Epistola Christi ad Abgarum

  • Latin
  • prose
A Latin version of the apocryphal letter of Christ to Abgar (V), king of Edessa.
First words (prose)
  • Beatus es, qui credidisti in me, cum me ipse non videris
Speaker: Jesus ChristJesus Christ
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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Addressee: Abgar V [king of Edessa]Abgar V ... king of Edessa
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Ascribed to: Jesus ChristJesus Christ
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beg. ‘Beatus es, qui credidisti in me, cum me ipse non videris’
beg. ‘et uitam tibi at his qui tecum sunt praestet’

Eusebius included a letter by Abgar and the reply by Jesus. Rufinus’ translation of them is generally faithful to the original. Manuscript witnesses are too numerous to be listed here.

Anglo-Saxon witnesses
ff. 12r.inf–13r.m
rubric: ‘Incipit epistola salvatoris domini nostri Iesu Xpisti ad Abgarum regem quam dominus manu scripsit et dixit’

The text is close to that of Rufinus, except for an addendum which is subjoined to suggest that the traveller enjoys protection by carrying a copy on one’s person. Marginal Old English glosses, many of them in the left margin of f. 12v, accompany the text: ... et saluus eris sicut scriptum qui credit in me saluus erit. Siue in domu tua siue in ciuitate tua siue in omni loco nemo inimicorum tuorum dominabitur et insidias diabuli ne timeas et carmina inimicorum tuorum distruuntur. Et omnes inimici tui expellentur a te siue a grandine siue tonitrua non noceberis et ab omni periculo liberaueris, siue in mare siue in terra siue in die siue in nocte siuei n locis obscures. Si quis hanc epistolam secum habuerit secures ambuleti n pace. Amen.. Foll., on f. 13r, by a prayer beg. Deus omnipotens et dominus noster Iesus Christu. Many other texts in this manuscript are in some way concerned with the topic of healing.

A different version.
beg. ‘Beatus es qui credidisti in me cure ipse me non uideris’
A citation by Ælfric. For references, see e.g. Cain 2009.
Irish witnesss

The rubric Incipit epistola saluatoris domini nostri Iesu Christi ad Aevagarum occurs, in an Irish hand, on a flyleaf of the Basel Psalter (Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, MS A VII 3), but what follows is a different text.

f. 14v
beg. ‘Beatus es qui me non uidisti et credidisti in me’
Main text in majuscule script, with bilingual Irish-Latin preface and glosses. The preface identifies Eusebius’ history as being its ultimate source (Crist fein ro scrib co n-a laim in n-epistil-se, amal adfét Eusebius in n-a stair). It is followed, on f. 15, by a Latin prayer beg. Domine domine defende nos a malis et custodi nos in bonis ut simus filii tui hic et in futuro. amen. Saluator omnium Christe respice in nos Iesu et miserere nobis. Euangelium domini nostri Iesu Christi liberet nos protegat nos custodiat nos defendat nos ab omni malo ab omni periculo ab omni langore ab omni dolore ab omni plaga ab omni inuidia ab omnibus insidiis diabuli et malorum hominum hic et in futuro. amen.
p. 11

Text, with Irish preface (partly illegible). This version includes an addendum which echoes the first part of the addendum in Royal 2 A xx (... saluus erit; sic scriptum est. Qui credit in me saluus erit, though itself a partial repetition) but as it continues, largely agrees with TCD 1441.

Further evidence of possible comparative interest
Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 689

A manuscript of the Eusebius-Rufinus history, with the letter to Abgar given on the final folio, headed Epistola Salvatoris ad Abgarum regem [etc.].

  • Latin
prose (primary)
Textual relationships

The original of the correspondence was probably written in Syriac, from which it was translated into Greek. In his Ecclesiastical history, Eusebius claims that he found the letters in the archives of Edessa and that the texts he includes are verbatim translations which he made from Syriac into Greek. When Rufinus rendered Eusebius’s work into Latin at the beginning of the fifth century, he also produced a relatively faithful translation of the correspondence. That different texts circulated even before Rufinus began his work is suggested by an account in the Itinerarium of Egeria, a nun from Galicia who undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land sometime in the 380s: she observes that she had found copies which were more detailed than the ones she had seen back home. Nevertheless, the Latin version that became best known tn Britain and Ireland appears to be that of Rufinus or versions which ultimately derive from it.

Related: Scél ÉuagairScél Éuagair

An Irish version of the Abgar legend, translated from the Latin Epistola ad Abgarum and found in the Leabhar Breac as a relatively distinct part of an Irish text on Christ’s household, with a variant version attached to it.



Life and miracles of ChristNew Testament narratives
Life and miracles of Christ
id. 48266
Abgar legendapocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature, Life and miracles of Christ
Abgar legend
id. 65744

Apocryphal legend concerning the correspondence between Christ and Abgar (V), king of Edessa, and the miracle of the latter’s healing after Christ’s ascension.





Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Considine, Patrick, “Irish versions of the Abgar legend”, Celtica 10 (1973): 237–257.

Gives the texts of Rufinus, the Irish Liber hymnorum and Royal 2 A xx.

[ed.] Kuypers, Arthur B., The prayer book of Aedeluald the bishop, commonly called the Book of Cerne, Cambridge: at the University Press, 1902.
Internet Archive: <link>
205 An edition of the version in the Royal Library prayer-book.
[ed.] Bernard, J. H., and Robert Atkinson [eds.], The Irish Liber hymnorum, 2 vols, vol. 1: Text and introduction, Henry Bradshaw Society, 13, London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1898.  
comments: Volume 1: Text and introduction
Volume 2: Translation
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> – originally from Google Books: <link>
93 (Irish preface); 94–95 (text); 95 (nota)

Edition of the version in TCD 1441 (Liber hymnorum.), with variants from Fransiscan A 2 (F) and Royal 2 A xx (J).

Secondary sources (select)

Hebing, Rosanne, “The textual tradition of Heavenly Letter charms in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts”, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 69 (2012): 203–222.
Cain, Christopher M., “Sacred words, Anglo-Saxon piety, and the origins of the Epistola salvatoris in London, British Library, Royal 2.A.xx”, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 108:2 (April, 2009): 168–189.
McNamara, Martin, The apocrypha in the Irish Church, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975.
58–59 [id. 51.]
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2023, last updated: July 2023