The apocryphal legend of Abgar in AElfric's Lives of Saints.
He haede on ge-axod be daes haelendes wundrum and sende da ardlice pis aerendgewrit him to: Abgarus gret eadmodlice pone godan haelend pe becom to mannum mid iudeiscum folce. Ic haebbe gehyred be de hu du gehaelst da untruman blinde and healte and bedrydan araest hreoflige bu geclaensast and pa unclaenan gastas afligst of wodum mannum and awrecst da deadan. Nu cwaed ic on minum mode paet pu eart aelmihtig god odde godes sunu de sylf come to mannum paet du das wundra wyrce and ic wolde de biddan paet du ge-medemige pe sylfne paet pu sidige to me and mine untrumnysse gehaele for dan pe ic eom yfele gehaefd. Me is eac gesaed ioaet ba iudeiscan syrwiad and runiad him betwynan hu hi pe beraedan magon and ic haebbe ane burh pe unc barn genihtsumad. (58-60)
[He had asked about our Savior's miracles and hastily sent this letter to him: 'Abgar humbly greets the good Savior who came to humankind among the Jewish people. I have heard about you--how you heal the sick, the blind, and the lame, and raise the bedridden; you make lepers clean, and you drive out evil spirits from possessed people and raise the dead. Now I said to myself that you must be Almighty God or the son of God who comes to humankind that you may produce such miracles. And I would ask you that you condescend to journey to me and heal my sickness because I am evilly afflicted. It is also told to me that the Jews plot and conspire among themselves about how they might betray you, and I have a city that is sufficient for us both"]
And he records Jesus' reply:
pa awrat se haelend him sylf bis gewrit and asende dam cynincge dus cwaedende him to: Beatus es qui credidisti in me cure ipse me non uideris. Scriptum est enim de me quia hii qui me uident, non credent in me et qui non uident me ipsi credent et uiuent. De eo autem quod scripsisti mihi ut ueniam ad te oportet me omnia propter quae missus sum hic explere et postea quam compleuero recipi me ad eum a quo missus sum. Cum ergo fuero assumptus mittam tibi aliquem ex discipulis meis ut curet aegritudinem tuam et uitam tibi atque his qui tecum sunt prestet. (60)
[Then the Savior himself wrote this letter and sent it to the king, thus saying to him: "Blessed are you who believes in me when you don't see me. For it is written about me that those who see me will not believe in me, and those who don't see me, they will believe and live. Concerning that about which you wrote to me--that I should visit you--it is proper for me to fulfill all those things for which I am sent here, and after I have completed them I will return to him who sent me. When I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples to cure your illness and give life to you and also those who are with you."]
AElfric follows the Latin text of Jesus' letter with his English translation of the same and in the following seventy-eight lines conveys Thaddeus's successful mission to Edessa, during which he heals Abgar, as promised by Jesus (lines 156-61), heals many others and preaches in Edessa (lines 161-81), refuses the king's offer of silver and gold as reward (lines 183-88), and establishes Christianity in the kingdom from that time forward (lines 189-91). The theme of kingly piety, of course, would seem to make the legend a more or less appropriate addition to the passio of Abdon and Sennes, two kings who defied the pagan emperor Decius, renounced the worldly trappings of their kingdoms, and preferred humiliation, torture, and execution to the shameful worship of heathen gods.
And parsimony, it would seem, restricts more elaborate theorizing of AElfric's use and arrangement of this text: the themes of the saints' passio and the Abgar legend are slightly similar, so this fact alone provides all of the reasoning the evidence will bear since AElfric himself makes no comment. But the simplest answer is often simply wrong when parsimony is mistaken for a verity of logic instead of a value of argumentation. In his edition of AElfric's Lives of Saints, Walter Skeat points out in his notes to the "Letter of Christ to Abgarus" appended to the passio of Abdon and Sennes that "it is not clear why this Letter is introduced at this place, as it belongs rather to the Life of St. Thomas" (448). As Skeat explains, the version of the passio of Saint Thomas in the later Legenda Aurea, a version similar to that known to AElfric, mentions the translation of Thomas's remains to Edessa. It is true that there appears to be no reason among AElfric's sources nor in later hagiographical traditions that explains his arrangement of this apocryphal text. If we accept that AElfric used and positioned this popular but conflicted medieval text as he does due simply to its slight thematic similarity to the preceding passio, then we forgo the opportunity to explore the matter any further and, more troublingly, must also accept either that AElfric was ignorant of this famous text's problematic reception in the early Middle Ages (which I elaborate on below) or that he was indifferent to the text's problematic reception, two possibilities that I think are rather out of tune with AElfric's careful direction of his writings.
I wish to propose an alternative explanation to Skeat's observation that does not appeal to the unsatisfactory conclusions that AElfric was uninformed about or uninterested in the sources, uses, and reception of a text of questionable reputation. Among the non-hagiographical materials in his Lives of Saints collection, AElfric makes what would seem at first unselfconscious use of this apocryphal text that encouraged some practices condemned by the Church and therefore likely occasioned some tensions among those in the Church's intellectual elite in the early Middle Ages. This is rather curious since AElfric, as everyone knows, manifests in many of his remarks throughout his writings a deep concern with orthodoxy, a tremendous respect for the sanction of authorities, and an abiding interest in the suitability of the texts and narratives provided to ill-equipped laity? AElfric's attitude toward the apocrypha has been a subject of keen interest to scholars precisely because his many prefaces and frequent comments so often address questions of the authority, authenticity, and appropriateness of his writings and of the sources from which they derive? But AElfric is silent on the backgrounds and on the uses of the letter of Jesus to King Abgar of Edessa, a text that, while tremendously popular and widely circulated, was quite possibly suspect in certain ways that we might have predicted its unsuitability for AElfric's collection of saints' lives. Not only was the text condemned by the Decretum Pseudo-Gelasianum, but the letter of Jesus to Abgar also inspired its widespread apotropaic use as an amuletic text thought to convey to its bearer protections effected by the authentic written words of Christ, in spite of the Church's repeated efforts to stamp out the use of amuletic texts among clergy and laity alike. So this study attempts to explain the arrangement of this text, somewhat off-handedly queried by Skeat, by demonstrating that its background, its conflicted history, and its uses in the early Middle Ages likely conditioned AElfric's reception of the text. Though AElfric's unique positioning of the text may seem only a barely noticeable deviation, and therefore one requiring little exploration, his arrangement of the text and his conspicuous silence on the history and backgrounds of the text conspire to suggest the possibility that AElfric carefully managed his inclusion of it in his Lives of Saints.
