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Letter of Lentulus

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[[File:Anon-Publius Lentulus.jpg|right|thumb|300px|''Letter of Lentulus'', printed in London, 1680.]]
The '''Letter of Lentulus''' is an allegedly [[Apocrypha|apocyrphal]] or pseudepigraphal letter purporting to have been written to the Roman Senate during the reign of [[w:Tiberius|Tiberius Caesar]] by a certain "Publius Lentulus",<ref group="note">"Lentulus" was the name of a Roman [[w:Patrician (ancient Rome)|patrician]] family of the [[w:Cornelia (gens)|Cornelian gens]].</ref> concerning the physical appearance of our Lord [[Jesus Christ]].<ref group="note">Neither the [[Gospels]] nor the [[Epistles]] make any mention of the physical characteristics of [[Christ]]; although there is a tradition that the Apostle and Evangelist [[Apostle Luke|Luke]], who wrote the first [[icon]] of the Most Holy [[Theotokos]], also painted an icon of [[Jesus]].</ref>
[[File:Lentulus-Postcard-1.jpg|right|thumb|300px|''Letter of Lentulus'', on an old Church postcard, in French.]]
The ''Letter of Lentulus'' has been judged to be apocryphal for a number of reasons. Modern scholars raise three main points where the letter seems to violate historicity:<ref name="CORA"/><ref group="note">See: [[w:M. R. James|M.R. James]]. ''The Apocryphal New Testament.'' Oxford, 1924. pp.477-478.</ref>
[[w:Friedrich Münter|Friedrich Münter]] in his ''"Die Sinnbilder und Kunstvorstellungen der alten Christen"'' (Altona 1825), believed that he could trace the letter down to the time of Diocletian, but this was not generally accepted.<ref> Anthony Maas. ''"[ Publius Lentulus]."'' '''The Catholic Encyclopedia.''' Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. (Retrieved December 12, 2011 from New Advent)</ref>
An alternative perspective is given by Monk Pierre (Blais) ThD, elder of ''The Hesychastic Society of the Most Holy Mary (OCA)'' and former Lecturer in Religion at the University of Toronto, UTM, OCAD U and St. John Fisher College, who has written the following in a private email dated Dec. 17, 2011:
:"Scholars and believers might better understand the purpose of the text if both consider the significance of the nomenclature Publius Lentulus more in an allegorical sense, as intended by either the author (in a self-effacing manner) or by a later editor or redactor (as commentary), and less as necessarily validating an apocryphal value or judgment. Publius Lentulus in both classical and ecclesiastical Latin glosses into English as "A Dullard Public Official;" and literally translates as, "[An official] of the people [who was] rather slow [to understand/respond]."<ref group="note">Dr. Blais' thesis is referenced in [[Fool_for_Christ#Orthodox_Psychotherapy:_Further_Reading|Orthodox Psychotherapy: Further Reading]], and ''The Hesychastic Society of the Most Holy Mary (OCA)'' in [[Metochion]].</ref>
: {{la icon}} "Explicit epistola Iacobi de Columpna, anno domini 1421, reperta in annalibus Romae, in libro antiquissimo in Capitolio, doct. domino Patriarchae Constantinopolitano."
This Thus it must have been of Greek origin, and translated into Latin during the thirteenth or fourteenth century, though it received its present form in the 15th or 16th century.
Just about the time that the letter was being dispersed widely in Italy, the humanist [[w:Lorenzo Valla|Lorenzo Valla]] denounced it as a fraud in his famous treatise correctly exposing the Donation of Constantine as fraudulent (ca. 1440 AD). That said, one cannot infer the one from the other (i.e. fraudulency).<ref>Laurentius Valla. ''De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione declamatio.'' Ed. W. Schwahn. Leipzig, 1928. p.62.</ref>
Yet even Even so after that, the letter was given greater prestige by being incorporated into the prologue of [[w:Ludolph of Saxony|Ludolph]] of Saxony's ''Meditationes in vitam Christi'' (Nuremberg 1483). In a similar way it was printed in the collection of writings of the 11th century [[w:Anselm of Canterbury|Anselm of Canterbury]] (Nuremberg, 1491). However neither Ludolph nor Anselm had any knowledge of the letter.<ref name="CORA"/>
Later, in the 16th century, it was printed as authentic by the Protestant theologian [[w:Matthias Flacius|Matthias Flacius]], in his ''Centuries of Magdeburg.'' It continued to appear as late as the end of the 19th century, and became included among the texts of the [[Apocrypha|Apocryphal New Testament]].
