Early Church Fathers
206 Edessa, the capital of Abgar's dominions, was a city of Northern Mesopotamia, near the river Euphrates. History knows nothing of the city before the time of the Seleucidae, though tradition puts its origin back into distant antiquity, and some even identify it with Abraham's original home, Ur of the Chaldees. In the history of the Christian Church it played an important part as a centre of Syrian learning. Ephraem, the Syrian, founded a seminary there in the fourth century, which after his death fell into the hands of the Arians.
207 We have no reason to doubt that Eusebius, who is the first to mention these apocryphal epistles, really found them in the public archives at Edessa. Moses Chorenensis, the celebrated Armenian historian of the fifth century, who studied a long time in Edessa, is an independent witnesss to their existence in the Edessene archives. Eusebius has been accused of forging this correspondence himself; but this unworthy suspicion has been refuted by the discovery and publication of the original Syriac (The Doct. of Addai the Apostle, with an English Translation and Notes,, by G. Phillips, London, 1876; compare also Contemp. Rev., May, 1877, p. 1137). The epistles were forged probably long before his day, and were supposed by him to be genuine. His critical insight, but not his honesty, was at fault. The apocryphal character of these letters is no longer a matter of dispute, though Cave and Grabe defended their genuineness (so that Eusebius is in good company), and even in the present century Rinck (Ueber die Echtheit des Briefwechsels des Königs Abgars mit Jesu, Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol., 1843, II. p. 326) has had the hardihood to enter the lists in their defense; but we know of no one else who values his critical reputation so little as to venture upon the task.
208 Ensebius does not say directly that he translated these documents himself, but this seems to be the natural conclusion to be drawn from his words. =Hmin is used only with analhfqeiswn, and not with metablhqeiswn. It is impossible, therefore, to decide with certainty; but the documents must have been in Syriac in the Edessene archives, and Eusebius' words imply that, if he did not translate them himself, he at least employed some one else to do it. At the end of this chapter he again uses an indefinite expression, where perhaps it might be expected that he would tell us directly if he had himself translated the documents.
209 In the greatly embellished narrative of Cedrenus (Hist. Compendium, p. 176; according to Wright, in his article on Abgar in the Dict. of Christian Biog.) this Ananias is represented as an artist who endeavored to take the portrait of Christ, but was dazzled by the splendor of his countenance; whereupon Christ, having washed his face, wiped it with a towel, which miraculously retained an image of his features. The picture thus secured was carried back to Edessa, and acted as a charm for the preservation of the city against its enemies. The marvelous fortunes of the miraculous picture are traced by Cedrenus through some centuries (see also Evagrius, H. E. IV. 27).
210 The expression "Son of God" could not be used by a heathen prince as it is used here.
211 Compare John xx. 29.
212 gegraptai, as used by Christ and his disciples, always referred to the Old Testament. The passage quoted here does not occur in the Old Testament; but compare Isa. vi. 9, Jer. v. 21, and Ezek. xii. 2; and also Matt. xiii. 14, Mark iv. 12, and especially Acts xxviii. 26-28 and Rom. xi. 7 sq.
213 Thomas is not commonly known by the name of Judas, and it is possible that Eusebius, or the translator of the document, made a mistake, and applied to Thomas a name which in the original was given to Thaddeus. But Thomas is called Judas Thomas in the Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, and in the Syriac Doctrina Apostolorum, published by Cureton.
214 The word "apostle" is by no means confined to the twelve apostles of Christ. The term was used very Commonly in a much wider sense, and yet the combination, "the apostle, one of the Seventy," in this passage, does not seem natural, and we cannot avoid the conclusion that the original author of this account did not thus describe Thaddeus. The designation, "one of the Seventy," carries the mind back to Christ's own appointment of them, recorded by Luke, and the term "apostle," used in the same connection, would naturally denote one of the Twelve appointed by Christ,-that is, an apostle in the narrow sense. It might be suggested as possible that the original Syriac connected the word "apostle" with Thomas, reading, "Thomas the apostle sent Judas, who is also called Thaddeus, one of the Seventy," &c. Such a happy confusion is not beyond the power of an ancient translator, for most of whom little can be said in the way of praise. That this can have been the case in the present instance, however, is rendered extremely improbable by the fact that throughout this account Thaddeus is called an apostle, and we should therefore expect the designation upon the first mention of him. It seems to me much more probable that the words, "one of the Seventy," are an addition of Eusebius, who has already, in two places (§4, above, and chap. 12, §3), told us that Thaddeus was one of them. It is probable that the original Syriac preserved the correct tradition of Thaddeus as one of the Twelve; while Eusebius, with his false tradition of him as one of the Seventy, takes pains to characterize him as such, when he is first introduced, but allows the word "apostle," so common in its wider sense, to stand throughout. He does not intend to correct the Syriac original; he simply defines Thaddeus, as he understands him, more closely.
