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The Greek version of the Acts of Thomas contains 171 chapters concluding with the martyrdom of Thomas. Chapters 1-16 describe the division of mission territories among the disciples. Thomas is assigned to India, where he goes unwillingly as a slave. He preaches, performs exorcisms and healings, resurrects the dead, and converts royalty to an ascetic and celibate Christianity, culminating with the conversion of King Gundaphor, whose resources Thomas had given to the poor. Another king, Misdai, angered at Thomas because he had been converting women to celibacy, has him executed. The relics of the saint are used to heal and to convert people. The text ends with the transmission of the relics to Edessa by merchants.

While it is often impossible to distinguish fact from fiction, the text is an important witness to the evangelistic traditions of the early Asian churches, both in Syria and in what are now Pakistan, Afghanistan, north-east India, Iran and Iraq, the old Kushan and Persian empires. It provides hymns (Hymn of the bride and Hymn of the pearl) and contains significant liturgical information. Ablution and anointing are important features of Christian celebration. The oil invokes the Holy Spirit as the feminine aspect of God, using the term 'the merciful mother'. As one would expect from other Syriac sources, asceticism was an important, even an essential, virtue to be adopted by Christian converts. It also provides access to the early traditions of Asian Christian spirituality. The text clearly presents a developmental spirituality and theology (sometimes derogatorily labelled 'Gnostic' by Latin and Western Christian writers) not unlike that of Origen of Alexandria and Ephrem of Syria.1

Abgar and Addai

The second tradition has to do with a set of correspondence, known since the writing of the Ecclesiastical history (1.13; 2.6-7) of the fourth-century Palestinian writer Eusebius, purporting to be letters written by Jesus and King Abgar of Edessa. In the spurious letters, which are extant in Syriac, Greek and Armenian, Abgar asks Jesus to come to Edessa to heal him. Jesus refuses but promises that after his ascension he will send a disciple to heal him. According to Eusebius, Thomas sent Thaddaeus (in Syriac, Addai). A Syriac document entitled The teaching of Addai claims that Jesus sent a messenger, who became a healer and evangelist, to Edessa with a response. The messenger was said to have painted a portrait of Jesus that was viewed by the Spanish woman Egeria, a

1 J. N. Farquhar, 'The apostle Thomas in North India'; J. N. Farquhar, 'The apostle Thomas in South India'; A. Mingana, 'The early spread ofthe gospel in India'; A.Adam, DiePsalmen des Thomas; A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas; P.-H. Poirier, L'Hymne de laperle; G. Quispel, Makarius; Hymn of the pearl, ed. and trans. Ferreira.

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