Forget Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Like Dan Brown’s books, a dollop of truth mixed with several tablespoons of fiction makes for… fiction… or worse. The real thing is much more interesting.
I would not have been attuned to the utterly earth-shaking significance this (and its timing), or the credibility which should attach to it, if I had not listened to this series on my iPod a couple of weeks ago.
…on June 17, 2009, during the exclusive video interview to Adnkronos… the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abuna Pauolos… was yesterday received by Pope Benedict XVI for the first time.
[The] Patriarch will make [an] official world announcement next Friday [6/26] at 14:00 hours [CET], from [the] Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome, together with the Prince Aklile Berhan Makonnen Haile Selassie, and Duke Amedeo D’Aosta.
“The Ark of the Covenant – said Pauolos – is in Ethiopia for many centuries. As a Patriarch I have seen it with my own eyes and only few highly qualified persons could do the same, until now”. According to [the] Patriarch, it is kept in one of the churches, but to defend that authentic, one copy of this religious symbol was placed in every single church in Ethiopia.
At Axum will be build Museum in which the Arc will be exposed. It will be funded by the Foundation of the Prince, made hereditary of the throne by Haile Selassie shortly before his death.
(I will endeavor to get a better translation from the Italian once Sunny wakes up.)
The gist of the theory — about which I was extremely skeptical when I began investigating it, but which seems to hold up rather well under scrutiny — is as follows:
The Ark of the Covenant was removed from Jerusalem for its own protection around 700 BC. It was guarded on an obscure (thus secure) island off the coast of Ethiopia for centuries before being moved to the mainland. The archeological evidence for it having been there is compelling (e.g., remnants of ceremonial structures of the right age which would only have made sense in an OT Hebrew ritualistic context).
The wood has likely deteriorated. The Ark’s function of holding the tablets of the Mosaic Law was no longer necessary after Jesus came to fulfill the law. The Mercy Seat however, (made of gold) has remained and is central to the coming Millennial Kingdom — the fulfillment of the irrevocable Davidic covenant which God made with David (in Psalm 89 among other places) that his progeny (Jesus) will reign physically on the earth for a thousand years… shortly after his return and triumph at Armageddon, that is. (Kinda funny that my Bible just happened to flop open to Psalm 89 last night when God told me (rather clearly) to pick it up and I responded, ‘what should I read?’)
I refuse to believe that the timing of this news is random on the part of the Ethiopian religious authorities. If they’d wanted to corner the market in kitch and gawker-tourism they would have done so a long time ago. Why spend 2700 years caring for the Ark only to release news of it at a random time? It makes no sense… unless they received instructions from on high. The fact that the Pope is taking this seriously (further cementing ties between the Catholic and Orthodox churches) makes it doubly interesting.
The fact that it is being revealed now means… Jesus is coming back soon. Very soon.
Remember the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8? (Echoed in Jeremiah 38) The one whom Philip teaches and then baptizes? Did you ever wonder what Philip was doing, alone, far out in the desert and how/why he was mysteriously transported away after such a short, targeted mission on behalf of this one seemingly unimportant guy? (And no, it’s not about the eunuch being black and/or gender-modified.)
The Ethiopian eunuch is returning from Jerusalem with a royal/official entourage. He’s reading Isaiah 52, seemingly confused. Why? Because the Messiah, of whom he’d expected to enquire (you want your stuff back now?) and to whom he’d expected to deliver the Mercy Seat, had just been crucified. Philip reads Isaiah 53 with him, explaining that Jesus had come (first) as the suffering servant. He tells him, in effect: ‘not yet; hang onto the ark; He’ll be back for it later’.
In other words, the tale of the (Jewish) Ehtiopian eunuch is not some random side-story of conversion in the desert but rather is absolutely central to the unfolding of God’s larger plan, its meaning only developing over time as stories like this come out.
UPDATE I: D’oh! Almost forgot. This is key. Isaiah 18 outlines the Biblical basis for the Ethiopian theory.
1Ah, land of whirring wings
that is beyond the rivers of Cush,
2which sends ambassadors by the sea,
in vessels of papyrus on the waters!
