Abgar V of Edessa

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Abgar V or Abgarus V of Edessa (4 BC - AD 7 and AD 13 - 50) was a historical Syriac ruler of the Syriac kingdom of Osroene, holding his capital at Edessa. (Compare to the region that was referred to as Mesopotamia[1] by the Greeks and Athur in the Old Testament). According to an ancient legend, he was converted to Christianity by Addai[2], one of the Seventy-two Disciples.

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The legend of King Abgar

Abgar V was, according to Syriac tradition, the first Christian king in history, having been converted to the faith by the Apostle Thaddeus of Edessa. Abgar was a Syriac King in the city of Edessa[3]. Other accounts[citation needed] regard this as mere legend, equating the Abgar in the story with the Syrian Abgar IX, a late second-century convert to Christianity. Moses of Khoren suggests that the name of the legendary figure is a corruption of an individual's title: "…Because of his uncommon modesty and wisdom, and his old age, this Abgaros was given the title of Avag Hair (Senior Father). The Greeks and Assyrians, unable to articulate his name correctly, called him Abgar."[4]

The legend tells that Abgar, king of Edessa, afflicted with an incurable sickness, had heard the fame of the power and miracles of Jesus and wrote to him, acknowledging his divinity, craving his help, and offering him asylum in his own residence; the tradition states that Jesus wrote a letter declining to go, but promising that after his ascension, he would send one of his disciples, endowed with his power.

The 4th century church historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, records a tradition[6] concerning a correspondence on this occasion, exchanged between Abgar of Edessa and Jesus. Eusebius was convinced that the original letters, written in Syriac(Aramaic), were kept in the archives of Edessa. Eusebius also states that in due course, after Christ's ascension, Thaddeus, namely Addai (called Addaï), or one of the seventy-two Disciples, called Thaddeus of Edessa, was sent by Thomas the Apostle in AD 29. Eusebius copies the two letters into the text of his history.

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