The Acheiropoietos Icon
( “Not Made By Human Hands”)


  Acheiropoietos Icon,
Kiev, 12th Cent.

THE tradition of a miraculous (and thus accurate) image of Christ is associated in the Christian West with the Veil of Veronica (vera ikona) and a portrait by St. Luke.

IN THE EAST this tradition takes the form of an icon “not made by human hands(acheiropoietos) and can be traced in several stages:

1.  Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 325) recounts the legend of a letter sent by Jesus to King Abgar of Edessa: after Jesus Resurrection the disciple Thaddeus is sent to evangelize Abgars Kingdom, and the king is miraculously healed.

2. Around 384 the pilgrim Egeria visits Edessa: she is shown and given a copy of the famous letter, which is now credited with saving the city during an attack by the Persians.

3. The Syriac Doctrine of Addai (c. 400) adds to the letter Jesus’ promise that Edessa will never be conquered, and describes  a portrait of Jesus painted by Hannan, Abgar’s archivist and emmisary.

4. Evagrius Scholasticus (593) quotes Procopius (ca. 550), describing both letter and image: Evagrius calls the image divinely made - not formed by human hands. It is now the image, not the letter that is credited with saving the city from the Persians.

5. John Damascene  (c. 730) describes how Jesus miraculously created the image by applying a cloth to his face, because his countenance was too dazzling for the painter to copy.

 1. Eusebius


(ca. 325)
The Abgar Letter


 King Abgar of Edessa
Mosaic, Edessa.


The Ecclesiastical History 1:13, 5-22


English:  NPNF 2, vol.  1. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History

1. THE divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ being noised abroad among all men on account of his wonder-working power, he attracted countless numbers from foreign countries lying far away from Judea, who had the opening of being cured of their diseases and of all kinds of sufferings.

1 τῆς δὲ περὶ τὸν Θαδδαῖον ἱστορίας τοιοῦτος γέγονεν ὁ τρό πος. ἡ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ θειότης͵ εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους τῆς παραδοξοποιοῦ δυνάμεως ἕνεκεν βοωμένη͵ μυρίους ὅσους καὶ τῶν ἐπ΄ ἀλλοδαπῆς πορρωτάτω ὄντων τῆς Ἰουδαίας νόσων καὶ παντοίων παθῶν ἐλπίδι θερα

2. For instance the King Abgar, who ruled with great glory the nations beyond the Euphrates, being afflicted with a terrible disease which it was beyond the power of human skill to cure, when he heard of the name of Jesus, and of his miracles, which were attested by all with one accord sent a message to him by a courier and begged him to heal his disease.

2 πείας ἐπήγετο. ταύτῃ τοι βασιλεὺς Ἄβγαρος͵ τῶν ὑπὲρ Εὐφράτην ἐθνῶν ἐπισημότατα δυναστεύων͵ πάθει τὸ σῶμα δεινῷ καὶ οὐ θεραπευτῷ ὅσον ἐπ΄ ἀνθρωπείᾳ δυνάμει καταφθειρόμενος͵ ὡς καὶ τοὔνομα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πολὺ καὶ τὰς δυνάμεις συμφώνως πρὸς ἁπάντων μαρτυρουμένας ἐπύθετο͵ ἱκέτης αὐτοῦ πέμψας δι΄ ἐπιστοληφόρου γίνεται͵ τῆς νόσου τυχεῖν ἀπαλλαγῆς ἀξιῶν.

3. But [Jesus] did not at that time comply with his request; yet he deemed him worthy of a personal letter in which he said that he would send one of his disciples to cure his disease, and at the same time promised salvation to himself and all his house.

3 ὁ δὲ μὴ τότε καλοῦντι ὑπακούσας͵ ἐπιστολῆς γοῦν αὐτὸν ἰδίας καταξιοῖ͵ ἕνα τῶν αὐτοῦ μαθητῶν ἀποστέλλειν ἐπὶ θεραπείᾳ τῆς νόσου ὁμοῦ τε αὐτοῦ σωτηρίᾳ καὶ τῶν προσηκόντων ἁπάντων

4. Not long afterward his promise was fulfilled. For after his resurrection from the dead and his ascent into heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa, as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.

4 ὑπισχνούμενος. οὐκ εἰς μακρὸν δὲ ἄρα αὐτῷ ἐπληροῦτο τὰ τῆς ἐπαγγελίας. μετὰ γοῦν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἄνοδον Θωμᾶς͵ τῶν ἀποστόλων εἷς τῶν δώδεκα͵ Θαδδαῖον͵ ἐν ἀριθμῷ καὶ αὐτὸν τῶν ἑβδομήκοντα τοῦ Χριστοῦ μαθητῶν κατειλεγμένον͵ κινήσει θειοτέρᾳ ἐπὶ τὰ Ἔδεσσα κήρυκα καὶ εὐαγγελιστὴν τῆς περὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ διδασκαλίας ἐκπέμπει͵

5. And all that our Saviour had promised received through him its fulfillment. You have written evidence of these things taken from the archives of Edessa, which was at that time a royal city. For in the public registers there, which contain accounts of ancient times and the acts of Abgar, these things have been found preserved down to the present time. But there is no better way than to hear the epistles themselves which we have taken from the archives and have literally translated from the Syriac language in the following manner.