An examination of the backgrounds and contexts of these two letters, but most especially the letter of Jesus to Abgar, results in questions not simply about their arrangement in AElfric's Lives of Saints but about his use of these texts. The letters and the legend of King Abgar of Edessa are first recorded in Eusebius's fourth-century Greek history of the early church and were transmitted to the Latin West in Rufinus's fifth-century translation (4) AElfric's Old English version of Abgar's letter is a word-for-word translation of the text in Rufinus, (5) and his accompanying Latin recension of Jesus' letter is very nearly identical to that in Rufinus. (6) AElfric knew Rufinus very well and made extensive use of his Historia ecclesiastica in a number of his writings. (7) At first glance, this would appear to make any questions about AElfric's use of the text of the letters a rather open-and-shut matter: AElfric simply directly borrowed a text about the piety of an ancient king from one of his favorite sources in relating the passio of the martyr-kings Abdon and Sennes in his Lives of Saints. But the apparent straightforwardness of the relationship between AElfric's text and Rufinus overlooks the extensive textual and cultural contexts of Jesus' letter to Abgar from its early Christian origins to its medieval use. The first fact to consider is that copies of the letters began to circulate independently of their narrative contexts in Eusebius and Rufinus from a very early date. (8) In fact, the text of Jesus' letter to Abgar was copied, circulated, and collected by the pious as a material object of devotion--copies survive from throughout the late antique and medieval Christian world. (9) Although Jesus' letter to Abgar cannot be dated to a period earlier than the writing of the Gospels, since it borrows from Gospel texts, and there is some evidence to suggest that it cannot have been earlier than the third century, (10) many in the Middle Ages obviously believed the letter to be the authentic written words of Jesus, which therefore formed a powerful material link in a chain of copies leading back to the original handwritten note of Christ.
In spite of the vast remove of medieval copies of Jesus' letter from any presumed "original" the linkage of the material object of the letter with the person of Christ resulted in its collection as an object of devotion not unlike relics associated with Jesus and with the cult of saints. A primary reason why the text was collected was widespread belief that possession of the letter conferred apotropaic benefits, and the later amuletic uses of the letter apparently descend from some very early legends of its use. A fifth-century Syriac document, the Doctrine of Addai, relates the conversion of Edessa and claims that Jesus' letter was placed above the city's gate to repel a Persian attack. (11) Egeria records the bishop of Edessa's remarks on how King Abgar had repelled a Persian invasion by holding the letter aloft, thereby darkening the skies and confusing his enemies, and she adds that the letter often provided such protection for the city. (12) The letter came to be especially associated with its power to protect travelers and was used by many as a textual amulet to be worn on the body. (13)
We can be certain that the Anglo-Saxons knew of Jesus' letter to Abgar independent of its place in Rufinus and that they were well acquainted with the text's apotropaic traditions. British Library, Royal 2.A.xx, is a late eighth- or early ninth-century book of private devotions that preserves a version of the letter that explicitly describes the kinds of protections afforded to its bearer. (14) The Royal version of the letter closely follows the text of Rufinus but adds the following certification of its use as an apotropaic 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 ate siue a grandine siue tonitrua non noceberis et ab omni periculo liberaueris, siue in mare siue in terra siue in die siue in nocte siue in locis obscures. Si quis hanc epistolam secure habuerit secures ambulet in pace. Amen.
[and you will be saved; as it is written, whoever believes in me will be saved, whether in your home or in your city or in any place, none of your enemies will have dominion, and you need not fear the treacheries of the devil and the curses of your enemies will be broken, and all your enemies will be driven away from you. Whether in hail or thunder, you will not be injured, and you will be free from all dangers, whether on sea or on land whether in day or in night, or in strange places, whoever has this letter with him will go about safely m peace. Amen.] (15)
Belief in the "magical efficacy" of written words was a potent phenomenon in medieval Europe among the clergy and the laity, and the exclusivity of extremely limited literacy may well have added to the miraculous and otherworldly associations with amuletic texts among the laity rather than acting as a drag on their popularity and use. (16) The Anglo-Saxons certainly left behind evidence of a rather rich tradition of magical and efficacious texts in the form of, for example, charms, prayers, exorcisms, curses, and medicinal recipes, so the Royal version of the letter certainly accords with the common belief in the sympathetic properties of certain utterances. (17) Another book of private devotions, the fragmentary British Library, Harley 7653, which is closely related to the Royal manuscript, (18) follows a litany with "Si quis hanc scripturam secum habuerit non timebit a timore nocturno siue meridiano," a straightforward endorsement of the belief that possession of certain scripturae could impart practical protections that mirrors the final line of the letter in the Royal manuscript, as quoted above. (19) An eleventh-century manuscript, British Library, Cotton Galba A.xiv, also preserves a copy of the letter in a composite private book that was first bound with blank gatherings, which may suggest that Jesus' letter to Abgar was selected for inclusion on the basis of its usefulness in a book designed to record texts of personal interest to its reader. (20) The version of the letter in the Galba manuscript does not include the addition describing the letter's apotropaic properties found in the Royal version, but it does follow the ending from Rufinus, "et vitam tibi atque his qui tecum sunt praestet," with "saluus eris, sicut scriptum est, qui credit saluus erit," which is, of course, very similar to the first line of the addition in the Royal version. And Bede alludes to the piety and holiness of Abgar several times in his works, though not specifically to the legend's most famous component--the exchange of correspondence and the miraculous powers of Jesus' letter. (21) What all of this seems to point to is an extensive context for knowledge of the legend of Abgar and of Jesus' letter to Abgar beyond the text of Rufinus from at least the eighth century to the mid-eleventh century in Anglo-Saxon England. Given the contingent survival of fragments of Anglo-Saxon culture to the present, the relatively full and diachronically wide evidence for knowledge of the legend of Abgar suggests the possibility of its particularly rich development and use among the Anglo-Saxons, so it is therefore quite likely that when AElfric decided to provide the texts of both letters in his version of the legend included in his Lives of Saints collection he was responding to a context for their knowledge and use that was greater than simply his reading of Rufinus.
But against this background of the wide circulation and popularity of the legend and of copies of Jesus' letter to Abgar as an amuletic text, there also likely existed tensions surrounding the text's appropriateness and the use of textual amulets generally. First, as mentioned at the outset, the Decretum Pseudo-Gelasianum condemns both letters as "apocrypha:" (22) In spite of this text's spurious attribution to Pope Gelasius and probable sixth-century date, it nevertheless exerted some influence over the reception of the texts identified as authoritative and those identified as apocryphal, and it probably represents something of tradition in Rome, even though some of the titles on its list of apocrypha were widely copied and read in the Middle Ages--the document was one of many, sometimes competing, factors dictating appropriate texts in the culture of medieval reading and writing. (23)With regard to the legend of Abgar, the Decretum is itself quite conflicted: the works of Rufinus and Eusebius are recommended for their authority, even as both are slightly criticized--Rufinus for Jerome's accusation of "arbitrii libertate" and Eusebius for his defense of Origen--although the letters of Jesus and Abgar are expressly condemned as apocrypha. (24) The Decretum likely influenced AElfric's selectivity toward some texts. Mary Clayton has demonstrated that AElfric's expression of dislike for narratives on the birth of the Virgin, found in his brief comments "De Sancta Maria" in the Second Series of Catholic Homilies, may well derive from the Decretum's condemnation of "Liber de nativitate salvatoris et de Maria vel obstetrice" since such narratives nevertheless circulated in Reform centers, including Winchester. (25) Joyce Hill suggests that AElfric's assertion in his Lives of Saints collection that "Gedwolmen awriton gedwyld on heora bocum be pam halgan were de is gehaten georius" refers to versions of the passio of St. George condemned as apocryphal in the Decretum and that the Decretum served AElfric as an "arbiter of orthodoxy" in his sorting through of more or less sober versions of the narrative known to him. (26) And it must be pointed out, too, that it seems impossible that AElfric could not have been quite familiar with the Decretum, which Helmut Gneuss indicates is extant in six Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, including one that is closely associated with the Benedictine Reform movement in Anglo-Saxon England. (27) So at the same time that AElfric is no doubt aware of the popularity and use of Jesus' letter to Abgar he is also no doubt alert to its proscription in a widely available authoritarian list of acceptable and unacceptable texts that he seems to have made some use of in forming his attitudes toward other apocryphal works.
