Original Research

A case for organic indigenous Christianity: African Ethiopia as derivate from Jewish Christianity

Rugare Rukuni, Erna Oliver
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5270 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5270 | © 2019 Rugare Rukuni | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 September 2018 | Published: 07 May 2019

About the author(s)

Rugare Rukuni, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Erna Oliver, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


From its inception to the 4th century CE, Christianity experienced a formative process composite of three catalytic phases characterised by distinctive events (i.e. Jewish-Christian Schism, Hellenism and imperial intervention). From the aforementioned era emerged an orthodoxy fostered by an imperial-ecclesiastical link. There appears to have been a parallel story with regard to certain elements of African Christianity, in particular, Ethiopian Christianity. What can be made of the gap regarding Jewish Christianity combined with the absence of African Christianity from Bauer’s modular theory on heresy and orthodoxy in the development of early Christianity? Despite the dominant story of the development of an imperial religious establishment at the turn of the 4th century, could there be an alternative narrative to Christianity in the African region derivate from Ethiopia? Reviewing the emergence of a religious political Christianity in this era as modular against Ethiopian Christianity in tangent with its links with Christianity in Roman Africa, establishment of the nature and development of Ethiopian Christianity was performed. This was performed through documentary analysis. Bauer’s (1971) theory of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity did not exhaustively account for Jewish Christianity and North African distinct intransigent tradition characteristic of Carthage. By extension to African Egyptian, Alexandria is Ethiopian Christianity that was characterised by Judaic tradition in contrast to anti-Judaism. This established a parallel history of Christianity in Africa inclusive of Ethiopia. A review of this perspective contains contemporary momentum in view of the focus on Ethiopian Jews, for example, as religious praxis was as important as ethnicity in determining the Jewishness of whole tribes.


North Africa; Indigenous Christianity; Jewish Christianity; Ethiopian Christianity; Church history


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