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ETHIOPIA ONLY HAS A COPY. Updated on 12/10/2018.

       The first part of this article was posted in May, 2010. The last part will discuss the December 10, 2018 news that confirms the Ethiopian Ark is indeed only a copy.

       Reference the nonsense claim that the Ark of the Covenant would be revealed to the world on Friday, June 26, 2009, see the latest update at:


       On May 11, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPC7e4EI0I8 I found an at times amusing, but very misinformed rebuttal to my article.  It was useful in catching a spelling mistake for a word that my spell check missed (ETHIOPIAN) because it doesn't check words that are all in capital letters.  However, after you have read my article below, and had a chance to hear what these people have posted on YouTube in two parts (21 minutes 18 seconds), then please read my rebuttal to them.

       One of the most publicized ideas about the Ark being removed from Israel relates the belief that it is now intact and well in Ethiopia. This belief was given some credence by Graham Hancock in his book entitled, THE SIGN AND THE SEAL. In it, Hancock claims to have traveled to Lalibela - a town in the region of Axum, Ethiopia - where he interviewed the priest who claimed to be the guardian of the Ark. Hancock wanted to know if the Ark was stolen by Prince Menelik, a son of King Solomon that was supposedly born to the Queen of Sheba when she returned to Ethiopia. The monk then allegedly provided the following story:

When he had reached the age of twenty, Menelik himself traveled from Ethiopia to Israel and arrived at his father’s court… After a year had passed, however, the elders of the land…complained that Solomon showed him too much favour and they insisted that he must go back to Ethiopia. This the king accepted on the condition that the first-born sons of all the elders should also be sent to accompany him. Amongst these latter was Azarius, son of Zadok the High Priest of Israel, and it was Azarius, not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Indeed the group of young men did not reveal the theft to Menelik until they were far away from Jerusalem…. he understood that they could not have succeeded in so bold a venture unless God had willed it. Therefore, he agreed that the Ark should remain with them. And it was thus that it was brought to Ethiopia…

       Hancock wanted to know if the Ark was ever shown in public. He states that the priest responded as follows:

In the very distant past the relic had been brought out during all the most important church festivals. More recently its use in religious processions had been limited to just one occasion a year. That occasion was the ceremony known as Timkat that took place every January.

       During the Timkat ceremony, Ark replicas (Tabots) are paraded. Even the miniature boxes are draped in colorful embroidered silks with silver and gold brocades, shielded from the prying eyes of the pilgrims and tourists. When, in 1986, Hancock pressed the issue by offering to come back the following January to see the Ark itself paraded, he says he was told:

There is turmoil and civil war in the land...In such circumstances it is unlikely that the true Ark will be used again in the ceremonies...Besides, even in time of peace you would not be able to see it. It is my responsibility to wrap it entirely in thick cloths before it is carried in the processions... 

       The monk explained wrapping in terms of protecting the laity from it. Thus what we have is one (half blind) man from the chapel besides Saint Mary of Zion Church claiming to possess the Ark. When he brings out the relic to parade it before the people, it’s hidden under thick cloths, so that what is seen is of little or no scientific value in terms of establishing his credence. What happened since Hancock’s 1986 trip? From January 12-29, 2003 there was an Ethiopian Expedition conducted by Chuck Missler. In evaluating what Mr. Missler learned, it’s important to focus on inconsistencies between his account and Hancock’s version of how the Ark got to Ethiopia. We saw above that the monk at St. Mary of Zion Church claimed that the Ark was stolen during the reign of King Solomon, who ruled from about 965 BCE to 931 BCE. But after Missler came back from the Church site, he published the following report:

Based on 2 Chronicles 35, it appears that the Levites had removed the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to protect it from the ravages of Manasseh and sought protection under Pharaoh Necho. (Pharaoh Necho, incidentally, was an Ethiopian, descended from XXV Dynasty, known as the Ethiopian Dynasty). This relic, along with its Levitical retinue, apparently remained ensconced at Elephantine Island in Egypt for two centuries before it was moved south to Tana Qirqos Island on Lake Tana in Ethiopia, where it remained for eight centuries before moving to Axum, where it has been secured in a highly protected bunker-like building to this day.      

