A theory claiming the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia has resurfaced. The theory is unproven and seems to be based more in its author’s personal agenda, deep within Replacement Theology rather than archaeology and fact.
Bob Cornuke, a former police investigator, and author of Cornuke theorized in his book In Search of the Ark of the Covenant that around 701 BCE, during the reign of King Manasseh, the Ark was taken from Solomon’s Temple and carried away to Elephantine Island in Egypt. Cornuke points to ruins of a temple that according to his claims, matches the dimensions of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Cornuke believes this was an emergency temple built to house the Ark. The Egyptian temple was destroyed in 410 BCE, at which point Cornuke believes the Ark was moved to Ethiopia.
Cornuke and his team from Bible Archaeology, Search & Exploration (BASE) Institute went to Africa to investigate his theory. Cornuke spoke to Ethiopian Christian monks who showed his team artifacts they claimed were from Solomon’s temple. Cornuke surmises the Ark is currently in Axum in northern Ethiopian in the centuries-old St. Mary of Zion Church. The neighboring Chapel of the Tablet is said to contain the Ark. Only one person, appointed as the Guardian, may enter the building and look at the Ark. The Guardian, as his title implies, must protect the Ark and is prohibited from leaving the grounds.
“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,” Cornuke wrote about the expedition. “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.”
Cornuke spoke with a 105-year-old priest who once was the Administrator at St. Mary’s of Zion who claimed he was allowed to see the Ark during a transition period after the death of a previous Guardian and described it as “a gold box with two winged angels on top.”
Cornuke admitted that there was no proof the Ark was in Axum.
“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.”
It should be noted that Cornuke describes himself as a Biblical archaeologist, but has no degree or training in archaeology. Cornuke has, in the past, claimed to have found Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia, anchors from the shipwreck of the Christian Apostle Paul in waters near Malta, and Noah’s Ark in Iran. None of these claims have been confirmed by independent researchers outside of his organization.
Cornuke also claims that both Jewish Temples stood to the south of the Temple Mount in an area archaeologists have identified as the City of David. His claims in this regard contradict every piece of archaeological evidence found to date.
Harry Moskoff, a writer/journalist and investigative archaeologist, disagrees with Cornuke’s theory. In his book, The Ark Report: The Ark of the Covenant and the Tunnels of Israel, Moskoff discusses his theory of the ark’s location based research as well as ancient Jewish sources.
“The Ark is where it has always been for the past 2,700 years; in a sealed room under the Temple Mount, told Breaking Israel News. “The Talmud states this explicitly in several places. There are about 50 tunnels under the Temple Mount that were mapped out about 150 years ago by Sir Charles Warren but never fully explored. Maimonides describes the Ark as being about 45 feet underground at the end of several mazes.”
“Jewish sources state that King Hosea hid the Ark 37 years before the destruction of the First Temple, Moskoff said. “Jerusalem was not even being threatened but he did so out of divine guidance. Based on my sources, I believe it is directly below where the Holy of Holies was. They needed the Ark in order to do the Temple service but they also needed to hide it. Since it was in the same place just buried.”
Moskoff emphasized that the history of the Temple is well-documented in Jewish sources and there are no claims that the Ark, the central feature of the Temple, ever left Jerusalem.
“Persian King Cyrus listed everything taken from the First Temple and the Ark was not on the list,” Moskoff said. “Even when Ezra and Nehemiah built the Second Temple they couldn’t find the Ark. The Talmud states that there were five things from the First Temple that were missing from the Second Temple, and the Ark was one of those things. The Holy of Holies was completely empty.”
Moskoff noted that there have been attempts to search for the Ark.
“When the Knights Templar controlled the Temple Mount during the Crusades, they searched for it but never found it,” Moskoff said. “Rome carried away many Temple items, some of which are believed to still be in the Vatican, but the Ark was not one of them.”
“There is a theory that the Pharaoh Shishak took away the Ark when he sacked the Temple in the 10th Century BCE,” he said, citing the Biblical source.
In the fifth year of King Rechavam (Rehoboam), King Shishak of Egypt marched against Yerushalayim. 26 and carried off the treasures of the House of Hashem and the treasures of the royal palace. He carried off everything; he even carried off all the golden shields that Shlomo had made. I Kings 14:25-26
“But it is clear that the ark was not taken away at this time. We have many accounts of the Ark being in the Temple after that so the Ark was not taken away,” Moskoff said. “And if it was, it clearly would have been mentioned in the Biblical account.”
Moskoff suggested that the church in Ethiopia may contain an artifact though not the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
“The Talmud says that duplicates of many of the Temple utensils were made in case they became ritually impure,” Moskoff said. “Though it is not mentioned explicitly and it is highly unlikely, it could be that a duplicate Ark was made and that is what is in Ethiopia. We also know that the Egyptians made things resembling the Ark of the Covenant. There might be something in Ethiopia but it is certainly not the Ark of the Covenant.”
Moskoff believes the motives behind Cornuke’s theory is based in Replacement Theology much more than a historical curiosity.
“This is Replacement Theology with a pretty cover story that really makes no sense,” Moskoff said. “The Arabs and anyone who does not want the Temple to be rebuilt try very hard to put as much distance between the Jews and the Temple Mount as possible, even going as far as to contradicting archaeological evidence and historical accounts. It is based in theology but has real-world anti-Israel political implications.”
Moskoff’s theory and search for the ark are based in facts and research but his motives are religious.
“The Ark is what brings the Shechina to the Temple Mount,” Moskoff said. “Without the Ark, the Temple Mount is not holy; not to the Jews and not to anyone.”