πάντα τε δι΄ αὐτοῦ τὰ τῆς τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν τέλος 5 ἐλάμβανεν ἐπαγγελίας. ἔχεις καὶ τούτων ἀνάγραπτον τὴν μαρτυρίαν͵ ἐκ τῶν κατὰ Ἔδεσσαν τὸ τηνικάδε βασιλευομένην πόλιν γραμματοφυλακείων ληφθεῖσαν· ἐν γοῦν τοῖς αὐτόθι δημο σίοις χάρταις͵ τοῖς τὰ παλαιὰ καὶ τὰ ἀμφὶ τὸν Ἄβγαρον πραχθέντα περιέχουσι͵ καὶ ταῦτα εἰς ἔτι νῦν ἐξ ἐκείνου πεφυλαγμένα εὕρηται͵ οὐδὲν δὲ οἷον καὶ αὐτῶν ἐπακοῦσαι τῶν ἐπιστολῶν͵ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀρχείων ἡμῖν ἀναληφθεισῶν καὶ τόνδε αὐτοῖς ῥήμασιν ἐκ τῆς Σύρων φωνῆς μεταβληθεισῶν τὸν τρόπον.

Copy of an epistle written by Abgar the ruler to Jesus, and sent to him at Jerusalem by Ananias the swift courier.


6 “Abgar, ruler Of Edessa, to Jesus the  excellent Saviour who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard the reports of thee and of thy cures as performed by thee without medicines or herbs. For it is said that thou makest the blind to see and the lame to walk, that thou cleansest lepers and castest out impure spirits and demons, and that thou healest those afflicted with lingering disease, and raisest the dead.

1 6 Ἄβγαρος Οὐχαμα τοπάρχης Ἰησοῦ σωτῆρι ἀγαθῷ ἀναφα νέντι ἐν τόπῳ Ἱεροσολύμων χαίρειν. ἤκουσταί μοι τὰ περὶ σοῦ καὶ τῶν σῶν ἰαμάτων͵ ὡς ἄνευ φαρμάκων καὶ βοτανῶν ὑπὸ σοῦ γινομένων. ὡς γὰρ λόγος͵ τυφλοὺς ἀναβλέπειν ποιεῖς͵ χωλοὺς περιπατεῖν͵ καὶ λεπροὺς καθαρίζεις͵ καὶ ἀκάθαρτα πνεύματα καὶ δαίμονας ἐκβάλλεις͵ καὶ τοὺς ἐν μακρονοσίᾳ

7 And having heard all these things concerning thee, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either thou art God, and having come down from heaven thou doest these things, or else thou, who doest these things, art the Son of God.

7 βασανιζομένους θεραπεύεις͵ καὶ νεκροὺς ἐγείρεις. καὶ ταῦτα πάντα ἀκούσας περὶ σοῦ͵ κατὰ νοῦν ἐθέμην τὸ ἕτερον τῶν δύο͵ ἢ ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ θεὸς καὶ καταβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ποιεῖς ταῦτα͵ ἢ

8 I have therefore written to thee to ask thee that thou wouldest take the trouble to come to me and heal the disease which I have. For I have heard that the Jews are murmuring against thee and are plotting to injure thee. But I have a very small yet noble city which is great enough for us both.”

8 υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ ποιῶν ταῦτα. διὰ τοῦτο τοίνυν γράψας ἐδεή θην σου σκυλῆναι πρός με καὶ τὸ πάθος͵ ὃ ἔχω͵ θεραπεῦσαι. καὶ γὰρ ἤκουσα ὅτι καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι καταγογγύζουσί σου καὶ βού λονται κακῶσαί σε. πόλις δὲ μικροτάτη μοί ἐστι καὶ σεμνή͵ ἥτις ἐξαρκεῖ ἀμφοτέροις.

The answer of Jesus to the ruler Abgar by the courier Ananias.


9 “Blessed are you who have believed in me without having seen me (cf. Jn 20. 29). 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.”

10 Μακάριος εἶ πιστεύσας ἐν ἐμοί͵ μὴ ἑορακώς με. γέγραπται γὰρ περὶ ἐμοῦ τοὺς ἑορακότας με μὴ πιστεύσειν ἐν ἐμοί͵ καὶ ἵνα οἱ μὴ ἑορακότες με αὐτοὶ πιστεύσωσι καὶ ζήσονται. περὶ δὲ οὗ ἔγραψάς μοι ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σέ͵ δέον ἐστὶ πάντα δι΄ ἃ ἀπεστάλην ἐνταῦθα͵ πληρῶσαι καὶ μετὰ τὸ πληρῶσαι οὕτως ἀναληφθῆναι πρὸς τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με. καὶ ἐπειδὰν ἀναληφθῶ͵ ἀποστελῶ σοί τινα τῶν μαθητῶν μου͵ ἵνα ἰάσηταί σου τὸ πάθος καὶ ζωήν σοι καὶ τοῖς σὺν σοὶ παράσχηται.

10 To these epistles there was added the following account in the Syriac language. “After the ascension of Jesus, Judas, who was also called Thomas, sent to him Thaddeus, an apostle, one of the Seventy. When he was come he lodged with Tobias, the son of Tobias. When the report of him got abroad, it was told Abgar that an apostle of Jesus was come, as he had written him.

