Thought Archive

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dismas and Gestas

Since we are talking Russia and religion here is an interesting factoid:

The names of the thieves crucified with Christ appear in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, the Acts of Pilate.

Book IX:5 reads
5 Then Pilate commanded the veil to be drawn before the judgement-seat whereon he sat, and saith unto Jesus: Thy nation hath convicted thee (accused thee) as being a king: therefore have I decreed that thou shouldest first be scourged according to the law of the pious emperors, and thereafter hanged upon the cross in the garden wherein thou wast taken: and let Dysmas and Gestas the two malefactors be crucified with thee.

They are very well known in the Orthodox tradition, where larger icons of the Crucifixion can show two crosses flanking Christ's. According to tradition, Dismas, on Christ's right, repents and eventually joins Christ in Heaven, while Gestas blasphemes and ends up in Hell. At the moment of Christ's passing, he writhes in agony and his feet jerk, pulling the lowest crossbar askew. On the traditional Russian Orthodox cross, the lowest crossbar is at an angle, with the right side up (Dismas went to Heaven) and the left side down (Gestas went to Hell).

However another most likely explanation is that the crossbar symbolizes the main saint of Russia (the most likely explanation), St. Andrew, who was crucified on a torture rack of diagonally crossed beams


NoolaBeulah said...

Nazim, there are times when I cannot follow the twistings and turnings of your mind. So I won't bother trying.

Nonetheless, I do like you little factoid. Well, factoids, to be precise. I never knew the names of the two thieves nor had anyone explained why the lower crosspiece was askew. While the St Andrew story is more likely, I must admit I like the writhing feet at the moment of death. It's that sort of tiny detail that 'mythic' stories preserve and that add a touch of lived life (or in this case, death) to what is otherwise a narrative of grand gestures.

Hazar Nesimi said...

I dont really know how my mind works myself - i just like to collect a lot of trivia, thats all. These things as you rightly said constitute a touch of real lived life even from times immemorial.