|Abgar V of Edessa|
|Ruler of the kingdom of Osroene|
|Died||c. 40 - 50|
|Spouse||Helena of Adiabene|
|Venerated in|| Armenian Apostolic Church |
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church,
Syriac Orthodox Church
Abgar V (died c. AD 40), called Ukkāmā (meaning "the Black" in Syriac and other dialects of Aramaic),was the King of Osroene with his capital at Edessa.
Abgar was described as "king of the Arabs" by Tacitus, a near-contemporary source.According to Movses Khorenatsi, Abgar was an Armenian. Yet both Robert W.Thomson and Richard G. Hovannisian state Abgar's Armenian ethnicity was invented by Khorenatsi. Modern scholarly consensus agree that the Abgarids were in fact an Arab dynasty.
Abgar V came to power in 4 BC. He became a Roman client, lost his throne in 7 AD and regained it five years later.
Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, or Moses of Chorene (ca. 410–490s AD), reported that the chief wife of King Abgar V was Queen Helena of Adiabene, the wife of King Monobaz I of Adiabene, and thus the kingdoms of Edessa and Adiabene were linked in some manner. Robert Eisenman suggests Queen Helena as one of the wives of King Abgar V, who allotted her the lands of Adiabene.Professor Eisenman derived this association from Movses Khorenatsi mentioning the same famine relief to Judaea as does Flavius Josephus:
As to the first of Abgar’s wives, named Helena... She went away to Jerusalem in the time of Claudius, during the famine which Agabus had predicted; with all her treasures she bought in Egypt an immense quantity of corn, which she distributed amongst the poor, a fact to which Josephus testifies. Helena’s tomb, a truly remarkable one, is still to be seen before the gate of Jerusalem.
Professor Eisenman goes on to equate King Abgarus V with the Agabus in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:27-30), because Agabus was identified with the same famine relief as Queen Helena. By necessity Eisenman then equates the biblical Antioch Orontes with Antioch Edessa, indicating that Paul the Apostle and Barnabas went to Edessa.
Abgar V is claimed to be one of the first Christian kings in history, having been converted to the faith by Thaddeus of Edessa, one of the seventy disciples.
The church historian Eusebius records that the Edessan archives contained a copy of a correspondence exchanged between Abgar of Edessa and Jesus.The correspondence consisted of Abgar's letter and the answer dictated by Jesus. On August 15, 944, the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople received the letter and the Mandylion. Both relics were then moved to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos.
The account of this enjoyed great popularity in the East, and also in the West, during the Middle Ages: Jesus' letter was copied on parchment, inscribed in marble and metal, and used as a talisman or an amulet. Of this correspondence, there survive not only a Syriac text, but an Armenian translation as well, two independent Greek versions, shorter than the Syriac, and several inscriptions on stone.
A curious growth has arisen from this event, with scholars disputing whether Abgar suffered from gout or from leprosy, whether the correspondence was on parchment or papyrus, and so forth.
The text of the letter was:
Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus the good physician who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard the reports of you and of your cures as performed by you without medicines or herbs. For it is said that you make the blind to see and the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers and cast out impure spirits and demons, and that you heal those afflicted with lingering disease, and raise the dead. And having heard all these things concerning you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either you are God, and having come down from heaven you do these things, or else you, who does these things, are the son of God. I have therefore written to you to ask you if you would take the trouble to come to me and heal all the ill which I suffer. For I have heard that the Jews are murmuring against you and are plotting to injure you. But I have a very small yet noble city which is great enough for us both.
Jesus gave the messenger the reply to return to Abgar:
Blessed are you who hast believed in me without having seen me. For it is written concerning me, that they who have seen me will not believe in me, and that they who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But in regard to what you have written me, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to fulfill all things here for which I have been sent, and after I have fulfilled them thus to be taken up again to him that sent me. But after I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples, that he may heal your disease and give life to you and yours.
Egeria wrote of the letter in her account of her pilgrimage in Edessa. She read the letter during her stay, and remarked that the copy in Edessa was fuller than the copies in her home (which was likely France).