215 Tobias was very likely a Jew, or of Jewish extraction, the name being a familiar one among the Hebrews. This might have been the reason that Thaddeus (if he went to Edessa at all) made his home with him.
216 Moses Chorenensis reads instead (according to Rinck), "Potagrus, the son of Abdas." Rinck thinks it probable that Eusebius or the translator made a mistake, confusing the Syrian name Potagrus with the Greek word podagra, "a sort of gout," and then inserting a second Abdas. The word "Podagra" is Greek and could not have occurred in the Armenian original, and therefore Eusebius is to be corrected at this point by Moses Chorenensis (Rinck, ibid. p. 18). The Greek reads Abdon ton tou =Abdou podagran exonta.
217 This is probably the earliest distinct and formal statement of the descent into Hades; but no special stress is laid upon it as a new doctrine, and it is stated so much as a matter of course as to show that it was commonly accepted at Edessa at the time of the writing of these records, that is certainly as early as the third century. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, &c., all witness to the belief of the Church in this doctrine, though it did not form an article in any of the older creeds, and appeared in the East first in certain Arian confessions at about 360 a.d. In the West it appeared first in the Aquileian creed, from which it was transferred to the Apostles' creed in the fifth century or later.The doctrine is stated in a very fantastic shape in the Gospel of Nicodemus, part II. (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Am. ed. VIII. p. 435sq.), which is based upon an apocryphal gospel of the second century, according to Tischendorf. In it the descent of Christ into Hades and his ascent with a great multitude are dwelt upon at length. Compare Pearson, On the Creed, p. 340 sq.; Schaff's Creeds of Christendom, I. p. 46; and especially, Plumptre's Spirits in Prison, p. 77 sq.
218 Compare the Gospel of Nicodemus, II. 5.
219 katabaj gar monoj sunhgeiren pollouj, eiq= outwj anebh rpoj ton patera autou. other mss. read katebh monoj, anebh de meta pollou oxlou proj ton patera autou. Rufinus translates Qui descendit quidem solus, ascendit autem cum grandi multitudine ad patrem suum. Compare the words of Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. IV. 11): kathlqen eij ta kataxqonia, ina kakeiqen lutrwshtai touj dikaiouj, "He descended into the depths, that he might ransom thence the just."
220 According to the Chronicle of Eusebius (ed. Schoene, II. p. 116) the Edessenes dated their era from the year of Abraham 1706 (b.c. 310), which corresponded with the second year of the one hundred and seventeenth Olympiad (or, according to the Armenian, to the third year of the same Olympiad), the time when Seleucus Nicanor began to rule in Syria. According to this reckoning the 340th year of the Edessenes would correspond with the year of Abraham 2046, the reign of Tiberius 16 (a.d. 30); that is, the second year of the two hundred and second Olympiad (or, according to the Armenian, the third year of the same). According to the Chronicle of Eusebius, Jesus was crucified in the nineteenth year of Tiberius (year of Abraham 2048 = a.d. 32), according to Jerome's version in the eighteenth year (year of Abraham 2047 = a.d. 31). Thus, as compared with these authorities, the 340th year of the Edessenes falls too early. But Tertullian, Lactantius, Augustine, and others put Christ's death in 783 U.C., that is in 30 a.d., and this corresponds with the Edessene reckoning as given by Eusebius.
