Ethiopia Orthodox Church


Ethiopia Orthodox Church has survived long in the history of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the ancient Christian countries in the world. It is said that Ethiopia is the second country to accept the old testament next to Israel and the first to accept the new testament. The old testament tells the journey of Queen of Sheba (Queen Makda) to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon.

This paved the way for the introduction of the old testament to Ethiopia. Minilik I, the son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. Since then Judaic beliefs and practices like animal sacrifice become the norm of the people following the religion. As a witness, altars are found in some monasteries of the country.

When Does Ethiopia Orthodox Church Gain Popularity?

In the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion in the Aksumite empire. It was at the reign of the two emperors, Ezana and Syzana (also called Abraha and Atsbaha) through St. Fremnatos (also known Abba Selama), who was consecrated by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. King Ezana replaced the sign of the moon on coins with a cross sign and became the first sovereign to engrave the sign of the cross on coins. The Ethiopia Orthodox church was further strengthened by the arrival of the nine saints, who came from Syria, Constantinople, and Rome.

Their names were Abba Gerima, Abba Aregawi, Abba Aftse, Abba Pantelewon, Abba Guba, Abba Alef, Abba Liqanos, Abba Yem’ata, Abba Aregawi, and Abba Sehma They translated several books including the Holy Bible from Greek to Ge’ez, they also founded a lot of monasteries such as the monastery of Debre Damo by Abba Aregawi, Abba Garima monastery by abba Garima, Pentalewon monastery in Axum by Abba Liqanos and Abba pentalewon. The rise of St. Yared in the 6th century, who founded the Ethiopic hymnody was a new era for the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

What is the History of Ethiopia Orthodox church?

From the start, the Ethiopia Orthodox Church was integrated with the St. Mark of Alexandria, for a long period. After Abba Selama (in which selam means peace), also known as Frumentius, who was the first bishop of Ethiopia died, Ethiopian Bishops were appointed to lead the Ethiopia Orthodox Church. This continued until the end of the ninety century. (it should be noted that through the history of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church there was always an Administrator of the Church who was an Ethiopian, and who would not try to replace his Egyptian Peer).


This was because of many reasons: (1) The fathers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church do not pursue after their own glory, but that they had rather seen the glory of others. (2) The word, “A Prophet is without honor in his own country” (John 4:44) is a very respected phrase by the Ethiopians. (3) If a native person is declared Bishop, there was a worry that he, might be enticed and become partial in his authority to those who had blood relation to him. (4) Since the dogma of the late fathers discriminated against Ethiopians from holding such positions.

In 1926, after the death of Abuna Mathewos, Emperor Haile Selassie I, then Ras Tafari, began to negotiate for the appointment of an Ethiopian native Bishop to be head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It was agreed by His Holiness Patriarch Cyril V and by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church, and in May 1929, five Ethiopian Bishops were bishoped for the first time in the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, all five Bishops were killed by the Italian forces during the five-year war (1935-1940) by Mussolini.

April 6, 1971, as the Church reached the highest peak of the Patriarchal seat when Abuna Theophilus was elected Patriarch, next to Abuna Basilos the first Ethiopian native Patriarch who became bishop in Alexandria and died in 1970.

What Are the Teachings of Ethiopia Orthodox Church?

As in all Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Ethiopia Orthodox Church grounded on the Apostle’s experience of Jesus Christ who is Creator and Saviour of the World.

The three councils the council of Nicaea on 325A.D, the council of Constantinople 381A.D, and Epheus 431A.D which confessed the Son of God and condemned Arius’ formula are all been accepted by the Ethiopia Orthodox Church, but the Ethiopia Orthodox Church refuses the Council of Chalcedon at 451A.D conducted by Pope Leo I which preaches the formula of the “two natures” against that of “one nature”.

The Ethiopia Orthodox Church intensifies that all regarding Jesus Christ should be related to his entire person as one God. Not to single out the “Human nature” as subjected to hunger, passion, suffering, etc., Properties strange to the human are referred to his Divine powers as God shed blood, God was crucified, God died, and God was risen up for the saving of all men.

The seven sacraments Penance, baptism, unction of the sick, confirmation, holy orders, holy communion and matrimony are valuable in the teaching of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church.

Also, the Ethiopian Church preaches the five pillars of Mysteries in which the church is firmly grounded. These are the Mystery of the Trinity, Incarnation, Baptism, Holy Communion, and the Mystery of the Resurrection. These Mysteries are considered by the Church as basic knowledge for all and every Christian must understand these. Fasting is strictly obeyed by all baptized members of the church who are seven and above. During lent; any meat and products animals are forbidden.

Besides, all Christians must keep the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses from God and the six parables of the new testament in Matt. 25:35-36, to inherit eternal life in heaven. In the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ, the dead will be raised and sinners will receive punishment according to their sin. So, everyone is responsible for his/her own committed misdeed.

lalibela cross

What Is the Holy Scripture of Ethiopia Orthodox Church?

The Ethiopia Orthodox Church accepts both the old testament and the new testament. The church comprises 46 books of the old testament including the book of Maccabees, a book of Ezra, books of Enoch and Jubilee and twenty-seven books of the old testament i

Doctrinal Teachings

The Ethiopia Orthodox Church is grounded on five pillars of mystery

1- Mystery of the holy trinity

It is a belief in one God eternally exists three consubstantial persons (the father, the son, and the holy spirit). The doctrine of the trinity is regarded as one of the central Christian assertions about God.

2- Mystery of Incarnation

The mystery of Incarnation explains one of the three consubstantial persons ‘the son’ or Jesus Christ “was made flesh” from the womb of the holy woman, the virgin Mary. It entails Jesus is fully God and full man.

3- Mystery of Baptism

The mystery of Baptism is the main entrance to the Ethiopian Orthodox church and participation of its sacramental grace. Since we receive the invisible grace of adoption through visible performance it used to be called a mystery. “He that believes and baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (John 19:34)

4- Mystery of Holy Communion

On the Maundy Thursday Jesus instituted the mystery of the holy communion at the Last Supper. “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink the cup, you do shoe the lord’s death till he comes” (1 Corinthian 11:26). The Eucharist a sacrament to attain union with God and far off from our sin.

5- Mystery of Resurrection

The mystery of Resurrection is all about the eternal life of humans. We will resurrect after we die as Christ did which will happen at the second coming of Christ. “But Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive again.” (1st Corinthians 15:20)

What Is the Fasting Culture in The Ethiopia Orthodox Church?

1. Abiy Tsome or Tsome Hudade (55 days of fasting and has three sections

  • Tsome Hirkal; the first week
  • Tsome Arba 40 days in which Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness
  • Tsome himamat; the last week of the fasting, by thinking about Christ’s torture

2. The fasting of the apostles, 10 to 40 days the apostles kept after receiving the holy spirit

3. Tsome dihnet; Wednesday in memorization of the plot to kill Jesus and Friday in commemoration of the crucifixion

4. Fast of dormition; which the apostles fast to see the resurrection of virgin Mary and it is 16 days.

5. Gena tsome 40 days of fasting Starting from Hedar 15(November) and ends on the eve of the with the feast of Gena and the Tahisas 29

6. Tsome nenewe (fast of Nineveh) three days of fasting commemorating the preaching of Jonah. It is the shortest of all fasts

7. The Gehad, the fasting eve of epiphany