In addition to the importance it attained in the apocryphal cycle, the correspondence of King Abgar also gained a place in liturgy for some time. The Syriac liturgies commemorate the correspondence of Abgar during Lent. The Celtic liturgy appears to have attached importance to it; the Liber Hymnorum , a manuscript preserved at Trinity College, Dublin (E. 4, 2), gives two collects on the lines of the letter to Abgar. It is even possible that this letter, followed by various prayers, may have formed a minor liturgical office in some Catholic churches.
This event has played an important part in the self-definition of several Eastern churches. Abgar is counted as saint, with feasts on May 11 and October 28 in the Eastern Orthodox Church, August 1 in the Syrian Church, and daily in the Mass of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenian Apostolic Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, is named after Saint Abgar (also spelled as Apkar).
The scholar Bart D. Ehrman cites evidence from Han Drijvers and others for regarding the whole correspondence as forged in the third century by orthodox Christians "as an anti-Manichaean polemic", and entirely spurious.
A number of contemporary scholars have suggested origins of the tradition of Abgar's conversion apart from historical record. S. K. Ross suggests the story of Abgar is in the genre of a genealogical myth which traces the origin of a community back to a mythical or divine ancestor.F. C. Burkitt argues that the conversion of Edessa at the time of Abgar VIII was retrojected upon the Apostolic age. William Adler suggests the origin of the story of the conversion of Abgar V was an invention of an antiquarian researcher employed by Abgar VIII, who had recently converted to Christianity, in an effort to securely root Christianity in the history of the city. Walter Bauer, on the other hand, argued the legend was written without sources to reinforce group cohesiveness, orthodoxy, and apostolic succession against heretical schismatics. However, several distinct sources, known to have not been in contact with one another, claimed to have seen the letters in the archives, so his claim is suspect.
Significant advances in scholarship on the topic have been madeby Desreumaux's translation with commentary, M. Illert's collection of textual witnesses to the legend, and detailed studies of the ideology of the sources by Brock, Griffith, and Mirkovic. The majority of scholars now claim the goal of the authors and editors of texts regarding the conversion of Abgar were not so much concerned with historical reconstruction of the Christianisation of Edessa as the relationships between church and state power, based on the political and ecclesiological ideas of Ephraem the Syrian. However, the origins of the story are far still from certain, although the stories as recorded seem to have been shaped by the controversies of the third century CE, especially as a response to Bardaisan.
Osroene, also spelled Osroëne and Osrhoene and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa, was a historical kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, which was ruled by the Abgarid dynasty of Arab origin. Generally allied with the Parthians, the Kingdom of Osroene enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 214. Though ruled by a dynasty of Arab origin, the kingdom's population was mainly Aramean with a Greek and Parthian admixture. In addition, though Arab cults were attested at Edessa, the city's cultural setting was fundamentally Aramaic alongside strong Parthian influences.
Edessa was a city in Upper Mesopotamia, founded on an earlier site by Seleucus I Nicator ca. 302 BC. It was also known as Antiochia on the Callirhoe from the 2nd century BC. It was the capital of the semi-independent kingdom of Osroene from c. 132 BC and fell under direct Roman rule in ca. 242. It became an important early centre of Syriac Christianity.
According to Christian tradition, the Image of Edessa was a holy relic consisting of a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus had been imprinted—the first icon ("image"). In the Orthodox Churches, including English-speaking Orthodoxy, the image is generally known as the Mandylion.
Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. He is generally identified with Thaddeus, and is also variously called Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus. He is sometimes identified with Jude, the brother of Jesus, but is clearly distinguished from Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Catholic writer Michal Hunt suggests that Judas Thaddaeus became known as Jude after early translators of the New Testament from Greek into English sought to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and subsequently abbreviated his forename. Most versions of the New Testament in languages other than English and French refer to Judas and Jude by the same name.
Tiridates III, also known as Tiridates the Great Տրդատ Մեծ, or Tiridates IV, to distinguish him from another Tiridates thought to have ruled several years earlier, was the king of Arsacid Armenia. In 301, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia, making the Armenian kingdom the first state to embrace Christianity officially.