       Manasseh ruled Israel from 687-643 BCE. The difference between the end of Solomon’s rule and the beginning of Manasseh’s is a not so trivial 244 years. As for 2 Chronicles Chapter 35 (Verse 3), that is where Josiah instructed the Levites to put the Ark back in the house which Solomon built! If the Levites still had the Ark during Josiah’s reign, it follows that neither Azarius, nor Menelik had the Ark in their possession.

       What they might have had is a replica (i.e., a souvenir) of the Temple in Jerusalem and its Ark. Souvenirs are still a big business in Jerusalem to this day. I myself bought such a model there of the Ark being paraded.  Is there any evidence supporting a tradition of such souvenirs being in use in Axum, Ethiopia today? There certainly is.  Missler describes the January ceremony in Ethiopia as follows:

       The actual Ark does not leave its secluded vaults, nor does the Guardian leave its side. Ceremonial replicas and other elements are used in the celebration.

       Even the Ark replicas are guarded; apparently Graham Hancock was shown samples in the British Museum. They were not in the shape of an oblong chest, like the Ark of the Covenant. Rather, the samples there were simply wooden slabs with writing on them. At first this caused him to doubt the whole story, but later he took the view that they were replicas of the Tablets of the Law which were put in the Ark.

       There is evidence that copies of the Ark were made. One of these may have found its way first to Elephantine Island, which lies in the middle of the Nile, near Aswan, Egypt. A Jewish colony there built a copy of the First Temple during Manasseh’s reign. It was destroyed around 410 BCE, but an Ark copy might have found its way to Ethiopia. Why wouldn’t Jeremiah want the real Ark taken to Elephantine? No legitimate Jewish prophet could sanction what would appear to be the permanent moving of the Temple from Israel back to Egypt. God clearly opposed any movement of Jews there. And what is the evidence that copies of the Ark were made? As was shown before, Jeremiah 3:16 states, The Ark of the Covenant ...neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more.  It is the final part of the verse in question that strongly implies copies had been made. If a copy were made during the reign of Solomon and then given to the Queen of Sheba as a souvenir, it would certainly have been made with real gold. It would be a priceless ancient artifact, easy to confuse with the real Ark. The difference would be that it would not contain the Tablets written with the finger of God. This, at best, may be what is to be found in the church at Axum, Ethiopia today. The real Ark remains to be found.    

ABOVE: PHOTOS OF THE CHURCH IN ETHIOPIA THAT CLAIMS TO POSSESS THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. Pictures taken from http://www.sacredsites.com/africa/ethiopia/sacred_sites_ethiopia.html.

REBUTTAL TO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPC7e4EI0I8 BY BARRY STEVEN ROFFMAN.

       First of all, the YouTube video repeatedly refers to me as "they." I am not backed by any organization.  This web site is mine.  The articles are mine. I am a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer, an Orthodox Jew, and a Levite - but I do not have a problem with calling myself a Jew.  The youtube video is apparently focused on racism, but it fails to see that its approach is entirely racist. At one point on the video a slide appears that states, "They use 'Jewish" to say white folks and not Hebrews to say black." I have often heard such racist remarks from this group before.  So let me be clear, Israel is proud of its Jewish/Hebrew blacks. as are all religious Jews. It worked hard to try to airlift them out of Ethiopia the moment that it was permitted to do so.  My wife is not white - she's an Asian from South Korea.  She is fully accepted by all the vast majority of all Jews that I have met (with only one single exception of a rabbi who did not like the Orthodox rabbi who supervised her conversion - the dispute was over the kosher status of Hebrew National hot dogs).