No Greek original for the letter is known to exist, but there are at least three passages in Greek writings earlier than the 15th century Lentulus manuscripts, which give similar descriptions concerning the appearance of our Lord [[Jesus Christ]].<ref name="CORA"/>
Closest in time to the Lentulus letter is the description found in the 14th century ''Ecclesiastical History'' of [[w:Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos|Nicephorus Callistus]], in a section entitled: "On the divine and human features of our Saviour, [[Jesus Christ]]."<ref>[[w:Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos|Nicephorus Callistus]]. ''Ecclesiastica Historia.'' I.40 (''[[w:Patrologia Graeca|P.G.]], CXLV. 748-750'').</ref> With the prefatory "As we have learned from the ancients," the author notes a number of significant details: blond hair, thick, and falling into waves over the shoulders; dark eyebrows; short blond beard; eyes dark and remarkably kindly, but sharp; light complexion, slightly ruddy; face showing gravity, prudence, and gentleness, very like his [[Theotokos|Mother]].<ref name="CORA"/>
Another description, probably first set down in the 11th century, was edited in the 18th century by the monk [[w:Dionysius of Fourna|Dionysius of Fourna]] in a ''Handbook of Painting,''<ref group="note">For the French translation by P. Durand, see: [[w:Adolphe Napoleon Didron|N. Didron]]. ''Manuel d'iconographie chretienne.'' Paris, 1845. p.452.</ref> a guide to Christian [[iconography]] that treats of the methods and materials of painting and the works of art from [[Mount Athos]]. It occurs in a section entitled: "On the countenance and form of our Lord as we have learned it from those who have seen Him with their own eyes." Here the author mentions gentleness as the salient characteristic of the face. He also notes: beautiful eyebrows that meet; lovely eyes; beautiful white nose; complexion like ripe grain; curly golden hair; dark beard; fingers long and slender; gentle bearing, very like his Mother.<ref name="CORA"/>
'''Acheiropoieta - Historians accounts'''<br>
[[File:Not made by hands.jpg|right|thumb|Image Not made by hands.]]Furthermore, there are several other witnesses to the existence of the [[w:AcheiropoietaImage Not-made-by-hands|miraculous icon]].
* [[w:Evagrius Scholasticus|Evagrius Scholasticus]], for one, in the 7th century, in his ''Ecclesiastical History,''<ref>IV.26-27 (''[[w:Patrologia Graeca|P.G.]], LXXXVI.2716'').</ref> cites [[w:Procopius|Procopius of Caesarea]] for evidence of the "[[w:AcheiropoietaImage Not-made-by-hands|God-made image]]" which successfully protected Edessa against the Persian King Chosroes.<ref name="CORA"/>
* In the record of the [[Seventh Ecumenical Council|Second Council of Nicaea]] (Seventh Ecumenical Council), held in 787, there is a letter purporting to have been written in 726 by [[Gregory II of Rome|Pope Gregory II]] to the Emperor [[Leo III the Isaurian]], on the subject of the [[Iconoclasm|iconoclastic movement]] headed by Leo. The Pope, reminding Leo of the [[Abgar|Abgarus]]-[[Jesus]] letters and the miraculous icon, bids him to go to Edessa and behold the venerable image of Christ "that was [[w:Acheiropoieta|not made by human hands]], worshipped and adored by multitudes of the people in the East."<ref name="CORA"/>
* A third witness to the portrait is a long naarative attributed to Emperor [[w:Constantine VII|Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus]] (908-959), of the whole history of the letters and the sacred image to the time that they were taken from Edessa to [[Constantinople]] in 844.<ref group="note">See [[w:François Combefis|François Combefis]], ''Originum rerumque Constantinopolitanarum manipulus'' (Paris, 1664), pp.75-101, "Constantini Porphyrogennetae: Narratio de divina Christi Dei nostri imagine non manufacta."</ref> Described in detail are the solemn ceremonies, the religious procession, the numerous stops at holy places en route, and the emotional reception of the marvelous [[relic]] in Constantinople by the clergy, the Emperor, and the people. The account states specifically that the icon was placed briefly upon the imperial throne, where the Emperor viewed it and reverenced it, before its enshrinement in a church for the eternal protection of the realm.<ref name="CORA"/>
According to both tradition and in historical accounts, there was an early [[icon]] of [[Christ]] that men of the East believed was created in a miraculous manner during Christ's lifetime and which they guarded and reverenced. Furthermore, the three descriptions of an early icon as given by St [[John of Damascus]] in the 8th century, in the 11th century text edited by [[w:Dionysius of Fourna|Dionysius of Fourna]], and in the 14th century text of [[w:Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos|Nicephorus Callistus]], agree in many details and must all derive from a common source. If the ''Letter of Lentulus'' that was discovered in the 15th century is apocryphal as some scholars allege, nevertheless it also belongs to and carries forward this same iconographic tradition that was described held by the examples of prime Byzantine historiansas authentic.<ref group="note">In a discussion of the ''Letter of Lentulus'' on a Greek weblog (''[ Publius Lentulus και το υποτιθέμενο γράμμα στον Καίσαρα]''), one contributor has conjectured that both [[Mount Athos]] and [[Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain]] (in his ''Unseen Warfare'') regard the letter as authentic.</ref>
==See also==
* [[Apocrypha]]
* [[Image Not-made-by-hands]]
* [[w:Publius Lentulus|Publius Lentulus]]

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