221 See note 6.
1 See Acts i. 23-26.
2 Bk. I. chap. 12, §2.
3 The view that the Seven were deacons appears first in Irenaeus (adv. Haer. I. 26. 3; III. 12. 10; IV. 15. I), then in Cyprian (Ep. 64. 3), and was the commonly accepted opinion of the Roman Church in the third century (for, while they had forty-six presbyters, they had only seven deacons; see below, Bk. VI. chap. 43), and has been ever since almost universally accepted. In favor of the identification are urged this early and unanimous tradition, the similarity of the duties assigned to the Seven and to later deacons, and the use of the words diakonia and diakonein in connection with the "Seven" in Acts vi. It must be remarked, however, that ancient tradition is not unanimously in favor of the identification, for Chrysosram (Homily XIV. on Acts) denies it; still further, the functions of the Seven and of later deacons were not identical, for the former were put in charge of the financial affairs of the Jerusalem church, while the latter acted simply as bishops' assistants. In fact, it was the bishop of the second century, not the deacon, that had charge of the church finances. And finally, no weight can be laid upon the use of the terms diakonein and diakonia in connection with the Seven, for these words are used always in a general, never in an official sense in other parts of the Acts and of the New Testament, and, what is still more decisive, the same word (diakonia) is used in the same passage in connection with the apostles; the Seven are "to serve tables" (diakonein taij trapezaij,) the apostles are to give themselves to "the service of the word" (diakonia tou logou.) There is just as much reason, therefore, on linguistic grounds, for calling the apostles "deacons" as for giving that name to the Seven. On the other hand, against the opinion that the Seven were deacons, are to be urged the facts that they are never called "deacons" by Luke or by any other New Testament writer; that we are nowhere told, in the New Testament or out of it, that there were deacons in the Jerusalem church, although Luke had many opportunities to call the Seven "deacons" if he had considered them such; and finally, that according to Epiphanius (Haer. XXX. 18), the Ebionitic churches of Palestine in his time had only presbyters and Archisynagogi (chiefs of the synagogue). These Ebionites were the Jewish Christian reactionaries who refused to advance with the Church catholic in its normal development; it is therefore at least significant that there were no deacons among them in the fourth century.
In view of these considerations I feel compelled to doubt the traditional identification, although it is accepted without dissent by almost all scholars (cf. e.g. Lightfoot's article on The Christian Ministry in his Commentary on Philippians). There remain but two possibilities: either the Seven constituted a merely temporary committee (as held by Chrysostom, and in modern times, among others, by Vitringa, in his celebrated work on the Synagogue, and by Stanley in his Essays on the Apostolic Age); or they were the originals of permanent officers in the Church, other than deacons. The former alternative is possible, but the emphasis which Luke lays upon the appointment is against it, as also the fact that the very duties which these men were chosen to perform were such as would increase rather than diminish with the growth of the Church, and such as would therefore demand the creation of a new and similar committee if the old were not continued.
In favor of the second alternative there is, it seems to me, much to be said. The limits of this note forbid a full discussion of the subject. But it may be urged: First, that we find in the Acts frequent mention of a body of men in the Jerusalem church known as "elders." Of the appointment of these elders we have no account, and yet it is clear that they cannot have been in existence when the apostles proposed the appointment of the Seven. Secondly, although the Seven were such prominent and influential men, they are not once mentioned as a body in the subsequent chapters of the Acts, while, whenever we should expect to find them referred to with the apostles, it is always the "elders" that are mentioned. Finally, when the elders appear for the first time (Acts xi. 30), we find them entrusted with the same duties which the Seven were originally appointed to perform: they receive the alms sent by the church of Antioch. It is certainly, to say the least, a very natural conclusion that these "elders" occupy the office of whose institution we read in Acts vi.
Against this identification of the Seven with the elders of the Jerusalem church it might be urged: First, that Luke does not call them elders. But it is quite possible that they were not called by that name at first, and yet later acquired it; and in that case, in referring to them in later times, people would naturally call the first appointed "the Seven," to distinguish them from their successors, "the elders,"-the well-known and frequently mentioned officers whose number may well have been increased as the church grew. It is thus easier to account for Luke's omission of the name "elder," than it would be to account for his omission of the name "deacon," if they were deacons. In the second place, it might be objected that the duties which the Seven were appointed to perform were not commensurate with those which fell to the lot of the elders as known to us. This objection, however, loses its weight when we realize that the same kind of a development went on in connection with the bishop, as has been most clearly pointed out by Hatch in his Organization of the Early Christian Churches, and by Harnack in his translation of that work and in his edition of the Teaching of the Apostles. Moreover, in the case of the Seven, who were evidently the chiefest men in the Jerusalem church after the apostles, and at the same time were "full of the Spirit," it was very natural that, as the apostles gradually scattered, the successors of these Seven should have committed to them other duties besides the purely financial ones.
