The Response of Emperor Gelawdewos (Claudius) of Ethiopia to Roman Catholic Missionaries

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Special Courtesy – Elais Gabrieselesie – 12/3/19

The confession of Emperor Gelawdewos (Claudius) of Ethiopia, an answer given to the Roman Catholic missionaries of the 16th C, as it is the stand of the Church. The translation isfrom Assistant Professor Lule Melaku’s ” History of The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church” book, page 113-115.

The confession of Faith of Claudius( Gelawdewos), Emperor of Ethiopia.

In the Name of The Father and of The son and of The Holy Spirit, One God.

This is my faith, and the faith of my Fathers kings of Israel, and the faith of my flock, which is within the fold, my kingdom.

We believe in One God: and in His only Son Jesus Christ, His word and His Power, His Council and His Wisdom; Who was with Him before the world was created: And in the last days He came unto us, not laying aside the throne of His Godhead, and was made Man of the Holy spirit and of Mary the Holy Virgin: And He was baptised in the River Jordan, in His thirtieth year; And He was perfect Man : And He was crucified on the wood of the cross, in the days of Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried: And He rose again on the third day; And then on the fortieth day ascended with glory into Heaven, and sat on the Right hand of His Father: And He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the vivifying Lord who proceeds from the Father. And we believe in One Baptism for the remission of sins. And we hope for the resurrection of the dead to the life which will continue for ever. Amen

And we walk in the King’s
Highway,evident and true; and neither to the right nor to the left do we turn aside from the doctrine of our fathers, the Twelve Apostles; and of Paul, the font of Wisdom; and of the Seventy-Two disciples; and of the Three-Hundred and eighteen Orthodox, who were gathered together in Nicea; and of the One hundred and fifty, in Constantinople; and of the two hundred, in Ephesus. Thus do i proclaim and thus do i teach, I Claudius( Gelawdewos), King of Ethiopia, whose reigning name is Asnaf Sagad(I), the son of Wanag Sagad, and the son of Naod.

Now with regard to observance of the Original Sabbath (Saturday) ; we do not keep it as the Jews do who crucified Christ saying, “His blood be on us and on our children ” because those Jews neither drink water nor light a fire, neither cook food nor make bread, nor do they move about from house to house; but we keep it in that we celebrate thereon the Lord’s Supper, and hold Love feasts, were as our fathers the Apostles have instructed us in the Didaskalia. We don’t observe it as the Sabbath of the first day of the week(Sunday) , which is a new day-concerning which David says ” This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” – because on it our Lord Jesus Christ rose again, and on it the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles in the Hall of Zion, and on it He became Incarnate in the womb of Saint Mary, ever-virgin; and on it He will come again to reward the righteous and to recompense sinners.

Again, Concerning the question of circumcision: we are not circumcised as the Jews, because we know the words of the Doctrine of Paul, the Font of Wisdom, who says- ” Neither is circumcision anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creature, which, is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” And again he says to the Corinthians ” ” Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.”

All the books of the doctrine of Paul are in our hands, and teach us concerning circumcision and un-circumcision.

But circumcision amongst us is according to the CUSTOM of the country, like tattooing of the face in Ethiopia and Nubia, and like the piercing of the ear amongst the Indians. And what we do is not in observance of the Mosaic Law, but according to the CUSTOM of men.

Finally, with regard to eating the flesh of swine: we are not prohibited from it, as the Jews are, by observance of the law of Moses. But him who eats thereof we do not abhor or consider unclean, and him who doesn’t eat thereof we do not compel to it; as our father Paul wrote to the Romans saying, ” Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” ” For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And Matthew the evangelist sasy “(Matthew 15 )
————
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

Thus He makes all food clean. When we spoke these words He destroyed all the structure of the error of the Jews, who are taught from the book of the law.

My faith is also the faith of my faithful priests who teach by my command within my Kingdom, and they depart not from the way of the Gospel, nor from the Doctrine of our father Paul; either to the right or the left.

And in the book of history it is written, -That ” King Constantine commanded in the day of his kingdom that all baptised Jews should eat swine’s flesh on the day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” – According as it shall seem, fit, however, to every man he may abstain from eating of animal food. There are some who delight in the flesh of fowl; and there are some who abstain from eating the flesh of sheep. Thus every man as it seems good unto him follows his own inclination. This is the good will and pleasure of men. And touching the eating of animal food, there is no law or canon in the New Testament – ” All is clean to the clean”- And Paul also says, ” Let him that believes eat all things”

This is all that i desired to write, that you might know the truth of my faith, written in the 1555th year from the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the 23rd day of Sene (June) in the province of Damot.

(Extracted from፡ – the Church of Abyssinia by H.M Haytt, 1928:292-294).

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2 thoughts on “The Response of Emperor Gelawdewos (Claudius) of Ethiopia to Roman Catholic Missionaries

  1. Is there still a secret Nubian Orthodox Church? When I was in Aswan, one of my Nubian tour guides said his family were secret Christians. Please advise. Thank you.

  2. Dear Michael

    The historic Nubian Church is no more in existence. However, as of our information, there are ethnic Nubians under the Coptic Orthodox Church

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