Go, you swift messengers,
to a nation, tall and smooth,
to a people feared near and far,
a nation mighty and conquering,
whose land the rivers divide.
3All you inhabitants of the world,
you who dwell on the earth,
when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!
When a trumpet is blown, hear!
4For thus the LORD said to me:”I will quietly look from my dwelling
like clear heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
5 For before the harvest, when the blossom is over,
and the flower becomes a ripening grape,
he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks,
and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
6 They shall all of them be left
to the birds of prey of the mountains
and to the beasts of the earth.
And the birds of prey will summer on them,
and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.
7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts
from a people tall and smooth,
from a people feared near and far,
a nation mighty and conquering,
whose land the rivers divide,
to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.
Which is all to say that, once it breaks big (and it will; along with equal derision, dismissal and vocal skepticism from a world inclined to believe anti-Christian stories at the drop of a hat), the story will bring with it exponentially important temporal, earthly consequences for how Israel thinks of itself and its mission in the world and how Middle East politics play out over the next few months and years.
UPDATE II: Sunny is up and has read the piece in Italian. They appear to have taken down the video in place of a picture from the news conference (perhaps due to high traffic volumes). The rest of it basically outlines the role of the Ark in Biblical history.
Crops in large swathes of Ethiopia risk being destroyed by swarms of locusts coming from northern Somalia… “reports that locust swarms have been confirmed in seven regions in the country, including in areas where there is no previous record of infestation,” a statement said. [Somalia is overwhelmingly muslim; Ethiopia is majority Christian]
The vast majority of Ethiopia’s 77 million inhabitants depend on subsistence agriculture and have been badly hit by successive infestations of voracious locusts that destroy every plant in their path.
UPDATE IV: This is tangentially interesting.
Ambassador of France to Ethiopia Jean Christophe Bellard on Wednesday [June 3, 2009] handed back the sacred St. Yared’s Cross to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The cross, which was stolen at gun point in the early 90s, was returned by a French citizen who had kept for 18 years in Paris. The cross belongs to the centuries-old treasury of the Tana Tcherqos church. The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos said several artifacts of Ethiopia are still being held in various European countries.
UPDATE V: The story still seems confined to Italian media (and completely absent from English media). This article in the German publication Welt however, provides a more detailed overview than the Italian versions I linked to yesterday. (I don’t speak German. The link is to the Google translate page. )
“If the ark in Ethiopia, Your Holiness?” We asked Abuna Pauolos this weekend in Rome… But now silent Abuna Pauolos, one minute, two, three, a small eternity… So we asked again, what treasure hunters and archaeologists busy for decades… “If the ark in Ethiopia?” We should but please have some patience, asked us as the grandson of the last emperor to the side of the patriarch, Prince Aklile Berhan Makonnen Haile Selassie, and smiled: “After 2000 years of silence on this issue should now five minutes for an answer is not too much longer. “
…But when the patriarch took the floor himself, and said unequivocally: “Yes, the ark is located here in Axum. That there is absolutely no doubt. Ethiopia is the throne of the ark, since hundreds of years already. According to God’s will, it came to us and to God’s will, it will also stay with us. I’m not here to provide evidence to. I am here to say what I myself have seen, what I know and what I can bear witness.”
The loading [??] process was not subject to aging and corresponded exactly to the details of the Bible. She was, however, an object of worship and not of curiosity. Therefore, it would in future no undignified shown. But she was there, because there is no doubt: “The Blessed remains. The sacred remains. The ark is not made by human hands. It is a mystery.”
UPDATE VI: An Indiana Jones (and thus Ark of the Covenant-focused) cable TV marathon in an islamic country on successive Saturdays starting July 4th? (And the ark story hasn’t broken yet.) Interesting…
An Indiana Jones movie will air every Saturday on MAX at 10pm, starting with Raiders Of The Lost Ark on July 4, followed by Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom on July 11, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade on July 18, culminating with the Asian premiere of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull on July 25. The four movies will also be screened back-to-back in a special quadrilogy marathon on July 25 starting at 4pm.
And an ark-focused museum exhibit (‘Forbidden History’) extended through July ‘by popular demand’? File it with all the other ‘coincidences’ that maybe aren’t. Something is in the air; people sense it…