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not by Justin Martyr, nor Tatian, nor Clement of Alexandria, nor Origen, nor by any other; nor does Eusebius give any hint of that kind , he had it from Edessa; it was unheard of among the Greeks till his time; but, having received it, he thougbt it might be not improperly transcribed into his Ecclesiastical History.
3. It is not much taken notice of by succeeding writers. It is not mentioned, I think, by Athanasius, nor Gregory Nyssen, or Nazianzen, nor Epiphanius, nor Chrysostom: Jerom has once mentioned it, and will be cited by and by : but he has not inserted, in his Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers, either Jesus, or Abgarus; neither of whom would have been omitted if he had any respect for the epistles bere produced by Eusebius. This affair is indeed mentioned, or referred to, by Ephrem the Syrian, in his Testament : but that is not a work of so much authority as has been supposed by some: and it is interpolated in several places, both in the Greek and Syriac copies of it; as was observed k formerly.
4. This whole affair was unknown to Christ's apostles, and to the believers, their contemporaries, both Jews and Gentiles, as is manifest from the early disputes about the method of receiving Gentile converts into the cburch. If Jesus Christ had himself written a letter to a heathen prince, and had promised to send to him one of his disciples, and if that disciple had accordingly gone to Edessa, and there received the king and his subjects into communion with the church without circumcision, there could have been no rooin for any doubt or dispute about the method of receiving Gentile converts to christianity. Or if any dispute had arisen, would not this history of the visit of Thaddeus have been alleged? which would have been sufficient to put all to silence. Nor is there any room to say that this visit of Thaddeus at Edessa was after St. Peter's going to the house of Cornelius, or after the council of Jerusalem: for it is dated in the three hundred and fortieth year, that is, of the æra of the Seleucidæ, or of the Edessens : which is computed to be the fifteenth or sixteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, and the year of Christ 29, when, according to many ancient christians, our Lord died, and rose again, and ascended to heaven. Indeed I think it is impossible to reconcile this account with the history in the Acts of the Apostles.
5. If Jesus Christ had written a letter to king Abgarus, it would have been a part of sacred scripture, and would have been placed at the head of all the books of the New Testament: but it was never so respected by any ancient christian writers. It does not appear in any catalogues of canonical books which we have in ancient authors, or in councils. In the decree of the council of Rome, in the time of pope Gelasius, in the year 496, the epistle of Christ to Abgarus is expressly called ' apocryphal. Nor does Eusebius himself upon any occasion reckon it up among canon. ical scriptures, received by those before bim. The titles of the chapters of bis Ecclesiastical History are allowed to be his own. The title of the chapter which has been just transcribed from him is this: A History concerning the Prince of the Edessens. It was a story which he had received ; and he afterwards tells us particularly where he had it. And in the tirst chapter of the second book of the same work, having mentioned the choice of Matthias in the room of Judas, and the choice of the seven deacons, and the death of St. Stephen, from the Acts, he recites again briefly the history before told concerning Abgarus, and says : This m
k See Vol. iv. p. 306.
we have learned from the history of the ancients. Now we
return to the sacred scripture;' where he proceeds to relate from the Acts what followed after the martyrdom of St. Stephen. In short, thougl. Eusebius would not pass over this affair without notice, he seems not to have placed any great weight upon it: and succeeding writers have better understood his meaning than some of late times, who have shown so much regard to this relation.
6. It was the opinion of many of the most learned and ancient christians, that our Lord wrote nothing: therefore this epistle was unknown to them, or they did not suppose it to be genuine. To this purpose speak" Origen, o Jerom, and P Augustine.
7. There are several things in this epistle to Abgarus which are liable to exception.
(1.) At the beginning of the epistle our Lord is made to say: ‘Abgarus, thou art happy, forasmuch as thou hast be• lieved in me though thou hast not seen me. For it is writ• ten concerning me, that they who have seen me, should not • believe in me, that they who have not seen me might be• lieve in me and live.' Says Du Pin, and to the like purpose
1 Epistola Jesu ad Abgarum Regem apocrypha.
η) Και ταυτα μεν ως εξ αρχαιων ισοριας ειρησθω. Μετιωμεν δ' αυθις επι την θειαν γραφην. L. 2. c. 1. p. 39. Β.
n Contr. Cels. I. i. sect. 45. p. 34. o Hieron. in Ezech. c. xliv, T. iii. 1034. P De Consens. Evang. I. i. c. 7. et Retract. I. 2. c. 16,
say others : Where? are those words written ? Does not one see that he who made this letter alludes to the words of Jesus Christ to St. Thomas : “ Blessed are they wbo have * not seen, and yet have believed," Jobu xx. 29. Words • which were not spoken by Jesus Christ until after his • resurrection, and which were not written until long after*wards : which manifestly shows the forgery of this epistle.'
(2.) Our Lord here seems to speak inore clearly of his resurrection, or being taken up to heaven, than he does to the disciples in the gospels.
(3.) Christ here defers to cure Abgarus of his distemper. He tells him that : some time hereafter he would send one
of his disciples to him, who should heal him. Wbich is altogether unworthy of the Lord Jesus, and different from his usual and well-kuown conduct, who never refused to grant the requests of those who sought to him, and expressed faith in his power. Instead of what is here said to Abgarus, after commending his faith, our Lord would bave added and said : • Henceforth thou art healed of thy distemper:' or, * be it unto thee according to thy faith :' or, ' as thou hast • believed, so be it done unto thee.'
This we can conclude from similar cases, recorded by authentic witnesses : Matt. viii. 13; xv, 28; Mark vii. 29.