11 Ταύταις δὲ ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς ἔτι καὶ ταῦτα συνῆπτο τῇ Σύρων φωνῇ· Μετὰ δὲ τὸ ἀναληφθῆναι τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτῷ Ἰούδας͵ ὁ καὶ Θωμᾶς͵ Θαδδαῖον ἀπόστολον͵ ἕνα τῶν ἑβδομή κοντα. ὃς ἐλθὼν κατέμενεν πρὸς Τωβίαν τὸν τοῦ Τωβία. ὡς δὲ ἠκούσθη περὶ αὐτοῦ͵ ἐμηνύθη τῷ Ἀβγάρῳ ὅτι ἐλήλυθεν

[Thaddeus preaches the gospel and lays hands on King Abgar, who believes the Gospel and is healed, along with other believers in Edessa]


 2. Egeria


EGERIA (c. 384)
The Abgar Letter
and the Defense of Edessa


 St. Theodosia
  Icon, St. Katherine, Sinai


Diary of a Pilgrimage 17-19


English Tr. The Pilgrimage of Egeria, M.L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe, ed. and trans. London: SPCK, 1919. pp. 30-36. Latin Text:  Aetheria (Egeria) s. IV ex.  Itinerarium Egeriae seu Peregrinatio ad loca sancta CPL 2325  SL 175 (P. Geyer / O. Cuntz, 1965), p. 37-90

17. HAVING spent some time there in the Name of God, when three full years had passed since I came to Jerusalem, and having seen all the holy places which I had visited for the sake of prayer, my mind was to return to my country. I wished, however, at God’s bidding, to go to Mesopotamia in Syria, to visit the holy monks who were there in great number, and who were said to be of such holy life as could hardly be described, and also for the sake of prayer at the memorial of S. Thomas the Apostle, where his body is laid entire.

Item in nomine dei, transacto aliquanto tempore, cum iam tres anni pleni essent, a quo in ierusolimam uenisse, uisis etiam omnibus locis sanctis, ad quos orationis gratia me tenderam, et ideo iam reuertendi ad patriam animus esset: uolui, iubente deo, ut et ad mesopotamiam syriae accedere ad uisendos sanctos monachos, qui ibi plurimi et tam eximiae uitae esse dicebantur, ut uix referri possit; nec non etiam et gratia orationis ad martyrium sancti thomae apostoli, ubi corpus illius integrum positum est,

This is at Edessa. For Jesus our God by a letter which He sent to Abgar the king by the hand of Ananias the courier, promised that He would send Saint Thomas there, after that He Himself had ascended into Heaven. [See Eus., Hist. Eccl. 1. 13] The letter is kept with great reverence at the city of Edessa, where the memorial  [p. 31]  is. [...]

id est apud edessam, quem se illuc missurum, posteaquam in caelis ascendisset, deus noster iesus testatus est per epistolam, quam ad aggarum regem per ananiam cursorem misit, que epistola cum grandi reuerentia apud edessam ciuitatem, ubi est ipsud martyrium, custoditur.

19. [...] we arrived at Edessa in the Name of Christ our God, and, on our arrival, we straightway repaired to the church and memorial of saint Thomas. There, according to custom, prayers were made and the other things that were customary in the holy places were done; we read also some things concerning saint Thomas himself. [...]

[...] peruenimus in nomine christi dei nostri edessam. Vbi cum peruenissemus, statim perreximus ad ecclesiam et ad martyrium sancti thomae. Itaque ergo iuxta consuetudinem factis orationibus et cetera, quae consuetudo erat fieri in locis sanctis, nec non etiam et aliquanta ipsius sancti thomae ibi legimus. [...]

Thus I saw in that city many memorials, together with holy monks, some dwelling at the memorials, while others had their cells in more secluded spots farther from the city. Moreover, the holy bishop of the city, [...] led me first to the palace of King Abgar, where he showed me a great marble statue of him--very much like him, as they said--having a sheen as if made of pearl. From the face of Abgar it seemed that he was a very wise and honourable man

Ac sic ergo uidi in eadem ciuitate martyria plurima nec non et sanctos monachos, commanentes alios per martyria, alios longius de ciuitate in secretioribus locis habentes monasteria. Et quoniam sanctus episcopus ipsius ciuitatis, [...]  duxit me primum ad palatium aggari regis et ibi ostendit michi archiotepam ipsius ingens, simillimam, ut ipsi dicebant, marmoream, tanti nitoris ac si de margarita esset; in cuius aggari uultu parebat de contra uere fuisse hunc uirum satis sapientem et honoratum.

. Then the holy bishop said to me: “Behold King Abgar, who before he saw the Lord believed in Him that He was in truth the Son of God.” [...]

Tunc ait mihi sanctus episcopus: "ecce rex aggarus, qui antequam uideret dominum, credidit ei, quia esset uere filius dei".

Then the holy bishop told me about the water, saying: “ At some time, after that King Abgar had written to the Lord, and the Lord had answered King Abgar by Ananias the courier--as it is written in the letter itself--when some time had passed, the Persians came against the city and surrounded it. And straightway Abgar, bearing the letter of the Lord to the gate, with all his army, prayed publicly. And he said: “O Lord Jesus, Thou hadst promised us that none of our enemies should enter this city, and lo! the [p.34] Persians now attack us.”

Et tunc retulit michi de ipsa aqua sic sanctus episcopus dicens: "quodam tempore, posteaquam scripserat aggarus rex ad dominum et dominus rescripserat aggaro per ananiam cursorem, sicut scriptum est in ipsa epistola: transacto ergo aliquanto tempore superueniunt perse et girant ciuitatem istam. Sed statim aggarus epistolam domini ferens ad portam cum omni exercitu suo publice orauit. Et post dixit: <domine iesu, tu promiseras nobis, ne aliquis hostium ingrederetur ciuitatem istam, et ecce nunc persae inpugnant nos".

