The correspondence of Jesus and Abgar.

An apocryphal exchange.


Attributed author(s).
Jesus and Abgar, king of Edessa.

Text(s) available.
Doctrine of Addai, available at Intratext and at the Tertullian Project.
On site (present page in Greek, English).

Useful links.
The Legend of Abgar in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Eusebius of Caesarea and the teaching of Addai both record that Jesus corresponded by epistle with Abgar, king of Edessa. This correspondence is quite evidently a Christian forgery.

Eusebius, History of the Church 1.13.1-20 (English translation slightly modified from that in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series):

Η του κυριου και σωτηρος ημων Ιησου Χριστου θειοτης εις παντας ανθρωπους της παραδοξοποιου δυναμεως ενεκεν βοωμενη, μυριους οσους και των επαλλοδαπης πορρωτατω οντων της Ιουδαιας νοσων και παντοιων παθων ελπιδι θεραπειας επηγετο.

The divinity of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ being noised abroad among all men on account of his wonderworking power, he attracted countless numbers from foreign countries lying far away from Judea, who had the hope of being cured of their diseases and of all kinds of sufferings.

Ταυτη τοι βασιλευς Αβγαρος, των υπερ Ευφρατην εθνων επισημοτατα δυναστευων, παθει το σωμα δεινω και ου θεραπευτω οσον επ ανθρωπεια δυναμει καταφθειρομενος, ως και τουνομα του Ιησου πολυ και τας δυναμεις συμφωνως προς απαντων μαρτυρουμενας επυθετο, ικετης αυτου πεμψας δι επιστοληφορου γινεται, της νοσου τυχειν απαλλαγης αξιων.

For instance the king Abgar, who ruled with great glory the nations beyond the Euphrates, being afflicted with a terrible disease which it was beyond the power of human skill to cure, when he heard of the name of Jesus and of his miracles, which were attested by all with one accord, sent a message to him by a courier and begged him to heal his disease.

Ο δε μη τοτε καλουντι υπακουσας, επιστολης γουν αυτον ιδιας καταξιοι, ενα των αυτου μαθητων αποστελλειν επι θεραπεια της νοσου ομου τε αυτου σωτηρια και των προσηκοντων απαντων υπισχνουμενος.

But he did not at that time comply with his request; yet he deemed him worthy of a personal letter in which he said that he would send one of his disciples to cure his disease, and at the same time promised salvation to him and to all his house.

Ουκ εις μακρον δε αρα αυτω επληρουτο τα της επαγγελιας. μετα γουν την εκ νεκρων αναστασιν αυτου και την εις ουρανους ανοδον Θωμας, των αποστολων εις των δωδεκα, Θαδδαιον εν αριθμω και αυτον των εβδομηκοντα του Χριστου μαθητων κατειλεγμενον, κινησει θειοτερα επι τα Εδεσσα κηρυκα και ευαγγελιστην της περι του Χριστου διδασκαλιας εκπεμπει, παντα τε δι αυτου τα της του σωτηρος ημων τελος ελαμβανεν επαγγελιας.

Not long afterward his promise was fulfilled. For, after his resurrection from the dead and his ascent into heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.

Εχεις και τουτων αναγραπτον την μαρτυριαν εκ των κατα Εδεσσαν το τηνικαδε βασιλευομενην πολιν γραμματοφυλακειων ληφθεισαν· εν γουν τοις αυτοθι δημοσιοις χαρταις, τοις τα παλαια και τα αμφι τον Αβγαρον πραχθεντα περιεχουσι, και ταυτα εις ετι νυν εξ εκεινου πεφυλαγμενα ευρηται, ουδεν δε οιον και αυτων επακουσαι των επιστολων, απο των αρχειων ημιν αναληφθεισων και τονδε αυτοις ρημασιν εκ της Συρων φωνης μεταβληθεισων τον τροπον. αντιγραφον επιστολης γραφεισης υπο Αβγαρου τοπαρχου τω Ιησου και πεμφθεισης αυτω δι Ανανιου ταχυδρομου εις Ιεροσολυμα·

And all that our savior had promised received through him its fulfillment. You have written evidence of these things taken from the archives of Edessa, which was at that time a royal city. For in the public registers there, which contain accounts of ancient times and the acts of Abgar, these things have been found preserved down to the present time. But there is no better way than to hear the epistles themselves which we have taken from the archives and have literally translated from the Syriac language in the following manner. Copy of an epistle written by Abgar the ruler to Jesus, and sent to him at Jerusalem by Ananias the swift courier:

Αβγαρος ουχαμα τοπαρχης Ιησου σωτηρι αγαθω αναφανεντι εν τοπω Ιεροσολυμων χαιρειν. ηκουσται μοι τα περι σου και των σων ιαματων, ως ανευ φαρμακων και βοτανων υπο σου γινομενων. ως γαρ λογος, τυφλους αναβλεπειν ποιεις, χωλους περιπατειν, και λεπρους καθαριζεις, και ακαθαρτα πνευματα, και δαιμονας εκβαλλεις, και τους εν μακρονοσια βασανιζομενους θεραπευεις, και νεκρους εγειρεις.

Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus the excellent savior who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard the reports of you and of your cures as performed by you without medicines or herbs. For it is said that you make the blind to see, the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers, and cast out impure spirits and demons, and that you heal those afflicted with lingering disease, and raise the dead.

Και ταυτα παντα ακουσας περι σου, κατα νουν εθεμην το ετερον των δυο, η οτι συ ει ο θεος και καταβας απο του ουρανου ποιεις ταυτα η υιος ει του θεου ποιων ταυτα.

And having heard all these things concerning you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true; either you are God, and having come down from heaven you do these things, or else you who do these things are the son of God.

Δια τουτο τοινυν γραψας εδεηθην σου σκυληναι προς με και το παθος ο εχω θεραπευσαι. και γαρ ηκουσα οτι και Ιουδαιοι καταγογγυζουσι σου και βουλονται κακωσαι σε. πολις δε μικροτατη μοι εστι και σεμνη, ητις εξαρκει αμφοτεροις.

I have therefore written to you to ask you if you would take the trouble to come to me and heal the disease which I have. For I have heard that the Jews are murmuring against you and are plotting to injure you. But I have a very small yet noble city which is great enough for us both.

Τα αντιγραφεντα υπο Ιησου δια Ανανιου ταχυδρομου τοπαρχηι Αβγαρωι·

The answer of Jesus to the ruler Abgarus by the courier Ananias:

Μακαριος ει πιστευσας εν εμοι μη εορακως με. γεγραπται γαρ περι εμου τους εορακοτας με μη πιστευσειν εν εμοι, και ινα οι μη εορακοτες με αυτοι πιστευσωσι και ζησονται. περι δε ου εγραψας μοι ελθειν προς σε, δεον εστι παντα δι α απεσταλην ενταυθα πληρωσαι και μετα το πληρωσαι ουτως αναληφθηναι προς τον αποστειλαντα με. και επειδαν αναληφθω, αποστελω σοι τινα των μαθητων μου ινα ιασηται σου το παθος και ζωην σοι και τοις συν σοι παρασχηται.

Blessed are you who have believed in me without having seen me. For it is written concerning me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, and that those who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But in regard to what you have written me, that I should come to you, 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, so that he may heal your disease and give life to you and yours.

Ταυταις δε ταις επιστολαις ετι και ταυτα συνηπτο τη Συρων φωνη·

To these epistles there was added the following account in the Syriac language:

Μετα δε το αναληφθηναι τον Ιησουν απεστειλεν αυτω Ιουδας, ο και Θωμας, Θαδδαιον, αποστολον, ενα των εβδομηκοντα, ος ελθων κατεμενεν προς Τωβιαν τον του Τωβια. ως δε ηκουσθη περι αυτου, εμηνυθη τω Αβγαρω οτι εληλυθεν αποστολος ενταυθα του Ιησου, καθα επεστειλεν σοι.

After the ascension of Jesus, Judas, who was also called Thomas, sent to him Thaddeus, an apostle, one of the seventy. When he was come he lodged with Tobias son of Tobias. When the report of him got abroad, it was told Abgar that an apostle of Jesus was come, as he had written him.

Ηρξατο ουν ο Θαδδαιος εν δυναμει θεου θεραπευειν πασαν νοσον και μαλακιαν, ωστε παντας θαυμαζειν. ως δε ηκουσεν ο Αβγαρος τα μεγαλεια και τα θαυμασια α εποιει, και ως εθεραπευεν, εν υπονοια γεγονεν ως οτι αυτος εστιν περι ου ο Ιησους επεστειλεν, λεγων· Επειδαν αναληφθω αποστελω σοι τινα των μαθητων μου ος το παθος σου ιασεται.

Thaddeus began then in the power of God to heal every disease and infirmity, insomuch that all wondered. And, when Abgar heard of the great and wonderful things which he did and of the cures which he performed, he began to suspect that he was the one of whom Jesus had written him, saying: After I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples who will heal you.

