Original Research

Ethiopian Christianity: A continuum of African Early Christian polities

Rugare Rukuni, Erna Oliver
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5335 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5335 | © 2019 Rugare Rukuni | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 November 2018 | Published: 23 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


The 4th century CE was definitive for Early Christianity as there emerged an imperial orthodoxy establishment. This was the inception of an era of a Christian polity characterised by symbiotic ties between the imperial establishment and a developing charismatic political Christianity. The established narrative is one overshadowed by the Byzantine influence even in Africa through Alexandria and Carthage. There were, however, dynamics that conceived an African Christian polity, by extension Ethiopian Christianity posed relevance as a complexly diverse Christian political entity. The investigation reviewed 4th-century CE Christianity with regard to the influence of an African Christian polity and, additionally, how it was implied upon relations with the imperial orthodox establishment. Ethiopia became the case in consideration. This was established through descriptive research using document analysis to formulate literature reviews. The development of a Christian political matrix was a dominant feature of Early Christianity, especially after the emergence of a mutual enterprise under imperial orthodoxy. The formative manner of the political characteristic of ecclesiastical leadership was composite to the council resolutions and expansion policy. Inadvertently, the thin line between imperial geopolitical policy and custody of Christendom diminished. Ethiopia intrinsically saw the development of its own Christian political entity, one that curtailed the challenges of ethnic enculturation and schism between charisma and hierarchy. Perceivably, the complexity of the religious political matrix of Ethiopia as derived from its interaction with Byzantine Rome, Alexandria and the Arabian Peninsula was the source for its prolonged existence, thereby establishing basis for further investigation.


Church history; Ethiopian Christianity; Byzantine Christianity; Imperial Christianity; Self-definition; Monophysite; Miaphysite


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