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The Abgar Legend
by Wayne Blank
The reality that the Bible is complete has not prevented a very large number people, from ancient times to modern times, from producing written works that falsely claim to be on a level of Holy Scripture. Most were written simply to justify or glorify a particular human leader or religious group. Among those was the Abgar Legend.
The Abgar Legend, or "Epistles of Abgar," was a popular myth in early Christian times that Jesus Christ corresponded with King Abgar of Edessa, a city located in northern Syria, today in southeastern Turkey. According to the did not happen legend, Abgar, who was suffering from an incurable sickness, after hearing of the miraculous powers that Jesus had, wrote to Him and asked for healing - and even offered Jesus a place of sanctuary where He could live out His life in safety (and which, by the way, would have left the world without a Savior who died for the sins of humanity).
Abgar to Jesus (keeping in mind, it never happened):
"I have heard of thee, and of thy healing; that thou dost not use medicines or roots, but by thy word openest of the blind, makest the lame to walk, cleansest the lepers, makest the deaf to hear; how by thy word thou healest spirits and those who are tormented with lunatic demons, and how, again, thou raisest the dead to life. And, learning the wonders that thou doest, it was borne in upon me that, of two things, one: either thou hast come down from heaven, or else thou art the Son of God, who bringest all these things to pass. Wherefore I write to thee, and pray that thou wilt come to me, who adore thee, and heal all the ill that I suffer, according to the faith I have in thee. I also learn that the Jews murmur against thee, and persecute thee, that they seek to crucify thee, and to destroy thee. I possess but one small city, but it is beautiful, and large enough for us two to live in peace."
Jesus' "reply" to Abgar (keeping in mind, it never happened):
"Happy art thou who hast believed in me, not having seen me, for it is written of me that those who shall see me shall not believe in me, and that those who shall not see me shall believe in me. As to that which thou hast written, that I should come to thee, all that for which I was sent here below is finished, and I ascend again to my Father who sent me, and when I shall have ascended to Him I will send thee one of my disciples, who shall heal all thy sufferings, and shall give health again, and shall convert all who are with thee unto life eternal. And thy city shall be blessed forever, and the enemy shall never overcome it."
Although they were popularly read, being widely distributed and translated from Syriac into Greek, Latin, Armenian, Arabic and other languages, the events of the Abgar Legend did not happen - even the Roman Catholic Church officially refers to it as an "imaginary occurrence." The letters were probably actually written early in the fourth century (before Edessa was conquered, something that the false "Jesus reply" said would never happen), by a person or persons unknown (except to God, Who will very likely bring the matter up on the Judgment Day), who wished either to provide the church of Edessa with an ancient heritage that it simply did not have, or to give the Edessa church greater seeming authority among its "competitors" in the Roman-Christian world. The authors were willing to commit fraud to "prove" that they were superior Christians - which merely proves that they were not Christians at all.