Beyond the condemnation of the Decretum, Skemer points out that "ecclesiastical authorities from Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis (789) to Hugh of St. Victor (10967-1141)" declared Jesus' letter to Abgar false (28) Attempts to discredit the authenticity of Jesus' letter to Abgar in the Middle Ages may reflect misgivings derived from the Gospel narratives of the life of Christ. Not only do the Gospel narratives of Jesus' life make no mention of any writings left by him, but the totality of his earthly mission was conducted in the form of peripatetic preaching. (29) Occasional ecclesiastical reservations about the text may acknowledge a marked absence of corroboration in the Gospels and other narratives for anything remotely similar to Jesus' legendary correspondence with Abgar. (30) Nevertheless, many in the Middle Ages regarded the text of Jesus' letter to Abgar as authentic, and ecclesiastical proscriptions against it likely stem in part, too, from its amuletic use and belief in its apotropaic effect (as explained above) among clergy and laity since warnings and condemnations of textual amulets and efficacious words go back to the Church Fathers. Augustine rejected textual amulets (ligaturae) and other superstitious practices involving writing, like characteres, as intercourse with demons. (31) Many Church authorities regarded textual amulets and other superstitious uses of writing to be of a piece with other pagan survivals of magical arts, like forms of divination, and therefore artes dernonicae. Proscriptions against written lot divination also sometimes expressly forbade the use of various sortes sacrae, so while such practices were widespread, there were also authoritative statements condemning the use of written texts, even sacred ones, in casting lots. (32) In his sermons, Caesarius of Arles preached against "amulets composed of organic material (herbs, amber), or written spells (caracteres) that were suspended from the body or bound to it". (33) Martin of Braga's De correctione rusticorum exhorts the pious to remember the incantationem sanctam, the Credo, spoken at one's baptism and to abandon the diabolicas incantationes proffered by magicians and witches as efficacious words. (34) In short, the total context of Jesus' letter to Abgar suggests a conflicted reception in the early Middle Ages that attracted direct commentary on its authenticity and substantial indirect commentary on the amuletic uses of the text. Its popularity in the Middle Ages notwithstanding, the reception history of Jesus' letter to Abgar might have provided reason for circumspection for the meticulously orthodox, such as AElfric.
Against this sketch of the text's backgrounds and reception, let us examine AElfric's sources for his Lives of Saints and what antecedents for the use of the Abgar legend in hagiographical writings they may provide. The first clue that AElfric may be treating his subject delicately comes, as I suggested at the outset, from his positioning of the Abgar legend at the end of the passio of Abdon and Sennes. There appears to be no precedent for this arrangement. (35) AElfric's likely sources in the Cotton-Corpus legendary do not indicate any connection of the texts there, although he may have drawn on a different tradition of the passio. (36) It must be regarded as extremely unlikely that AElfric combined the two narratives on the model of some version unknown to us either before or after his time. In fact, the combination of the legend of Abgar with a saintly narrative that AElfric almost certainly would have been familiar with is also one that he seems to have avoided reproducing. Though his reasoning was rather anachronistic, Skeat was correct that the letter would have made more sense with the passio of Thomas, not strictly because of the evidence of the later Legenda Aurea but because of a long, earlier tradition that connected narratives of the martyrdom of the apostle Thomas to the Abgar legend through the translation of the saint's remains to Edessa. (It is worth noting here, too, that the Legenda Aurea records the legend and the text of both letters in the passio of Simon and Jude, an apparently straightforward connection of the story of the martyrdom of Jude, also called Thaddeus, with his earlier journey to Edessa that fulfilled Jesus' promise in his letter to Abgar. (37) But AElfric's passio of Simon and Jude in his Second Series of Catholic Homilies says nothing at all about the Abgar legend and probably derives from a different tradition from that represented by the version in the Legenda Aurea. (38) A detail related in Rufinus and preserved by AElfric may confirm this: Rufinus and AElfric after him make clear that the Thaddeus who embarks upon Jesus' mission to Abgar was one of the seventy, not one of the twelve disciples as the Legenda Aurea says. (39) And, regardless, the evidence of the Cotton-Corpus legendary in no way indicates that the combination of the saints' passio with the Abgar legend would have been known to AElfric, (40) so we can dismiss later traditions that combined the legend with the passio of Simon and Jude as irrelevant to traditions that AElfric would have known.)
But what does the passio of Thomas say about the Abgar legend, and, if this was known to AElfric, as seems likely, why might he have chosen to separate the two narratives? Rufinus states that Thomas sent Thaddeus to Edessa, and tradition asserted that Thomas's remains were brought to Edessa after his martyrdom in the east. It is a tradition that AElfric seems somewhat reluctant to acknowledge fully, saying only that "se godes apostol weard syddan geferod to syrian lande mid micelre arwurdnysse bam aelmihtigan to lofe se pe on ecnysse rixad riclice mihtig" [The apostle of God was carried to Syrian land afterwards with great honor to the praise of the Almighty who reigns in eternity gloriously mighty] (424). AElfric's nondescript claim that Thomas's remains were taken "to syrian lande" is an echo of the more detailed endings to the passio of Thomas found elsewhere. Legends about the apostle Thomas seem to have been in wide circulation from at least as early as the fourth century and formed one-fifth of the earliest and most influential apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. (41) The Greek Acta Thomae may have been based on a Syrian original that was the text's first composition in, perhaps, the third century. (42) Later Latin recensions of the Greek Acta resulted in two interrelated strains of Thomas narratives in the early medieval West. De miraculis beati Thomae apostoli, perhaps the earlier of these, may be a redaction of one of the major complexes of Greek Thomas Acta. (43) This text was later adapted and incorporated as book nine in the Pseudo-Abdias collection Historia Certaminis Apostolici. (44) The Passio sancti Thomae apostoli represents a slightly different iteration of available Thomas materials and naturally constitutes the immediate source for the martyr dom of Thomas in the Latin West. The similarities of the De miraculis and Passio texts make for a complicated and uncertain textual history, but they do confirm that narratives of Thomas the Apostle were firmly linked to the Abgar legend in their various Latin redactions because both make direct reference to Abgar, Edessa, and, most importantly, to Jesus' famous letter to the king. De miraculis notes in its beginning that
[Thomas] post dominicae gloriam ascensionis Tatheum, unum ex septuaginta discipulis, ad Abgarum regem Edissenae civitatis transmisit ut eum ab infirmitate curaret iuxta verbum quod ei a domino scriptum est. Quod Tatheus ambienter implevit ita ut veniens imposito regi crucis signaculo ab omni eum languore sanaret.