And when the king had said this, holding the open letter in his uplifted hands,

Quod cum dixisset tenens manibus leuatis epistolam ipsam apertam rex,

suddenly there came a great darkness outside the city before the eyes of the Persians, as they were approaching the city at a distance of about three miles, and they were so baffled by the darkness that they could hardly form their camp and surround the whole city about three miles off. [...]

ad subito tantae tenebrae factae sunt, foras ciuitatem tamen ante oculos persarum, cum iam prope plicarent ciuitati, ita ut usque tertium miliarium de ciuitate essent: sed ita mox tenebris turbati sunt, ut uix castra ponerent et pergirarent in miliario tertio totam ciuitatem. [...]

So, at God’s bidding, Who had promised that this should come to pass, they were obliged to return to their own home in Persia. Moreover afterwards, as often as enemies determined to come and take the city, this letter was brought out and read in the gate, and straightway all [p.35] enemies were driven back by the will of God.

Ac sic iubente deo, qui hoc promiserat futurum, necesse fuit eos statim reuerti ad sua, id est in persida. Nam et postmodum quotienscumque uoluerunt uenire et expugnare hanc ciuitatem hostes, haec epistola prolata est et lecta est in porta, et statim nutu dei expulsi sunt omnes hostes".

And when the holy bishop had told me all these things, he said to me: “Let us now go to the gate by which Ananias the courier entered with the letter of which I spoke.”

Postea ergo quam haec omnia retulit sanctus episcopus, ait ad me: "eamus nunc ad portam, per quam ingressus est ananias cursor cum illa epistola, quam dixeram"?

So when we had come to the gate, the bishop, standing, made a prayer and read us the letters; then, after he had blessed us, another prayer was made.

Cum ergo uenissemus ad portam ipsam, stans episcopus fecit orationem et legit nobis ibi ipsas epistolas et denuo benedicens nos facta est iterato oratio.

[...] It was very pleasant to me to receive from the holy man himself the letters of Abgar to the Lord and of the Lord to Abgar, which the holy bishop had read to us there.

[...] Illud etiam satis mihi grato fuit, ut epistolas ipsas siue aggari ad dominum siue domini ad aggarum, quas nobis ibi legerat sanctus episcopus, acciperem michi ab ipso sancto.

For although I have copies at home, yet it seemed to me more pleasant to receive them from [p.36] him, lest perhaps something less might have reached us at home, and indeed that which I received here is fuller. So if Jesus our God bids it, and I come home, you too shall read them, ladies, my own souls.

Et licet in patria exemplaria ipsarum haberem, tamen gratius mihi uisum est, ut et ibi eas de ipso acciperem, ne quid forsitan minus ad nos in patria peruenisset; nam uere amplius est, quod hic accepi. Vnde si deus noster iesus iusserit et uenero in patria, legitis uos, dominae animae meae.

 3. Addai


DOCTRINE of ADDAI (ca. 400)
The Letter and
Painting of Jesus


 Abgar Receives the Mandylion,
Syrian Bas-Relief.


The Doctrine of Addai the Apostle


The Doctrine of Addai (1876). English Translation The Doctrine Of Addai, The Apostle,  now first edited in a complete form in the original Syriac,  with an  English Translation and Notes  by George Phillips, D.D., President of Queens’ College, Cambridge.  London: Trübner & CO., Ludgate Hill. 1876.

THE letter of king Abgar, the son of king Ma’nu, and at what time he sent it to our Lord at Jerusalem; and at what time Addai the Apostle came to him (Abgar) at Edessa; and what he spoke in the gospel of his preaching; and what he said and commanded, when he went forth from, this world, to those who had received from him the hand of the priesthood.

   In the three hundred and forty and third year of the kingdom of the Greeks, and in the reign of our lord Tiberius, the Roman Emperor, and in the reign of king Abgar, son of king Ma’nu, in the month of October, on the twelfth day, Abgar Ukkama sent Marihab and Shamshagram, chiefs and honoured persons of his kingdom, and Hannan the tabularius, the sharrir, with them, to the city which is called Eleutheropolis [...]

   When they went forth from him, they set out and came on the way towards Jerusalem; and they saw many men, who came from a distance to see Christ, because the fame of his wonderful deeds had gone forth to remote countries. When Marihab, Shamshagram, and Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw the men, they also came with them to Jerusalem. When they entered Jerusalem, they saw Christ, and they rejoiced with the multitudes, who were joined to Him. But they saw also the Jews, who were standing in groups, and were considering what they should do to Him; for they were disturbed to see that a multitude of their people confessed Him.

   And they were there in Jerusalem ten days, and Hannan, the keeper of the archives, wrote down everything which he saw that Christ did; also the rest of that done by Him, before they went thither. And they departed and came to Edessa, and entered into the presence of Abgar the king, their lord, who had sent them, and they gave him the reply of the letters, which they had brought with them. After the letters were read, they began to recount before the king all which they had seen and all which Christ had done in Jerusalem. And Hannan, the keeper of the archives, read before him all which he had written and brought with him; and when Abgar the king heard, he was astonished and wondered, as also his princes, who stood before him. Abgar said to them: These mighty works are not of men, but of God; because there is not any one who can make the dead alive, but God only.

