Book I

THE NATURE AND WORK OF CHRIST: HIS CONTEMPORARIES: HIS CHOICE OF FOLLOWERS: CORRESPONDENCE WITH ABGAR

Plan of the projected work

1. The chief matters to be dealt with in this work are the following:

a. The lines of succession from the holy apostles, and the periods that have elapsed from our Saviour’s time to our own; the many important events recorded in the story of the Church; the outstanding leaders and heroes of that story in the most famous Christian communities; the men of each generation who by preaching or writing were ambassadors of the divine word.

b. The names and dates of those who through a passion for innovation have wandered as far as possible from the truth, proclaiming themselves the founts of Knowledge falsely so called1 while mercilessly, like savage wolves, making havoc of Christ’s flock.2

c. The calamities that immediately after their conspiracy against our Saviour overwhelmed the entire Jewish race.

d. The widespread, bitter, and recurrent campaigns launched by unbelievers against the divine message, and the heroism with which when occasion demanded men faced torture and death to maintain the fight in its defence.

e. The martyrdoms of later days down to my own time, and at the end of it all the kind and gracious deliverance accorded by our Saviour.

Could I do better than start from the beginning of the dispensation of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Christ of God?

I trust that kindly disposed readers will pardon the deficiencies of the work, for I confess that my powers are inadequate to do full justice to so ambitious an undertaking. I am the first to venture on such a project and to set out on what is indeed a lonely and untrodden path; but I pray that I may have God to guide me and the power of the Lord to assist me. As for men, I have failed to find any clear footprints of those who have gone this way before me; only faint traces, by which in differing fashions they have left us partial accounts of their own lifetimes. Raising their voices like warning lights far ahead and calling out as from a distant watch-tower perched on some hill, they make clear to me by what path I must walk and guide the course of my book if I am to reach my goal in safety. Thus from the scattered hints dropped by my predecessors I have picked out whatever seems relevant to the task I have undertaken, plucking like flowers in literary pastures the helpful contributions of earlier writers, to be embodied in the continuous narrative I have in mind. If I can save from oblivion the successors, not perhaps of all our Saviour’s apostles but at least of the most distinguished, in the most famous and still pre-eminent churches, I shall be content. It is, I think, most necessary that I should devote myself to this project, for as far as I am aware no previous Church historian has been interested in records of this kind; records which those who are eager to learn the lessons of history will, I am confident, find most valuable. It is true that in the Chronological Tables that I compiled some years ago I provided a summary of this material; but in this new work I am anxious to deal with it in the fullest detail. As I said before, my book will start with a conception too sublime and overwhelming for man to grasp – the dispensation and divinity of our Saviour Christ. Any man who intends to commit to writing the record of the Church’s history is bound to go right back to Christ Himself, whose name we are privileged to share, and to start with the beginning of a dispensation more divine than the world realizes.

2. The nature of Christ is twofold; it is like the head of the body in that He is recognized as God, and comparable to the feet in that for our salvation He put on manhood as frail as our own.1 My account of what follows will therefore be complete if I begin my exposition of His entire story with the basic and essential points of the doctrine. By this means, both the antiquity and the divine character of Christian origins will be demonstrated to those who imagine them to be recent and outlandish, appearing yesterday for the first time.

To explain the origin and worth, the very essence and nature of Christ, no language could be adequate. The Holy Spirit Himself says in prophecy: ‘His generation who shall declare?2 For no one has known the Father, except the Son; nor again has anyone ever known the Son fully, except only the Father who begot Him.3 As for the Light that existed before the world, the intellectual and essential Wisdom that was before time itself, the living Word that in the beginning was with the Father and was God – who but the Father could clearly conceive of Him?4 Before anything was created and fashioned, visible or invisible,5 He was the first and only begotten of God; the commander-in-chief of the spiritual and immortal host of heaven;6 the angel of mighty counsel;7 the agent of the ineffable purpose of the Father; the fashioner, with the Father, of all things; the second cause, after the Father, of the universe; the Child of God, true and only-begotten; of all begotten the Lord and God and King, who has received from the Father lordship and dominion, godhead, power, and honour.8 To His divinity the Scriptures bear mystic witness:

In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God,

And the Word was God.

All things came into being through Him,

And apart from Him came into being not one thing.9

This again is the teaching of the great Moses, the earliest prophet of all, when by the Holy Spirit he described the coming into being and marshalling of the whole: the Marshal and Fashioner of the universe gave up to Christ Himself – and to no one, it is plain, but the divine Word, His first-begotten, the making of subordinate beings, and discussed with Him the creation of man:

For God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness.’1

This saying is confirmed by another of the prophets, who in hymns deifies him thus:

He spoke, and they were begotten:

He commanded, and they were created.2

The Father and Maker he introduces as giving commands like a supreme ruler by an imperial fiat; the divine Word, who holds the second place to Him – none other than the One whom we proclaim – as subserving His Father’s behests.

Ever since man was first created, all who are said to have been distinguished for righteousness and the purity of their religion – the great servant Moses and his companions; before him Abraham, the very first, and his children; and all the righteous men and prophets’ who have since appeared – recognized Him in visions seen with the pure eyes of the mind, and paid due honour to Him as God’s Son. He for His part, showing no slackness in His veneration of the Father, made Himself for all mankind the teacher of knowledge of the Father. Thus the Lord God is stated to have appeared as an ordinary human being to Abraham as he sat by the oak of Mamre. Abraham fell down at once, and though he saw a human being with his eyes he worshipped Him as God, besought Him as Lord, and owned that he knew who He was; for these were his very words:

O Lord, the Judge of all the world, wilt Thou not do justice?3

Reason would never allow that the uncreated and immutable substance of Almighty God should be changed into the form of a man, or, alternatively, that by the illusion of any created thing it should deceive the eyes of the beholder, or that Scripture should falsely invent such a tale. Who then could be spoken of as God, and the Lord who is the judge of all the world and does justice, appearing in human shape? As it is not permissible to suggest the First Cause of the universe, there is only one answer – His pre-existent Word. Of Him it is written in the Psalms:

He sent His Word and healed them,

And rescued them from their corruptions.1

Of Him Moses is unmistakably speaking, as second Lord after the Father, when he says:

The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. 2

To Him, when He later appeared to Jacob in a man’s shape, Holy Scripture again refers as God – when He said to Jacob:

No longer shall your name be called Jacob,

But Israel shall be your name;

For you have prevailed with God

Then too:

Jacob called the name of that place The Form of God, saying: ‘For I saw God face to face, and my life was spared.’3

It is clearly not permissible to regard the recorded theophanies as visitations by subordinate angels and ministers of God; for whenever one of these appears to human beings Scripture makes no secret of the fact, but explicitly declares that they are called not God or Lord, but angels, as can easily be proved by any number of instances.

