The Ark of the Covenant: Alive and Well in Ethiopia? A Critique by -- By: Milton C. Fisher

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 08:3 (Summer 1995)
Article: The Ark of the Covenant: Alive and Well in Ethiopia? A Critique by
Author: Milton C. Fisher


The Ark of the Covenant:
Alive and Well in Ethiopia?
A Critique by

Milton C. Fisher

Milton C. Fisher, Th.M., Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Philadelphia Theological Seminary. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Associates for Biblical Research and a frequent contributor to ABR publications.

The possibility that the Ark of the Covenant still exists and is located in Ethiopia has received widespread attention in recent years. Not only has Graham Hancock’s book The Sign and the Seal caught the attention of the public, but an hour-long National Geographic television special based on the book has further popularized the notion. —Ed.

The English journalist Graham Hancock has written an astounding account of his physical and intellectual search for ancient Israel’s most sacred object. The whereabouts of the Ark has long piqued curiosity, both religious and antiquarian. Hancock’s book, over 500 pages plus end notes, covers a decade-long personal adventure. It was utterly captivating for this observer. Having lived 12 years in Ethiopia myself, with numerous visits to some of his other locations (like Israel and Egypt), I could revisit, through his descriptions, places and persons already familiar to me.

The Theory

Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant (New York: Crown Publishers, 1992) records wide-ranging research, extensive travels, and the numerous personal interviews involved in his quest. I’m able to vouch for the accuracy of much of his historical data, but not always for how he interprets the information — his imaginative stringing of the beads. The reader must examine his complex patchwork, his relentless pursuit of each new lead, each sudden hunch, his constantly evolving hypotheses. Hancock has thoroughly convinced himself, at least, that Moses’ Ark, fashioned in the Sinai wilderness, now resides hidden from popular gaze in a small chapel at Axum, ancient capital of the Christian Ethiopian Empire, in the northern province of Tigray.

Do I agree with Graham Hancock? I cannot lightly dismiss either the ancient and revered claims of my Ethiopian friends or much of what the Englishman has discovered in his arduous search. He has lived and travelled extensively in the regions of which he writes. He has interviewed many sincere and convincing witnesses, whose stories (even about the remote past) share a consistency with other known facts that helps them ring true in his mind. His Ethiopian friends, as mine, have known from childhood the story of how the Ark came to Ethiopia from So...

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