Heidegger's Bible Handbook: NT Apocrypha: Letter of Christ to Abgar

5. And especially an Epistle to Abgar, King of Edessa, which is given verbatim.


Some attribute greater authority to those Epistles, which Abgar (or rather Ἄκβαρος/Akbaros, which means most mighty among the Arabs, as the Most Learned Valesius judges that it is to be read out of certain Codices, most free from errors), the Toparch of Edessa, sent to Christ, and Christ to Abgar. The former is extant in Greek in Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica, book I, chapter 13. But in Arabic in Louis de Dieu’s[1]Animadversione ad Evangelium Persicum Xavieri,[2]page 611. The possessor of the exemplar was a πολύγλωττος/polyglot Physician, Johannes Elichman,[3] which then fell into the hands of Ussher of Armagh. The Persic is also extant in the writings of Xavier himself, in the Preface. That it was preserved in his own time ἐν δημοσίαις χάρταις, in the public papers, of Edessa, the same Eusebius stands as witness. More particularly, Abgar, if we believe those ancients, roused by the fame of the miracles of Jesus, wrote to Him, and invited Him to himself at Edessa, more specifically, that He would cure τὸ πάθος, the illness, under which he labored. That Jesus responded to him in an Epistle, which the Menologion of the Greeks on August 16 calls the Χριστόγραφον ἐπιστολίδιον, the Little Epistle Written by Christ, is reported in this manner: Ἄβγαρε, μακάριος εἶ, πιστεύσας ἐν ἐμοὶ, μὴ ἑωρακώς με. Γέγραπται γὰρ περὶ ἐμοῦ, τοὺς ἑωρακότας με, μὴ πιστεύσειν μοι, ἵνα οἱ μὴ ἑωρακότες αὐτοὶ πιστεύσωσι καὶ ζήσωνται. περὶ δὲ οὖ ἔγραψάς μοι ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ δέον ἐστὶ πάντα, δι᾽ ἅ ἀπεστάλην, ἐνταῦτα πληρῶσαί με. καὶ μετὰ τὸ πληρῶσαι, οὕτως ἀναληφθῆναι πρὸς τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με. καὶ ἐπειδὰν ἀναληφθῶ, ἀποστελῶ σοί τινα τῶν μαθητῶν μου, ἵνα ἰάσηταί σου τὸ πάθος, καὶ τοῖς σύν σοι παράσχηται, Abgar, blessed art thou, who hast believed in me, although not seeing me: For it is written concerning me, that those seeing me will not believe in me, with the result that those not seeing me will believe and be saved: But in regard to what thou hast written me, that I should come to thee, it is necessary for me to fulfill all things here for which I have been sent; and after I have fulfilled them thus to be taken up again to Him that sent me: But after I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples, that he may heal thy disease and give life to thee and thine. Eusebius testifies that it was subjoined to this Epistle in Syriac, that after the ascension of Jesus Christ, that Judas, who was also called Thomas, sent the Apostle Thaddaeus, one of the seventy, to Abgar, and that he, having been at first received into the hospitality of a certain Tobias, but soon taken to the King, and admitted by him, miraculously healed him and others.

[1] Louis de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Reformed minister, linguist, and orientalist. He brought his considerable learning to bear upon the interpretation of the Scripture. [2] Jerome Xavier (1549-1617) was a Spanish Jesuit, grand-nephew of Francis Xavier, and missionary to the Mughal cour of Akbar. He made great strides in compiling a Christian literature in Persic. [3] Johannes Elichman (c. 1600-1639) was a Dutch physician. Being interested in the medical achievements of the Arabs, he learned Arabic and Persic.

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