8. There are several other things in this bistory which are very liable to exception.
(1.) It is said that, after our Lord's resurrection and ascension, Thomas sent to Edessa Thaddeus, one of Christ's seventy disciples. But Thaddeus was an apostle, as we learn from Matt. x. 3, and Mark iii. 18. It is likewise here said that' Judas, called also Thomas, sent Thaddeus. Upon which Valesius' observes : “ Thomas, who was one of the
twelve, was also called Didymus, as we learn from St. John; but that he was also called Judas, is no where said • but in this place : for which cause this story is justly sus
pected.' Jerom, speaking of this matter, says, ' ecclesi• astical history inforins us, that the apostle Thaddeus was • sent to Edessa to Abgarus king of Osrohene, who by the • evangelist Luke is called Judas brother of James: Luke
- Thomas quidem, qui fuit unus ex duodecim, dicebatur Didymus, teste Joanne evangelistâ. Sed eundem Judam esse cognominatum, alibi, quod sciam, non reperitur. Itaque et hoc nomine narratio ista merito in suspicionem venit. Vales. in loc. p. 21.
I Diss. Prelim. liv, 2. ch. vi, sect. 1.
s Thaddæum apostolum, ecclesiastica tradit historia missum Edessam ad Abgarum regem Osroenæ, qui ab evangelista Lucâ Judas Jacobi dicitur, et alibi appellatur Lebbæus, quod interpretatur corculus. Credendumque est eum fuisse trinominem. Hieron. in Matt. X. 3. Tom. iv. P. i. p. 35.
• vi. 16; and Acts i. 13; and elsewhere is called Lebbeus; • Matt. x. 3. So that he had three names.'
(2.) When Thaddeus comes to Edessa, he does not go immediately to the king, to whom he was sent, as might be reasonably expected; but he goes to the house of Tobias, where he stays some wbile, and works many miracles; which being noised abroad, the king hears of him, and sends for bim. All this is very absurd. If Thaddeus, a disciple of Jesus, had been sent to the king of Edessa, he ought and would have gone to him directly, or would have made application to one of the courtiers to introduce him to the prince. This therefore cannot be true history, but must be the invention of some ignorant though conceited person.
(3.) • It looks not a little fabulous,' says Mr. Jones, ó that * upon Thaddeus's appearing before the king be should see * somewhat extraordinary in his countenance, wbich none of • the company else could perceive. Eusebius call it opapa peya, a great vision : Valesius renders it divinum nescio quid, some divine appearance.'
(4.) · The account in the history,' says the same laborious author,' that Abgarus designed to make war upon the Jews * for crucifying Christ, seems very unlikely ; because it is
plain he was prince only of a small city, and that at a vast • distance from Judea ; and therefore could never be so * extravagant as to imagine himself able to destroy so • powerful a nation as the Jews then were.'
(5.) Abgarus is said to have bad a grievous and incurable distemper, for which he desired relief of Jesus. This is said over and over. But what the distemper was is not said. Learned moderns, who are not wanting in invention for supplying the defects of ancient history, say, some of them, that it was the gout, others the leprosy. However, presently after the cure of the prince, we are told of one Abdus, son of Abdus, whom Thaddeus cured of the gout,
(6.) We read not of any other city or country, in the first three centuries, where the people were all at once converted to the christian faith. If the people of Edessa had been all christians from the days of the apostles, it would have been known before the time of Eusebius. And I may add, that if this story, told by our ecclesiastical historian, had beer
i Cet Abgare est qualifié tantôt Toparque, ou Prince, et tantôt Roy. Porcope en dit bien des choses, qui sont agréables, mais qui sentent fort la fable.
Ce prince étoit travaillé d'une maladie fâcheuise et incurable, (ce que Procope entend de la goutte, et les nouveaux Grecs de la lépre,) &c.' Tillem. 18 before, M. E. T. i. p. 361.
esteemed credible, it would have been much more taken notice of by succeeding writers than itu is.
(7.) I forbear to remark, as I might, upon that expression of Thaddeus in his discourse with Abgarus : Jesus Christ,
our Lord and God, fulfilled the will of the Father:' or upon what is here said of Christ's descent into hell.
9. The observations which bave been already made are sufficient to show, that the letter of Abgarus to Jesus Christ, and our Lord's rescript, cannot be reckoned genuine. The whole history is the fiction of some christian at Edessa in the time of Eusebius, or not long before. The people of Edessa were then, generally, christians, and they valued themselves upon it. And they were willing to do themselves the honour of a very early conversion to the christian faith. By some one or more of them, united together, this history was formed, and was so far received by Eusebius as to be thought by him not improper to be inserted in his Ecclesiastical History. Nor could I omit to take some notice of it, as great regard has been shown to it by some. But all my readers may perceive that I bring not in this thing as a testimony of the first antiquity: though it may afford good proof of the christianity of the people of Edessa, at the beginning of the fourth century, when Eusebius flourished, or before.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE WHICH THE EMPEROR TIBERIUS
HAD OF OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
1. T'he Acts of Pontius Pilate, and his letter to Tiberius.
II. The story of Thamus, in Plutarch, concerning the death of Pan, considered.
I. JUSTIN MARTYR, in his first Apology, which was presented to the emperor Antoninus the Pious, and the senate of Rome, about the year 140, having mentioned our Saviour's
u The conversion of the whole city is implied in what is above transcribed ; and so Eusebius understood it; for he says, in the first chapter of the second book, p. 39. Α. Εισετι τε νυν εξ εκεινε η πασα των Εδεσσηνων πολις τη τα Χρις8 προσανακειται προσηγορια. .