The name which Moses’ successor Joshua gave to Him, as Leader of the heavenly angels and archangels and of the celestial powers, and as the Power and Wisdom of the Father, entrusted with the second place in the kingship and rule over all things, was Commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord; yet Joshua like the others saw Him only in human form and shape. Here is the passage:

When Joshua was in Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw a man standing facing him, his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went up to him and said, ‘Are you for us or for our opponents?’ He replied, ‘It is as Commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord that I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face downwards on the ground and asked Him, ‘Master, what do you command your servant?’ The Commander-in-chief of the Lord replied, ‘Take your sandals off your feet: the place where you are standing is a holy place.’1

Here, too, you will gather from the actual words that this was the very Person who had instructed Moses; for in his case too the words of Scripture are the same:

When the Lord saw that he was coming near to see, He called out to him from the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ He replied, ‘What is it?’ The Lord answered, ‘Do not come this way: take your sandals off your feet; for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He continued: ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’2

That this is in truth a Being, living and subsisting before the world, who assisted the Father and God of the universe in the fashioning of all created things, named the Word of God and Wisdom, the evidence goes beyond the proofs given above: one may hear it from the person of Wisdom herself, who by the mouth of Solomon initiates us most fully into her secret:

I, Wisdom, have made counsel my dwelling,

I have invoked knowledge and thought.

By me kings reign,

And princes decree justice;

By me the great achieve greatness,

And monarchs by me are masters of the earth.

To this she adds:

The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works;

Before time began He established me;

In the beginning, before He made the earth,

Before the springs of water issued forth,

Before the mountains were fixed in place,

And before all hills he begot me.

When He prepared the heaven, I was at His side;

And when He made safe the springs under heaven,

I was with Him, setting them in order.

I was she in whom He delighted every day,

And I rejoiced before Him at every time,

When He rejoiced that He had finished the world.1

Such in outline are the proofs that the divine Word pre-existed and showed Himself to some, if not to all.

Why He was not preached long ago, as He is now, to all men and to every nation, what follows will make clear. It was impossible for the teaching of Christ in all its wisdom and virtue to be grasped by the human race in its former state. At the very beginning, after the original life of blessedness, the first man disregarded the divine command and fell into this mortal, transitory state, receiving this earth with its curse in place of the former heavenly delights.

His descendants, who peopled all our world, showed themselves much worse, apart from one or two, plunging into a beastly existence and a life not worth living. City and state, arts and sciences meant nothing to them; laws and statutes, morality and philosophy were not even names; they lived a nomadic life in the desert like wild and savage creatures; nature’s gift of reason and the germs of thought and culture in the human soul were destroyed by the immensity of their deliberate wickedness. Unholy practices of every kind had taken complete possession of them, so that at one time they corrupted, at another they murdered each other, at yet another they became cannibals; they dared to join battle with God and to fight those battles of the giants that are everywhere famous; they planned to fortify earth against heaven, and in the madness of a deranged mind prepared for war against the Ruler of all things Himself.

While they followed this reckless course God, from whom nothing is hidden, visited them with cataclysms and conflagrations as if they had been a wild forest stretching across the whole world. With continual famines and pestilences, and again with wars and with thunderbolts from the sky, He cut them off, making His punishments more and more drastic as if to check some terrible and wellnigh fatal sickness of the soul. So at that crisis, when nearly all mankind had been submerged by a vast surfeit of wickedness, which like complete intoxication overshadowed and darkened almost every human soul, the first-begotten and first-created Wisdom of God, the pre-existent Word Himself in His measureless love for mankind showed Himself, now by a vision of angels to His subjects, now in person as God’s saving power to one or two of God’s beloved servants of old; but always, always in human form, since in no other way could He appear to them. When these in turn had sown the seeds of true religion in numbers of men, a whole nation, sprung from the ancient Hebrews and devoted to true religion, arose in the world. On these – a mass of men still tied and bound by ancient habits – He bestowed, through the prophet Moses, images and symbols of a mystical sabbath and of circumcision, and instruction in other spiritual principles; but without actual, open initiation. Their Law became famous and like a fragrant breeze penetrated to every corner of the world. From the Jews the movement spread, and soon the characters of most heathen races began to grow gentler, thanks to the lawgivers and thinkers in every land. Savage and cruel brutality changed to mildness, so that profound peace, friendship, and easy intercourse were enjoyed.

Then at last, when all mankind and every race throughout the world had already received help and by now were fitted to receive knowledge of the Father, once again that same Teacher of virtue, the Father’s Minister in all that is good, the divine and heavenly Word of God, in a human body which in all essentials shared our own nature, appeared in the early years of the Roman Empire. What He did and what He suffered accorded with the prophecies, which foretold that a man who was also God would live in the world as a worker of miracles and would be revealed to all nations as a teacher of the worship due to the Father. They foretold also the miracle of His birth, the new teaching, and the marvels of His works, and furthermore the manner of His death, His resurrection from the dead, and last of all His restoration to heaven by the power of God. His final kingdom was shown by the Holy Spirit to Daniel the prophet, who thus inspired described the vision of God in human terms:

I watched until thrones were placed and an Ancient of Days was seated. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool. His throne was a flame of fire, its wheels flaming fire; a river of fire flowed before Him. A thousand thousand ministered to Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court of judgement sat, and the books were opened… I watched, and lo, with the clouds of heaven came One like a Son of Man, who came quickly to the Ancient of Days and was brought face to face with Him. To Him was given the dominion, the glory, and the kingdom; and all the peoples, tribes, and languages shall serve Him. His authority is an everlasting authority, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed.1

Such words, clearly, would never be applied to anyone but our Saviour, the Word who was in the beginning with God and was God, called Son of Man because ultimately He became a man. However, I have collected in special pamphlets the Selections from the Prophets that concern our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in other works have provided a fuller explanation of the statements about Him; so in the present work I shall add nothing to what has been said.

The names Jesus and Christ known and honoured from the first

3. Both Jesus and Christ were names honoured even by God’s beloved prophets of old, as I must now make clear. The extreme sanctity and glory of the name Christ was first proclaimed by Moses himself, who, in obedience to the oracle that said to him, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you in the mount’,2 communicated patterns and symbols of heavenly things, and mystical images. For in describing God’s high priest, the most powerful of men, he called him Christ, and on this high-priestly office, which in his eyes surpassed all pre-eminence among men, he bestows as a mark of honour and glory the name of Christ.1 It is clear then that he understood the divine import of the word Christ.