[After the glory of the Lord's ascension, Thomas sent Thaddeus, one of the seventy disciples, to Abgar, king of the city of Edessa, so that he might cure him of illness in accordance with the word that was written to him by the Lord. Thaddeus eagerly fulfilled this in such a manner that, having made the sign of the cross over the king, he cured him from all sickness.] (45)
And the text of the Passio concludes with the assertion that the city of Edessa was the location of Thomas's shrine and makes reference to the city's reputation as a place free of certain iniquities and from fears of invasion due to the blessings conferred by its most famous relic, Jesus' letter to Abgar:
Sicque factum est ut translatum esset de India corpus apostoli et positum in civitate Edissa in locello argenteo quod pendit ex catenis argenteis. In qua civitate nullus haereticus potest vivere, nullus Iudaeus, nullus idolorum cultor. Sed nec barbari aliquando eam invadere potuerunt ex quo Abgarus rex eiusdem civitatis meruit epistolam scriptam manu salvatoris accipere. Hanc denique epistolam legit infans baptizatus stans super portam civitatis scedulam manu salvatoris scriptam si quando gens aliqua venerit contra civitatem et eadem die qua lecta fuerit aut placantur barbari aut fugantur eminati tam salvatoris scriptis quam orationihus sancti Thomae apostoli sive Didymi, qui latus domini contingens dixit: "Tu es dominus meus et deus meus?
[And so it was done that the body of the apostle was carried from India and placed in a silver casket which hung from silver chains. In that city, neither heretic nor Jew nor worshipper of idols could live, but neither could foreigners ever invade it on account of King Abgar of the same city was worthy to receive a letter written by the hand of the savior. If ever a foreign people move against the city, a baptized child standing above the gate of the city reads the letter written by the hand of the savior, [and], that same day on which the letter was read, the threatening hostiles were either pacified or put to flight both by the writings of the savior and by the prayers to the holy apostle Thomas (or Didymus), who, touching the side of the Lord said, "You are my Lord and my God."] (46)
The translation of Thomas's remains to Edessa in the apostle's Passio naturally triggered reference to the story for which the city was most well known, but both of these texts demonstrate that narratives of Thomas and the legend of Jesus' letter to Abgar were firmly linked together from their earliest circulation in the Latin West. (47)
Clearly, AElfric's source for his Old English martyrdom of St. Thomas was a version very similar to the Passio quoted above. George Loomis pointed out that comparison of the De miraculis and Passio texts indicated AElfric must have used as his source the latter, and Zettel says, "significantly, it is this later recension of the St. Thomas legend (BHL 8136) that is preserved in the Cotton-Corpus collection." (48) None of the manuscripts of the first recension of the Cotton-Corpus legendary preserves the passio of Thomas, but two later manuscripts, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 354 (168v-176r), and Hereford, Cathedral Library, P.7.vi (195r-201v), preserve versions of the passio that likely descend from the legendary drawn on by AElfric for his Lives of Saints. Bodley 354, a manuscript of the second half of the twelfth century from western England, forms the second recension of the Cotton-Corpus legendary and records a version of the passio of Thomas that concludes with the reference to Abgar and to Jesus' letter. The Hereford manuscript, from the mid-twelfth century, "is part of a later and expanded version of the Cotton-Corpus collection" but which nevertheless shares many texts with earlier copies of the legendary. (49) Crucially, both of the two earliest versions of the passio of Thomas belonging to the tradition of a legendary collection from England used by AElfric as his primary source for his Lives of Saints include the closing commentary on the fame of the city of Edessa and the apotropaic use of its treasured relic:
OXFORD, BODLEIAN LIBRARY, BODLEY
Sicque factum est ut translatum esset de india corpus apostoli et positum in ciuitate edissa in locello argenteo [quod] pendet ex cathenis argenteis. In [qua] ciuitate nullus hereticus potest ... ire, nullus iudeus, nullus ido[lorum] cultor. Sed nec barbari earn [ali]quando inuadere potuerunt ex quo abrugus rex eiusdem ciuitatis meruit epistolam scriptam manu salvatoris accipere. Hanc denique epistolam legit infans baptizatus stans supra portam ciuitatis scedulam manu salvatoris scriptam si quando aliqua gens uenerit contra ciuitatem eadem die qua lecta fuerit aut placantur barbari aut fugantur eliminati tam salvatoris scriptis quam orationibus sancti Thomae apostoli siue didimi qui latus domini contingens dixit Tu es dominus deus meus cui agamus omnes gratias credentes per hanc gratiarum actionem nos tam indulgentiam consequi peccator quam ad apostolorum gaudia peruenire.
