Jesus the Letter Writer

The question raised in the Resurrection thread about evidence for Jesus outside the Gospels got me to remembering something.

Step one of this is asking somebody, probably Tom (who seems to have access to Borges’ Infinite Library), for the background. I’ve over the years lost a lot of the reference material I used to have, including what described and quoted this piece.

Supposedly, Jesus during his earthly ministry got a letter from the King of Edessa and wrote a reply, copies of which have come down to today.

This is not an Urban Legend. It does actually exist. It is not a medieval or recent forgery, a la the Donation of Constantine or the Shroud of Turin. It is either what it purports to be, or, more probably, a very early forgery.

The church has never given too much credence to it. I’m not clear on why, though I can make some good guesses.

Tom or somebody, do you have the background to make this a worthwhile thread?

I’m not sure what to debate on the issue. It was a legend recorded by Eusebius that has been translated into Syriac and Armenian and there are ancient copies of those translations available.

Basically, the letter “written by Jesus” is a compilation of phrases from the Gospels using phraseology common to the Diatessaron rather than to the current Gospels. Based on its obvious derivative nature, (and the fact that the legend appears first in the third century) it has never been accepted as real.

(There is a separate, but related, legend that the emmissary from Agbar (the king) to Jesus painted a portrait of Jesus and this portrait survived quite a while, becoming a part of the ikonography of the Byzantine Church.)

You can read the whole legend (if you can wade through the prose and the unfamiliar names) at the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia at .


Thanks, Tom. In view of the fact that people were looking for extra-Gospel evidence re Jesus, I thought the question was worth asking. Dave, you can kill this thread before it takes on a life of its own and comes back to haunt me. :slight_smile:

But if it comes back after Dave kills it, you’ll have proof of at least ONE resurrection!

“Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

  • Bertrand Russell