Moses again was enabled by the Holy Spirit to foresee quite plainly the title Jesus: it, too, he felt to be worthy of special privilege. Never yet heard by human ears till it was made known to Moses, the title Jesus was bestowed by him for the first and only time on the man who – again as a pattern and symbol – he knew would after his own death succeed to the supreme authority.2 His successor had not hitherto used the designation Jesus but was known by another name, Hoshea, which his parents had given him;3 but Moses calls him Jesus, conferring the name on him as a priceless honour, far greater than a kingly crown; for Joshua the son of Nun himself bore the image of our Saviour who alone, after Moses and the completion of the symbolic worship given to men by him, succeeded to the authority over the true and most pure religion.

Moses thus bestows on the two men who in his time surpassed all the people in merit and glory – the high priest and the man chosen to follow him as leader – the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ as a signal honour.

With equal clarity the prophets who came later named Christ in their prophecies, witnessing beforehand alike to the intrigue destined to be levelled against Him by the Jewish people, and to the calling of the Gentiles through Him. At one time Jeremiah says:

The Spirit of our face, Christ the Lord, was caught in their corruptions; Of whom we said, ‘In His shadow we shall live among the Gentiles.’4

At another David in his perplexity asks:

Why did the Gentiles rage,

And the peoples imagine vain things?

The kings of the earth ranged themselves,

And the rulers gathered themselves together,

Against the Lord and against His Christ.

Later, speaking in the person of Christ Himself, he continues:

The Lord said to Me, ‘You are my Son;

I have today begotten you.

Ask me, and I will give you the Gentiles as your inheritance,

And as your possession the limits of the world.’1

Thus, it was not only those honoured with the high priesthood, anointed with prepared oil for the symbol’s sake, who were distinguished among the Hebrews with the name of Christ, but the kings too; for they, at the bidding of God, received the chrism from prophets and were thus made Christs in image, in that they, too, bore in themselves the patterns of the kingly, sovereign authority of the one true Christ, the divine Word who reigns over all. Again, some of the prophets themselves by chrism became Christs in pattern, as the records show, so that they all stand in relation to the true Christ, the divine and heavenly Word who is the sole High Priest of the universe, the sole King of all creation, and of prophets the sole Archprophet of the Father. This is proved by the fact that none of those who of old received the symbolical chrism, whether priest, king, or prophet, ever obtained such power of inspired virtue as our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the only veritable Christ, has revealed.

None of those men, however outstanding in dignity and honour among their own people in the course of so many generations, ever made their being in imagery entitled Christ the justification for calling their subjects Christians. None of them was honoured by his subjects with worship, or held in such affection after his death that anyone was ready to the for the person honoured. No one in those days caused such a stir among all the nations throughout the world, since the power of the symbol could not produce in them any effect comparable to that of the truth presented and revealed by our Saviour. He did not receive the symbols and patterns of the high priesthood from anyone; He did not trace his physical descent from the acknowledged priests; He was not promoted by the soldiers’ weapons to a kingdom; He did not become a prophet in the same way as those of old; He did not receive from the Jews any rank or pre-eminence whatever. Yet with all these, not indeed in symbols but in very truth, He had been adorned by the Father. He may not have obtained the same honours as those mentioned above, yet He is more entitled than any of them to be called Christ. And being Himself the one true Christ of God He has filled the whole world with Christians – His own truly venerated and holy name. No longer does He communicate to His followers patterns or images but fully revealed virtues and a heavenly life with the very doctrines of truth; and He has received the chrism, not that prepared with physical materials, but the divine chrism with the spirit of God, by sharing in the unbegotten divinity of the Father.

This very point, moreover, is driven home by Isaiah, who, as if from Christ’s own lips, cries out:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me;

For He anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to captives,

And new sight to the blind.1

And not only Isaiah but David too addresses Him in person:

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:

A sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy Kingdom.

Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity;

Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee

With the oil of gladness beyond Thy fellows.2

In the first line the passage calls Him God; in the second it honours Him with a royal sceptre; then next, after divine and royal power, it goes on in the third place to portray Him as having become Christ, anointed not with oil made of physical substance but with the divine oil of gladness. Furthermore, it signifies the special distinction that makes Him far superior to and quite different from those who in earlier ages had received in imagery a more physical chrism.

Elsewhere, the same writer makes His status clear:

The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,

Till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet…

From the womb before the daystar I begat Thee.’

The Lord swore and will not repent:

‘Thou art a priest for ever

Of the order of Melchizedek.’1

This Melchizedek is introduced in the sacred record as priest of God Most High, though not consecrated with any prepared chrism or even belonging by birthright to the Hebrew priesthood. That is why it is according to his order, not that of the others who received symbols and patterns, that our Saviour has been called Christ and Priest with the backing of an oath. And so the record does not state that He received physical chrism from the Jews, or even that He belonged to the same tribe as the acknowledged priests, but that before the daystar, that is, before the construction of the world, He had His being, and holds His priesthood deathless and ageless to all eternity.

That in His case the chrism was non-physical and divine is clearly and amply proved by the fact that of all who have ever lived till this day He alone is known to all men throughout the entire world as Christ; that He is acknowledged and witnessed to by all men under this title, and is spoken of thus by Greeks and non-Greeks alike; and that to this day He is honoured by His devotees throughout the world as King, revered more than a prophet, and glorified as the true and only High Priest of God, and in addition to all this as the Word of God, pre-existent, having His being before all ages and having received from His Father the right to be worshipped; and that He is adored as God. But the greatest marvel of all is that it is not only with voices and the sound of words that we who are dedicated to Him do Him honour, but with all the affection of our soul, so that we care less for life itself than for our testimony to Him.

Nothing novel or strange in the religion preached by Him

4. This must suffice as introduction to my story proper: it was necessary in order to guard against any inclination to think of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, as novel, because of the date of His sojourn in the flesh. But to prevent anyone from imagining that His teaching either was new and strange, as being put together by a man of recent date no different from his fellows, let us now deal briefly with this point.

When the advent of our Saviour Jesus Christ recently shed its light on all men, it was admittedly a new people – not small or weak or established in some remote corner of the earth, but the most numerous and God-fearing of all peoples, indestructible and invincible in that for all time it receives God’s help – that at the mystically appointed time all at once appeared, a people honoured by all with the name of Christ. This so amazed one of the prophets, when with the eye of the Holy Spirit he foresaw what was to be, that he burst out:

Who ever heard such things?

