I have received an interesting question about ancient forgeries.  If we have lots of forgeries in the name of Peter — and lots of others in the names of other apostles: Paul, James, Jude, Thomas, Philip, etc. etc. — why don’t we have any forgeries allegedly written by Jesus himself?  As it turns out we do.  The most famous was, at one time, well known indeed.

Here is the question and my response.


If Peter was named as an author of these works, why not name Jesus then of others(that we know of )? Was it understood within the community that, and why, he chose not to write his views down — or was this too bold of a move even for a shameless forger?  Or he was still deemed less accessible than his followers?



Yes indeed, there is a one-time famous correspondence between Jesus and a king who lived in Edessa in Syria named Abgar.. I have translated it anew for the book I published (on all earliest Christian Gospels) with my colleague Zlatko Plese, called The Other Gospels. Here is what I say there about the letters (the one from Abgar to Jesus, then his response); at the end of the post I give my new translations of the two letters.


Jesus’ Correspondence with Abgar

The apocryphal correspondence between Jesus and Abgar Uchama (= “the Black”), king of Edessa in eastern Syria (4 BCE – 7 CE and 13-50 CE) is first mentioned in Eusebius (Church History, 1. 13. 5).  Eusebius claims to have found the letters in the archives of Edessa and to have translated them literally from their original Syriac into Greek.  The first is a short letter from the king, acknowledging Jesus’ miracle working powers and asking him to come to Edessa to heal him of his illness and, at the same time, to escape the animosity of the Jews in his homeland.  In his reply, Jesus blesses Abgar for “believing without seeing” (an allusion to John 20:29), but informs the king that he cannot come because he needs to fulfill his mission, that is, by being crucified.  After his ascension, however, he will send an apostle to heal the king.

This is the first instance of an apocryphal letter written in…

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