Μετακαλεσαμενος ουν τον Τωβιαν, παρ ω κατεμενεν, ειπεν· Ηκουσα οτι ανηρ τις δυναστης ελθων κατεμεινεν εν τη ση οικια· αναγαγε αυτον προς με. ελθων δε ο Τωβιας παρα Θαδδαιω ειπεν αυτω· Ο τοπαρχης Αβγαρος μετακαλεσαμενος με ειπεν αναγαγειν σε παρ αυτω ινα θεραπευσης αυτον. και ο Θαδδαιος· Αναβαινω, εφη, επειδηπερ δυναμει παρ αυτω απεσταλμαι.

Summoning Tobias, therefore, with whom Thaddeus lodged, he said: I have heard that a certain man of power has come and is lodging in your house. Bring him to me. And Tobias, coming to Thaddeus, said to him: The ruler Abgarus summoned me and told me to bring you to him that you might heal him. And Thaddeus said: I will go, for I have been sent to him with power.

Ορθρισας ουν ο Τωβιας τη εξης και παραλαβων τον Θαδδαιον ηλθεν προς τον Αβγαρον. ως δε ανεβη, παροντων και εστωτων των μεγιστανων αυτου, παραχρημα εν τω εισιεναι αυτον οραμα μεγα εφανη τω Αβγαρω εν τω προσωπω του αποστολου Θαδδαιου· οπερ ιδων Αβγαρος προσεκυνησεν τω Θαδδαιω, θαυμα τε εσχεν παντας τους περιεστωτας· αυτοι γαρ ουχ εορακασι το οραμα, ο μονω τω Αβγαρω εφανη.

Tobias therefore arose early on the following day, and taking Thaddeus he came to Abgar. And, when he came, the nobles were present and stood about Abgar. And immediately upon his entrance a great vision appeared to Abgar in the countenance of the apostle Thaddeus. When Abgar saw it he prostrated himself before Thaddeus, while all those who stood about were astonished; for they did not see the vision, which appeared to Abgar alone.

Ος και τον Θαδδαιον ηρετο ει επ αληθειας μαθητης ει Ιησου του υιου του θεου, ος ειρηκει προς με· Αποστελω σοι τινα των μαθητων μου οστις ιασεται σε και ζωην σοι παρεξει. και ο Θαδδαιος εφη· Επει μεγαλως πεπιστευκας εις τον αποστειλαντα με, δια τουτο απεσταλην προς σε· και παλιν, εαν πιστευσης εν αυτω, ως αν πιστευσης εσται σοι τα αιτηματα της καρδιας σου.

He then asked Thaddeus if he were in truth a disciple of Jesus the son of God, who had said to him: I will send you one of my disciples, who shall heal you and give you life. And Thaddeus said: Because you have mightily believed in him that sent me, on this account have I been sent unto you. And again, if you believe in him, the petitions of your heart shall be granted you as you believe.

Και ο Αβγαρος προς αυτον· Ουτως επιστευσα, φησιν, εν αυτω ως και τους Ιουδαιους τους σταυρωσαντας αυτον βουληθηναι δυναμιν παραλαβων κατακοψαι, ει μη δια την βασιλειαν την Ρωμαιων ανεκοπην τουτου. και ο Θαδδαιος ειπεν· Ο κυριος ημων το θελημα του πατρος αυτου πεπληρωκεν και πληρωσας ανεληφθη προς τον πατερα. λεγει αυτω Αβγαρος· Καγω πεπιστευκα εις αυτον και εις τον πατερα αυτου.

And Abgar said to him: So much have I believed in him that I wished to take an army and destroy those Jews who crucified him, had I not been deterred from it by reason of the dominion of the Romans. And Thaddeus said: Our Lord has fulfilled the will of his father, and having fulfilled it he has been taken up to his father. And Abgar said to him: I too have believed in him and in his father.

Και ο Θαδδαιος· Δια τουτο, φησι, τιθημι την χειρα μου επι σε εν ονοματι αυτου. και τουτο πραξαντος παραχρημα εθεραπευθη της νοσου και του παθους ου ειχεν.

And Thaddeus said to him: Therefore I place my hand upon you in his name. And, when he had done it, immediately Abgar was cured of the disease and of the suffering which he had.

Εθαυμασεν τε ο Αβγαρος οτι καθως ηκουσται αυτω περι του Ιησου, ουτως τοις εργοις παρελαβεν δια του μαθητου αυτου Θαδδαιου, ος αυτον ανευ φαρμακειας και βοτανων εθεραπευσεν, και ου μονον, αλλα και Αβδον τον του Αβδου, ποδαγραν εχοντα· ος και αυτος προσελθων υπο τους ποδας αυτου επεσεν, ευχας τε δια χειρος λαβων εθεραπευθη, πολλους τε αλλους συμπολιτας αυτων ο αυτος ιασατο, θαυμαστα και μεγαλα ποιων και κηρυσσων τον λογον του θεου.