And who ever spoke thus?

Was the earth in travail hut one day?

And was a people born at once?1

The same writer also hinted at its future title:

Those who serve Me shall be called by a new name,

Which shall be blessed on the earth.2

But although we certainly are a youthful people and this undeniably new name of Christians has only lately become known among all nations, nevertheless our life and mode of conduct, together with our religious principles, have not been recently invented by us, but from almost the beginnings of man were built on the natural concepts of those whom God loved in the distant past, as I shall proceed to show. The Hebrews are not a youthful people, but are respected by all men for their antiquity and are known to all. Now the spoken and written records of this people embrace men of a very early age, scarce and few in number, but at the same time outstanding in religious devotion, righteousness, and all other virtues. Several of these lived before the flood, others after it – some of Noah’s sons and descendants, but especially Abraham, whom the children of the Hebrews boast as their own founder and ancestor. All these, whose righteousness won them commendation, going back from Abraham himself to the first man, might be described as Christians in fact if not in name, without departing far from the truth. For the name means this, that the Christian man, through the knowledge and teaching of Christ, excels in self-discipline and righteousness, in firmness of purpose and manly courage, and in an acknowledged devotion to the one, sole God over all; and for all this they showed no less enthusiasm than do we. They cared nothing for bodily circumcision – nor do we; nor for the keeping of Sabbaths – nor do we; nor for abstentions from certain foods or distinctions between others (all that Moses was the first man ever to hand down, for later generations to carry out, in symbols) – nor do these things matter to Christians now. But it is obvious that they knew God’s Christ Himself, since He appeared to Abraham, instructed Isaac, spoke to Israel,1 and conversed freely with Moses and the prophets who came later, as I have already shown. Hence, you will find that those men, God’s beloved, were even honoured with the appellation of Christ, according to the word which says of them:

Touch not my Christs,

And among my prophets commit no mischief.2

Obviously we must regard the religion proclaimed in recent years to all nations through Christ’s teaching as none other than the first, most ancient, and most primitive of all religions, discovered by Abraham and his followers, God’s beloved.

If it is argued that long afterwards Abraham received the ordinance of circumcision, I reply that before this, as we are informed, he had been commended for righteousness through faith, as the sacred record tells us:

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.1

Such he was before his circumcision, and it was then that an oracle was announced to him by God – Christ Himself, the Word of God – who showed Himself to him. This concerned those who in later days were to be justified in the same way as himself. It runs as follows:

In you shall be blessed all the races of the world.2

Again:

He shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him shall be blessed all the nations of the world.3

That, as we can see, has been fulfilled in us, for it was by faith in Christ the Word of God who appeared to him that he was justified, abandoning the superstition of his fathers and the old error of his ways, acknowledging one God, the God over all, and serving Him with right actions, not with the worship of the Law of Moses, who came later. Such he was when he was told that all the races of the world and all the nations would be blessed in him. And in actions more convincing than words at the present time Christians alone can be seen throughout the world practising religion in the very form in which Abraham practised it.

What then is to prevent us from admitting that we, Christ’s followers, share one and the same life and form of religion with those who were dear to God so long ago? Thus the practice of religion as communicated to us by Christ’s teaching is shown to be not modern and strange but, in all conscience, primitive, unique, and true. There we will leave the matter.

5. So now, after this necessary introduction to my proposed History of the Church, let me begin my journey with the appearance of our Saviour in the flesh, first calling on God, the Father of the Word, and Jesus Christ Himself of whom I am speaking, our Saviour, the heavenly Word of God, to be my helper and co-worker in producing a truthful record.

It was the forty-second year of Augustus’s reign, and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, when our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, at the time of the first registration, while Quirinius was governor of Syria,1 in accordance with the prophecies about Him, was born in Bethlehem, in Judaea.2 This registration in Quirinius’ time is mentioned also by the most famous of Hebrew historians, Flavius Josephus, who gives in addition an account of the Galilean sect which appeared on the scene at the same period, and to which our own Luke refers in the Acts:

After him came the rising of Judas the Galilean at the time of the registration. He persuaded a number of people to revolt under his leadership; but he too perished, and all his followers were dispersed.3

This statement is supported by the historian referred to above, in Antiquities Book XVIII:

Quirinius, a member of the senate who had filled the minor offices and passed through them all to become consul, and in other ways was a man of great distinction, arrived with a few officials in Syria. He had been sent by Caesar to be supreme judge of the nation and to assess the value of their property… Judas, a Gaulonite from a city called Gamala, took Zadok, a Pharisee, with him and instigated a revolt. They alleged that the valuation would lead to nothing but complete slavery, and summoned the nation to the defence of their freedom.4

And in the History of the Jewish War, Book II, he writes this about the same man:

In his1 time a Galilean named Judas tried to stir the natives to revolt, saying that they would be cowards if they submitted to paying taxes to the Romans, and after serving God accepted human masters.2

Extinction of the native Jewish dynasty: Herod, the first foreign king

6. At this time Herod became the first foreigner to be king of the Jewish nation, fulfilling the words of Moses:

There shall not be wanting a ruler from Judah,

Nor a leader sprung from his loins,

Until he come for whom it is reserved.3

Moses adds that he will be the expectation of the Gentiles. There could be no fulfilment of the prediction as long as they were free to live under rulers of their own race, beginning with Moses himself and continuing to Augustus’ reign; in his time the first foreigner, Herod, was entrusted by the Romans with the government of the Jews. Josephus informs us that he was an Idumaean on his father’s side and an Arab on his mother’s; but according to Africanus – and he was no ordinary historian – the best authorities say that Antipater, Herod’s father, was son of a certain Herod of Ascalon, one of the ‘temple-slaves’ of Apollo. This Antipater was taken prisoner by Idumaean bandits when a small child, and remained in their hands because his father was too poor to put down his ransom. He was brought up in their ways and later befriended by Hyrcanus, the Jewish high priest. His son was the Herod of our Saviour’s time.

