« PreviousContinue »
ANCIENT HEATHEN AUTHORS,
The Epistle of Abgarus king of Edessa to Jesus, and the Rescript of Jesus to Abgarus.
AS the authority of these epistles depends entirely upon Eusebius, I shall here transcribe his account at length, which is in the thirteenth or last chapter of the first book of his Ecclesiastical History. “A.” History concerning the Prince of the Edessens.” ‘The divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ says Eusebius, “being every where talked of by reason of his wonderful power in working miracles, it drew after him many people from other countries, and some very remote from Judea, who were filled with hopes of relief under all sorts of pains and sicknesses. For which reason king Abgarus, who" with honour governed the nations beyond the Euphrates, labouring under a grievous distemper, incurable by human skill, when he heard of the fame of Jesus, which was much celebrated, and his wonderful works attested by the unanimous testimony of all men, sent a letter to him by a messenger, entreating him to cure his distemper. But he did not then comply with his reQuest, yet he vouchsafed to write to him a letter, wherein he promised to send one of his disciples who should cure his distemper, and also bring salvation to him, and to all with him: which promise was not long after fulfilled : for after the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension to “heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, moved by a
* “Isopia trept te row Eöscomywy Śvvass. H. E. l. i. cap. 13. p. 31. • ‘Who governed the nations beyond the Euphrates.” That is the lofty style of the eastern people. Abgarus was governor of only a small territory.
‘ divine impulse, sent Thaddeus, one of Christ's seventy disciples, to Edessa, to be a preacher and an evangelist of Christ's doctrine, by whom all things promised by our Saviour were fulfilled. The evidence of this we have from the records of the city of Edessa : for among the public records, wherein are entered the antiquities of the city, and the actions of Abgarus, these things are still found preserved to this day. It will therefore be worth the while to attend to the letters, as taken by us [or for us] from the archives, and translated word for word from the Syriac language.
The copy of the letter which was written by Abgarus the ‘toparch to Jesus, and sent to him at Jerusalem by the ‘ courier Ananias.
* “Abgarus, toparch [or prince] of Edessa, to Jesus the good Saviour, who has appeared at Jerusalem, sendeth greeting. I have heard of thee, and of thy cures, performed without herbs, or other medicines. For it is reported that thou makest the blind to see, and the lame to walk: that thou cleansest lepers, and castest out unclean spirits and daemons, and healest those who are tormented with diseases of a long standing, and raisest the dead. Having heard of all these things concerning thee, I concluded in my mind one of these two things either that thou art God come down from heaven to do these things, or else thou art the Son of God, and so performest them. Wherefore I now write unto thee, entreating thee to come to me, and to heal my distemper. Moreover I hear that the Jews murmur against thee, and plot to do thee mischief. I have a city, small indeed, but neat, which may suffice for us both.” Now let us attend,’ says Eusebius, ‘to the letter which “Jesus returned by the same courier, short indeed, but very “ powerful. It is in these words.”
“The rescript of Jesus to the toparch Abgarus, sent by the “courier Amanias.
* “Abgarus, thou art happy, forasmuch as thou hast be‘lieved in me, though thou hast not seen me.’ John xx. 29. “For it is written concerning me, that they who have ‘seen me should not believe in me, that they who have not ‘seen me might believe and live. As for what thou hast
written to me desiring me to come to thee, it is necessary that all those things, for which I am sent, should be fulfilled by me here : and that after fulfilling them, I should be received up to him that sent me. When therefore I shall be received up, I will send to thee some one of my disciples, that he may heal thy distemper, and give life to thee, and to those who are with thee.” “To these epistles,’ as Eusebius goes on to say, ‘ are subjoined the following things, and in the Syriac language— That after Jesus had been taken up, [or after his ascension,] Judas, called also Thomas, sent the apostle Thaddeus, one of the seventy; who, when he came to Edessa, took up his abode with Tobias, son of Tobias. When his arrival was rumoured about, and he had begun to be known by the miracles which he wrought, it was told to Abgarus, that an apostle was sent to him by Jesus, according to his promise. Thaddeus therefore by the power of God healed all sorts of maladies, so that all wondered. But when Abgarus heard of the great and wonderful works which he did, and how he healed men in the name and by the power of Jesus Christ, he was induced to suspect [ev
‘viroyota Yeoforev] that he was the person about whom Jesus
had written to him, saying, “When I am taken up, I will send to thee some one of my disciples, who shall heal thy distemper.” Sending therefore for Tobias, at whose house he was, he said to him : “I hear that a man, endowed with great power, and come from Jerusalem, is at thy house, and that he works many cures in the name of Jesus.” To which Tobias answered, “Yes, Sir ; there is a stranger with me, who performs many miracles.” Abgarus then said: “Bring him hither to me.” Tobias coming to Thaddeus, said to him : “The " prince Abgarus, has bid me bring thee to him, that thou mayest heal his distemper.” Whereupon Thaddeus said: “I go ; for it is upon his account, chiefly, that I am sent hither.” The next day, early in the morning, Tobias taking Thaddeus came to Abgarus. As he came in, the nobles being present, there appeared to Abgarus somewhat very extraordinary in the countenance of Thaddeus; which * when Abgarus saw, he worshipped Thaddeus; which appeared strange to all present; for they did not see that brightness which was discerned by Abgarus only. He then asked Thaddeus, “If he were indeed the disciple of Jesus the Son of God, who had said to him : “I will send to thee some one of my disciples who shall