   And Abgar wished himself to pass over and go to Palestine, and see with his own eyes all which Christ was doing; but because he was not able to pass through the country of the Romans, which was not his, lest this cause should call forth bitter enmity, he wrote a letter and sent it to Christ by the hand of Hannan, the keeper of the archives. He went forth from Edessa on the fourteenth day of Adar, and entered Jerusalem on the twelfth day of Nisan, on the fourth day of the week (Wednesday). And he found Christ at the house of Gamaliel, the chief priest of the Jews. The letter was read before Him, which was written thus:

“Abgar Ukkama, to Jesus, the Good Physician, who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem. My Lord: Peace. I have heard of Thee and of Thy healing, that it is not by medicines and roots Thou healest, but by Thy word Thou openest the eyes of the blind, Thou makest the lame to walk, cleansest the lepers, and makest the deaf to hear. And unclean spirits12 and lunatics, and those tormented, them Thou healest by Thy word; Thou also raisest the dead. And when I heard of these great wonders which Thou doest, I decided in my mind that either Thou art God, who hast come down from heaven and doest these things, or Thou art the Son of God, who doest all these things. Therefore, I have written to request of Thee to come to me who adore Thee, and to heal the disease which I have, as I believe in Thee. This also I have heard, that the Jews murmur against Thee and persecute Thee, and even seek to crucify Thee, and contemplate treating Thee cruelly. I possess one small and beautiful city, and it is sufficient for both to dwell in it in quietness.”

Then Jesus received the letter at the house of the chief priest of the Jews, He said to Hannan, the keeper of the archives:

“Go and say to thy lord, who hath sent thee to Me, ‘Blessed art thou, who, although thou hast not seen Me, believest in Me, for it is written of Me, Those who see Me will not believe in Me, and those who see Me not, will believe in me.13 But as to that which thou hast written to Me, that I should come to thee, that for which I was sent here is now finished, and I am going up to my Father, who sent me, and when I have gone up to Him, I will send to thee one of my disciples, who will cure the disease which thou hast, and restore thee to health; and all who are with thee he will convert to everlasting life. Thy city shall be blessed, and no enemy shall again become master of it for ever.’“

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spake thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honour in one of his palatial houses. Hannan, the keeper of the archives, related to him everything which he had heard from Jesus, as His words were put by him in writing.

   After that Christ had ascended to heaven, Judas Thomas sent to Abgar, Addai the Apostle, who was one of the seventy-two Apostles. And when Addai came to the city of Edessa, he dwelt at the house of Tobias, son of Tobias the Jew, who was of Palestine. [...] Tobias went early on the next day and took Addai the Apostle, and brought him up to Abgar, Addai himself knowing that by the power of God he was sent to him. [Abgar sees a vision] Then Abgar said to Addai, “Of a truth thou art the disciple of Jesus, that mighty one, the son of God, who sent to me saying I send thee one of my disciples for healing and for life.” [...] Abgar said to him: “I also believe in Him and in His Father.” Addai said to him: “Because that thou so believest, I place my hand on thee, in the name of Him in whom thou believest.”

   At the moment that he placed his hand upon him, he was cured of the plague of the disease, which he had had for a long time.19 Abgar wondered and was astonished, that as it was reported to him concerning Jesus, that which He did and cured; so also Addai himself, without medicine of any kind, healed in the name of Jesus. [Addai/Annanias heals more believers].


 4. Ebagrius Scholasticus


The Letter to Abgar and
the Divinely - Made Image


 Acheiropoietos Icon,
  Kiev, 1360


The Ecclesiastical History Bk. 4.27


English: Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History (AD 431-594), tr. by E. Walford (1846).  Book 4. Greek: Hist., Eccl. J. Bidez and L. Parmentier, The ecclesiastical history of Evagrius with the scholia. London: Methuen, 1898 (repr. 1979)

27. THE same Procopius narrates (Procop., De Bellis, 2. ch. 12)what the ancients had recorded concerning Edessa and Abgar, and how Christ wrote a letter to him. He then relates how Chosroes made a fresh movement to lay siege to the city, thinking to falsify the assertion prevalent among the faithful, that Edessa would never fall into the power of an enemy: which assertion, however, is not contained in what was written to Abgar by Christ our God; as the studious may gather from the history of Eusebius Pamphili, who cites the epistle verbatim.

Ἀναγράφει ὁ αὐτὸς Προκόπιος καὶ τὰ περὶ Ἐδέσης καὶ Ἀγβάρου τοῖς παλαιοῖς ἱστορημένα͵ καὶ ὡς ὁ Χριστὸς πρὸς Ἄγβαρον ἐπέστειλεν͵ εἶτα καὶ ὡς ἐς ἑτέραν ἔφοδον πολιορκίαν τῶν Ἐδεσηνῶν ὁ Χοσρόης κατέστη͵ παραλύειν οἰόμενος τὰ παρὰ τοῖς πιστοῖς θρυ λούμενα͵ ὡς οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἡ Ἔδεσα ὑπὸ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς γενήσεται· ὅπερ τοῖς γραφεῖσι μὲν πρὸς Ἄγβαρον παρὰ Χριστοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν οὐκ ἔγκειται͵ ὡς ἔστι τοὺς φιλοπόνους ἑλεῖν ἐκ τῶν ἱστορηθέντων Εὐσεβίῳ τῷ Παμφίλου͵ αὐτὴν πρὸς λέξιν τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἀναγνόντι·

Such, however, is the averment and belief of the faithful; which was then realised, faith bringing about the accomplishment of the prediction. For after Chosroes had made many assaults on the city, had raised a mound of sufficient size to overtop the walls of the town, and had devised innumerable expedients beside, he raised the siege and retreated. I will, however, detail the particulars. [...] When the besiegers saw the mound approaching the walls like a moving mountain, and the enemy in expectation of stepping into the town at day-break, they devised to run a mine under the mound--which the Latins term “aggestus”--and by that means apply fire, so that the combustion of the timber might cause the downfall of the mound. The mine was completed; but they failed in attempting to fire the wood, because the fire, having no exit whence it could obtain a supply of air, was unable to take hold of it.