HEREFORD, CATHEDRAL LIBRARY,
Sicque factum est ut translatum esset de india corpus apostoli et positum in ciuitate edissa in locello argenteo quod pendet ex catenis argenteis. In qua ciuitate nullus hereticus potest uiuere nullus iudeus nullus idolorum cultor sed nec barbari eam aliquando inuadere potuerunt ex quo abgarus rex eiusdem ciuitatis meruit epistolam scriptam manu salvatoris accipere. Hanc denique epistolam legit infans aliquis baptizatus stans supra portam ciuitatis manu salvatoris scriptam si quando gens aliqua uenerit contra ciuitatem. Et eadem die qua lecta fuerit ipsa epsitolam aut placantur babari aut fugantur eliminati tam orationibus sancti Thome apostoli quam uirtute epistolae salvatoris nostri ihu xpi cui est cum deo patre et spiritu sancto honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
[From "Tu es dominus deus meus ...": You are the Lord my God to whom let us give thanks, believing that through the rendering of thanks we achieve the forgiveness of sins in the same way even as we reach the joy of the apostles.] (50)
[From "tam orationibus sancti ...": ... as much by the prayers to the holy apostle Thomas as by the virtue of the letter of our savior Jesus Christ to whom be honor and glory with God the father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.]" (51)
Perhaps Skeat was more right than he realized; not only would the Abgar legend have made more sense to Skeat appended to the passio of Thomas in AElfric's Lives of Saints, but such an arrangement would likely have been obvious to AElfric himself, as the saint's martyrdom preserved in manuscripts closely associated with AElfric's source texts appear to indicate. Both manuscript versions mention Edessa by name as the shrine of Thomas; both manuscript versions recall the legend of Abgar; and, crucially, both manuscript versions testify to the apotropaic powers of the epistola salvatoris to ward off invaders. AElfric obviously broke with his source material, but the question is "Why?" If indeed AElfric refrained from what very much seems like a natural organization of these materials that was strongly recommended by the content of his sources, it may well be that condemnation of efficacious texts prompted him to avoid the arrangement of the Abgar legend that would appear to be the most sensible one in all of his Lives of Saints collection since the version of the passio of Thomas known to AElfric explicitly describes the original letter's apotropaic power. And it was this version of the passio of Thomas that was widely circulated in the West. So what I am suggesting is that AElfric sanitized his retelling of the Abgar legend in part by divorcing it from the hagiographical narrative that indirectly endorses the letter's use as an amuletic text. And we know that AElfric was already suspicious of some Thomas narratives. As is well known, AElfric rejected the inclusion of a vita of St. Thomas in his Catholic Homilies, a collection in which several other apostolic lives appear, on the grounds that Augustine objected to an ungeleaflic (incredible) episode in the narrative in which the hand of a cupbearer who struck Thomas at a banquet is later returned to the banquet in a dog's mouth. (52) In fact, Augustine made no such objection to the episode but did propose that the work itself is dubious because it was not in the canon, and Godden suggests that AElfric uses Augustine's reservations about the whole of the narrative, rather dishonestly, to reject it on ethical grounds due to its seeming endorsement of vengeance. (53) Writing a few years later in his Lives of Saints, AElfric includes a Latin preface to his passio of Thomas that again includes description of his earlier rejection of the narrative but explains that he has nevertheless been persuaded to translate the work at the persistent request of his lay patron, AEthelweard, for whom the Lives of Saints collection was prepared. (54) If AElfric already harbored reservations about the passio of Thomas, as he states rather pointedly, he may have been particularly sensitive to the narratives abetment of the letter's magical efficacy. Therefore, a plausible explanation for the unexpected arrangement of the Abagr legend in AElfric's Lives of Saints is that he avoided following his sources on the grounds that the already questionable passio of Thomas as he knew it reinforced heterodox uses of the letter that he may have wished to contain, especially for lay readers. The advantage of this hypothesis is that it explains AElfric's unprecedented arrangement of his materials contra his sources without assuming that he was either ignorant of or indifferent to the conflicted reception of the Abgar legend in the early Middle Ages: it strains plausibility to deduce from AElfric's silence on his use of the text that he was unaware of its proscription in the Decretum, of its repeated condemnation in various ecclesiastical authorities, and of the amuletic uses of and apotropaic belief in Jesus' letter to Abgar, aspects of the text's reception related to more general practices that, while common, were nonetheless subject to close scrutiny and occasional condemnation as forbidden forms of Christian supernaturalism. It equally strains plausibility that AElfric was aware of these matters but chose to ignore them because of the text's very slight thematic similarity to the passio of Abdon and Sennes. The aggregate weight of the evidence begs us to consider the possibility that AElfric's silence is meaningful in ways that address the letter's contexts and reception, a possibility hidden from view by the cloak of simplicity.
We may also wonder why AElfric included the Abgar legend at all since he was no doubt aware of at least some of the negative commentary it had attracted in various ecclesiastical sources: if AElfric wished to avoid the possibility of perpetuating heterodox reading and supporting censured practice, why not simply avoid the Abgar legend altogether? Jesus' letter to Abgar was popular among ecclesiasts and laity, and it was widely copied and collected, in spite of its occasional proscription in authoritative sources. It is possible that AElfric's lay patrons, AEthelweard and AEthelmaer, prevailed on him to include this popular text just as AElfric tells us they did in the case of the passio of Thomas. It may be that, confronted with the requirement of satisfying his benefactors, AElfric sought to arrange these materials in a manner that minimized their connection through the magical efficacy of Jesus' letter to Abgar that was emphasized by his Latin sources. It certainly would have been quite straightforward for AElfric to conclude his passio of Thomas, after noting that the apostle's remains were taken "to syrian lande," by stating, "Nu we spraecon be syrian lande"--or something to that effect--and then providing his version of the Abgar legend. Bearing in mind (1) the condemnation of Jesus' letter to Abgar in the Decretum; (2) the proscription of apotropaic texts and some other forms of the magical uses of writing; (3) belief in the apotropaic effects of Jesus' letter to Abgar; and (4) the clear connection to the letter's apotropaic effects made in AElfric's Latin sources for his passio of Thomas, we may plausibly conclude that AElfric did not choose the patently obvious arrangement suggested by his Latin sources in part because he rejected the endorsement of the magical efficacy of Jesus' letter to Abgar that he found there and sought instead to distance the connection between these two texts as he reshaped them in the vernacular for lay readers.
(1) Walter W. Skeat, ed., AElfric's Lives of Saints (1881-1900; repr. in one vol., Oxford: EETS, 1966), 58. The entirety of AElfric's version of the Abgar legend is under the heading "Item Alia," 24b, lines 81-191 in Skeat's edition. All translations throughout, Old English and Latin, are my own. Subsequent citations are parenthetic.
(2) Too many scholars have productively commented on this aspect of AElfric's work to cite more than a couple of examples here, but see especially Malcolm Godden, "AElfric and the Vernacular Prose Tradition,' The Old English Homily and Its Backgrounds, ed. Paul E. Szarmach and Bernard F. Huppe (Albany: SUNY Press, 1978), 99-117, and Jonathan Wilcox, ed., AElfric's Prefaces (New Elvet, Durham: Department of English Studies, 1994), particularly 1-85.
(3) See, in particular, Wilcox, AElfric's Prefaces, 29-32.
(4) Eusebius claimed to have copied the letters from the Syriac originals held in the city archives in Edessa. Eusebius is edited by Eduard Schwartz and Rufinus's Latin translation by Theodor Mommsen in Theodor Mommsen, ed., Eusebius Werke, vol. 2 (1903; repr., Berlin: Akademie, 1999), 82-89. For studies of the traditions and wide circulation of the legend, see R. A. Lipsius, Die edessenische Abgar-Sage kritisch untersucht (Braunschweig, 1880); Isaac H. Hall, "Syriac Versions of the Epistle from King Abgar to Jesus" Hebraica 1 (1884-85), 232-35; L.-J. Tixeront, Les Origines des l'Eglise d'Edesse et la Legende d'Abgar, etude critique: suivie de deux textes orientaux inedits (Paris, 1888); Ernst von Dobschutz, Christusbilder Untersuchungen zur christlichen Legende (Leipzig, 1899); Ernst von Dobschutz, "Der Briefwechsel zwischen Abgar und Jesus," Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Theologie 43 (1900): 422-86; J. G. C. Anderson, "Pontica," Journal of Hellenic Studies 20 (1900): 151-58; Soren Giverson, "Ad Abgarum: The Sahidic Version of the Letter to Abgar on a Wooden Tablet," Acta Orientalia 24 (1959): 71-82; Getatchew Haile, "The Legend of Abgar in Ethiopic Tradition" Orientalia Christiana Periodica 55 (1989): 375-410; and Martin Illert, Die Abgarlegende; Das Christusbild yon Edessa (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007). Also see J. B. Segal, Edessa: "The Blessed City" (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), 62-78, and Steven K. Ross, Roman Edessa: Politics and Culture on the Eastern Fringes of the Roman Empire (London: Routledge, 2001), 131-36.
