The Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea
This is another medieval legend given only brief treatment here. 1 Chapter 3 is translated in full. The rest is given in summary form only. The earliest of Tischendorf's manuscripts is twelfth‐century. The language is Greek.
James (p. 165) states: ‘ . . . several phrases betray the influence of the same workshop that produced the Letters of Herod to Pilate. The ignorance of Jewish customs which it betrays is colossal.”
Birch, i. 183 ff.
Tischendorf, EA, pp. lxxxi f., 459–70.
James, 161–5 (summary).
Migne, Dictionnaire, ii, cols. 433–8.
Erbetta i.2, 397–401.
Moraldi, i. 683–92.
de Santos Otero, 501–12.
1. I, Joseph of Arimathaea, who begged the body of the Lord Jesus from Pilate, was imprisoned by the Jews on that account. These are the people who provoked their lawgiver Moses, and failing to recognize their God crucified his Son.
Seven days before the passion of Christ, two condemned robbers were sent from Jericho to Pilate, whose crimes were these.
The first, Gestas, used to strip and murder wayfarers, hang up women by the feet and cut off their breasts, drink the blood of babes: he knew not God nor obeyed any law, but was violent from the beginning.
The other, Demas, was a Galilean who kept an inn: he despoiled the rich but did good to the poor, even burying them, like Tobit. He had committed robberies on the Jews, for he stole the law itself at Jerusalem, and stripped the daughter of Caiaphas, who was a priestess of the sanctuary, and he took away even the mystic deposit of Solomon which had been deposited in the (holy) place.
Jesus also was taken at evening on the third day before the passover. But Caiaphas and the multitude of the Jews had no passover but were in great grief because of the robbery of the sanctuary by the thief. And they sent for Judas Iscariot who was brother's son to Caiaphas, and had been persuaded by the Jews to become a disciple of Jesus, not to follow his teachings, but to betray him. They paid him a didrachm of gold daily; and as one of Jesus’ disciples, called John, says, he had been two years with Jesus.
On the third day before Jesus was taken, Judas said to the Jews, ‘Let us assemble a council and say that it was not the robber who took away the law, but Jesus.’ Nicodemus, who had the keys of the sanctuary, said, ‘No’: for he was a truthful man. But Sarra, Caiaphas' daughter, cried out that Jesus said in public, ‘I can destroy the temple (etc.)’. All the Jews said, ‘We believe you.’ For they held her as a prophetess. So Jesus was taken.
2. On the next day, being Wednesday, at the ninth hour, they brought him into Caiaphas' hall, and Annas and Caiaphas asked him, ‘Why did you take away the law?’ He was silent. ‘Why would you destroy the temple of Solomon?’ He was silent.
In the evening the multitude sought the daughter of Caiaphas, to burn her with fire, because the law was stolen and they could not keep the passover. But she said, ‘Wait a little, my children, and let us destroy Jesus, and the law will be found and the feast kept.’ Then Annas and Caiaphas privily gave gold to Judas and said, ‘Say as you said before, that it was Jesus who stole the law.’ Judas agreed, but said, ‘The people must not know that you have told me this: and you must let Jesus go, and I will persuade them.’ So they fraudulently let Jesus go.
At dawn of the Thursday Judas went into the sanctuary and said to all the people, ‘What will ye give me if I deliver to you the destroyer of the law and robber of the prophets?’ They said, ‘Thirty silver pieces of gold.’ But they did not know that it was Jesus of whom he spoke, for many thought him to be the Son of God. And Judas received the thirty pieces.
At the fourth and fifth hours he went out and found Jesus walking in the street. Towards evening he obtained a guard of soldiers. As they went, Judas said, ‘Whomsoever I shall kiss, take him: he it is that stole the law and the prophets.’ He came to Jesus and kissed him, saying, ‘Hail, Rabbi.’ They took Jesus to Caiaphas and examined him. ‘Why did you do this?’ But he answered nothing. Nicodemus and I left the seat of the pestilent, and would not consent to perish in the council of sinners.
3. Having done many dreadful things against Jesus that night, they gave him to Pilate, the Procurator, at dawn on the day of preparation, so that he could crucify him. They all came together for this purpose. After a trial, Pilate, the Procurator, ordered him to be nailed to the cross, alongside two robbers. They were nailed up along with Jesus, Gestas on the left, and Demas on the right.
And the man on the left began to cry out and said to Jesus, ‘See how many evil deeds I did on earth. If I had known you were a king I would have destroyed you too. Why do you call yourself Son of God yet cannot help yourself when you are in need? How can you help someone else with your prayer? If you are the Christ, come down from the cross, so that I may believe in you. Now I see you are perishing along with me, not like a man but like a wild beast.’ And he said many other things against Jesus, blaspheming and gnashing his teeth against him. The robber was taken alive in the snare of the devil.