οὕτω δὲ παρὰ τοῖς πιστοῖς ᾄδεταί τε καὶ πεπίστευται καὶ τὸ πέρας ἐδέξατο͵ τῆς πίστεως ἔργον προρρήσεως ἀγαγούσης. Μετὰ γὰρ τὸ προσβαλεῖν τῇ πόλει τὸν Χοσρόην μυρίας τε ἐφόδους ἐργάσασθαι χοῦν τε συνα μήσασθαι πολύν͵ ὡς καὶ τὰ τείχη τῆς πόλεως ὑπερπη δῆσαι͵ ἑτέρας τε μυρίας μηχανὰς ῥάψαι͵ ἄπρακτον ἐπεποίητο τὴν ἀποπόρευσιν· λέξω δὲ τὰ γενόμενα. [...] Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν οἱ τῇ πολιορκίᾳ συνεχόμενοι τεθέαντο τὸ χῶμα πλησίον ὥσπερ ὄρος βαδίζον ἐγγίζειν τῇ πόλει͵ ἐπιδόξους τε εἶναι τοὺς πολεμίους πεζῇ τῆς πόλεως ἐπι βήσεσθαι͵ ἅμα ἕῳ μηχανῶνται ἀντικρὺ τοῦ χώματος͵ 175 ὅπερ ἀγέστα πρὸς Ρωμαίων κέκληται͵ διώρυγα ὑπὸ γῆν κατεργάσασθαι ἔνθεν τε πῦρ ἀνεῖναι͵ ὡς ἂν τῇ φλογὶ τὰ ξύλα φθειρόμενα τὸν χοῦν ἐς γῆν καταγάγοι. Καὶ τὸ μὲν ἔργον ἐπετετέλεστο͵ πυρὰν δὲ προσάψαντες τοῦ σκοποῦ διημάρτανον͵ οὐκ ἔχοντος τοῦ πυρὸς διέξοδον ὅθεν ἀέρος ἐπιλαμβανόμενον δύναιτο τὴν ὕλην περιδράξασθαι.

In this state of utter perplexity, they brought the divinely wrought image, which the hands of men did not form, but Christ our God sent to Abgarus on his desiring to see Him.  [N.B. Procopius writes nothing about the image in Wars 2, 12]]

Ὡς δ΄ οὖν ἐς πᾶσαν ἀμηχανίαν ἦλθον͵ φέρουσι τὴν θεότευκτον εἰκόνα ἣν ἀνθρώπων μὲν χεῖρες οὐκ εἰργάσαντο͵ Ἀγβάρῳ δὲ Χριστὸς ὁ θεός͵ ἐπεὶ αὐτὸν ἰδεῖν ἐπόθει͵ πέπομφε.

Accordingly, having introduced this holy image into the mine, and washed it over with water, they sprinkled some upon the timber; and the divine power forthwith being present to the faith of those who had so done, the result was accomplished which had previously been impossible: for the timber immediately caught the flame, and being in an instant reduced to cinders, communicated with that above, and the fire spread in all directions. [...]

Ταύτην τοίνυν τὴν παναγίαν εἰκόνα κατὰ τὴν εἰργασμένην σφίσιν ἐσαγαγόντες διώρυγα ὕδατί τε ἐπικλύσαντες͵ ἀπ΄ αὐτοῦ κατὰ τῆς πυρᾶς καὶ τῶν ξύλων ἀφεῖσαν. Καὶ παραυτίκα τῆς θείας δυνάμεως τῇ πίστει τῶν δεδρακότων ἐπιφοιτησάσης͵ ὅπερ ἦν ἐκείνοις πρώην ἀδύνατον ἐξηνύετο· παραυτίκα γὰρ ἐσεδέξαντο τὴν φλόγα τὰ ξύλα͵ καὶ λόγου θᾶττον ἀπανθρακωθέντα τοῖς ὑπερτέροις μετεδίδοσαν͵ ἅπαντα τοῦ πυρὸς ἀμφινεμομένου. [...]

On the third day the flames were seen issuing from the earth, and then the Persians on the mound became aware of their unfortunate situation. [...] Then Chosroes, in utter despair, impressed by the circumstances with a sense of his disgraceful folly in having entertained an idea of prevailing over the God whom we worship, retreated ingloriously into his own territories. Τρίτῃ δ΄ οὖν ἀπ΄ ἐκείνης ἡμέρᾳ͵ ὤφθησαν αἱ γλωσσίδες τοῦ πυρὸς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἀναδιδόμεναι͵ καὶ τότε συνῆκαν οἱ ἐν τῷ χώματι τῶν Περσῶν μαχόμενοι ὅποι κακῶν καθε στήκασιν. [...] Τότε δ΄ οὖν ὁ Χοσρόης ἁπάσαις ταῖς ἐλπίσιν ἀπειρηκὼς καὶ διὰ τῶν ἔργων ἐγνωκὼς ὡς πολλὴν ὦφλεν αἰσχύνην͵ ὑποτοπήσας τοῦ πρὸς ἡμῶν πρεσβευομένου θεοῦ περιέσεσθαι͵ ἐπὶ τὰ σφέτερα τὴν ἀποπόρευσιν ἐποιεῖτο ἀκλεῶς.

 5. John Damascene


Christ Creates
the Miraculous Image


Abgar Receives the Mandylion,
(Acheiropoietos) 10th Cent.


