MIKA’EL IV (fl. mid-seventeenth century)
Mika’el was the successor to Marqos III and must have been consecrated by the Coptic patriarch MATTHEW III (1631-1646). Although there is no doubt about this metropolitan’s existence, there is little information about his episcopate, because there are no royal annals of Fasiladas’ rule. Only the Abridged Chronicle of Ethiopia (Béguinot, 1901, pp. 51-53) records the following for the seventeenth year of his reign (1648-1649): “At the time two bishops arrived, Abba Mika’el and Abba Yohannes, one by way of Dankali and the other by way of Sennar. Abba Yohannes, who took the first route, was sent to Sarka because he had come at the request of Abeto [Prince] Galawdewos, who did wrong in this. When Abba Mika’el arrived by way of Sennar, he was established as bishop because he had been ordered by the king.” From this text, it may be understood that Galawdewos, who was the brother of the negus and who had plotted to seize power and been denounced by Abuna Marqos III, had asked the Coptic patriarchate to send a metropolitan.
Meanwhile, Fasiladas had likewise requested a new metropolitan to replace Marqos III, who had just been deposed. Thus, under these circumstances, the details of which are unknown, it happened that the Coptic patriarch appointed two metropolitans. The first, requested by Galawdewos, arrived in Ethiopia by way of the desert region Dankali, on the coast of the Red Sea. The other, Mika’el, requested by the negus, arrived by the land route from the west. But the negus, reacting promptly, sent Yohannes to Sarka, on the frontier of Sennar, where he probably elected to return to Egypt. Consequently, only Mika’el (IV) should be included in the list of the metropolitans of Ethiopia.
There is no information about his episcopate, the terminal date of which can only be approximated. Since the Abridged Chronicle records the arrival of Abuna Krestodolu II during the thirty-second year of Fasiladas’ reign (1663-1664), it may be presumed the episcopate of Mika’el IV lasted until about 1660.
During this episcopate, a Christological dispute arose in Ethiopia, one destined to divide the clergy for more than two centuries. This was the question of union and unction. According to the thesis of those favoring union, supported primarily by the monks of the order of Takla Haymanot, whose leader was the eccage, the abbot of Dabra Libanos, the union between the Word and the flesh made Jesus consubstantial with the Father, while the Holy Ghost represented Divine Grace, which restored to the flesh the dignity lost following Adam’s original sin.
Conversely, according to the thesis of the Unctionists, supported mainly by the monks of the order of Ewostatewos, coming mainly from the monasteries of Gojam and Tigre, Jesus did not become consubstantial with the Father by the mere union of the Word with the flesh but rather by virtue of the unction of the Holy Ghost. In a synod held during the twenty-second year of Fasiladas’ reign (1653-1654), the Unctionists seem to have prevailed, but in another synod, presided over by the negus during the thirty-third year of his reign (1664-1665), the Unionists were able to have their doctrine acknowledged. With this state of affairs, it is permissible to wonder if Abuna Mika’el IV played any role in the first phases of this great controversy and if the end of his episcopate had any connection with it. However, given the present lack of available data, these questions must remain unanswered.
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- Beguinot, F. La cronaca abbreviata d’Abissinia, pp. 51-53. Rome, 1901.
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- Kolmodin, J. Traditions de Tsazzega et Hazzega: Annales et documents, p. A36. Uppsala, 1914.
- Perruchon, J. “Le Regne de Fasiladas (Alam-Sagad) de 1632 a 1677.” Revue sémitique 6 (1898):88, n. 2; 91.