LETTERS OF CHRIST AND ABGARUS
From "The Apocryphal New Testament"
M.R. James-Translation and Notes
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
Our earliest Greek text of these -which are found in many forms- is that
given by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (i. 13), extracted, as
he says, by him from the archives of Edessa relating to Abgar and translated
from Syriac word for word:
A copy of a letter written by Abgarus the toparch to Jesus, and sent
to him by means of Ananias the runner, to Jerusalem.
Abgarus Uchama the toparch to Jesus the good Saviour that hath appeared
in the parts (place) of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard concerning thee
and thy cures, that they are done of thee without drugs or herbs: for,
as the report goes, thou makest blind men to see again, lame to walk, and
cleansest lepers, and castest out unclean spirits and devils, and those
that are afflicted with long sickness thou healest, and raisest the dead.
And having heard all this of thee, I had determined one of two things,
either that thou art God come down from heaven, and so doest these things
or art a Son of God that doest these things.
Therefore now have I written and entreated thee to trouble thyself to
come to me and heal the affliction which I have. or indeed I have heard
that the Jews even murmur against thee and wish to do thee hurt. And I
have a very little city but (and) comely (reverend), which is sufficient
for us both.
The answer, written by Jesus, sent by Ananias the runner to Abgarus
Blessed art thou that hast believed in me, not having seen me.
For it is written concerning me that they that have seen me shall not
believe in me, and that they that have not seen me shall believe and live.
But concerning that which thou hast written to me, to come unto thee; it
must needs be that I fulfil all things for the which I was sent here, and
after fulfilling them should then be taken up unto him that sent me.
And when I am taken up, I will send thee one of my disciples, to heal
thine affliction and give life to thee and them that are with thee.
Later texts add a promise that where this letter is, no enemy shall
prevail: and so we find the letter copied and used as an amulet. It was
regarded naturally as the palladium of Edessa, but was also thought to
act as a protection to individuals.
The letters form an integral part of the story of the mission of Thaddaeus
and conversion of Edessa, and part of that legend is that Jesus gave the
messenger of Abgarus a handkerchief miraculously imprinted with the picture
of his face. Into all this we cannot enter.