When a man of such antecedents came to be king of the Jews, at the door already, in accordance with the prophecy, was the expectation of the Gentiles, for with him the succession from Moses of Jewish rulers and governors came to an end. Before their captivity and removal to Babylon they were ruled by kings, Saul and David being the first. Before the kings the government was in the hands of rulers known as judges, who came to the fore after Moses and his successor Joshua. After the return from Babylon they maintained continuously an aristocratic and oligarchic constitution, priests being in complete control. This lasted till Pompey, the Roman commander, arrived and besieged Jerusalem with the utmost vigour. He defiled the holy places, going right into the innermost sanctuary of the temple. The man who had continued the succession of his ancestors till that time and was both king and high priest, Aristobulus by name, he dispatched as a prisoner to Rome together with his children. To Hyrcanus, Aristobulus’ brother, he transferred the high priesthood, and he made the whole Jewish nation from then on tributary to Rome. As soon as Hyrcanus, the last to whom fell the high-priestly succession, was taken prisoner by the Parthians,1 Herod, as I have said, was the first foreigner to be entrusted by the Roman senate and the Emperor Augustus with the Jewish nation. It was without question in his time that the advent of Christ occurred; and the expected salvation and calling of the Gentiles followed at once, in accordance with the prophecy.

As soon as the rulers and leaders from Judah – those of Jewish stock – came to an end, not surprisingly the high priesthood, which had passed in regular succession, generation by generation, was plunged into immediate confusion. For this, too, you have a reliable witness in Josephus, who informs us that when entrusted with the kingdom by the Romans Herod no longer appointed high priests of the ancient stock but assigned the office to nonentities, and that a policy similar to Herod’s regarding the appointment of priests was adopted by his son Archelaus, and after him by the Romans, when they took over the government of Judaea. The same writer informs us that Herod actually locked up the sacred vestment of the high priest and kept it under his own seal, no longer permitting the high priests to have charge of it. His example was followed by his successor Archelaus, and after him by the Romans.2

This evidence I have put forward as proof that in the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ another prophecy was fulfilled. It is perfectly clear that in Daniel Scripture specifies the exact number of weeks till the rule of Christ – I have dealt with the subject elsewhere1 – and prophesies that after the completion of these weeks the anointing of Jews will be brought to an end.2 There can be no doubt that at the time of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ this prophecy was fulfilled. In order to establish the truth of the date it was necessary to make these preliminary points.

The alleged discrepancy in the gospels as to Christ’s genealogy

7. The genealogy of Christ has been differently recorded for us in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Most people see a discrepancy in this, and through ignorance of the truth each believer has been only too eager to dilate at length on these passages. So I feel justified in reproducing an explanation of the difficulty that has come into my hands. This is to be found in a letter which Africanus, to whom I referred a little while back, wrote to Aristides on the harmony of the gospel genealogies. Having first refuted other people’s theories as forced and demonstrably false, he sets out the explanation he had himself received. I will quote his actual words:

The names of the families in Israel were reckoned either by nature or by law; by nature, when there was genuine offspring to succeed; by law, when another man fathered a child in the name of a brother who had died childless. For as no clear hope of being raised from the dead had yet been given, they portrayed the promise of the future with a mortal ‘raising up’, in order that the name of the deceased might be preserved for all time.3 These genealogies therefore comprise some who succeeded their actual fathers, and some who were the children of one father but were registered as children of another. Thus the memory of both was preserved – of the real and nominal fathers. Thus neither of the gospels is in error, since they take account of both nature and law. For the two families, descended from Solomon and Nathan respectively, were so interlocked by the re-marriage of childless widows and the ‘raising up’ of offspring, that the same persons could rightly be regarded at different times as the children of different parents – sometimes the reputed fathers, sometimes the real. Thus both accounts are perfectly true, bringing the line down to Joseph in a manner complex perhaps but certainly accurate.

What I am trying to say will become clear if I explain the interrelation of the families. If we reckon the generations from David through Solomon, we find that the third from the end is Matthan, who begot Jacob, Joseph’s father;1 if we follow Luke and reckon from David’s son Nathan, the corresponding third from the end is Melchi, Joseph being the son of Hcli, Mclchi’s son.2Joseph then being the subject of our study, I have to explain how each appears in the records as his father, Jacob tracing his descent from Solomon and Heli from Nathan. Before that I must explain how those two, Jacob and Heli, were brothers, and before that how their fathers, Matthan and Melchi, members of different families, are stated to have been Joseph’s grandfathers. Well now, Matthan and Melchi, successive husbands of the same wife, fathered half-brothers, for the law allows a woman who has been either divorced or widowed to marry again. The wife in question, whose name is given as Estha, first married Matthan the descendant of Solomon, and bore him Jacob; then on the death of Matthan the widow married Melchi, whose line went back to Nathan, and who belonged to the same tribe, though not to the same family, and by him had a son Heli. Thus though the families were different, we shall find that Jacob and Heli had the same mother. When Heli died childless, his brother Jacob took his wife and by her became father of Joseph in the third generation. According to nature Joseph was his son – and according to reason, so that Scripture says, ‘Jacob begot Joseph’; but according to law he was Heli’s son; for Jacob as a good brother ‘raised up’ offspring to him. It follows that the genealogy in which he finds a place cannot be invalidated, though Matthew the evangelist in his account says, ‘Jacob begot Joseph’, whereas Luke says, ‘Who was, as people imagined’ – note this comment – ‘the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Melchi’. It was impossible to express legal descent more explicitly, and never once from beginning to end did he use the word ‘begot’ with reference to this type of fatherhood, as he traced the line, in the reverse direction, to ‘Adam, the son of God’.3

This is not dogmatic assertion or mere guesswork: the Saviour’s human relations, either in an ostentatious spirit or simply to give information, but in either case telling the truth, have handed down this tradition too. When Idumean bandits swooped on Ascalon, a city in Palestine, along with the other spoil from the temple of Apollo, which was built close to the walls, they carried away captive Antipater, the child of a certain Herod, a temple slave. As the priest was unable to put down the money for his son’s ransom, Antipater was brought up in Idumean ways and later befriended by Hyrcanus, the Judaean high priest. Sent to Pompey as ambassador for Hyrcanus, he secured from him the freedom of his kingdom – freedom which his brother Aristobulus had filched away. This brought high office to Antipater himself, who was given the title of superintendent of Palestine. When envy of his high office caused him to be treacherously assassinated, he was succeeded by his son Herod, who later was chosen by Antony and Augustus and by decree of the senate to be king of the Jews. His sons were Herod1 and the other tetrarchs. This information is confirmed by the Greek historians.

But in the archives were still inscribed the Hebrew families and those descended from proselytes, e.g. Achion the Ammonite2 and Ruth the Moabitess, and the persons of mixed blood who had fled with them from Egypt.3 So Herod, who had no drop of Israelitish blood in his veins and was stung by the consciousness of his base origin, burnt the registers of their families, thinking that he would appear nobly born if no one else was able by reference to public documents to trace his line back to the patriarchs or proselytes, or to the ‘sojourners’ of mixed blood.4 A few careful people had private records of their own, having either remembered the names or recovered them from copies, and took pride in preserving the memory of their aristocratic origin. These included the people mentioned above, known as Desposyni because of their relationship to the Saviour’s family. From the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba they passed through the rest of the country, expounding the genealogy discussed above, quoting from the books of Chronicles as far as they could trace it. This may or may not be the truth of the matter; but in my opinion and that of every fair-minded person no one else could give a clearer exposition, and we must content ourselves with it even if unconfirmed, as we are not in a position to suggest a better or truer one. In any case the gospel record is true.

