Lecture 4 – Second Hour
Fields of the Apostles
Trying to organize historic information in one outline of apostolate, we may propose the following:
1) Babylon and Arbela being regions where sizeable and relevant Jewish communities resided in Mesopotamia, they should have been included among the Israelites that the Lord commanded his disciples to evangelize promptly, most of all before the Gentiles.
2) The Parthian empire was the rival of the Roman Empire, both being the superpowers of their time, and certainly the obedience to the order of evangelizing “all nations” would have warranted an apostolic mission east of the Euphrates accordingly. Therefore, it is fully in line with our historic data, mainly from the New Testament, to have St. Thomas with Addai (Thaddaeus) and Mari be assigned to that vast area of Mesopotamia, Parthia, and India.
3) Persecution against Jesus’ faithful arose repeatedly in Jerusalem, as in Stephen’s stoning and James’s slaying; moreover the destruction of the City and the Temple in AD 70 certainly would cause the departure of many inhabitants, including Jesus’s faithful, toward Western countries and Eastern as well. It is a remarkable fact that Joseph’s family is recorded among the early bishops of Seleucia-Ctesiphon i.e. the See of Babylon.
4) As mentioned by historians, Edessa expressed effectively a serious claim to St. Thomas’s relics, which implied some tangible connection between the two, the city and the apostle, thus, the missionary itinerary of the apostolic team from Jerusalem toward Edessa should have included Thomas on his way to Parthia, though it may have implied only a short stay in Edessa; otherwise, Edessa would have no valid claim.
5) Surely we may consider the correspondence between King Abgar and Lord Jesus spurious, nevertheless,the core of the story may be factual, because:
a) The news of Jesus’ endeavor having reached all of Syria (Matt 4:24)), a king in Edessa neighboring Syria may have heard of Jesus, and desired to have him or his disciples come to heal him, communicating to him an understandable desire; even king Herodus desired to see Jesus and his wonders, so why not Abgar, much nobler!
b) Thaddaeus is mentioned to be that disciple by many sources, among them the Anaphora; why should this mention be considered a pure fantasy?
c) Thaddaeus, delegated by Thomas, could have carried with him to king Abgar an image of the Lord, with unique qualities, as reported in the Acts, since Edessa had indeed a marvelous image discovered hidden in its wall centuries later, which may very much be the cloth we know as The Shroud of Turin.
d) The story informs us that the heir to king Abgar, his son Ma’nu, being against the Christian church, had persecuted the faithful, slaid Aggai, Thaddaeus’s successor, while the disciple Mari would leave toward Babylonia; all of which is reported by other sources. The sequence of the opposing reigns in Edessa, with different attitudes toward Christianity, would expectedly cause the losing of the original records, later to be restored, expectedly again with embellishment. Eusebius is a serious historian, and I take him in this matter seriously, with due consideration to relevant circumstances.