On The Orthodox Faith, 4.16


English based on: NPNF2 v.-09. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus; Greek: Expositio fidei . Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, v. 2 ( Gruyter, Berlin, 1973 ) ser. Patristische Texte und Studien

Ch.16. Concerning Images. 89 Περὶ εἰκόνων
16[.1] BUT since some (Cf. Petavius, Theol. Dogm. 25. ch. 12) find fault with us for worshipping and honouring the image of our Saviour and that of our Lady, and those, too, of the rest of the saints and servants of Christ, let them remember that in the beginning God created man after His own image (Gen. 1. 26). On what grounds, then, do we show reverence to each other unless because we are made after God’s image? Ἐπειδὴ δέ τινες ἡμῖν καταμέμφονται προσκυνοῦσί τε καὶ τιμῶσι τήν τε τοῦ σωτῆρος καὶ τῆς δεσποίνης ἡμῶν εἰκόνα͵ ἔτι δὲ καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἁγίων καὶ θεραπόντων Χριστοῦ͵ ἀκουέτωσαν͵ ὡς ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον κατ΄ οἰκείαν εἰκόνα ἐποίησε. Τίνος οὖν ἕνεκεν ἀλλήλους προσκυνοῦμεν͵ εἰ μὴ ὡς κατ΄ εἰκόνα θεοῦ πεποιημένους;
For as Basil, that much-versed expounder of divine things, says, the honour given to the image passes over to the prototype (Basil, De Spir. Sancto, ch. 18). Ὡς γάρ φησιν ὁ θεοφόρος καὶ πολὺς τὰ θεῖα Βασίλειος͵ ἡ τῆς εἰκόνος τιμὴ ἐπὶ τὸ πρω τότυπον διαβαίνει·
Now a prototype is that which is imaged, from which the derivative is obtained. πρωτότυπον δέ ἐστι τὸ εἰκονιζόμενον͵ ἐξ οὗ τὸ παράγωγον γίνεται.

Why was it that the Mosaic people honoured on all hands the tabernacle (Ex. 23. 10) which bore an image and type of heavenly things, or rather of the whole creation? God indeed said to Moses, Look that thou make them after their pattern which was shewed thee in the mount (Ex. 25. 40: Heb. 8. 5). The Cherubim, too, which overshadow the mercy seat, are they not the work of men’s hands (Ex. 25. 18)? What, further, is the celebrated temple at Jerusalem? Is it not hand-made and fashioned by the skill of men (1 Kings 8)?

Τίνος ἕνεκεν ὁ Μωσαϊκὸς λαὸς τῇ σκηνῇ κυκλόθεν προσεκύνει εἰκόνα καὶ τύπον φερούσῃ τῶν ἐπουρανίων͵ μᾶλλον δὲ τῆς ὅλης κτίσεως; Φησὶ γοῦν ὁ θεὸς τῷ Μωσεῖ· Ὅρα͵ ποιήσεις πάντα κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει. Καὶ τὰ Χερουβὶμ δὲ τὰ σκιάζοντα τὸ ἱλαστήριον οὐχὶ ἔργα χειρῶν ἀνθρώπων; Τί δὲ ὁ ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις περιώνυμος ναός; Οὐχὶ χειροποίητος καὶ ἀνθρώπων τέχνῃ κατεσκευασμένος;

[...] But besides this who can make an imitation of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed, formless God? Πρὸς δὲ τούτοις τοῦ ἀοράτου καὶ ἀσωμάτου καὶ ἀπεριγράπτου καὶ ἀσχηματίστου θεοῦ τίς δύναται ποιήσασθαι μίμημα;
Therefore to give form to the Deity is the height of folly and impiety. And hence it is that in the Old Testament the use of images was not common. Παραφροσύνης τοίνυν ἄκρας καὶ ἀσεβείας τὸ σχηματίζειν τὸ θεῖον. Ἐντεῦθεν ἐν τῇ παλαιᾷ οὐκ ἦν τετριμμένη ἡ τῶν εἰκόνων χρῆσις.

But after God (Jn.1. 14; Tit. 3. 4) in His bowels of pity became in truth man for our salvation, not as He was seen by Abraham in the semblance of a man, nor as He was seen by the prophets, but in being truly man, and after He lived upon the earth and dwelt among men (Bar. 3. 38), worked miracles, suffered, was crucified, rose again and was taken back to Heaven, since all these things actually took place and were seen by men, they were written for the remembrance and instruction of us who were not alive at that time in order that though we saw not, we may still, hearing and believing, obtain the blessing of the Lord.

  Ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους αὐτοῦ κατὰ ἀλήθειαν γέγονεν ἄνθρωπος διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτη ρίαν͵ οὐχ ὡς τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ὤφθη ἐν εἴδει ἀνθρώπου͵ οὐχ ὡς τοῖς προφή ταις͵ ἀλλὰ κατ΄ οὐσίαν ἀληθῶς γέγονεν ἄνθρωπος διέτριψέ τε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις συνανεστράφη͵ ἐθαυματούργησεν͵ ἔπαθεν͵ ἐσταυρώθη͵ ἀνέστη͵ ἀνελήφθη͵ καὶ πάντα ταῦτα κατὰ ἀλήθειαν γέγονε͵ καὶ ὡράθη ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων͵ ἐγράφη μὲν εἰς ὑπόμνησιν ἡμῶν καὶ δι δαχὴν τῶν τηνικαῦτα μὴ παρόντων͵ ἵνα μὴ ἑωρακότες͵ ἀκούσαντες δὲ καὶ πιστεύσαντες τύχωμεν τοῦ μακαρισμοῦ τοῦ κυρίου.

