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EPIC CHRISTIAN HISTORY: How the Gospel of Jesus Christ came to Ethiopia, the first Christian empire

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Ethiopian orthodox christians celebrating Easter vigil outside the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Ethiopia is one of the first nations outside of Israel, if not the first, to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Bible's Acts of the Apostles describes how Philip taught a visiting Ethiopian official the meaning of the scripture that the official was reading, as well as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and baptized him in Israel near Gaza (Acts 8:26-40).

The rejoicing official is the first Ethiopian on record to have followed Christ. He took Christianity back to Ethiopia where the early Church exploded.

Already home to a substantial Jewish population at the time the official met Philip, especially the Israelite tribe of Dan, the Word of God has continued to grow in the hearts of Ethiopians.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims some 40 million adherents worldwide.

"We've had 1,000 years of Judaism, followed by 2,000 years of Christianity, and that's why our religion is rooted in the Old Testament," Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church told Smithsonian

Magazine in 2007.

"We follow the same dietary laws as Judaism, as set out in Leviticus, meaning that they keep kosher, even though they are Christians."

"Parents circumcise their baby boys as a religious duty, we often give Old Testament names to our boys and many villagers in the countryside still hold Saturday sacred as the Sabbath."

Ethiopians also claim that their imperial dynasty is directly descended from King Solomon, which makes their emperors heirs to the Davidic Covenant and royal Hebrew Israelite bloodline - of which Jesus Christ is a member.

Former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, who ruled from 1930-1974, often said that he was taught to appreciate the Bible from early childhood, and that all through his troubles he found it a cause of infinite comfort.

His imperial titles include King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Defender of the Faith (See Rev. 5:5; 19:16).

Emperor Selassie I stepped down because of the Marxist regime that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. He was supposedly murdered by the Marxists but his remains have never been found.

He is known worldwide as Ras Tafari, after his birth name - Tafari Makonnen. Ras is a royal title in Ethiopia that Haile Selassie once held before becoming emperor.

His coronation was a magnificent event attended by officials from the U.S., the U.K. and many, many other countries. He was named Time Magazine Man of the Year and was responsible for driving Benito Mussolini out of Ethiopia - starting the Italian dictator's downfall in WWII.

Haile Selassie I was the last emperor of Ethiopia and its 225th monarch descended from Menelik I, said to be Solomon's son with the Queen of Sheba, and the ruler believed responsible for Ethiopia's possession of the ark of the covenant since the 10th century B.C.

Today, Ethiopia's leaders are elected. But the East African nations is very well-known for its proud and persistent claim to be the modern keepers of the original ark of the covenant through its virgin monk population.



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