• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Editor’s Note: In the fifth and final part of a series, “The
Searchers,” Corbett details the theories of such Ark of the Covenant “explorers” as
Graham Hancock, Ron Wyatt and finally, the late Emperor Haile Selassie’s
favorite great-grandson, Prince Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha).


“Time has woven the reality of the truth.” — Anonymous.

After the Corbett-Harron expedition returned from war-torn Ethiopia
in late
1990, I spent some time developing a number of newspaper stories for the

Toronto and Ottawa Suns on the controversial subject of the Ark of the
Covenant being in the dusty town of Aksum in the northern Tigre
province.

By early 1992, Graham Hancock, the former East Africa correspondent
for The
Economist, released a book, The Sign and the Seal, telling his personal
journey in search for the most coveted religious object in man’s
history.

Later, I had the chance to meet Hancock during his book tour stop in
Toronto.

We compared notes in an out-of-the-way coffee shop while being
surrounded
by his publicist and a female photographer, and, instead of disagreeing,

this investigative reporter came away with the same conclusions that it
was, indeed, taken from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem to Aksum. However,

Hancock’s story takes a twist in the road and ends up on an obscure
island
of Lake Tana.

“Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of
Israel?
saith the Lord.”

– Amos 9:7 [whose ministry lasted from 783 to 743 BC)

Hancock wrote: “By the eighth century BC, when Amos was prophesying,
was it
not conceivable that there could already have been a flow of Hebrew
migrants southward through Egypt and into the highlands of Abyssinia?

“… The Kebra Nagast (‘Glory of Kings’) … dated from the 13th
century AD
and had originally been written in Ge’ez. It contained the
earliest-surviving version on the story … about the Queen of Sheba and

King Solomon, the birth of their son Menelik (‘the son of the wise
one’),
and the eventual abduction of the Ark of the Covenant from the First
Temple
in Jerusalem.”

According to an Ethiopian monk, who was reputedly the guardian of the
Ark
of the Covenant, “… It was Azarius (son of Zadok the High Priest of
Israel), not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place
in
the Holy of Holies in the Temple. … And it was thus that it was
brought to
Ethiopia, to the sacred city (Aksum) … and here it has remained ever
since.”

Of all the many traditions that Hancock had encountered in Ethiopia,
he
wrote, by far the purest and most convincing had indicated that the Ark
of
the Covenant had been brought first of all to Lake Tana, where it had
been
concealed on the island of Tana Kirkos. … The relic had remained on
the
island for 800 years before it had finally been taken to Aksum at the
time
of Ethiopia’s conversion to Christianity. Since that conversion had
occurred around AD 330, the implication of the strong folk memory
preserved
on Tana Kirkos was that the Ark must have arrived in Ethiopia in 470 BC
or
thereabouts — in other words about 500 years after Solomon, Menelik and

the Queen of Sheba.”

For Hancock it was a mystical and spiritual journey, for when he was
introduced by an interpreter to the aging priest outside the steps to
the
sanctuary chapel at St. Mary of Zion in Aksum, he was asked about his
character and his motives: from which country had he come, what work did
he
do there, was he a Christian, what was it that he wanted from him?

Hancock answered the inquisitor.

Finally, the priest shook hands with him and with the formalities
over,
Hancock asked: “I have heard of an Ethiopian tradition that the Ark of
the
Covenant is here, in this chapel. I have also heard that you are the
guardian of the Ark. Are these things true?”

The nearly blind monk answered: “They are true.”

When Hancock questioned the traditions of Aksum, the priest
emphasized:
“People may believe what they wish. People may say what they wish.
Nevertheless, we do possess the sacred Tabot, that is to say the Ark of
the
Covenant, and I am its guardian. …”

The wrinkled holy man considered it a great honor that he had been
picked
to guard the Ark and told Hancock that he had been nominated with the
last
words of his predecessor and that when he himself lay on his death bed
his
turn would come to nominate his own successor.

“What qualities will you look for in that man?” asked Reporter
Hancock.

“Love of God, purity of heart, cleanliness of mind and body.”

“Other than you, is anyone else allowed to see the Ark?’

“No. I alone may see it.”

In ancient lore, the Ark was used during church functions, however,
in
modern times, a replica had been paraded on Timkat. Priests and other
dignitaries of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took a replica of the
sacred,
powerful golden container through the streets of Aksum on Tuesday,
January
19, this year. There were no incidents reported.

While this series has centered on Ethiopia, there are other theories
as to
the ultimate destination of the Ark, including it being destroyed by the

Babylonians for its gold (2 Chronicles 36:19).

Then there’s the Prophet Jeremiah, who supposedly hid it in a cave on
Mount
Nebo. (Apocryphal, Second Maccabees).