The Abgar legend, according to Christian tradition, posits an alleged correspondence and exchange of letters between Jesus Christ and King Abgar V Ukkāmā of Osroene. In the fourth century Eusebius of Caesarea published two letters which were allegedly discovered in the archives of Edessa. They claim to be an exchange of correspondence between Jesus Christ and King Abgar V which were written during the last years of Jesus' life.
According to Eastern Christian tradition, Thaddeus of Edessa was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus. He is possibly identical with Thaddaeus, one of the Twelve Apostles. From an early date his hagiography is filled with legends and fabrications. The saint himself may be entirely fictitious.
The Doctrine of Addai is a Syriac Christian text, written in the late 4th or early 5th century CE, recites the Legend of the Image of Edessa as well as the legendary works of Addai and his disciple Mari in Mesopotamia.
Helena of Adiabene was a queen of Adiabene and Edessa and the wife of Monobaz I, her brother, and Abgarus V. With her husband, Monobaz I, she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE. The names of some of her family members and the fact that she was married to her brother indicate an Iranian, Zoroastrian or Magian origin. According to Josephus, Helena was the daughter of King Izates, and according to both Josephus and Moses of Chorene, she was the chief wife of Abgar V king of Edessa.
Monobazus II was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and King Monobazus I. He is known as Monobaz in the Babylonian Talmud.
Izates II (Ἰζάτης), son of Monobaz (Μονόβαζος), or Izates bar Monobaz. Izates was a king of the Parthian client kingdom of Adiabene who became a proselyte to Judaism. He was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and King Monobazus I of Adiabene. Queen Helena was also said to be the wife of King Abgarus of Edessa and thus the queen of Edessa too.
Aggai was a 1st-century primate of the Church of the East, and a disciple of Mar Addai, who is believed to have sat from 66 to 81. It was said that Aggai was one of the seventy apostles, and was assigned the East as far as the border of India as his mission field. Mar Addai, the traditional apostle of Mesopotamia, appointed him his successor shortly before his death. Like Addai before him, Aggai preached in various regions of the East.
Early Christianity spread from the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Originally, this progression was closely connected to already established Jewish centers in the Holy Land and the Jewish diaspora. The first followers of Christianity were Jews or proselytes, commonly referred to as Jewish Christians and God-fearers.
Movses Khorenatsi was a prominent Armenian historian from the period of Late Antiquity and the author of the History of Armenia.
The Acts of Sharbel or the Hypomnemata of Sharbel is a Syriac Christian martyrdom text pertaining to a pagan high priest who was martyred for converting to Christianity. The setting takes place at Edessa during the fifteenth year of Roman Emperor Trajan's reign and during the third year of King Abgar VIII's reign but is dated by scholars to the 5th century AD.
The Acts of Mar Mari is a Syriac Christian apocryphal acts. It pertains to the introduction of Christianity in northern and southern Mesopotamia by Addai's disciple Saint Mari in the first century and in the beginning of the second century AD.
The Acts of Shmona and of Gurya is a Syriac Christian martyrdom text. The setting takes place at Edessa during Roman Emperor Diocletian's Great Persecution.
The Acts of Thaddeus is a Greek document written between 544 and 944 CE which purports to describe correspondence between King Abgar V of Edessa and Jesus, which results in Jesus' disciple Thaddeus going to Edessa.
The Martyrdom of Barsamya is a Syriac Christian text. The text is set at Edessa during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan but is dated by biblical scholars to the fifth century AD.
The Chronicle of Arbela claims to record the early history of Christianity in the city which is now known as Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, but which was then Arbela, capital of Adiabene. First published in 1907, its age and historicity are disputed among scholars.
The story about this kingdom which Eusebius relates is as follows. King Abgar (who ruled from AD 13 to 50) was dying. Hearing of Jesus' miracles he sent for him. Jesus wrote back - this correspondence, Eusebius claims, can be found in the Edessan archives - to say that he could not come because he had been sent to the people of Israel, but he would send a disciple later. But Abgar was already blessed for having believed in him.
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