       The issue of color is totally irrelevant to the issue of what happened to the Ark.  Ethiopia was added in my book (Ark Code, Searching for the Ark of the Covenant using ELS Maps from the Bible Code) only because, in conjunction with Torah/Bible Code maps, I thought it useful to the readers to survey all major competing ideas about the Ark's fate.  Chapter 3  of my book also discusses possibilities that  the Ark was destroyed, captured by the Romans, might be found by Vendyl Jones, is still under Jerusalem, in Ireland, in Jordan on Mount Nebo, under Calvary, taken by the Knights Templar, and in the Vatican.

       The video focuses on the following section taken from page 57 in my book:
Why wouldn’t Jeremiah want the real Ark taken to Elephantine? No legitimate Jewish prophet could sanction what would appear to be the permanent moving of the Temple from Israel back to Egypt. God clearly opposed any movement of Jews there. And what is the evidence that copies of the Ark were made? As was shown before, Jeremiah 3:16 states, The Ark of the Covenant ...neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more
       In particular, the narrator of the video is surprised and upset by the words neither shall it be made any more. For all Tenach (Old Testament) Scripture, I use the translation found in the Soncino Books of the Bible.  However the video translates Jeremiah 3:16 as The Ark of the Covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit [it]; neither shall [that] be done anymore.  It appears that the narrator is not familiar with Hebrew.  As can be seen on the top left side of the Figure 2 below, the Hebrew is not provided. I have added it on the bottom.  So who's correct? Does the Hebrew verb here (pronounced ya aseh) mean will make or will be done?  The honest answer, not hinted at on the opposing web site, is that both translations are common and acceptable!  So, rather than this being a "false version" as labeled by the Ethiopians, it's fully accepted by numerous common translations. However, for those who are curious about parallel translations, I found the following Jeremiah 3:16 endings online:

New International Version (©1984)
nor will another one be made.

New Living Translation (©2007)
and there will be no need to rebuild the Ark.

English Standard Version (©2001)
it shall not be made again.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
nor will it be made again.

GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
or make another one.

King James Bible
neither shall that be done any more.

American King James Version

neither shall that be done any more.

American Standard Version
neither shall it be made any more.

Bible in Basic English
and it will not be made again.

Douay-Rheims Bible
neither shall that be done any more.

Darby Bible Translation
neither shall it be done any more.

English Revised Version

neither shall that be done any more.

Webster's Bible Translation
neither shall that be done any more.

World English Bible
neither shall it be made any more.

Young's Literal Translation
nor is it made again. 
       Who should we believe?  Certainly not racists who don't know Hebrew, or who mislead their readers into thinking that they have only correct translation when a simple Hebrew dictionary (and common sense) show that they're wrong. 
       One the most ludicrous aspects of the Ethiopian site is its focus on European Jews, totally ignoring the Sephardi (largely non-European) Jewish population in Israel. There are plenty of 100% legitimate Ethiopian Jews in Israel. They are very black, and just as Israeli. Their young sport the same machine guns as those carried by "white" Israelis in the Israeli Army. This is not to say that all Israelis are non racist.  Racism exists everywhere. But the true picture of Israel is much closer to a society reaching out to its black component to help whenever possible, and with gratitude for serving in its military forces like all other ethnic Jewish groups do in Israel. 
       Finally, the Ethiopian web site takes exception to my remarks about legitimate Jewish prophets.  They obviously include Jesus among them. Jewish theology deems the Nazarene to have been a false prophet. I make no apology about it.

Over the past few days, several media outlets have reported on a centuries-old claim that the Ark of the Covenant — which allegedly held tablets recording the Ten Commandments — is inside a church in Aksum, Ethiopia, called the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, and that only the "guardian" of the ark is allowed to see it.

National Geographic even published a story saying that that those who guard the ark in Ethiopia "have been trained to kill with their bare hands" and that "historians and archaeologists would dearly love to examine the treasure, but the chapel [where the ark is kept] is off-limits to all but a few members of the Ethiopian Christian church hierarchy, hindering any independent confirmation of their authenticity."

