Did Jesus write a letter to King Abgar?

Monday Musings for April 10, 2017

Good morning, Musers,

How should we treat those god-flavored ancient documents that did not rise to the level of Holy Scripture? Should we ignore them totally? Should we let them inform our history… or should we let them affect God’s authoritative revelation? This problem will not be solved by a one-size-fits-all solution. Some documents have more veracity than others. But there is one over-riding consideration: God’s special revelation is complete — and we have it in reliable form in any of our standard Bibles.

I’ve already addressed the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Bartholomew in some other missives, but today we have the Letter of King Abgar to Jesus… a two-part document — one of which is purportedly a letter from Jesus! According to the legend, Jesus wrote back to Abgar… and some say he sent an image of himself! That would be the most important selfie of all time… and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter pulled off a photo-bomb!

But if such a letter were the genuine article, it could contain a wealth of information — especially if we had the original. For instance, I would like to know if Jesus dotted his small letters i like younger girls sometimes do… with little hearts… Jesus being a God of love and all that. Or perhaps he used the Aramaic equivalent of emoticons… and if so, did he use lightning bolts to show everyone what he thought of the Phariseeism?

But don’t get your hopes up. The Bible never shows Jesus writing anything… although that is no proof that he never did write. In John 8:6 Jesus might be doodling, not writing (but it is important to note that the oldest manuscripts do not include this story). The Bible shows Jesus teaching orally… and I think that’s a huge hint as to his methods… but I never see Jesus saying, “Okay… Matthew? You’ve got a quill… right? Well, take this down… because you know that John will forget this part in his Gospel.”

The New Testament authors would indeed get their chance to write… but only after Jesus ascended — and only after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. At that point, Jesus’ first-generation followers would be prepared to write the New Testament on God’s terms — and these letters would become the testimony of Jesus Christ — the canon.

Now, don’t get me wrong; Jesus was amply quoted in Scripture… but so weren’t other ancient luminaries quoted in other ancient writings. So, what’s the difference? The memory of what Jesus said (and meant) came by the special agency of the Holy Spirit… and not by scholars combing through the Jesus archives.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, NIV)

This process will continue to protect the Church from wandering doctrinally… but only as long as it clings to the Scripture. People will amply and variously interpret the Scripture… but this is a self-correcting process for the earnest seeker. This is why we consider the authoritative Scripture itself to be the arbiter for truth. We should not look to people or to organizations. So, read your Bible today… and enjoy the musing, too.

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)