Wednesday, May 26, 2004

AFRICA AND THE BIBLE is a new book by Edwin Yamauchi. Christianity Today interviews him in a somewhat inaccurately titled article: "Sudan's Biblical History". Excerpt:
What was the relationship between King Solomon and Africa?

The contacts with Solomon and Africa as far as the biblical texts are concerned are somewhat tenuous. The only possible site in Africa that Solomon may have traded with is Ophir. But the location of Ophir, which is a definite source of gold, can be placed either in East Africa or Western Arabia. Most of the connections with Solomon were made in the post-biblical period, particularly with the legendary development of the Queen of Sheba story and with the idea of Solomon's mines in Zimbabwe.

The legend of the Queen of Sheba goes far beyond the biblical visit to Solomon, and it even extends to Rastafarianism.

Sheba is the same as Saba, which is the area in southwestern Arabia, Yemen today. That's the source of myrrh and frankincense, and the queen brought the incense on camels on a perilous journey north.

The later tradition developed with the country of Ethiopia. Originally the name Ethiopia in Greek meant "sunburned face," that is anyone who is dark-skinned, particularly those south of Egypt but also even in India. The name of the modern country did not acquire the name Ethiopia until the 20th century. It had been called Abyssinia. But this misleads people, including the Ethiopians themselves to connect references to Ethiopia in the Septuagint and in the New Testament to their country.

In the middle ages, to support a particular dynasty that seemed to have decended from Solomon, the Kebra Negast, the national epic, was created. Ostensibly, it's the first to be a translation into Ge'ez the ancient Ethiopic language.

David Hubbard, the late president of Fuller Seminary, who did a wonderful dissertation on this, which was never published, does not think that the story is correct. But that story said the Queen of Sheba came from Ethiopia, modern Ethiopia, and she then had a son Menelik. Menelik then stole the Ark of the Covenant, which the Ethiopian Christians claim is still in their cathedral in the Church of Mary Zion in Aksum.

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