Another popular one has it hidden in a chamber underneath Solomon’s
Temple
in Jerusalem. Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, the rabbis in
charge of the Western Wall area, are convinced that the Ark has been
hidden
in a cave in the Temple Mount directly under the site of the Holy of
Holies, since the time of King Josiah.

Controversial “explorer” Ron Wyatt explained that in 1978 he was
walking
along the Calvary Escarpment when something happened to him that has, so

far, only occurred once in his life. His left arm raised up and pointed
to
the escarpment and his voice said, “That’s Jeremiah’s Grotto, and the
Ark
of the Covenant is buried in there.”

Wyatt and his sons came back several times over the next few years
and
spent hundreds of hours digging at that location. He finally found and
entered the cave that contained the Ark of the Covenant on Jan. 6, 1982.

On this trip his two sons became sick and had to return home early.
Wyatt
continued working in the cave system with only a young Arab boy as his
assistant. He found a narrow vertical crevice in a rock wall, too narrow

for him to fit in, but, with a little work, it was “just right” for his
helper. The boy squeezed into the opening. But before Wyatt could hand
him
a flashlight to look around with, the lad came scurrying out of that
chamber as fast as he could, saying, “What’s in there? What’s in
there??”
and he was scared to death. Apparently, the young boy refused ever again
to
enter that cave system. He now lives outside Israel, and because of
governmental visitor regulations he cannot re-enter the country.

During Wyatt’s excavations in this area, he supposedly found the
location
of Christ’s crucifixion. Christ was crucified up against what is known
as
the Calvary Escarpment, very near Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. When
Christ
died on the cross, “the rocks were rent.” That earthquake split the
escarpment. There is a vertical crack directly behind where the cross
was
placed. When Wyatt excavated down about 14 feet below present ground
level
at that location, he found the cross hole. It was 13 inches by 14 inches
in
width, and 23 1/2 inches deep, and there was a stone “plug” in the top
of
it that was “squarish” and about eight inches thick. But most
importantly,
there was a very sizable split in the rocks on the left side of the
cross
hole.

When Christ died on the cross and the Centurion stabbed him in the
side
with his spear, Christ’s blood and water flowed out. Christ’s blood,
according to Wyatt, went into the large crack in the ground at the base
of
the cross and it continued underground through the split in the rocks
caused by the earthquake and the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
went upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant that was buried in
the
cave that is about 20 feet right below the crucifixion site.

Wyatt continued his story by saying he entered that cave at 2 p.m. on
the
afternoon of Jan. 6, 1982.

“There was very little room to crawl around because the things placed
in
the cave left only about a foot and a half of crawl space between them
and
the ceiling of the cave. There were rocks on top of boards, on top of
animal skins.”

When Wyatt shone his flashlight down between the rocks, he said he
saw that
much of the wood and furs were rotted away, and he saw “gold” glittering

down underneath the rocks. Then, at the far side of the cave he saw a
stone
box.

The lid of the box was cracked, and the smaller portion of the lid
was
moved aside a short distance; then Wyatt realized what had taken place
there nearly 2,000 years ago. Overwhelmed with emotion and double
pneumonia, Ron passed out for 45 minutes in that chamber.

His “discovery” has never been scientifically verified.

Meanwhile, although the Ethiopian claims have certainly been
questioned,
Prince Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha), the favorite great grandson of
Emperor
Haile Selassie, firmly reiterated his thoughts on the Ark in a 1990
interview:

CORBETT: What makes you so sure about the Ark?

PRINCE: A lot of people are still seeking evidence. However, for
believers
there’s absolutely no doubt that it did happen. … There’s no way, in
my
belief, that this oral tradition could have been a bluff for so many
years
without some significant event like the coming of the Ark to Ethiopia.
They
couldn’t create a fictitious event.

CORBETT: The belief in the Ark is like a rope through Ethiopian
history,
isn’t it?

PRINCE: To me to tamper with this Holy of Holies and to tamper with
its
traditions by using modern methods of speculation is desecrating the
spirit
and the faith of millions of Ethiopians and that is significant. That’s
something that I would jealously guard against and speak out against.

CORBETT: Is God’s Presence in the Ark or is it a container for the
Tablets
of Moses or what?

PRINCE: The Tablets of Moses came directly from God, and if we
believe in
that, then definitely God’s Word and God’s Power are in it. Again the
mind
can go in a zillion ways in speculations and that’s why without faith
you
can’t really understand the significance of the Ark and that is my
conclusion.

That’s mine, too.

If you would like to be a team member of a 1999 expedition to Israel
and
Aksum in October, please contact Corbett at downhome@junction.net by May
1.
Only serious applicants will be considered.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.