Saint Addai

A disciple fulfills a request for Jesus.

Saint Addai

Early in the 1st century, when Abgar V, the “king of the Arabs,” was incurably ill, he wrote Jesus a letter. The king had heard of all these miracles and hoped for one of his own. In return, Abgar offered Jesus protection from the Jews in his “very small and venerable city,” Edessa.

There are many stories of Jesus’s reply — he said he was too busy, respectfully, and offered instead a portrait miraculously imprinted on a washcloth after he cleaned his face — and there are, of course, many who doubt a reply was ever written.

One thing is sure: Jesus didn’t visit the king in his lifetime. But following his crucifixion, a visit was made on his behalf by a disciple named Thaddeus, or Addai. When the king recognized Addai to be an agent of Jesus, he was cured. (In the Eastern Orthodox Church, both men are now saints.)

This visit features prominently in the 4th century Doctrine of Addai, which also includes this great line about the broader conversion of Edessa: “And those who were accustomed to worship stones and stocks, sat at [Addai’s] feet, learning, and being corrected of the plague of the foolishness of paganism.” Stones and stocks!