The head of an exploration institute that searches the world for biblical relics says the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandment tablets may be resting in a church in Ethiopia.
Bob Cornuke, president of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (BASE) Institute, wrote in a blog post that a recent investigation led him to Ethiopia, where tradition says the Ark of the Covenant -- and the Ten Commandments that it housed -- were taken following events described in the Old Testament.
The Ark allegedly is housed at St. Mary’s of Zion Church in Axum, Ethiopia, where a “Guardian of the Ark” spends his entire life protecting it. No one else is allowed to see it.
“This man, reportedly, lives his entire life inside a fenced-off area surrounding St. Mary’s of Zion,” Cornuke wrote in the blog. “He will not leave this fenced-off compound until he dies -- when he will be replaced by the next Guardian of the Ark. In the chapel of the church, 30 robes from 30 previous guardians are on display -- and every one of those 30 professed that the object they protected was the true Ark of the Covenant.”
Cornuke isn’t the first person to investigate the church’s claims. Smithsonian Magazine conducted its own investigation more than a decade ago. But Cornuke’s newest blog has been quoted in newspapers and websites worldwide.
The Ark was the subject of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.
“I was able to speak, through an interpreter, with the Guardian of the Ark, who told me that no other man besides himself could lay eyes on the Ark, that it was an absolutely holy object,” he wrote. “He said that the world would not be allowed to pollute it by looking at it. He added that he and the villagers would protect the Ark with their lives, if necessary.”
There is biblical and extra-biblical evidence that the Ark made its way to Ethiopia after ancient Israel was overtaken by outside forces, Cornuke wrote. The goal would have been to protect it. He noted that Moses married an Ethiopian woman.
“We located and interviewed two people who have claimed to have seen the object resting in St. Mary’s of Zion,” Cornuke wrote. “The first was a 105-year-old priest who once was the Administrator at St. Mary’s of Zion. On two occasions, he said, when the Guardian of the Ark died and a new guardian was trained in the worship rituals, he was able to gaze upon the relic. He described it as a gold box with two winged angels on top.”
The priest described “the Ark as a gold box with two winged creatures on the top” with “24 smaller angelic-type figures forming a molding around the top, with two green stones (not described in the Bible) at either end.”
“Is this the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible? At this juncture, we cannot say with certainty that it is, but neither can [we] say for certain that it isn’t,” Cornuke wrote. “What we have concluded is that St. Mary’s of Zion church in Axum, Ethiopia, is the resting place either of an incredible replica of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, or, of the actual Ark of the Covenant itself.”
Cornuke also raised the possibility that the Ark may play a role in the End Times.
“In Isaiah 18, the prophet records a message from God concerning Ethiopia,” he wrote. “It deals not only with Ethiopia’s past, but also with the future of God’s Messiah. Verses 3-4 read, ‘All inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth, when he [Messiah] lifts up a banner on the mountains, you see it; and when he blows a trumpet [of victory], you hear it. For so the Lord said to me, ‘I will take My rest, and I will look from My dwelling place.”
“If this and the verses that follow,” he wrote, “describe Messiah’s triumph over the armies of the world, what happens next is very interesting. Verse 7 reads: ‘In that time a present will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth of skin [Ethiopians, according to verse 1] . . . to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, to Mount Zion.’ What might the present be that is brought from Ethiopia to the “place of the name of the Lord” – to the Holy of Holies? Only the future will tell….”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: James Tissot/Public Domain
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.