But seeing that not every one has a knowledge of letters nor time for reading, the Fathers gave their sanction to depicting these events on images as being acts of great heroism, in order that they should form a concise memorial of them. Often, doubtless, when we have not the Lord’s passion in mind and see the image of Christ’s crucifixion, His saving passion is brought back to remembrance, and we fall down and worship not the material but that which is imaged: just as we do not worship the material of which the Gospels are made, nor the material of the Cross, but that which these typify. Ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐ πάντες ἴσασι γράμματα οὐδὲ τῇ ἀναγνώσει σχολάζουσιν͵ οἱ πατέρες συνεῖδον ὥσπερ τινὰς ἀριστείας ἐν εἰκόσι ταῦτα γράφεσθαι εἰς ὑπόμνησιν σύντο μον. Ἀμέλει πολλάκις μὴ κατὰ νοῦν ἔχοντες τὸ τοῦ κυρίου πάθος͵ τὴν εἰκόνα τῆς Χριστοῦ σταυρώσεως ἰδόντες͵ τοῦ σωτηρίου πάθους εἰς ἀνά μνησιν ἐλθόντες͵ πεσόντες προσκυνοῦμεν οὐ τῇ ὕλῃ͵ ἀλλὰ τῷ εἰκονιζομένῳ͵ ὥσπερ οὐ τῇ ὕλῃ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου οὐδὲ τῇ τοῦ σταυροῦ ὕλῃ προσκυνοῦ μεν͵ ἀλλὰ τῷ ἐκτυπώματι.
For wherein does the cross, that typifies the Lord, differ from a cross that does not do so? It is just the same also in the case of the Mother of the Lord. For the honour which we give to her is referred to Him Who was made of her incarnate. And similarly also the brave acts of holy men stir us up to be brave and to emulate and imitate their valour and to glorify God. For as we said, the honour that is given to the best of fellow-servants is a proof of good-will towards our common Lady, and the honour rendered to the image passes over to the prototype (Basil, in 40 Mart: also De Spir. Sancto, ch. 27). Τί γὰρ διαφέρει σταυρὸς μὴ ἔχων τὸ τοῦ κυ ρίου ἐκτύπωμα τοῦ ἔχοντος; Ὡσαύτως καὶ τῆς θεομήτορος· ἡ γὰρ εἰς αὐτὴν τιμὴ εἰς τὸν ἐξ αὐτῆς σαρκωθέντα ἀνάγεται. Ὁμοίως καὶ τὰ τῶν ἁγίων ἀνδραγαθήματα ἐπαλείφοντα ἡμᾶς πρὸς ἀνδρείαν καὶ ζῆλον καὶ μίμησιν τῆς αὐτῶν ἀρετῆς καὶ δόξαν θεοῦ. Ὡς γὰρ ἔφημεν͵ ἡ πρὸς τοὺς εὐγνώμονας τῶν ὁμοδούλων τιμὴ ἀπόδειξιν ἔχει τῆς πρὸς τὸν κοινὸν δεσπότην εὐνοίας καὶ ἡ τῆς εἰκόνος τιμὴ πρὸς τὸ πρωτότυπον διαβαίνει.

But this is an unwritten tradition (Cf. August., contr. Donatist., bk. 4), just as is also the worshipping towards the East and the worship of the Cross, and very many other similar things.

Ἔστι δὲ ἄγραφος ἡ παράδοσις ὥσπερ τὸ κατὰ ἀνατολὰς προσκυνεῖν͵ τὸ προσκυνεῖν σταυρὸν καὶ ἕτερα πλεῖστα τούτοις ὅμοια.

A certain tale (Evagr., Hist. 4., ch. 27), too, is told (Procop., De Bellis, 2. ch. 12), how that when Abgar was king over the city of the Edessenes, he sent a portrait painter to paint a likeness of the Lord, and when the painter could not paint because of the brightness that shone from His countenance, the Lord Himself put a garment over His own divine and life-giving face and impressed on it an image of Himself and sent this to Abgar, to satisfy thus his desire.

Φέρεται δὲ καί τις ἱστορία͵ ὡς ὁ κύριος τῷ Αὐγάρῳ τῆς Ἐδεσσηνῶν πόλεως βασιλεύοντι ζωγράφον ἀποστείλαντι τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ὁμοιο γραφῆσαι εἰκόνα μὴ δυνηθέντος τοῦ ζωγράφου διὰ τὴν ἀποστίλβουσαν τοῦ προσώπου λαμπρότητα αὐτὸς ἱμάτιον τῷ οἰκείῳ καὶ ζωοποιῷ προσώπῳ ἐπιθεὶς ἐναπομάξασθαι τῷ ἱματίῳ τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἀπεικόνισμα καὶ οὕτως ἀποστεῖλαι ποθοῦντι τῷ Αὐγάρῳ.

Moreover that the Apostles handed down much that was unwritten, Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, tells us in these words: Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught of us, whether by word or by epistle (2 Thess. 2. 15). And to the Corinthians he writes, Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered them to you (1 Cor. 11. 2).”

Ὅτι δὲ καὶ πλεῖστα οἱ ἀπόστολοι ἀγράφως παραδεδώκασι͵ γράφει Παῦλος ὁ τῶν ἐθνῶν ἀπόστολος· Ἄρα οὖν͵ ἀδελφοί͵ στήκετε καὶ κρα τεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἡμῶν͵ ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι΄ ἐπιστο λῆς ἡμῶν͵ καὶ πρὸς Κορινθίους· Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς͵ ἀδελφοί͵ ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καί͵ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν͵ τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε.



King Abgar receives the Mandylion from Thaddeus
10th cent. St. Katherine, Sinai

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