The century did not open propitiously. In 1803, on the death of Abuna Yosab, the Dabra Tabor ruler, Ras Gugsa, plundered the episcopal property, and, in league with the edge, established the Three Births faith in his domains.64 Qerelos, Yosab's eventual successor, came from Tegre, where he was already embroiled in doctrinal controversy. He was quickly dragged into the matrix of sectarian and regional rivalry, but the death of his sponsor, Ras Walda Sellase, soon after his arrival in 1815 left him in a weakposition. When a few years later he was called to Gondar for a doctrinal council, he found his authority rejected, and, according to some sources, was driven violently from town. He returned an isolated figure to Tegree, where his authority was largely disregarded.65
Qerelos's successor was Abuna Salama,66who arrived in Ethiopia in 1841. His appointment, like that of his predecessor, was in response to a delegation sponsored by the ruler of northern Ethiopia. As had probably been the case in 1815, the metropolitan's presence was the ideological dimension of what was otherwise a military campaign to unseat the Dabra Tabor rulers. The strategy failed, the battle was lost and Salama took up residence in Gondar, where he soon came into conflict with YaSaga Lej partisans, who in 1841 had effected a coup in the province of Shawa, ousting the established leaders ofthe province's principal churches.
There were now three clearly defined doctrinal groups. Still prominent were the Qebat, who in contemporary controversies advocated the position that it was appropriate to think of two births in Christ, one from the Father, from eternity, and one from the Blessed Virgin; the union of the divine and human natures being effected at the moment of conception. By contrast the YaSaga Lej partisans advocated three births, one from the Father, one from the Blessed Virgin and one through the subsequent action of the Holy Spirit. The party of the metropolitans was the smallest and known by the pejorative Karra, or 'Knife.' They, with the Qebat, recognised two births, but rejected Qebat emphasis on the unction of the Holy Spirit in effecting the union of the two natures in Christ. Their enemies held that they had cut off either the third birth or the unction of the Holy Spirit.
64 H. Weld Blundell, The Royal Chronicle of Abyssinia 1769-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), 190 (text); 474 (trans.).
65 Guidi, 'Metropoliti', 14; Weld Blundell, Royal Chronicle, 197 (text); 484 (trans.); C. Conti Rossini, 'La cronaca reale abissina dall'anno 1800 aU'anno 1840', Rendiconti dellaReale Accademia dei Lincei ser. v 25 (1916), 32-8 (text); 890-3 (trans.); Conti Rossini, 'Nuovi documenti per la storia d'Abissinia nel secolo XIX', Atti della Reale Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei ser. vii, 2 (1947), 362-5; Crummey and Getatchew, 'Abuna Salama', first page of the translation.
66 See Crummey and Getatchew, 'Abuna Salama'.
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