Ethiopian Orthodox Church

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Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The monophysite national church of Ethiopia. The Church entertains legends of its origin in the preaching of Matthew or the eunuch of Acts 8. 26–39, but the planting of Christianity in the country actually dates from the 4th-cent. work of Frumentius at the royal court. Frumentius was consecrated the first Abuna (patriarch) by Athanasius of Alexandria (c.340), thus establishing the dependence of the Church on the Church of Egypt. It became isolated from the rest of Christendom by the Islamic conquests of the 7th and 8th cents.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches. It is unique, however, in its observance of Jewish practices, e.g. the keeping of the Sabbath, circumcision, and the distinction of clean and unclean meats. The Church also claims a connection with biblical Israel through the Queen of Sheba. How these Jewish themes and legends in Ethiopian Christianity are to be explained is very obscure. See also FALASHAS.