Africanus concludes his letter as follows:

Matthan, Solomon’s descendant, begot Jacob. On Matthan’s death Melchi, Nathan’s descendant, begot Heli by the same woman. Thus Heli and Jacob had the same mother. When Heli died childless, Jacob ‘raised up’ offspring to him, begetting Joseph – by nature his own son, by law Heli’s. Thus Joseph was the son of both.

In tracing thus the genealogy of Joseph, Africanus has virtually proved that Mary belonged to the same tribe as her husband, in view of the fact that under the Mosaic law inter-marriage between different tribes was forbidden, for the rule is that a woman must wed someone from the same town and the same clan, so that the family inheritance may not be moved from tribe to tribe. Let us leave it at that.

Herod’s plot against the children, and his terrible end

8. When Christ was born, in accordance with prophecy, at Bethlehem in Judaea at the time already stated, Herod was asked by the magi from the East where they could find the one who was born king of the Jews, for they had seen his star and for that reason had made this long journey in their eagerness to worship as God the child that had been born. Herod was badly shaken by the inquiry, thinking that his throne was in danger. So he consulted the teachers of the Law among the people and asked them where they expected the Christ to be born. When he heard Micah’s prophecy foretelling the birth at Bethlehem he issued a single decree ordering the destruction in Bethlehem and all its neighbourhood, of the male infants, of two years and under, in accordance with the time he had found out from the magi, naturally supposing that Jesus would certainly suffer the same fate as those of his own age. However, the plot was forestalled by the removal of the Child to Egypt, as by the appearance of an angel His parents had learnt in time what was to come. The story may be studied in the sacred gospel record.1

In this connexion it is worth while to recall the price paid by Herod for his crime against Christ and the other babies. Instantly, without the shortest delay, divine justice overtook him while still alive, giving him a foretaste of what awaited him in the next world. This is not the place to list the ways in which he dimmed the supposed glories of his reign by the successive calamities that befell his house, the revolting murder of wife, children, and all who were bound to him by the closest ties of blood and affection. No tragic drama is as dark as their story, of which Josephus has given a full account in his Histories.1 How, from the moment of the plot against our Saviour and the other helpless infants, a scourge wielded by the hand of God struck Herod and drove him to death, we should do well to hear from the lips of that historian. In Jewish Antiquities Book XVII he describes his terrible end in these words:

Herod’s sickness grew steadily worse as God exacted punishment for his iniquities. He was consumed by a slow fire which gave no clear indication to the touch of the burning heat that added so much to his internal miseries. He had an overpowering desire for food, which it was impossible to satisfy, ulceration of the intestines with agonizing pains in the lower bowel, and a clammy transparent humour covering the feet. The abdomen was in the same miserable state, and in the genitals mortification set in, breeding worms. Breathing was constricted and only possible when sitting upright, and it was most offensive because of the heavy stench and feverish respiration. He suffered in every part convulsions that were unbearably severe. Those who practised divination and had the gift of foretelling such things declared that God was exacting a penalty from the king for his continual wickedness.2

Such is the story as told by Josephus in the Antiquities. In Book II3 of the Histories he gives a very similar account of Herod’s last days:

From then on the sickness spread through his entire body, accompanied by a variety of painful symptoms. He had a mild fever, an unbearable itching all over his body, constant pains in the lower bowel, swellings on the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen, and mortification of the genitals, producing worms; as well as difficulty in breathing, especially when lying down, and spasms in all his limbs. The diviners said that his diseases were a punishment. But though he was wrestling with so many disorders he hung on to life, hoped for recovery, and planned his own treatment. He crossed the Jordan and tried the hot baths at Callirrhoe, which empty their water into the Dead Sea – water sweet enough to drink. The doctors there decided to warm up his whole body with hot oil by lowering him into a bathful of it, but he fainted and turned up his eyes as if in a faint. The noise of his attendants beating their breasts brought him back to consciousness; but having no further hope of recovery he ordered the distribution of 50 drachmas a head to the soldiers, and large gratuities to the officers and to his gentlemen.

By the time he arrived at Jericho on the return journey he was melancholy-mad, and in a virtual challenge to death itself he proceeded to devise a monstrous outrage. He brought together the most eminent men of every village in the whole of Judaea and had them locked up in the Hippodrome. Then he sent for his sister Salome and her husband Alexas and said: ‘I know the Jews will greet my death with wild rejoicings; but I can be mourned on other people’s account and make sure of a magnificent funeral if you will do as I tell you. These men under guard: as soon as I the, kill them all – let loose the soldiers amongst them; then all Judaea and every family will weep for me willy-nilly…’

Later he was so tormented by lack of food and a racking cough that his sufferings mastered him and he made an effort to anticipate his appointed end. He took an apple and asked for a knife, it being his habit to cut up apples when he ate them; then looking round to make sure there was no one to stop him he raised his hand to stab himself.

Josephus goes on to relate that just before he died Herod gave orders for the execution of yet a third of his lawful sons1 in addition to the two already executed, and that his life was instantly broken off, to the accompaniment of agonizing pains.2 Such was the final end of Herod; he paid a just penalty for the children he had put to death in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood in his attempt against our Saviour.

After this an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was staying in Egypt, and ordered him to leave for Judaea with the Child and His mother, informing him that those who sought the death of the little Child were dead. The evangelist proceeds:

But hearing that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king, he was afraid to go there; and being warned in a dream, he withdrew into the district of Galilee.3

Pilate’s date; high priests at the time of Christ’s mission

9. The accession to power of Archelaus after Herod is confirmed by Josephus, who describes how in accordance with the will of Herod his father and the decision of Caesar Augustus he succeeded to the Judaean kingdom; and how after his fall from power ten years later his brothers Philip and the younger Herod,1 together with Lysanias, continued to rule their tetrarchies.2

In Antiquities Book XVIII,3 the same writer informs us that in the twelfth year of Tiberius, who had mounted the imperial throne after the fifty-seven-year reign of Augustus, Judaea was entrusted to Pontius Pilate, and that Pilate remained there ten years, almost till Tiberius’s death. This clearly proves the forged character of the Memoranda so recently published, blackening our Saviour; at the very start the note of time proves the dishonesty of the forgers. If they are to be believed the crime of the Saviour’s Passion must be referred to Tiberius’s fourth consulship, i.e. the seventh year of his reign, but at that time it is clear that Pilate was not yet in charge of Judaea, if we may accept the testimony of Josephus, who explicitly declares, in the passage already quoted, that it was in the twelfth year of his reign that Tiberius appointed Pilate procurator of Judaea.

