The Gospel of Gamaliel
J. K. Elliott
[a]No known document bears this title, and no such title is found in patristic literature. Modern scholarship is responsible for the identification. A certain confusion between a work attributed to Gamaliel and other works, including perhaps the Gospel of Bartholomew, was encouraged by the collection of Coptic fragments assembled by Revillout under the title ‘Gospel of the Twelve Apostles’, which Baumstark, James, and others subsequently divided into different texts; some may legitimately be read as fragments of the Gospel of Gamaliel, especially Revillout's fr. 15, actually attributed to Gamaliel, and perhaps 5, 10, 11, 13, 14 (others may be from the Gospel of Bartholomew (q.v.)). The book to which these fragments are said to have belonged was given the name ‘Gospel’ by Baumstark and by Ladeuze. It tells of the events of Good Friday and the days following. Some Arabic redactions have appeared and some Ethiopic fragments have come to light. The latter know this work as ‘The Lament of Mary’ although such a title is not appropriate to the whole of the contents as known in Ethiopic. Revillout's fragment 15 (= Lacau, no. 2) is found in the Ethiopic work. The original language is likely to have been Coptic and, according to van den Oudenrijn, could go back at least to the fifth century. The contents are orthodox and anti‐Jewish in tone. The whitewashing of Pilate, revered as a saint in the Coptic church, is a dominant theme.
Only Revillout's fr. 15 is summarized here; others may be seen under ‘Coptic Narratives of the Ministry and Passion’ below.
P. Lacau, Fragments d'apocryphes coptes (Cairo, 1904) (= Mémoires publiés par les membres de l'institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire 9).
E. Revillout, ‘Les apocryphes coptes, i, Les Évangiles des douze apôtres et de Saint Barthélemy, in PO 2.2, ed. R. Graffin, (Paris, 1904; repr. 1946), 117–98. 1 Reviewed by A. Baumstark, ‘Les apocryphes coptes’, Rev. Bib. NS 3 (1906), 245–65. esp. 253–9: ‘Un Évangile de Gamaliel’.
P. Ladeuze, ‘Apocryphes évangeliques coptes. Pseudo‐Gamaliel: Évangile de Barthélemy’, RHE 7 (1906), 245–68.
A. Mingana, ‘The Lament of the Virgin and the Martyrdom of Pilate’, in Woodbrooke Studies 2, with introduction by J. R. Harris BJRL 12 (1928), 411–580 (Garshūni text with Eng. trans.).
F. Haase, ‘Zur Rekonstruktion des Bartholomäusevangeliums’, ZNW 16 (1915), 93–112. [Cf. M. A. van den Oudenrijn, Gamaliel: Äthiopische Texte zur Pilatus‐literatur (Fribourg, 1959) (= Spicilegium Friburgense: Texte zur Geschichte des kirchlichen Lebens 4) (Ethiopic Lament of Mary with German trans. and commentary)].
M.‐A. van den Oudenrijn, introduction to ‘The Gospel of Gamaliel’ in Hennecke3, i. 376–8 (Eng. trans.3, i. 508–10); Hennecke5, i. 441–2 (Eng. trans.5 i. 558–60).
James, 147–52 (brief summary).
Erbetta, i.2, 344–66 (from Ethiopic).
Moraldi, i. 655–82 (selection).
We find Pilate examining four soldiers as to their statement that the body of Jesus was stolen. One (the second: the testimony of the first is gone) says the eleven apostles took the body; the third says, Joseph and Nicodemus; the fourth, ‘we were asleep.’ They are imprisoned, and Pilate goes with the centurion and the priests to the tomb and finds the grave‐clothes. He says, ‘If the body had been stolen, these would have been taken too.’ They say, ‘These grave‐clothes belong to some one else.’ Pilate remembers the words of Jesus, ‘Great wonders must happen in my tomb’, and goes in, and weeps over the shroud. Then he turns to the centurion, who had but one eye, having lost the other in battle.
Here is a gap, in which no doubt the centurion's eye is healed by touching the grave‐clothes, and he is converted. Also it is clear that Joseph and Nicodemus are sent for, and that the Jews point out to Pilate that in a well in the garden there is the body of a crucified man.
The other leaf begins with a dialogue between Pilate and the centurion. Then all go to the well. ‘I, Gamaliel, followed them also among the band.’ They see the body, and the Jews cry, ‘Behold the sorcerer.’ . . . Pilate asks Joseph and Nicodemus whether this is the body of Jesus. They answer, the grave‐clothes are his, but the body is that of the thief who was crucified with him. The Jews are angry and wish to throw Joseph and Nicodemus into the well . . . Pilate remembers the words of Jesus, ‘The dead shall rise again in my tomb’, and says to the Jews, ‘You believe that this is truly the Nazarene.’ They say, ‘Yes.’ ‘Then’, says Pilate, ‘it is but right to lay his body in his own tomb.’ . . .
Here the leaf ends; but we can see that when the body is laid in Jesus' tomb it will revive and declare the truth.
1 Reviewed by A. Baumstark, ‘Les apocryphes coptes’, Rev. Bib. NS 3 (1906), 245–65. esp. 253–9: ‘Un Évangile de Gamaliel’.