Posted: December 20, 2001 - Outline by Jean Borgatti

African Influence on Christianity

There was a considerable amount of African derived symbols and stories which found their way into the Hebrew religious system. An offshoot of Judaism, Christianity naturally adopted many of these beliefs itself. There would be even more African belief systems to enter the new religion. Developing in Rome, one of Christianity's main rivals were the numerous Egyptian derived Temples of Isis (Auset). To survive and flourish, the religion borrowed heavily from this African derived spiritual system. It was in this manner that the Hebrew idea of a savior was born.

Egypt AusarAusar's wife

In Egypt Ausar was the man-god who was killed and brought back to life thus giving the world the first notion of "the Resurrection." Ausar then became the great Judge of the deceased. Auset, Ausar's wife, was said to have become impregnated by her husband's spirit while he was dead. She gave birth to a child named Heru in the world's first "Immaculate Conception." At his birth a host of deities and wisemen were said to have honored him. Some believe the birth of Heru was commemorated on December 25th when the sun was in the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. Capricorn was also known as the Stable of Augeas; so the infant Heru (Sun/Son) was said to have been born in stable. Thus Ausar, Auset and Heru made for the world's first Holy Trinity.

The story of the resurrected God-King can be found among the Khoi and San peoples of southern Africa as early as 2,000BC. It is only in Africa that the story is this old. Often called, "the mouthpiece of Africa," Egypt's location gave it contact with the Near East. Not surprisingly, years later the story of the God-King and his divine son appear in many other cultures. This includes Krishna of India (1200BC), Tammuz of Syria (1160BC), Iao of Nepal (622BC), Quetzalcoatl of Mexico (587BC), Mithra of Persia (600BC) and others. Jesus the Christ of Hebraic folklore would be the most recent addition to this pantheon. Pictured above are Ausar, Auset and the infant Heru. This version of Auset and Heru would become the model for Mary and Jesus throughout the Christian world. (Photo and Information courtesy of Man, God and Civilization and Egyptian Mythology)

Black Madonna

The African concept of Auset and Heru remained in early depictions of Mary and Jesus. Black Madonna and child reigned throughout Europe for centuries. The Church of Notre Dame at Paris is said to have been built originally on a Temple of Isis (Auset). On one of its walls the sign of the zodiac, Virgo (Auset), is now said to be replaced with the figure of the ChristianMadonna and Child. Today these Black paintings, statues, and symbols are most worshipped in Central and Eastern Europe as Mary and Jesus. Pictured here is a painting from 18th Century Russia. (Photo and Information courtesy of Texas Cultural Institute, African Origins of Western Religions by Dr. Yosef-ben Jochannan, and Man, God and Civilization by John G. Jackson)

With its African derived mythology and rituals, it is not surprising that Christianity finds easy converts along the Nile and Eastern Africa. There were many Christian sects in the early years of the religion not all of which were the same. Probably the most famous of these sects were the Gnostics. The early Christians were called Gnostics from the Greek word "gnosis" meaning "knowledge". It is uncertain if they were a new Jewish sect or whether they had existed prior to Christianity. Building upon the many Mysteries (Temple of Isis, Mithraic, etc.) which permeated Rome and the trade routes of the Eastern world, the Gnostics emphasized a search for knowledge which was regarded as the key to spiritual salvation.

It is not surprising they found converts in such places as Egypt where the beliefs must have seemed quite similar to the native inhabitants. Not surprising then that the most famous Gnostic doctrines are found in Egypt. The Nag Hammadi as they were called were found in Upper Egypt and date to about the 4th Century AD. At any rate, Gnostic doctrines are supplanted by other Christian sects and literally die out. Egypt remains Christian, forming what is known as the Coptic branch of the religion. Ethiopia, and for a short time Nubia, soon follow.

Coptic Christian priest

By the 4th Century AD the religious system of Christian Rome had conquered Egypt and Syria. During this period a Syrian Christian philosopher and his two sons arrived at port in Askum. Rome and Askum were engaged in a battle over the supremacy of the sea trade routes at the time. Upon reaching port the ship is seized and the philosopher and crew are killed. The two Syrian youngsters are spared and became servants of the royal family during the reign of King Ella Amida. Though it is uncertain how, they succeed in converting the royal family to Christianity.

It was through one of these Syrian servants, Frumentius, that Christianity came to be Ethiopia's state religion. Frumentius later becomes in Alexandria, the first Bishop of Askum. Amida's successor Ezana also converts to Christianity and Ethiopia becomes known as one of the strongest Christian empires of the Middle Ages. Ezana is responsible for the conquest of Nubia (Meroitic Kush). But Nubia does not convert to Christianity upon Ezana's conquest. Rather Nubia's conversion begins in 542AD when two missionary groups set out to gain converts to their cause. One group was the Monophysites, under the patronage of Emperor Justinian, and the other was the Melkites, under the patronage of the Empress Theodora. Through some crafty political maneuvering, the Monphysites manage to reach the Nubian kingdoms and by 580AD they had accepted Coptic (Egyptian) Christianity. Christianity flourished in the Nubian kingdoms mostly among the royalty and the monks; it is unknown whether the general populace fully embraced the religion. Under pressure from their northern Muslim neighbors, the Nubian Christian kingdoms fall one by one to Islam---the last in 1504. This is significant as for centuries to come the greatest threat to Ethiopia shall be their Muslim neighbors to the north. Pictured above is a Coptic Christian priest. (Photo and Information courtesy of The African Ark and Africa in History by Basil Davidson)

Lalibela Church

Pictured above is Lalibela Church or Beit Giorgis (House of George). According to local tradition, God instructed King Lalibela to build 11 churches the like of which the world had never seen, and dispatched a team of angels to help him complete the monumental task. The king is said to have constructed the 11th-century church, Beit Giorgis (House of George), after a fully armored Saint George appeared on horseback and admonished him for not having consecrated a shrine to him. Christian monks still show visitors the legendary "hoof marks" of Saint George's steed. Lalibela's masterwork is now often cited as the "eighth" man-made wonder of the world. (Photo and Information courtesy of The African Ark)

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