The theory presented in this note is not a novel one. It was suggested first by Böhmer (in his Diss. Juris eccles.), who was followed by Ritschl (in his Entstehung der all-kath. Kirche), and has been accepted in a somewhat modified form by Lange (in his Apostolisches Zeitalter), and by Lechler (in his Apost. und Nachapost. Zeitalter). Before learning that the theory had been proposed by others, I had myself adapted it and had embodied it in a more elaborate form in a paper read before a ministerial association in the spring of 1888. My confidence in its validity has of course been increased by the knowledge that it has been maintained by the eminent scholars referred to above.
4 See Acts vi. 1-6.
5 See Acts vii.
6 stefanoj, "a crown."
7 James is not called the "Just" in the New Testament, but Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius, chap. 23) says that he was called thus by all from the time of Christ, on account of his great piety, and it is by this name that he is known throughout history.
8 See above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 13.
9 Eusebius testimony is in favor of the half-brother theory; for had he considered James the son of Mary, he could not have spoken in this way.
10 Matt. i. 18.
11 On Clement's Hypotyposes, see Bk. VI. chap. 13, note 3. On Clement's life and writings, see Bk. V. chap. 11.
12 all Iakwbon ton dikaion episkopon twn Ierosolumwn elesqai,, as the majority of the mss. and editions read. Laemmer, followed by Heinichen, substitutes genesqai for elesqai on the authority oftwo important codices. The other reading, however, is as well, ifnot better, supported.
How soon after the ascension of Christ, James the Just assumeda leading position in the church of Jerusalem, we do not know.He undoubtedly became prominent very soon, as Paul in 37 (or40) a.d. sees him in addition to Peter on visiting Jerusalem. Butwe do not know of his having a position of leadership until theJerusalem Council in 51 (Acts xv. and Gal. ii.), where he is one of the three pillars, standing at least upon an equality in influence with Peter and John. But this very expression "three pillars of the Church" excludes the supposition that he was bishop of the Church in the modern sense of the term-he was only one of the rulers of the Church. Indeed, we have abundant evidence from other sources that the monarchical episcopacy was nowhere known at that early age. It was the custom of all writers of the second century and later to throw back into the apostolic age their own church organization, and hence we hear of bishops appointed by the apostles in various churches where we know that the episcopacy was a second century growth.
13 See above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 3.
14 Clement evidently identifies James, the brother of the Lord, with James, the son of Alphaeus (compare the words just above: "These delivered it to the rest of the apostles," in which the word "apostles," on account of the "Seventy" just following, seems to be used in a narrow sense, and therefore this lames to be one of the Twelve), and he is thus cited as a witness to the cousin hypothesis (see above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 13). Papias, too, in a fragment given by Routh (Rel. Sac. I. p. 16) identifies the two. But Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius in chap. 23) expressly states that there were many of this name, and that he was therefore called James the Just to distinguish him from others. Eusebius quotes this passage of Clement with apparently no suspicion that it contradicts his own opinion in regard to the relationship of James to Christ. The contradiction, indeed, appears only upon careful examination.
15 Josephus (Ant. XX. 9. 1) says he was stoned to death. The account of Clement agrees with that of Hegesippus quoted by Eusesebius in chap. 23, below, which see.
16 James, the son of Zebedee, who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I., 44 a.d. See Acts xii. 2, and Bk. II. chap. 9 below.
17 Gal. i. 19.
18 See above, Bk. I. chap. 13.
19 The date of the introduction of Christianity into Edessa is not known (see above, Bk. I. chap. 13, notes 1 and 3) but it was the seat of a bishop in the third century, and in Eusebius' time was filled with magnificent churches and monasteries.