However, Live Science has learned that accounts told by Edward Ullendorff, who saw the supposed ark during World War II, reveal that what is inside the church is a replica of the ark. Ullendorff, who was a professor at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), died in 2011. [30 of the World's Most Valuable Treasures That Are Still Missing]

When he was alive, Ullendorff told Tudor Parfitt, who was also a professor at SOAS, about the alleged "ark" inside the church. He also gave an interview about what he saw to the Los Angeles Times in 1992. A Live Science talked to Parfitt and found a copy of the 1992 Los Angeles Times article — the two accounts revealing what is really inside.

Religious tradition

Nobody knows where the actual Ark of the Covenant is hiding, or whether it really exists. According to the Hebrew Bible, when this holy chest was first built, it held tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments, and was housed in Solomon's Temple, also called the First Temple. However, the biblical story suggests that during the sixth century B.C., an army led by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. The whereabouts of the sacred chest have since been a source of speculation.

There is a long-standing religious legend in Ethiopia that describes how the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia 3,000 years by a man named Menelik, who, according to legend, was the son of the Queen of Sheba and Israel's King Solomon. The legend states that the Queen of Sheba was from Ethiopia and that she traveled to Jerusalem where she was seduced by King Solomon, giving birth to Menelik when she returned to Ethiopia. Menelik later traveled to Jerusalem and studied with his father before stealing the ark and bringing it to Ethiopia, where, legend has it, the ark still resides in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where only the guardian of the ark can view it.

Historical records indicate that this story started during the late Middle Ages (around A.D. 1400), said Parfitt, now a professor of religion at Florida International University.

The man who saw "the ark"

Ethiopia was invaded by the Italian troops during a military campaign that lasted from 1935 to 1936. After Italy declared war on the United Kingdom in 1940, British forces invaded and took Ethiopia in 1941. At the time, Ullendorff was a British army officer who was also a young scholar with extensive knowledge of Ethiopian history and languages, Parfitt told Live Science.

"He went to the Church of Mary of Zion with a couple of soldiers," Parfitt said. He spoke to the monks in the church in Amharic, a language widely spoken in Ethiopia, asking to see the ark. His requests were refused. "They said, 'You can't go in, this is holy…'" said Parfitt, recounting the story. "He said, 'Well, I'm sorry, but I want to go in,'" and "he did go in with his soldiers behind him. They couldn't do anything to stop him," Parfitt said.

According to Parfitt, the army officer then walked over to the place where the ark was said to reside. "What he saw was what you find in any Ethiopian church, which is a model of the Ark of the Covenant," Parfitt said. Apparently, Ullendorff said that "it didn't differ in any way from many arks he had seen in other churches in Ethiopia," Parfitt said. "It wasn't ancient and certainly wasn't the original ark."

Ullendorff never published an article about his encounter with the ark. He "simply didn't want to hurt the feelings of the Ethiopians," said Parfitt, noting that Ullendorff worked extensively in Ethiopia, even becoming a personal friend of the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.

"It would have been absolutely impossible for him to function in Ethiopia if he had said that your ark is not the genuine ark," Parfitt explained. In his interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1992, Ullendorff said that the model he saw was of "middle-to late-medieval construction when these were fabricated ad hoc."

Parfitt said that Ullendorff was concerned after he gave the interview and hoped that Ethiopian authorities did not become aware of the Los Angeles Times article. As far as Parfitt knows, Ullendorff never spoke to a reporter again about what he saw.

       While I am certain that Ethiopia does not have the original Ark, in fairness to those who still want to believe I have two thoughts with regards to the good news and the bad news.

(1) The Good News: Edward Ullendorff claimed that "he did go in with his soldiers behind him. They couldn't do anything to stop him."  It's reasonable to argue that once he invaded the Church and found only a fake Ark, he should have documented it photgraphically. But there is no evidence that he did so.

(2) The Bad News: Ethiopia has promised to show their Ark before and has failed to do so. For those who make great claims the burdon of proof is on them. There is no reason to believe this Church. If they can't at least select qualified and impartial experts to look at and examine what they have, or at least provide a photo,  it's almost certain that their claims are entirely fraudulant.

Figure 2 below: Nonsense published by EthiopianWorldNET and the actual Hebrew for Jeremiah 3:16.