(5) Mommsen, Eusebius Werke, 2:87, 89: "EXEMPLAR EPISTULAE SCRIPTAE A REGE ABGARO VEL TOPARCHA AD IESUM ET MISSAE HIERUSOLYMA PER ANANIAM CURSOREM. Abgarus Uchamae filius toparcha Iesu salvatori bono, qui apparuit in locis Hierusolymorum salutem. Auditum mihi est de te et de sanitatibus, quas facis, quod sine medicamentis aut herbis fiant ista per te, et quod verbo tantum facis caecos videre, claudos ambulare et leprosos mundas et inmundos spiritus ac daemonas eicis et eos qui longis aegritudinibus afflicantur, curas et sanas, mortuos quoque suscitas. Quibus omnibus auditis de te statui in animo meo unum esse e duobus, aut quia tu sis deus et descenderis de caelo, ut haec facias, aut quod filius dei sis, qui haec facis. Propterea ergo scribens rogaverim te, ut digneris usque ad me fatigari et aegritudinem meam, qua Jam diu laboro, curare. Nam et illud conperi, quod Iudaei murmurant adversum te et volunt tibi insidiari. Est autem civitas mihi parva quidem, sed honesta, quae sufficiat utrisque."
(6) Eusebius Werke, 2:89: "EXEMPLUM RESCRIPTI AB IESU PER ANANIAM CURSOREM AD ABGARUM TOPARCHAM. Beatus es, qui credidisti in me, cum me ipse non videris. Scriptum est enim de me, quia ii qui me vident, non credent in me, et qui non vident me ipsi, credent et vivent. De eo autem, quod scripsisti mihi, ut veniam ad re, oportet me omnia, propter quae missus sum, hic explere et posteaquam complevero, recipi me ad eum, a quo missus sum. Cum ergo fuero adsumptus, mittam tibi aliquem ex discipulis meis, ut curet aegritudinem tuam et vitam tibi atque his qui tecum sunt praestet."
(7) The Fontes Anglo-Saxonici database indicates that AElfric made greater use of Rufinus than any other Anglo-Saxon author in his vernacular writings, returning seventy-eight separate records for the Historia ecclesiastica in AElfric's work. See http://fontes.english. ox.ac.uk/. Also see Malcolm Godden, AElfric's Catholic Homilies: Introduction, Commentary and Glossary (Oxford: EETS, 2000), lix.
(8) Egeria's Itinerarium (ca. 380) confirms this. On her tour of religious sites in the Holy Land, she records her party's visit to Edessa where the bishop offered as gifts copies of the city's most famous relics, the letters of Abgar and Jesus. Egeria states that she received copies of the letters from the bishop although she already possessed copies at home (probably in Iberia) and that the letters presented by the bishop were somewhat fuller. For Egeria's account of Edessa and her prior knowledge of the letters of Abgar and Jesus, see A. Franceschini and R. Weber, ed., Itinerarium (Brepols, Belgium: Turnhout, 1965), 62.
(9) See Dobschtitz, "Der Briefwechsel," for discussion of many the most important surviving early copies of the text, especially those from the east.
(10) Compare "dicit ei Iesus quia vidisti me credidisti beati qui non viderunt et crediderunt" (John 20.29), and "et adimpletur eis prophetia Esaiae dicens auditu audietis et non intellegetis et videntes videbitis et non videbitis" (Matt. 13:14), with the opening lines of Jesus' letter in Rufinus's Latin version of the text. Dobschutz, Christusbilder, 134, suggests that Jesus' letter shows evidence of borrowing from Tatian's concordance, which would therefore date the letter to the third or fourth century since the Diatessaron was the only Gospel text available in Syria at that time.
(11) Parts of the Doctrine of Addai are translated in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa, and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, rev. ed. by A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951), 657-65. Also see Illert, Die Abgadegende, 29-44 and 132-76.
(12) Franceschini and Weber, Itinerarium, 63.
(13) On belief in the letter's apotropaic properties, see Don C. Skemer, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 2006), 97-99. Also see Skemer's 'Amulet Rolls and Female Devotion in the Late Middle Ages," Scriptorium 55 (2001): 197-227.
(14) See Christopher M. Cain, "Sacred Words, Anglo-Saxon Piety, and the Origins of the epistola salvatoris in London, British Library, Royal 2.A.xx," JEGP 108 (2009): 168-89.
(15) The letter and its incipit ("Incipit epistola salvatoris D<omi>ni n<ost>ri ih<es>u xp<ist>i ad abgarum regem quam d<omi>n<us> manu scripsit et dixit) are found on 12r-13r. The manuscript is edited in the appendix to A. B. Kuypers, ed., The Prayer Book of Aedeluald the Bishop, Commonly Called the Book of Cerne (Cambridge U. Press, 1902), 201-25.
(16) See Skemer, Binding Words, 75-124.
(17) See Felix Grendon, ed. "The Anglo-Saxon Charms," Journal of American Folklore 22 (1909): 105-237; Godfrid Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1948); Karen Louise Jolly, Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context (U. of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Karen Louise Jolly, "Prayers from the Field: Practical Protection and Demonic Defense in Anglo-Saxon England," Traditio 61 (2006): 95-147. On amulets, see Audrey L. Meaney, Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones (Oxford: B.A.R., 1981).
(18) See Michelle P. Brown, The Book of Cerne: Prayer, Patronage and Power in Ninth-Century England (London: British Library, 1996), 15, 157-60, and "Mercian Manuscripts? The 'Tiberius' Group and Its Historical Context" Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe, ed. Michelle P. Brown and Carol A. Farr (London: Leicester U. Press, 2001), 279-91.
(19) The Harley manuscript can be found in Appendix B of Walter De Gray Birch, ed., An Ancient Manuscript of the Eighth or Ninth Century: Formerly Belonging to St. Mary's Abbey, or Nunaminster, Winchester (London, 1889), 116.
(20) Bernard J. Muir, A Pre-Conquest English Prayer-Book (BL MSS Cotton Galba A.xiv and Nero A.ii [ff. 3-13]) (Woodbridge, England: Boydell and Brewer, 1988). See xvi-xvii on the manuscript's design as a blank book; Jesus' letter to Abgar is edited on p. 47. Muir confirms other scholars' reasoning that the manuscript is of Winchester origin, so the inclusion of Jesus' letter to Abgar could reflect materials kept at Winchester or teaching at Winchester that AElfric may well have known, too.
