According to church tradition, the Syrian church at Edessa was founded after King Abgar had written a letter to Jesus requesting a healing and the Lord responded in writing that an apostle would be sent following his ascension. The apostle that was sent was either Thomas Didymus, or that Thomas sent Thaddeus to the Syrian capital. Also according to church tradition, the second letter was accompanied by a napkin, which Jesus had held to his face and miraculously left his facial imprint upon it. This "icon made without hands" as it was called was copied and popularized among the Byzantine churches.

The first writer to mention these Epistles was Eusebius around 325. Eusebius was Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and a noted church historian. He obtained copies of the letters from the church at Edessa in Mesopotamia, which were written in the Syriac language. They were of obvious antiquity and Eusebius published a word for word Greek translation in his Ecclesiastical History. He was convinced they were genuine and pointed to the public registers and archive records of the City of Edessa, where he found them.

Contemporary scholars dismiss the letters as legend, that's the way traditions go but many do have some basis in fact. The letters may form some insight into the ministry of Thaddeus, how the church at Edessa was formed and the conversion of her people. Thomas Didymus was martyred there and the letter could have been contrived to somehow atone for the shame brought upon the city because of his death. Many Anglican and eastern churches still hold the letters in high regard. Later texts add a promise to the end, "that where this letter is, no enemy shall prevail", and so we find the letter copied and worn as an amulet for protection.

Personally, I don't believe a word of the letter. The only gospel account that Jesus wrote anything down is but once and that was in the dirt and we don't even know what it said. Jesus is said to have praised the King of Edessa by writing: "For it is written concerning me, that those who have seen me would not believe on me, but that they who have not seen might believe and live." It is not possible for Jesus to have written in a letter "for it is written." Those similar words were told to Thomas by Jesus after the resurrection and not written down until later.

The epistles of Jesus Christ and Abgarus, King of Edessa:

Part One. The letter to Jesus from King Abgarus.

1. Abgarus, king of Edessa, to Jesus the good Savior, who appears at Jerusalem, greeting.
2. I have been informed concerning you and your cures, which are performed without the use of medicines and herbs.
3. For it is reported that you cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, do both cleanse lepers and cast out unclean spirits and devils, and restore them to health who have been long diseased, and raise up the dead.
4. All which when I heard, I was persuaded of one of these two: either you are God himself descended from heaven, who does these things, or the Son of God.
5. On this account I have written to you earnestly to desire you would take the trouble of a journey here and cure a disease which I am suffering.
6. For I hear the Jews ridicule you and intend to do you mischief.
7. My city is indeed small, but neat, and large enough for us both.

Part Two. The answer of Jesus to Abgarus the King, sent by Ananias, the footman.

1. Abgarus, you are happy, forasmuch as you have believed on me, whom you have not seen.
2. For it is written concerning me, that those who have seen me would not believe on me, but that they who have not seen might believe and live.
3. As to that part of your letter that relates to my giving you a visit, I must inform you, that I must fulfill all the ends of my mission in this country, and after that be received up again to him who sent me.
4. But after my ascension I will send one of my disciples, who will cure your disease and give life to you and all that are with you.

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