20 See Acts viii. 1.
21 See Acts viii. 3.
22 See Acts xi. 19.
23 See Acts viii. 5.
24 See Acts viii. 9 sqq. Upon Simon, see chap. 13, note 3.
25 thn megalhn dunamin tou qeou. Compare Acts viii. 10, which has h dunamij tou qeou h kaloumenh. According to Irenaeus (I. 23. 1) he was called "the loftiest of all powers, i.e. the one who is father over all things" (sublissimam virtutem, hoc est, enm qui sit nuper omnia Pater); according to Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 26 (see below, chap. 13), ton prwton qeon; according to the Clementine Homilies (II. 22) he wished to be called "a certain supreme power of God" (anwtath tij dunamij.) According to the Clementine Recognitions (II. 7) he was called the "Standing one" (hinc ergo Stans appellatur).
26 Eusebius here utters the universal belief of the early Church, which from the subsequent career of Simon, who was considered the founder of all heresies, and the great arch-heretic himself, read back into his very conversion the hypocrisy for which he was afterward distinguished in Church history. The account of the Acts does not say that his belief was hypocritical, and leaves it to be implied (if it be implied at all) only from his subsequent conduct in endeavoring to purchase the gift of God with money.
27 Eusebius may refer here to the Simonians, an heretical sect (mentioned by Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and others), which recognized him as its founder and leader (though they originated probably at a later date), and even looked upon him as a God. They were exceedingly licentious and immoral. Their teachings gradually assumed a decidedly Gnostic character, and Simon came to be looked upon as the father of all Gnostics (compare Irenaeus, I. 27. 4), and hence of heretics in general, and as himself the archheretic. Eusebius, therefore, perhaps refers in this place simply to the Gnostics, or to the heretics in general.
28 Another instance of the external and artificial conception of heresy which Eusebius held in common with his age.
29 Acts viii. tells of no punishment which befell Simon further than the rebuke of Peter which Hippolytus (Phil. vi. 15) calls a curse, and which as such may have been regarded by Eusebius as a deserved punishment, its effect clinging to him, and finally bringing him to destruction (see below, chap. 14, note 8).
30 Acts viii. 26 sqq. This queen was Candace, according to the Biblical account; but Candace was the name, not of an individual, but of a dynasty of queens who ruled in Meroë, an island formed by two branches of the Nile, south of Egypt. See Pliny, H. N. VI. 35 (Delphin edition); Dion Cassius, LIV. 5; and Strabo, XVII. 1. 54 (Müller's edit., Paris, 1877).
31 Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III. 12. 8) says that this Eunuch returned to Ethiopia and preached there. But by no one else, so far as I know, is the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia traced back to him. The first certain knowledge we have of the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia is in the fourth century, under Frumentius and Aedesius, of whom Rufinus, I. 9, gives the original account; and yet it is probable that Christianity existed there long before this time. Compare Neander's Kirchengeschichte, I. p. 46. See also H. R. Reynolds' article upon the "Ethiopian Church" in Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography, II. 232 sqq.
32 Psa. xviii. 31.
33 Acts ix. 15.
34 Gal. i. 1.
35 See Acts ix. 3 sqq.; Acts xxii. 6 sqq.; Acts xxvi. 12 sqq.; Gal. i. 16; 1 Cor. xv. 8-10.
36 That Pilate made an official report to Tiberius is stated also by Tertullian (Apol. 21), and is in itself quite probable. Justin Mar-tyr (Apol. I. 35 and Apol. I. 48) mentions certain Acts of Pilate as well known in his day, but the so-called Acts of Pilate which are still extant in various forms are spurious, and belong to a much later period. They are very fanciful and curious. The most important of these Acts is that which is commonly known under the title of the Gospel of Nicodemus. There are also extant numerous spurious epistles of Pilate addressed to Herod, to Tiberius, to Claudius, &c. The extant Acts and Epistles are collected in Tischendorf's Evang. Apoc., and most of them are translated by Cowper in his Apocryphal Gospels. See also the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Am. ed., VIII. p. 416 sqq. Compare the excellent article of Lipsius upon the Apocryphal Gospels in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. II. p. 707 sqq., also the Prolegomena of Tischendorf, p. lxii sqq.
37 The existing Report of Pilate (translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, ibid. p. 460, 461) answers well to Eusebius' description, containing as it does a detailed account of Christ's miracles and of his resurrection. According to Tischendorf, however, it is in its present form of a much later date, but at the same time is very likely based upon the form which Eusebius saw, and has been changed by interpolations and additions. See the Prolegomena of Tischendorf referred to in the previous note.
38 See below, note 12.