(21) In De temporibus ratione: "Abgarus uir sanctus regnauit" [The holy man Abgar ruled] (C. W. Jones, ed., De temporibus liber, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123C [Brepols, Belgium: Turnhout, 1980], 608); in De temporum ratione: "Abgarus uir sanctus regnauit Edessae" [The holy man Abgar of Edessa ruled] (C. W. Jones, ed., De temporum ratione, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123B [Brepols, Belgium: Turnhout, 1977], 503); in Expositio acta apostolorum: "Iudas uero Iacobi, id est frater Iacobi, idem est qui in euangeliis uocatur Taddeus, missus que est Aedissam ad Abgarum regem Osroenae, ut ecclesiastica tradit historia" [Indeed, Jude, who is the brother of James, who is likewise called Thaddeus in the Gospels, was sent to Edessa to King Abgar of Osroene, as the church history relates] (M. L. W. Laistner and D. Hurst, eds., Expositio actum apostolorum, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121 [Brepols, Belgium: Turnhout, 1983], 11. Bede similarly notes the mission of Thaddeus to Edessa in his Retractatio acta apostolorum. See Cain, "Sacred Words," 175-76.
(22) "Epistula Iesu ad Abgarum [est] apocrypha" and "Epistula Abgari ad Iesum [est] apocrypha" Ernst von Dobschutz, ed., Das Decretum Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis in kritischem Text (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1912), 13. Traditionally attributed to Pope Gelasius (492-96), the text's actual authorship is unknown, and it seems to be no earlier than the sixth century. It was nevertheless considered authentic in the Middle Ages and survives in numerous copies. Also see Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, trans. R. McL. Wilson (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1992), 1:38-40.
(23) Joyce Hill, "The Apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England: The Challenge of Changing Distinctions," Apocryphal Texts and Traditions in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Kathryn Powell and Donald Scragg (Cambridge: Brewer, 2003), 165, points out that catalogues of accepted and rejected texts "often functioned more as reference points for those who wished to support a particular position at a given moment than as definitive lists which determined universal practice."
(24) See Dobschutz, Das Decretum Gelasianum, 13.
(25) Mary Clayton, "AElfric and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary" Anglia 104 (1986): 296.
(26) Joyce Hill, "AElfric, Gelasius, and St. George" Mediaevalia 11 (1985): 10.
(27) Nos. 263, 573, 713, 749.5, 800, 808.2 in Helmut Gneuss, Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100 (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2001). No. 800, MS Boulogne, Bibliotheque Municipale 63, is the manuscript thought to be connected to the Reform movement and to AElfric: see Enid M. Raynes, "Boulogne-sur-Mer 63 and AElfric," Medium AEvum 26 (1957): 65-73.
(28) Skemer, Binding Words, 101.
(29) However, Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus could read, and John 8:6-8 describes Jesus writing in the sand.
(30) The purported historical truth of Jesus' exchange with Abgar (as conveyed in Eusebius and Rufinus and elsewhere) naturally opened the text of Jesus' letter to questions of authenticity and authority. Of a wholly different nature (although sometimes confused with Jesus' letter to Abgar) is the so-called "Sunday Letter" which was said to have been written by Jesus and miraculously delivered directly from Heaven. See Robert Priebsch, Letter from Heaven on the Observance of the Lord's Day (Oxford: Blackwell, 1936); W. R. Jones, "The Heavenly Letter in Medieval England," Medievalia et Humanistica 6 (1975): 163-78; Clare A. Lees, "The 'Sunday Letter' and the 'Sunday Lists,'" Anglo-Saxon England 14 (1985): 129-51; Frederick Biggs, ed., Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture: The Apocrypha (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007), 58-61; and Dorothy Haines, ed. and trans., Sunday Observance and the Sunday Letter in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Brewer, 2010).
(31) Augustine attributed the efficacy of such objects to "consultationes et pacta quaedam significationum cum daemonibus": R. P. H. Green, ed., De Doctrina Christiana (Oxford U. Press, 1996), 90; also see Skemer, Binding Words, 32. See Sister Mary Emily Keenan, "The Terminology of Witchcraft in the Works of Augustine," Classical Philology 35 (1940): 296, for discussion of the terms Augustine uses to differentiate various superstitious practices using writing.
(32) William E. Klingshirn, "Defining the Sortes Sanctorum: Gibbon, Du Cange, and Early Christian Lot Divination," Journal of Early Christian Studies 10 (2002): 77-130, not only definitely shows that the practices known as sortes biblicae and sortes sanctorum were different but that an actual book, the Sortes Sanctorum, existed in the early Middle Ages for the purpose of Christian lot divination. Klingshirn's article is also an excellent overview of medieval sortes sacrae and identifies (84-90) some of the statements banning the practice.
(33) William E. Klingshirn, Caesarius of Arles: The Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul (Cambridge U. Press, 1994), 221. We know that Casarius of Arles's sermons were read by AElfric: see Audrey L. Meaney, "AElfric's Use of His Sources in His Homily on Auguries," English Studies 6 (1985): 477-95, and the records of Caesarius of Aries as a source author in the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici database, http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk/.
(34) Claude W. Barlow, ed., De correctione rusticorum, in Martini Episcopi Bracarensis Opera Omnia (Yale U. Press, 1950), 199. AElfric appears to have made extensive use of the text (see Fontes Anglo-Saxonici, http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk/), and writing about AElfric's use of De correctione rusticorum, Meaney, "AElfric's Use of His Sources in His Homily on Auguries," 484, says that chap. 12 of the work "affords certain proof that AElfric had the De correctione either in front of him or very much in mind" when writing his homily.
(35) In "The Dissemination of AElfric's Lives of Saints: A Preliminary Survey" Holy Men and Holy Women: Old English Prose Saints' Lives and Their Contexts, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), 235-59, Joyce Hill considers the attachment of the Abgar legend to the passio of Abdon and Sennes to form a textual whole and therefore categorizes the whole of Skeat 24 to be "hagiographic" on the basis of its inclusion in four of the extant manuscripts of AElfric's Lives of Saints that belong to a group of manuscripts that are wholly or predominantly hagiographic. But the presence of the Abgar legend appended to the passio of Abdon and Sennes in four of the extant manuscripts simply confirms that the arrangement was certainly part of AElfric's original design for his collection, and its designation as hagiographic unsatisfactorily disregards the contexts of the Abgar legend and the letter of Jesus to Abgar elaborated upon here.
