Sabbath Observed in Africa

Many Ethiopians had kept the Sabbath for centuries throughout the middle ages. The Ethiopians received the Eastern form of doctrine in the fourth century. The Sabbath had not then been discarded as the day of rest, though the Sunday festival was observed. In the seventh century the rise of the Saracen power cut Ethiopia off from the knowledge of the world. The historian Edward Gibbon wrote, “Encompassesd on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 47, par. 37). When discovered by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, they were found making the seventh day, as well as Sunday, a day of rest, not having known of its being set fully aside in the course of history. Gibbon relates how the Jesuits never rested until they persuaded the Abyssinian king in 1604 AD to submit to the pope, and to prohibit Sabbath observance. One Ethiopian writer of the time explained, “We do celebrate…the Sabbath, …because God, after he had finished the Creation of the World, rested thereon: …It is not therefore in imitation of the Jews, but in obedience to Christ, and his holy Apostles, that we observe that Day” (Zaga Zaba, An Account of the Habassin Religion, in Michael Geddes, The Church-History of Ethiopia [London: Chiswell, 1696], pp. 87-88).

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Church Fathers Write Against the Sabbath

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