According to tradition, Thaddeus (aka Jude) and Bartholomew were the first disciples to bring the Gospel to Armenia. As such, they are commemorated as the patron saints of that church. What is the origin of this tradition? That is, what is the oldest extant reference to Thaddeus preaching in Armenia?

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    Will you change your name to JudeB if someone answers? :-) Jul 28 '15 at 2:22
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    @Matt Hehe. Considering Thaddeus is my actual given name, probably not. :)
    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 28 '15 at 2:37
  • @ThaddeusB I know a guy named Thaddeus. He changed his name to Christian.
    – fгedsbend
    Jul 28 '15 at 3:32
  • Is this the Jude who wrote the book?
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28 '15 at 13:37
  • @curious No, that would be the brother of Jesus (and James)... Although I should mention that some people believe they are actually the same person.
    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 28 '15 at 14:18

Fortunately, The Kingdom of Armenia: A History (by M. Chahin) has an online extract that covers this very issue. On page 261, Chahin says tradition has it that King Abgar of Edessa (c. 5 BCE-32 CE) wrote to Jesus begging him to cure him of a malady. The allegedly written reply, along with His portrait (painted by Abgar's messenger, Ananias), purports to inform the king that one of His disciples would visit him, after the Writer's ascension. On the arrival of St. Thaddeus, the king, having been cured, along with his wonderstruck people, was converted to Christianity. Soon after that momentous event, the king died. His nephew, Sanatruk, king of another province in Great Armenia, embraced Christianity when St. Thaddeus visited him, in spite of fear of the wrath of his nobles. His anxiety was justified when he was compelled to apostasise and to martyrise St. Thaddeus.

Chahin goes on to provide historic evidence that there was a substantial Christian community by around 100 CE, although I think this is a typo and Chahin actually meant 200 CE - "for there were persecutions during the reign of Khozrov I (217-52) and his predecessors. Already by the third and fourth centuries, the throne of the Armenian pontiffs was being called the 'chair of St. Thaddeus'.

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    I'm accepting the answer, because I believe you are correct that the Abgar story is the oldest extant reference. However, what I really found most useful in your answer was the historic information about evidence of an early Christian community there. Much appreciated. Your link also helped me find a few slightly later, but somewhat more credible sources for the tradition: Movses Khorenatsi's History, P'awstos Buzand's Epic Histories, and Marutha's Book of Martyrs.
    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 28 '15 at 20:58

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