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Archive for May 17th, 2009

The Antiquity, Origin, and Religion of the Abyssinian Race

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 17, 2009

Children of God


According to an Ethiopian legend, God molded the first humans from clay. He put the first batch in an oven to bake, but left them there too long, and they emerged burned and black, so he threw them away to the southern part of Africa. He took the second batch from the oven too soon, and they were pasty and white, so he threw them northward, where they became the Arab and European populations. The third and final batch was just right, and God put them in Ethiopia.

May be, may be not – but certain is: Ethiopians could trace back their genealogy to all the three Biblical Fathers – Shem, Ham & Japhet. That means, populations that belong to the so-called, Black, White and Yellow human races are all children of the Ethiopians.

The following amazing article was written 113 years ago…

The Most Gifted of Africans The New York Times  Published: April 19, 1896

The experience of the Italians during the past few years with the Abyssinians has shown beyond doubt that these mountaineers of “the Switzerland of Africa” are decidedly a superior race to the other peoples of the Dark Continent with whom the Europeans have come in contact in their colonization and partition schemes. To a great extent this superiority is the result of their origin and pedigree. Although the modern representatives of the Ethiopians of myth and history, they are in reality not Ethiopians at all. They are not black, but are of Caucasian descent as pure as the Anglo-Saxon or the Celt. Language and physiology stamp them as members of the Semitic race, and, consequently, as kindred peoples to the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Arabs, the Syrians, the Jews and other history-making nations of antiquity. To call them Ethiopians in the sense of blacks is a singular misnomer, originating probably in the fact that, being the only African people except the Egyptians known at an early date to the Greek-Latin literature, the term “Ethiopian” gradually was used to designate all Africans, and is now the national name for that very people who, almost alone on the entire continent of Africa, do not belong to the Negro race.

In truth, the Abyssinians are not originally an African race at all. Their earliest traditions point to Southern Arabia as their original seat, and by a singular piece of good fortune, the German traveler, Edward Glaser, who has made four scientific journeys to Southern Arabia, hitherto never explored, has found there the indubitable evidences of the existence of the Abyssinian people in those districts before the days of Christ. In close connection with this is the other discovery that at that time there existed in Southern Arabia a mighty Sabaean Kingdom, and Prof, Sayce declares that on the basis of these finds the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon in Jerusalem was, historically considered, “the most natural thing in the world.” Of this the Abyssinians have retained a very clear tradition. The present line of Kings claims to be descended from King Solomon by a son born to him by the Queen of Sheba, which son bore the same name. Menelik, as that in which the present ruler of Abyssinia glories. The royal house of Abyssinia can trace its lineage through a long list of generations without any break to Menelik, the son of Solomon. To doubt this descent of an Abyssinian King is equivalent to treason, and the literature on the subject is abundant.

The early connection of the Abyssinians with their kindred people of the Semitic family is also indicated by the presence in their midst of a unique semi-Helot race, numbering perhaps 500,000, and commonly known as the “Falashas” or Black Jews. They are Jewish in descent and religion, adhering only to the tenets and teachings of the Old Testament, while the Ethiopians or Abyssinians themselves are Christians. It is an old tradition, sustained and supported by some remarkable facts, that the Abyssinians were themselves first converted to Judaism and then to Christianity, and that the Falashas constitute that portion of the race which refused to accept the teachings of the Christian Church. Certain it is that the Abyssinian faith presents a somewhat odd conglomeration of Jewish and Christian elements. Thus, they still practice circumcision, although they have accepted baptism: they observe the seventh day as well as the first; the number and manner of their fasts are decidedly Jewish, and in many other ways they show traits peculiar to the Jewish faith.

They themselves, by their very name, indicate how strong a feeling of their origin is still present with them. The name “Abyssinians” they utterly despise as a term, meaning in the Arabic, a mixed or mongrel people, which has been given by their enemies. They themselves adopt the historic name of “Ethiopians,” or, still better, the native name of “Geez”. The term, “Geez”, while originally meaning almost the same as the word “Hebrews” – those who crossed over-is generally employed in a later sense of “Freedmen.” By this term the people designate themselves, as did the “Franks” of the Middle Ages, as “a people of freedmen.”

In more than one respect the Abyssinians are a unique people. Their physical and mental peculiarities, chiefly their language, mark them as a purely Semitic people, the only people of that family which, as a nation, settled and worked out its historical mission on the Dark Continent. In their history, religion, and literature they have been practically uninfluenced by the Hamitic people around them, including the oldest representatives of civilization on the African continent, the Egyptian. To all intents and purposes the history of the Abyssinian people, as far as this can be traced in their literature, is a chapter in church history, and that, too, an interesting chapter.

The civilization and culture of Abyssinia is practically a product of the Greek Church life of the fifth century. Converted to Christianity in that period of great theological and christological controversies, the Abyssinians took part in the discussions of the day, and with the decision of the Synod of Chalcedon in 451 A. D., condening Monophysitism, or the doctrine that Christ had but one will and not two, severed its connection with the Church at large, and voluntarily entered upon a period of isolation that lasted for an entire millennium, as Abyssinia did not come into touch and tone with the civilization of the world again until rediscovered by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. Only in undefined story as the country of the “Presbyter John” was an uncertain report of the existence of an African Christian nation spread in the Europe of the Middle Ages. For to the voluntary isolation came enforced separation, when in the seventh and eighth centuries the Mohammedan hosts conquered Egypt and vainly tried to overpower the Abyssinians. It is ever to the historic credit of these sturdy mountaineers that for a thousand years they hve been able to maintain their own independence and national individuality against the fanatical hordes that overran Southeastern Europe to the very walls of Vienna and Southwestern Europe almost to the Rhine. But he Califs and the Weziri, by the conquest of Egypt, drove in a wedge between Abyssinia and the rest of Christianity that separated them as though they belonged to different worlds.

From historic factors and forces like these only one result could come, and that was the petrification of thought and life in the Abyssinian people and Church. Substantially in their faith, services, liturgies, thought, and life, with the native conservative tendency so pronounced in the Semitic peoples, in Abyssinians we have a petrification and stereotyped formalism of the Greek Christian culture of the fifth century. But during this time this “hermit nation of Africa” has preserved a treasury of Christian works,lost largely to Greco-Latin literature, and which is now invaluable.

Ethiopic literature is comparatively large, but also either directly Christian or written under the spell of Christianity. It is almost entirely a literature of translations, first from the Greek, and then later from the Arabic and Coptic. Whether the Christianity or the civilization of Menelik’s people could be rejuvenated is something that only a prophet or a prophet’s son could foretell. The efforts of Protestant and of Roman Catholic missionaries in this direction have been carried on for half a century without tangible results, except among the Falashas. Possibly if other methods or agencies were applied, better success could be reported. Certain it is that of all the nations of Africa, the Ethiopians or Abyssinians are by descent and natural endowments the most gifted on the continent.


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