10. In their time, when, according to the evangelist, Tiberius Caesar was in the fifteenth year of his reign and Pontius Pilate in the fourth of his governorship, and Herod, Lysanias, and Philip were tetrarchs of the rest of Judaea,4 our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Christ of God, beginning His mission at the age of about thirty,5 came to John’s baptism and then and there set to work preaching the gospel. Holy Scripture further tells us that He completed the whole period of His teaching when Annas and Caiaphas were high priest,6 showing that the years covering their ministry include the whole period of His teaching. Since, then, He began His mission in the high priesthood of Annas and continued till the reign of Caiaphas, the period covered does not stretch to four complete years. For, at that time the ordinances of the Law were already obsolescent and the rule was no longer operative under which the duties of God’s service were hereditary and lasted for life; the Roman governors bestowed the high priesthood first on one, then on another, and the office was held for not more than a single year. In fact, Josephus records that after Annas there were four successive high priests, Caiaphas being the last. I quote from the book of Antiquities:

Valerius Gratus, after depriving Ananus1 of the priesthood, appointed as high priest Ishmael son of Phabi; but a little later he removed him and nominated as high priest Eleazar, son of the high priest Ananus. When a year had gone by he removed him in turn and transferred the high priesthood to Simon son of Camithus. He too remained in office no more than a year: he was succeeded by Joseph, also known as Caiaphas.2

Thus the whole period of our Saviour’s teaching is shown to be actually less than four complete years, four high priests in four years, from Annas to the appointment of Caiaphas, having held office for a twelvemonth. Naturally, the gospel narrative named Caiaphas as high priest in the year in which the events of our Saviour’s Passion were enacted; it also shows that the period of Christ’s teaching harmonizes with the foregoing line of inquiry.

Not very long after the start of His preaching our Saviour and Lord called the twelve apostles, to whom alone of all His disciples He gave, as a special privilege, the name of apostles.3 Furthermore, He appointed seventy others; these, too, He sent out two and two ahead of Him to every town or place to which He Himself intended to come.4

Evidence regarding John the Baptist and Christ

11. Not long afterwards John the Baptist was beheaded by the younger Herod, as we learn from the inspired gospel narrative.1 Confirmation comes from Josephus, who mentions Herodias by name and tells how though she was his brother’s wife Herod married her, discarding his existing lawful wife – daughter of King Aretas of PÉtrea – and separating Herodias from her husband, who was still alive. For her sake, too, he put John to death and was involved in war with Aretas, whose daughter he had slighted. The war ended, as Josephus records, with a pitched battle in which Herod’s army was totally destroyed, the direct result of his outrageous treatment of John. The same writer acknowledges that John was a man of unimpeachable virtue, and a baptist, confirming the description of him contained in the gospel narrative. He also records the fact that Herod was deprived of his throne on account of the same woman, with whom he was driven into exile and condemned to live in Vienne, a city in Gaul.2 The story will be found in Antiquities Book XVIII, from which I quote verbatim what he has to say about John:

Some of the Jews believed that Herod’s army had been destroyed by God, as a richly deserved punishment for his treatment of John who was called the Baptist. For Herod killed him, a good man who urged the Jews to train themselves in virtue, to be just to each other and pious towards God, and to come together for baptism: on one condition only would their baptism be acceptable to Him – if it was undergone not to escape the penalty of sins but to purify the body, since the soul had been already purged by righteousness. When crowds assembled, very excited on hearing his words, Herod was afraid that his extraordinary hold over the people would lead to some revolt, as they seemed prepared to do anything at his suggestion. So he thought it much better to forestall any revolutionary movement prompted by John by putting him out of the way, rather than wait for an outbreak to occur and reproach himself when it was too late. Because of Herod’s suspicion John was sent in chains to Machaerus, the fortress mentioned above, and there executed.3

After giving this account of John, in the same part of his work he goes on to speak as follows of our Saviour:

At this time appeared Jesus, a very gifted man – if indeed it is right to call him a man; for he was a worker of miracles, a teacher of such men as listened with pleasure to the truth, and he won over many of the Jews and many of Gentile origin as well. This was the Christ; and when at the instigation of our leading men he had been condemned to the cross by Pilate, those who had loved him at the first did not cease to do so; for on the third day he appeared to them alive again, the inspired prophets having foretold this and countless other wonderful things about him. Even now the group of people called Christians after him has not died out.1

When a historian sprung from the Hebrews themselves has furnished in his own writing an almost contemporary record of John the Baptist and our Saviour too, what excuse is there left for not condemning the shameless dishonesty of those who forged the Memoranda blackening them both? And there we will leave the matter.

Our Saviour’s disciples

12. The names of our Saviour’s apostles are in the gospels for all to read: of the seventy disciples no list has ever been found. It is stated that one of them was Barnabas, who is mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles, and notably by Paul in writing to the Galatians.2 Another is said to have been Sosthenes, who wrote with Paul to the Corinthians.3 Then there is Clement’s story (OutlinesBook V) in which he says that Cephas – of whom Paul writes: ‘When Cephas came to Antioch I withstood him to his face’4– was one of the seventy disciples, who happened to have the same name as Peter the Apostle. There is evidence also that Matthias, who took Judas’ place in the list of apostles, and the other man honoured like him in the drawing of lots,1 had both been called to be among the seventy. Thaddaeus, again, is said to have been one of them; about him a story has come to my notice which I shall very shortly recount.

In addition to the Seventy there were other disciples of the Saviour, as you would find if you considered the matter and accepted the testimony of Paul, who states that after His resurrection from the dead He was seen first by Cephas, then by the Twelve, and after them by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom some, he says, have fallen asleep, but most remain alive at the time of writing. Next, he says, He was seen by James – one of the reputed brothers of the Lord; then, as if in addition to these there had been, on the pattern of the Twelve, a large number of apostles such as Paul himself, he adds: ‘Later He was seen by all the apostles.’

