The Ethiopian Church since the Arab conquest of Egypt in the middle of the seventh century has been transformed into a self-standing Christian ecumene separated from another Christian world with a semi-permeable membrane. The seeds of various Christian doctrines on the fertile Ethiopian ground were growing up in the conditions different from those of the rest of the Christian Orient, even though without breaking communication with the latter. In particular, in Christology, the Ethiopians managed to finish discussing the questions that split the anti-Chalcedonian world in the sixth century into a dozen of doctrinally different factions. The maximal number of logically possible Christological doctrines is limited by the number of logically possible combinations of different Christologies with different Triadologies. Not all such combinations were exhausted in the sixth century. Predictably, it resulted to formation, in Ethiopia, of the almost whole spectrum of logically possible Christologies (including a local version of the Nestorianism) but, of course, always in a Cyrillian wording. Since, at least, the sixteenth century the condition of calling themselves the only true representatives of the “Alexandrinian” theology becomes obligatory, whereas it was only on (some faction of) Ethiopians and never on the Coptic Metropolitans of Ethiopia to judge what is truly Alexandrinian and what is not. During the eighteenth century, it was the doctrine Qǝbat (“Unction”) that was predominating and official. On the level of Christology, it was nothing more than the traditional Severianism shared by the Coptic Church and approved, in official epistles to Ethiopia, by two eighteenth-century Coptic patriarchs. On the level of Triadology, it had a strong local flavour (the idea of Son’s eternal birth from the Father by the unction of the Holy Spirit is a mirrored image of the Latin Filioque), but the Severianism has never had any coherent and elaborated Triadology that would be common to all Severianist factions (cf. my entries “Damian of Alexandria” and “Benjamin of Alexandria” in EAE, vol. 2 (2005), p. 77-78, and vol. 1 (2003), p. 530). Therefore, Qǝbat was a doctrine coinciding with that of the Coptic Church in its frontal Christological part and exploring the wild steppe left by the Coptic Church behind her in Triadology. This highest status of the Qǝbat doctrine in the Ethiopian Church was symbolised by the new Church capital of Qwesqwam, the very name of what was referring to the most famous holy place in Egypt, the Egyptian abode of the Holy Family (cf. more on this in my review of Robin McEwan’s book, Scr 4 (2008), pp. 444-445).
In the early nineteenth century, the situation drastically changed. The Qǝbat doctrine has been marginalised by the Karra in the North and the Sost lǝdät in the South. The feudal wars of Zämänä mäsafǝnt thus acquired a theological component. Two Christologies were on the ring, all others withdrew to the subs bench. The name Karra alludes to a single-edge karra-knife, an image of the unique nature of Christ that absorbed his human nature, as well as a symbol of the knife that cut-off the human nature of Christ after the union with the divine nature. This doctrine is traceable—probably through a great fifteenth-century teacher Giyorgis Säglawi and the monastic order of St. Eustathius with its fourteenth- and fifteenth-century connexions with the Julianist Eastern Armenia—to the late sixth- and seventh-century doctrines of Julianism (already different from the authentic doctrine of Julian of Halicarnassus). The Triadology of Karra has never been studied historically, but it appears to be Damianite (three hypostases are ontologically identical: Christ-Logos is anointing, anointed, and unction). The doctrine of Sost lǝdät, according to the presently available knowledge [cf. Tedros Abraha’s entry “Ṣägga” in EAE, vol. 4, pp. 453-455], is an original creation of Ethiopian mind datable, I think, to the first half of the eighteenth century or slightly earlier. Two births, from the Father in eternity and from the Virgin in time, were found insufficient to divine incarnation. The third birth—by divine “grace” (ṣägga = χάρις; this term became another name of this faction) or “energy” (gǝbr = ἐνέργεια)—was necessarily within the womb of Mary to restore the human nature in the pre-fall Adamic condition. The European missionaries could hardly fail to recognise here the main idea of the Nestorianism and the adoptianism, although in a perfectly “monophysite” apparel (“one nature” and other Cyrillian wording). Because the Incarnation is located, in this system, completely outside the Holy Trinity, Sost lǝdät did not require any specific triadological teaching. One can add to conclude that the reign of the great Emperor Menelik II (1889–1913) leaded to a marginalisation of all the three doctrines enumerated above in favour of some predecessor of the current official doctrine Täwaḥǝdo (“Union”).