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The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters$
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Roy Kay

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813037325

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813037325.001.0001

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Early Jewish and Christian Figures of Ethiopia

Early Jewish and Christian Figures of Ethiopia

(p.21) 1 Early Jewish and Christian Figures of Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters

Roy Kay

University Press of Florida

The emergence of the figurations of Ethiopia, derived from Psalm 68:31, begin with rabbinic and patristic writings. The readings of Psalm 68:31 in these sources initiate numerous figures of Ethiopia that will reverberate in first white and then black Protestant letters in America. This chapter is broken into two main sections. The first presents figural reading and history in patristic literature through an explanation of Auerbach's essay, “Figura.” Second, rabbinic and patristic readings of Psalm 68:31 are mapped and analyzed. While the rabbis read Psalm 68:31 as a sign of Ethiopia's conversion to Judaism, the church fathers have a grander understanding of the verse. Ethiopia is a synecdoche for all Gentile nations, and physical blackness cloaks the sin of Gentile idolatry. The conversion of Ethiopia prefigures the salvation of all Gentile peoples who come to Christ and hence hasten the Parousia.

Keywords:   Auerbach, blackness, church fathers, figural reading, figure of Ethiopia, Parousia, Patristic, prefigure, Psalm 68:31, synecdoche

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