heal thy distemper, and give life to all with thee.” Thaddeus answered : “ Forasmuch as thou hast great faith in the Lord Jesus, therefore am I sent unto thee: and if thou shalt increase in faith in him, all the desires of thy heart will be fulfilled according to thy faith.” Then Abgarus said to him : “I have so believed in him, that I would go with an army to extirpate the Jews who crucified him, if I were not apprehensive of the Roman power.” Then Thaddeus said : “Our Lord and God Jesus Christ has fulfilled the will of his Father: and, having fulfilled it, he has been taken up to his Father.” Abgarus then said : “I have believed in him, and in his Father.” And thereupon said Thaddeus: “Therefore I put my hand upon thee in the name of the Lord Jesus.” And, upon his so doing, Abgarus was healed of his distemper. And Abgarus wondered, that as it had been reported concerning Jesus so it had been done by his disciple and apostle Thaddeus; insomuch as he had healed him without herbs, or other medicines. Nor did he heal him alone, but also Abdus, son of Abdus, who had the gout. For he came to him, and fell down upon his knees before him, and by the laying on of his hands with prayer he was healed. The same apostle healed many other citizens of the same place, and wrought many and great miracles as he preached the word. After which Abgarus spoke to this purpose: “ Thou Thaddeus doest these things by the power of God, and we admire thee. But I beseech thee to inform me about the coming of Jesus, how it was, and of his power, and by what power he did all those things which we have heard of.” To which Thaddeus answered : “Now I forbear, though I am sent to preach the word; but to-morrow gather together all the citizens, and then in their hearing I will preach the word, and sow in them the word of life, and will inform them of the coming of Christ, how it was, and concerning his mission, and for what cause he was sent by the Father, and concerning the power of his works, and the mysteries which he spoke in the world, and by what power he did these things, and concerning his new doctrine, and about the meanness and despicableness of his outward appearance, and how he humbled himself, and died, and f lessened his deity; how many things he suffered from the Jews, and how he was crucified, and descended into hell, and rent asunder the inclosure never before separated, and arose, and raised up the dead who had been buried many ages;
‘ and how he descended alone, but ascended to his Father ‘with a great multitude; and how he is set down on the ‘right hand of the Father with glory in the heavens; and “how he will come again with glory and power to judge ‘the living and the dead.” Abgarus therefore issued * out orders that all the citizens should come together ‘ early the next morning, to hear the preaching of Thad‘ deus. And after that he commanded that gold and ‘silver should be given to him, but he did not receive it, “saying: “When we have left our own things, how should “we receive those things which belong to others?” This * was done in the four hundred and thirtieth year. These ‘things, translated from the Syriac language, word for * word, we have placed here, as we think, not impro* perly.”
". I have now translated this whole history from Eusebius at large, thinking that to be the shortest way to a good conclusion, and that all my readers may be the better able to judge of the remarks that shall be made.
Various are the opinions of learned men concerning this history, some receiving it as true, or at least 5 being favourable to it; others rejecting it" as false and fabulous. I shall put down here the following observations.
1. In the first place, then, I think, we are not to make any doubt of the truth of what Eusebius says, that all this was recorded in the archives of the city Edessa in the Syriae language, and was thence translated into Greek. Eusebius has been supposed by some to say that himself translated it from the Syriac: but that is not clear; nor is it certain that he understood Syriac ; much less have we any reason to say that he was at Edessa, and took this account from the archives himself.
2. This history is not mentioned by any before Eusebius:
8 Cav. H. L. Grabe, Spic. Assem. Bib. Or.T. i. p. 554. Abp. Wake's Introduction to his Translation of the Apostolical Fathers. ch. ix. Tillem. Mem. Ecc. St. Thomas, T. i. p. 360. Addison of the Christian Religion, section i. num. viii. p. 280. * J. Basnage, Hist. de l'Eglise, l. 21. ch. ii. p. 1312. Hist. des Juifs. Vol. i. p. 200. S. Basnag. Ann. 29. n. xxxviii.xiii. Fr. Spanh. H. E. T. i. p. 578, et 794. Pagi, ann. 244. n. vii. Cleric. H. E. p. 332. et Bib. ch. T. xvi. p. 99. Fabr. Cod. Apocr. N. T. T. i. p. 319, &c. Philip. Jacob. Sklerandr. H. Antiq. Ec. Chr. cap. vii. not. 65. J. Jones upon the Canon of the N. T. Vol. 2. p. 1, &c. Du Pin, Diss. Prelim. Tom. ii. Vid. et Wales. Annot. in Euseb. Colonia, La Religion Chrét. authorisée parles Payens. T. 2. p. 339, &c.
* Tous les écrivains ecclesiastiques, qui ont été depuis J. C. jusqu'au temps d’ Eusèbe, ne nous parlent ni près ni loin de cette Histoire, ni de ces Epîtres. Et qui croira, qu'ils n'en eussent rien dit, si elle leur eut Été connue 2 &c. Sueur. Histoire de l'Eglise, et de l'Empire. A. J. C. 31. T. i. p. 103, &c.