Materials On The Theology Of Qebat Or Unction

Fasiladas inherited the throne of an exhausted, dispirited country with no option other than a return to the Orthodoxy of Zar'a Ya'qob. He benefited from his reaffirmation of the value of tradition in church and polity and his rule ushered in three generations of comparative peace and cultural revival. At Gondar he established the first fixed capital since Aksum and built churches and palaces. His son Yohannes I (r.1667-82), and grandson Iyasu I, the Great (r.1682-1706), followed his example, presiding over a state from which the threat of external forces had receded. However, the rise ofJesuit influence early in the century had sparked vigorous and diverse responses from the Ethiopian Church, bringing Christology back to the centre of disputation among the Orthodox, responses which slowly hardened into sectarianism associated with the two rival monastic orders. Both Yohannes and Iyasu presided over a succession of councils devoted to Christology, but, unlike Zar'a Ya'qob, they were unable to impose unity. Iyasu was assassinated and the fifteen years following his death were violent and uncertain. In the christological controversies the sources suggest that the principal party of innovation was the Ewost'atians, whose slogan was Qebat, or Unction, which emphasised the role of the unction of the Holy Spirit in effecting the union of the divine and the human in Christ. From their own standpoint they were deeply committed to an anti-Chalcedonian position, in harmony with the theological tradition of Alexandria.13 Qebat teaching was resisted by the followers of Takla Haymanot, who themselves advocated a position which claimed that Jesus had become Son of God through the Grace (Saga) of the Holy Spirit. He is, they said, the Son of Grace, YaSaga Lej. A third party, much the smallest, associated with the bishops of the nineteenth century, was known as Karra or Knife.

Qebat forces were probably behind the assassination of Iyasu I, and in the reign of his brother Tewoflos (r. 1708-11) Qebat became established doctrine. It was to hold this position for almost sixty years. Establishment came at a price, however. In the reign of Iyasu's son Dawit (r. 1716-21), perhaps one hundred monks of the order of Takla Haymanot were slaughtered by palace troops. This was an early climax and the same level of violence was not again reached until the nineteenth century, and possibly not even then. Nevertheless, sectarian positions hardened, and within each sect new positions were

13 Getatchew Haile, 'Materials on the theology of Qebat or unction', in Ethiopian studies: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference, Tel-Aviv, 14-17 April 1980, ed. G. Goldenberg (Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1986), 205-50. See also Getatchew Haile, Thefaith of the Unctionists in the Ethiopian Church (Haymanot Masihawit) [CSCO, Scriptores Ethiopia 91] (Louvain: Peeters, 1990); Kindeneh Endeg Mihretie, 'The role of Qebatoc in the Christological controversy within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (1620-1764)', unpublished MA thesis, Addis Ababa University, 2004.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment