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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Did Jesus Write Anything?

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Don Stewart

The New Testament gives the account of the life of Jesus Christ written by His disciples. The question is often asked about Jesus is, "Why don't we have anything in writing from Him?" Would He have been able to write? If so, then why didn't He leave us with any written record?

Jesus Could Read And Write

The New Testament informs us that Jesus could both read and write. The Gospel of Luke tells us of an incident where Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and as was his custom, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:16-21).

From this passage we can see that Jesus had the ability to read. He found the place in the scroll where He wanted to read and read the desired portion.

Jesus Wrote Something On The Ground

There is a passage in John's Gospel that demonstrates Jesus had the ability to write:

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?" And they were saying this, testing him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking him, he straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and he was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst (John 8:3-9).

The fact that Jesus could write is taught in this passage. We should not assume that He just doodled on the ground. He wrote something that caused the religious leaders to leave the scene. Exactly what He wrote has been the subject of endless speculation. However, no one knows for certain what He wrote.

Although the authenticity of this passage is in dispute, almost everyone agrees that it reflects an actual occurrence in the ministry of Jesus.

Why Didn't He Write Something For Us?

If Jesus could read and write, then why didn't' He leave behind anything for humanity? The answer is we simply do not know why Jesus did not write any texts setting down His teachings, or give us any firsthand knowledge of His innermost thoughts. These questions, which have been a puzzle to people since the first century, have no real answer.

Do We Have A Letter From Jesus?

There is an ancient letter that purports to have been written from Jesus. It is known as, "The Letter to King Abgar." Abgar was a real king who reigned from A.D. 9 to A.D. 46 in what is in modern- day Turkey. As the story goes, King Abgar wrote first to Jesus requesting a miracle.

And when I heard all those things about you, I considered that you are either God himself who has come down from heaven to act like this, or that you are the Son of God doing such things. Therefore I am writing to you and ask you to visit me and cure my illness. Incidentally, I have heard that the Jews are grumbling about you and wish you harm. I have a city, rather small, but noble, and it is sufficient for us both.

The Reply Of Jesus To King Abgar

It is recorded that Jesus replied by means of a courier. He began the letter by a saying that is found in John's gospel.

Blessed are you, who has believed in me without having seen me.

Jesus, according to His letter, declined Abgar's invitation because He had not fulfilled His ministry. However, Jesus wrote that He would send one of His disciples after His ascension, "so that he may cure your illness and give life to you and to those who are with you."

There Was A Happy Ending

The story had a happy ending according to the fourth century church Father Eusebius. He said that Jesus' disciple Thaddeus went to Abgar and healed him. Eusebius did not doubt that Jesus could write. He also said that in the archives of Edessa he had actually seen the correspondence between the two. It did not seem to bother Him that this writing from Jesus did not find its way into the New Testament.

This Letter Was Copied Many Times

Between the third and eighth century this purported letter of Jesus was inscribed on stone, papyri, and broken pieces of pottery. The letter was also written on amulets. Obviously many people assumed that it was authentic.

The Authenticity Of The Letter Is Disputed

The letter was not accepted as authentic by all early church authorities. Jerome and Augustine, writing about seventy years after Eusebius, state that Jesus did not leave anything in writing. Though most scholars have reject the story as legendary an explanation has to be given why Eusebius would have argued for its authenticity. There is no apparent motive that he would have had for vouching for the story if he did believe it to be true. Some modern scholars are giving this story a second look. At best we can say that it is not impossible that Jesus could have written this letter.


Jesus had the ability to both read and write. These abilities were demonstrated in the New Testament. In a synagogue in Nazareth He opened the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read from a chosen part. In the story of the woman taken in adultery we find Jesus writing something on the ground that caused the religious leaders to leave Him and the woman alone.

As to whether He wrote anything, such as the Letter to King Abgar, is in much dispute. All that we can know for certain is that Jesus could have written letters or books if He so wished. Why He did not leave anything for us in writing, whether it be a systematic arrangement of His teachings or His inner thoughts, we simply do not know.

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