an example for the standard diplomatic procedure to be performed in Rome whenever an Ethiopian embassy was to arrive. To gather information on Ethiopians and their culture, he interviewed competent witnesses of the 1481 delegation as late as in 1508, and compiled a concise presentation of the exotic empire on the shores of the Nile – no matter the possibility that the his documentation of Roman-Ethiopian interconnections might be based on a hoax. Indeed, until quite recently, general consensus among European historians considered that the mysterious group of six ambassadors that appeared before the Papal See in 1481 to be a group of bold impostors gaining free board and lodging in that process. And the evidence extracted from Latin sources is clearly supporting that claim. However, a reevaluation of the European sources under consideration by some Ethiopian accounts of the situation reveals a great misunderstanding between both sides based upon an Ethiopian shortage of authorised clergy, a Mamluk occupation of Alexandria, their only source of clerical authorisation, desperate Ethiopian ambassadors willing to act on their own during crisis, individual fates as unfortunate as unlikely, and the Westerner’s painful and unfulfilled desire for a united Christianity that made the alleged deception even more heartfelt.
THE HERRNHUTER BRETHREN IN SEARCH OF ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANITY: A LETTER TO ABUNA JOHANNES III OF ABYSSINIA (1756) [Abstract ID: 1302-05]
This paper focuses on one of the sporadic interactions between German Protestantism and the Ethiopian Church as early as the 18th century. Although the initiative that is the focus of my talk was not successful, it testifies to the great interest that certain protestant movements have had in Ethiopian Christianity. The subject is the attempt of the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine (descendants of the Unity of Brethren from Moravia) in the 18th century to establish a connection with Christians in Egypt and Abyssinia. This initiative was triggered by the vision of the Herrnhuters' leader, Count von Zinzendorf, whose interest was based on the Ethiopian Eunuch, treasurer of Queen Candace mentioned in the Bible, who converted to Christianity. As the center of my talk, I will present and discuss my first edition of the letter of recommendation (ms. UAH R.17.B.7.c.13) written in 1756 by Pope Markos VII of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, to the Abuna of Abyssinia, Johannes III. This will give us the opportunity to review the history of the Herrnhuters' failed Ethiopian mission from the perspective of global interconnections and local identities.
THE RELIGIOUS SLOGANS DISPLAYED ON AKSUMITE COINS [Abstract ID: 1302-10]
The legends and the pictures which are displayed on the Aksumite coins are closely related to each other according to the habits of the other contemporary coinages. This is, of course, evident in the cases where the kings image is accompanied by a legend quoting his name and title, even running from one side of the coins to the other when the king is depicted on both sides. The degree of the peoples’ literacy did not matter because interpreters could always be found to read out the legends.
Starting from the conversion to Christianity (the date of which was not earlier than 360 AD) one side was more and more distinguished by elements of a developing Christian typology, proceeding from the sign of the cross which was modified into various highly symbolic forms. This implied the appearance of related legends which can be understood as slogans, first in Greek, later on in Geez. Their message, sources and wording, as well as their historical background is discussed in the paper.
WHAT HAS ETHIOPIA TO DO WITH INDIA? REFLECTIONS OF THE FIRST GERMAN LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA [Abstract ID: 1302-04]
Ethiopia became the exemplary model for the work of the German Lutheran missionaries in India in their efforts towards the Syrian Saint Thomas Christians. From the beginning of their presence in India, the Germans tried to get in touch with the Syrian Saint Thomas Christians, because they were led by the idea that both Christian denominations shared a central peculiarity: they both had to assert themselves from the Portuguese and the missionary orders of the Catholic Church in order to assert their confessional independence. However, only part of the faithful succeeded in regaining indepence of their religious coummunity in India. But what was known to the Lutheran missionaries about the situation in Ethiopia? How was the information about Ethiopia used and where did it come from? The paper attempts an intial overwiev and shows ways for further analysis.