(36) Two manuscripts of the legendary British Library, Cotton Nero E.i, part ii, 67r-73r, and Salisbury, Cathedral Library 222 (formerly Oxford, Bodleian Library, Fell 1), 57r-67r, preserve the passio of Abdon and Sennes. As Patrick H. Zettel, Aelfric's Hagiographic Sources and the Latin Legendary Preserved in B.L. MS Cotton Nero E i + CCCC MS 9 and Other Manuscripts (PhD. diss., University of Oxford, 1979), 227-28, notes, "these copies of the legend derive from a textual tradition which differs slightly from that of AElfric's exemplar. In them, we find no variant readings of interest for the Old English translation:' Also see Zettel, "Saints' Lives in Old English: Latin Manuscripts and Vernacular Accounts: AElfric" Peritia 1 (1982): 17-37, and Peter Jackson and Michael Lapidge, "The Contents of the Cotton-Corpus Legendary," Holy Men and Holy Women: Old English Prose Saints' Lives and Their Contexts, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), 131-46. The Latin passio of Abdon and Sennes is printed in H. Delahaye, ed., Passio Polochronii, Parmenii, Abdon et Sennen, Xysti, Felicissimi et Agapiti et Laurentii et aliorum sanctorum, in "Recherches sur le 1egendier romain," Analecta Bollandiana 51 (1933): 34-98.
(37) Th. Graesse, ed., Legenda Aurea (1890; repr., Osnabruck, Germany: Zeller, 1965), 705-11.
(38) Malcolm Godden, ed., , AElfric's Catholic Homilies: The Second Series (Oxford: EETS, 1979), 280-87. For the sources oftElfric's passio of Simon and Jude, see Godden, AElfric's Catholic Homilies: Introduction, Commentary and Glossary, 613-22. As Godden points out, AElfric probably found his source in his version of the Cotton-Corpus legendary, although the only extant text is found in a twelfth-century derivative of the legendary (Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 354). The version found in B. Mombritius, ed., Sanctuarium seu Vitae Sanctorum, 2nd ed. (1910; repr. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms, 1978), 2:534-39 is the nearest printed text of the passio and similarly does not remark on the legend of Abgar.
(39) "Hic multiplex habuit cognomen, dictus est enim Judas Jacobi ... fuit enim frater Jacobi minoris. Secundo dictus est Thaddaeus" [Judas had many names. He was called Judas James, for he was the brother of James the Lesser. He was also called Thaddeus] (Graesse, Legenda Aurea, 706). The work then goes on to state that this Judas Thaddeus was sent to Edessa "ab Abgarum regem secundum Dei promissionem" (707). In the version of the Abgar legend appended to his passio of Abdon and Sennes, AElfric is careful to note, as Rufinus does, that this Judas Thaddeus ("tatheum / se waes eac gehaten obrum naman iudas," lines 133-34) is one of the seventy ("aenne of dam hund-seofontigum pe he geceas to bodigenne" line 127, see Skeat, AElfric's Lives of Saints, 62).
(40) See Zettel, AElfric's Hagiographic Sources, 195-98.
(41) See J. K. Elliott, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocyrphal Christian Literature in an English Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 229-31, 439-511.
(42) See Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, 2:323, and A. F. J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas: Introduction, Text, and Commentary, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 15.
(43) See Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, 2:455-56. The text is edited by Klaus Zelzer, ed., Die Alten Lateinischen Thomasakten (Berlin: Akademie, 1977), 45-78. Also see Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina (1900-01; repr. Brussels: Society of Bollandists, 1949), 2:1180. Earlier observers had attributed the text's authorship to Gregory of Tours, but Zelzer (25) dates the text to the middle of the fourth century and discusses the improbability of Gregory's authorship (26-29).
(44) Tradition asserted that Abdias, bishop of Babylon, composed the work in ten books on the apostles, which was then translated from Hebrew to Greek by his student Eutropius and then into Latin by Africanus, the associate of Origen. But this wholly Latin work was composed in sixth-century Gaul. The text is edited in J. A. Fabricius, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, 2nd ed. (Hamburg, 1719), 2:402-742; on the backgrounds, see Elliott, Apocryphal New Testament, 525-26, and Frederick M. Biggs, ed., Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture: The Apocrypha (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007), 38-39. I thank the special collections librarians and staff of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library of Johns Hopkins University for access to the Fabricius text.
(45) Zelzer, Die Alten Lateinischen Thomasakten, 45.
(46) Zelzer, Die Alten Lateinischen Thomasakten, 41-42.
(47) It is also true that the library of the Old English martryologist contained the same passio of Thomas. Though the end of the entry for Thomas is incomplete, the remaining text indicates that reference to the Abgar legend would have been similarly appended here, too: "[H]ys lychama waes alaeded of Indeum on pa ceastre pe ys nemned Edyssa. Paer he ys geseted on sylfrene cyste, and seo hangad on sylfrenum racenteagum. Ne mae[g] paer naenig gedwolman lyfian on paere ceastre, ne naenig paera pe deofolgyld beganged, ne naefre syddan ne myhton aelreorde peode hergian on pa ce[astr]e...." [His body was brought from India to the city that is called Edessa. He is interred there in a silver casket, and it hangs from silver chains. No heretic may live there in the city nor any of those who practice idolatry. Nor might a barbarous people ever harry the city], Gunter Kotzor, ed., Das altenglische Martyrologium (Munich: C. Beck, 1981), 2:266. Also see J. E. Cross, "The Apostles in the Old English Martyrology" Mediaevalia 5 (1979): 21-23. R. Jayatilaka (Fontes Anglo-Saxonici, http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk/) says that the closest printed version of the text to AElfric's Old English translation is that found in Mombritius, Sanctuarium, 2:606-14, an assertion that appears to rest on the observation that the texts in Mombritius and AElfric condense the more elaborate version edited by Zelzer. Even so, the ending of the text in Mombritus that describes the translation of Thomas's remains to Edessa is very nearly identical to that quoted above from the text as found in Zelzer's more recent edition.
(48) George Loomis, "Further Sources of AElfric's Saints' Lives," Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature 13 (1931): 6-7; Zettel, AElfric's Hagiographic Sources, 260.
(49) Zettel, AElfric's Hagiographic Sources, 39.
(50) I thank the librarians and staff of the Bodleian Library for providing images of the manuscript. Some parts of this text run into the gutter of the book, so I have indicated those places with square brackets and provided the reading from Zelzer's edition quoted above. Only "[...]ire" suggests the possibility of a different word since the ending is -ire (perhaps "uenire").
(51) I thank the librarians and staff of Hereford Cathedral Library for providing images of the manuscript.
(52) Godden, AElfric's Catholic Homilies: Second Series, 297-98.
(53) See M. R. Godden, "AElfric's Saints' Lives and the Problem of Miracles,' Old English Prose: Basic Readings, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (New York: Garland, 2000), 294-96. Originally published in Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 16 (1985): 83-100. Also see Wilcox, AElfric's Prefaces, 150-51.
(54) Skeat, AElfric's Lives of Saints, 398-400. Also see Wilcox, AElfric's Prefaces, 122.