But the robber on his right hand, whose name was Demas, saw the godlike grace of Jesus and said, ‘Jesus Christ, I know you are the Son of God. I see you, Christ, adored by countless myriads of angels. Pardon me my sins. In my trial do not let the stars come against me, or the moon, when you will judge all the world, because it was at night‐time when I did my wicked deeds. Do not urge the sun, darkened now on your account, to tell the evils of my heart, for I can give you no gift for the remission of my sins. Already death is coming upon me because of my sins; but yours is the propitiation. Deliver me, O Lord of all, from your fearful judgement. Do not give the enemy power to swallow me up or to become the inheritor of my soul, as he has the soul of him hanging on the left. I see how the devil joyfully takes his soul and his flesh disappears. Do not even order me to depart to the portion of the Jews; for I see Moses and the patriarchs lamenting, and the devil rejoices over them. O Lord, before my spirit departs, order my sins to be washed away, and remember me, the sinner, in your kingdom, when upon the great throne of the Most High you shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel. 1 Matt. 19: 28 . For you have prepared great punishment for the world on your own account.’
And when the robber had said these things, Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, Demas, that today you will be with me in paradise. 2 Luke 23: 43 . And the sons of the kingdom, the children of Abraham, and Isaac, Jacob and Moses, shall be cast into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 3 Matt. 8: 11–12 . And you alone shall dwell in paradise until my second coming, when I am to judge those who do not confess my name.’ And he said to the robber, ‘Go and speak to the cherubim and the powers who wield the flaming sword, who have guarded paradise from the time that Adam, the first creation, was in paradise and sinned and did not keep my commandments and I cast him out from there. Say that none of the first shall see paradise until I come the second time to judge the living and the dead, it having been written that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from the heights of heavens, and came forth from the bosom of the invisible Father without having been separated from him, and came down into the world to be made flesh and to be nailed to a cross, in order that I might save Adam, whom I fashioned. Say to my archangelic powers, the gatekeepers of paradise, to the officers of my Father: I require and order that he who has been crucified along with me should enter and receive remission of sins through me, and that, having put on an incorruptible body, he should go into paradise, and dwell where nobody has been able to dwell.’
After he had said this, Jesus gave up the ghost on the day of preparation at the ninth hour. And there was darkness over the whole earth, and there was a great earthquake. The sanctuary collapsed and the pinnacle of the temple fell.
4. And I, Joseph, begged the body and laid it in my new tomb. The body of Demas was not found: that of Gestas was in appearance like that of a dragon. The Jews imprisoned me on the evening of the sabbath.
When it was evening on the first day of the week, at the fifth hour of the night, Jesus came to me with the thief on the right hand. There was great light; the house was raised up by the four corners and I went forth: and I perceived Jesus first, and then the thief bringing a letter to him, and as we journeyed to Galilee there was a very great light, and a sweet fragrance came from the thief.
Jesus sat down in a certain place and read as follows: The cherubim and the six‐winged that are commanded by your Godhead to keep the garden of paradise make known to you this by the hand of the robber that by your dispensation was crucified with you. When we saw the mark of the nails on the robber that was crucified with you and the light of the letters of your Godhead, the fire was quenched, being unable to bear the light of the mark, and we were in great fear and crouched down. For we heard that the maker of heaven and earth and all creation had come to dwell in the lower parts of the earth for the sake of Adam the first‐created. For we beheld the spotless cross, with the robber flashing with light and shining with seven times the light of the sun, and trembling came on us, when we heard the crashing of them beneath the earth, and with a great voice the ministers of Hades said with us, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is he that was in the highest in the beginning’, and the powers sent up a cry, saying, ‘Lord, you have been manifested in heaven and upon earth, giving joy unto the worlds and saving your own creation from death.’
5. And as I went with Jesus and the robber to Galilee, the form of Jesus was changed and he became wholly light, and angels ministered to him and he conversed with them. I stayed with him three days, and none of the disciples were there.
In the midst of the days of unleavened bread his disciple John came, and the robber disappeared. John asked who it was, but Jesus did not answer. John said, ‘Lord, I know that you have loved me from the beginning: why do you not reveal this man to me?’ Jesus said, ‘Do you seek to know hidden things? Are you wholly without understanding? Do you not perceive the fragrance of paradise filling the place? Do you not know who it was? The thief who was on the cross has become heir of paradise: verily, verily, I say to you, that it is his alone until the great day come.’ John said, ‘Make me worthy to see him.’
Then suddenly the thief appeared, and John fell to the earth: for he was now like a king in great might, clad with the cross. And a voice of a multitude was heard, ‘You have come into the place of paradise prepared for you: we are appointed to serve you by him that sent you until the great day.’ After that both the thief and I, Joseph, vanished, and I was found in my own house, and I saw Jesus no more.
All this I saw and have written, that all might believe in Jesus and no longer serve Moses' law, but believe in the signs and wonders of Christ, and believing obtain eternal life and be found in the kingdom of heaven.
For His is glory, might, praise, and majesty, world without end. Amen.
1 Chapter 3 is translated in full. The rest is given in summary form only.