A story about the Prince of Edessa

13. The story about Thaddaeus is as follows: Because of His power to work miracles the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ became in every land the subject of excited talk and attracted a vast number of people in foreign lands very remote from Judaea, who came in the hope of being cured of diseases and disorders of every kind. Thus it happened that when King Abgar, the brilliantly successful monarch of the peoples of Mesopotamia, who was dying from a terrible physical disorder which no human power could heal, heard continual mention of the name of Jesus and unanimous tribute to His miracles, he sent a humble request to Him by a letter-carrier, begging for relief from his disease. Jesus did not immediately accede to his request, but honoured him with a personal letter, promising to send one of His disciples to cure his disease, and at the same time to bring salvation to him and all his kin. In a very short time the promise was fulfilled. After His resurrection and ascent into heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, was moved by inspiration to send Thaddaeus, himself in the list of Christ’s seventy disciples, to Edessa as preacher and evangelist of the teaching about Christ. Through him every word of our Saviour’s promise was fulfilled.

Written evidence of these things is available, taken from the Record Office at Edessa, at that time the royal capital. In the public documents there, embracing early history and also the events of Abgar’s time, this record is found preserved from then till now; and the most satisfactory course is to listen to the actual letters, which I have extracted from the archives and translated word for word from the Syriac as follows:

COPY OF A LETTER WRITTEN BY ABCAR THE TOPARCH TO JESUS AND SENT TO HIM AT JERUSALEM BY THE COURIER ANANIAS

Abgar Uchama the Toparch to Jesus, who has appeared as a gracious saviour in the region of Jerusalem – greeting.

I have heard about you and about the cures you perform without drugs or herbs. If report is true, you make the blind see again and the lame walk about; you cleanse lepers, expel unclean spirits and demons, cure those suffering from chronic and painful diseases, and raise the dead.1 When I heard all this about you, I concluded that one of two things must be true – either you are God and came down from heaven to do these things, or you are God’s Son doing them. Accordingly I am writing to beg you to come to me, whatever the inconvenience, and cure the disorder from which I suffer. I may add that I understand the Jews are treating you with contempt and desire to injure you: my city is very small, but highly esteemed, adequate for both of us.

[He wrote this letter when the heavenly light had shone on him only a little while. It is desirable also to hear the letter which Jesus sent him by the same letter-carrier. It is only a few lines long, but very impressive. Here it is.2]

JESUS’S REPLY TO THE TOPARCH ABGAR BY THE COURIER ANANIAS

Happy are you who believed in me without having seen me!3 For it is written of me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, and that those who have not seen will believe and live. As to your request that I should come to you, I must complete all that I was sent to do here, and on completing it must at once be taken up to the One who sent me. When I have been taken up I will send you one of my disciples to cure your disorder and bring life to you and those with you.

To these letters is subjoined the following in Syriac:

After Jesus was taken up, Judas, also known as Thomas, sent to him as an apostle Thaddaeus, one of the Seventy, who came and stayed with Tobias, son of Tobias. When his arrival was announced [and he had been made conspicuous by the wonders he performed], Abgar was told: ‘An apostle has come here from Jesus, as He promised you in His letter.’ Then Thaddaeus began in the power of God to cure every disease and weakness, to the astonishment of everyone. When Abgar heard of the magnificent and astonishing things that he was doing and especially his cures, he began to suspect that this was the one to whom Jesus referred when He wrote in His letter: ‘When I have been taken up I will send you one of my disciples who will cure your disorder.’ So summoning Tobias, with whom Thad-aeus was staying, he said: ‘I understand that a man with unusual powers has arrived and is staying in your house [and is working many cures in the name of Jesus.’ Tobias answered: ‘Yes, sir. A man from foreign parts has arrived and is living with me, and is performing many wonders.’ Abgar replied:] ‘Bring him to me.’

So Tobias went to Thaddaeus and said to him: ‘The Toparch Abgar has summoned me and told me to bring you to him so that you can cure him.’ Thaddaeus answered: ‘I will present myself, since the power of God has sent me to him.’ The next day Tobias got up early and escorted Thaddaeus to Abgar. As he presented himself, with the king’s grandees standing there, at the moment of his entry a wonderful vision appeared to Abgar on the face of Thaddaeus. On seeing it Abgar bowed low before the apostle, and astonishment seized all the bystanders; for they had not seen the vision, which appeared to Abgar alone. He questioned Thaddaeus.

‘Are you really a disciple of Jesus the Son of God, who said to me, “I will send you one of my disciples who will cure you and give you life”?’

‘You wholeheartedly believed in the One who sent me, and for that reason I was sent to you. And again, if you believe in Him, in proportion to your belief shall the prayers of your heart be granted.’

‘I believed in Him so strongly that I wanted to take an army and destroy the Jews who crucified Him, if I had not been prevented by the imperial power of Rome from doing so.’

‘Our Lord has fulfilled the will of His Father: after fulfilling it He was taken up to the Father.’

‘I too have believed in Him and in His Father.’

‘For that reason I lay my hand on you in His name.’

When he did this, Abgar was instantly cured of the disease and disorder from which he suffered. It surprised Abgar that the very thing he had heard about Jesus had actually happened to him through His disciple Thaddaeus, who had cured him without drugs or herbs – and not only him but also Abdus son of Abdus, who had gout. He too came, and falling at his feet found his prayer answered through the hands of Thaddaeus, and was cured. Many other fellow-citizens of theirs Thaddaeus restored to health, performing many wonders and preaching the word of God.

After this Abgar said: ‘It is by the power of God that you, Thaddaeus, do these things; and we ourselves were amazed. But I have a further request to make: explain to me about the coming of Jesus and how it happened, and about His power – by what power did He do the things I have heard about?’

Thaddaeus replied: ‘For the time being I shall say nothing; but as I was sent to preach the word, be good enough to assemble all your citizens tomorrow, and I will preach to them and sow in them the word of life - about the coming of Jesus and how it happened; about His mission and the purpose for which His Father sent Him; about His power and His deeds, and the mysteries He spoke in the world, and the power by which He did these things; about His new preaching; about His lowliness and humility, and how He humbled Himself and put aside and made light of His divinity, was crucified and descended into Hades, and rent asunder the partition which had never been rent since time began, and raised the dead; how He descended alone, but ascended with a great multitude to His Father [; and how He is seated on the right hand of God the Father with glory in the heavens; and how He will come again with power to judge living and dead].’

So Abgar instructed his citizens to assemble at daybreak and hear the preaching of Thaddaeus. After that he ordered gold and silver to be given to him. But Thaddaeus refused them and asked, ‘If we have left our own property behind, how can we accept other people’s?’

All this happened in the year 340.1

Here we may leave for the present this valuable document, literally translated from Syriac.

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