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The Apocryphal New Testament Easy to use collection of English translations of the New Testament Apocrypha.

The Letter of Lentulus

This thirteenth‐century text is given the form of a letter purporting to have been written by a Roman official, Lentulus, at the time of Tiberius Caesar. This detail is found in some (but not in the oldest) of the manuscripts. The original language is Latin, but a Syriac Letter of Lentulus was found in the Mingana collection (Syr. 47). Persian and Armenian translations also exist.

The text became famous because of its description of Christ's physical appearance, which probably had a direct influence on later iconography.

The translation below is from von Dobschütz's edition of the Latin with adaptations.



  • E. von Dobschütz, Christusbilder (Leipzig, 1899), 308**–30**, esp. 318** f. (= TU 18 (3)).


  • S. P. Brock, ‘A Syriac Version of the Letters of Lentulus and Pilate’, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 35 (1969), 45–62.

Modern Translations


  • Cowper, 221–2.

  • James, 477–8.


  • Migne, Dictionnaire, ii, cols. 453–6.


  • Erbetta, iii. 137–8.

  • Moraldi, ii. 1651–6.

In these days there appeared, and there still is, a man of great power named Jesus Christ, who is called by the Gentiles the prophet of truth, whom his disciples call the Son of God, raising the dead and healing diseases—a man in stature middling tall, and comely, having a reverend countenance, which those who look upon may love and fear; having hair of the hue of an unripe hazel‐nut and smooth almost down to his ears, but from the ears in curling locks somewhat darker and more shining, flowing over his shoulders; having a parting at the middle of the head according to the fashion of the Nazareans; a brow smooth and very calm, with a face without wrinkle or any blemish, which a moderate red colour makes beautiful; with the nose and mouth no fault at all can be found; having a full beard of the colour of his hair, not long, but a little forked at the chin; having an expression simple and mature, the eyes grey, flashing, and clear; in rebuke terrible, in admonition kind and lovable, cheerful yet keeping gravity; sometimes he has wept, but never laughed; in stature of body tall and straight, with hands and arms fair to look upon; in talk grave, reserved and modest, fairer than the children of men.

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