And Abgar marvelled that, as he had heard concerning Jesus, so he had received in very deed through his disciple Thaddeus, who healed him without medicines and herbs, and not only him, but also Abdus the son of Abdus, who was afflicted with the gout; for he too came to him and fell at his feet, and, having received a benediction by the imposition of his hands, he was healed. The same Thaddeus cured also many other inhabitants of the city, and did wonders and marvelous works, and preached the word of God.

Μετα δε ταυτα ο Αβγαρος· Συ Θαδδαιε, εφη, συν δυναμει του θεου ταυτα ποιεις και ημεις αυτοι εθαυμασαμεν· αλλ επι τουτοις δεομαι σου, διηγησαι μοι περι της ελευσεως του Ιησου, πως εγενετο, και περι της δυναμεως αυτου, και εν ποια δυναμει ταυτα εποιει ατινα ηκουσται μοι.

And afterward Abgar said: You, Thaddeus, do these things with the power of God, and we marvel. But, in addition to these things, I pray you to inform me in regard to the coming of Jesus, how he was born; and in regard to his power, by what power he performed those deeds of which I have heard.

Και ο Θαδδαιος· Νυν μεν σιωπησομαι, εφη, επει δε κηρυξαι τον λογον απεσταλην, αυριον εκκλησιασον μοι τους πολιτας σου παντας, και επ αυτων κηρυξω και σπερω εν αυτοις τον λογον της ζωης, περι τε της ελευσεως του Ιησου, καθως εγενετο και περιτης αποστολης αυτου και ενεκα τινος απεσταλη υπο του πατρος, και περι της δυναμεως, και των εργων αυτου, και μυστηριων ων ελαλησεν εν κοσμω, και ποια δυναμει ταυτα εποιει, και περι της καινης αυτου κηρυξεως, και περι της μικροτητος, και περι της ταπεινωσεως, και πως εταπεινωσεν εαυτον και απεθετο και εσμικρυνεν αυτου την θεοτητα, και εσταυρωθη, και κατεβη εις τον Αιδην, και διεσχισε φραγμον τον εξ αιωνος μη σχισθεντα, και ανηγειρεν νεκρους, και κατεβη μονος, ανεβη δε μετα πολλου οχλου προς τον πατερα αυτου.

And Thaddeus said: Now indeed will I keep silence, since I have been sent to proclaim the word publicly. But tomorrow assemble for me all your citizens, and I will preach in their presence and sow among them the word of God, concerning the coming of Jesus, how he was born, and concerning his mission, for what purpose he was sent by the father, and concerning the power of his works, and the mysteries which he proclaimed in the world, and by what power he did these things, and concerning his new preaching, and his abasement and humiliation, and how he humbled himself, and died and debased his divinity and was crucified, and descended into Hades, and burst the bars which from eternity had not been broken, and raised the dead, and descended alone, but ascended with many to his father.

Εκελευσεν ουν ο Αβγαρος τη εωθεν συναξαι τους πολιτας αυτου και ακουσαι την κηρυξιν Θαδδαιου και μετα ταυτα προσεταξεν δοθηναι αυτω χρυσον και ασημον, ο δε ουκ εδεξατο, ειπων· Ει τα ημετερα καταλελοιπαμεν, πως τα αλλοτρια ληψομεθα;

Abgar therefore commanded the citizens to assemble early in the morning to hear the preaching of Thaddeus, and afterward he ordered gold and uncoined metal to be given him. But he refused to take it, saying: If we have forsaken that which was our own, how shall we take that which is of another?

Επραχθη ταυτα τεσσαρακοστω και τριακοσιοστω ετει. α και ουκ εις αχρηστον προς λεξιν εκ της Συρων μεταβληθεντα φωνης ενταυθα μοι κατα καιρον κεισθω.

These things were done in the three hundred and fortieth year.I have inserted them here in their proper place, translated from the Syriac literally, and I hope to good purpose.

The Doctrine of Addai, extant in Syriac, also records this exchange. It is available in English translation both at Intratext and at the Tertullian Project.

The Gelasian Decree lists both the epistula Iesu ad Abgarum, apocrypha (epistle of Jesus to Abgar, apocryphal), and the epistula Abgari ad Iesum, apocrypha (epistle of Abgar to Jesus, apocryphal).