On Tuesday 21 December 2021, the Armenian Church commemorates St Apkar (Abgar), a martyr of the church and our first Christian King.
According to Armenian tradition, St Abgar was the first Christian king of the 1st century, the son of the Parthian king Arshakunie Arsham. He was also called “senior man” as he was the wisest of all and a genius. Historian Moses of Khoronk, Assyrian historian Labubnia of Yedessia, Greek historians Procopis and Yeusebius have all written of King Abgar. He built the city of Yedessia on the site where the Armenian army protected the river crossing of the Euphrates from the Roman captain Casius. Later the king moved the royal palace and all idols from Nisibis to that city.
It is during the period of the reign of King Abgar that Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, was born. King Abgar, who was incurable, became aware of the wonders worked by Christ, believed in Christ and by means of his delegates sent a letter of petition to Jerusalem, to the Saviour, asking Him to come and heal him. In response, the letter stated that Christ still had important things to do in Jerusalem, but He would send one of His disciples to the king to heal him. After the Ascension of the Saviour, Apostle St Thaddeus came to Yedessia, healed King Abgar, preached the Gospel and appointed Adde, the silk-weaver, to be his successor. Jesus had sent his portrait to Abgar and it was kept for a long time in Yedessia and later in the churches of various cities and towns.
After that, King Apgar sent letters to King Tiberius and King Nerseh of Assyria exhorting them to admit Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour.
It is believed that King Agbar died in the first half of the first century.