Hospitium et unctio latronis
Other titles: De bono latrone, the Good Bandit, the Story of the Compassionate Robber
Standard abbreviation: Hosp. Oint. Band.
Clavis number(s): CANT 78.1
Category: Infancy Gospels
Related literature: Arabic Infancy Gospel, Die Neu Eu, Ethiopic Miracles of Jesus, Homily of the Church on the Rock, Hospitality of Dysmas, Hospitality and Perfume of the Bandit, Book about the Birth of the Savior, Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, Narrationes de vita et conversatione beatae Mariae virginis et de pueritia et adolescentia salvatoris, Rebellion of Dimas, Vision of Theophilus, Vita beate virginis Marie et Salvatoris rhythmica.
Compiled by: Mark G. Bilby, California State University, Fullerton (mgb8n@ virginia.edu).
Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Bilby, Mark Glen. “Hospitality and Ointment of the Bandit.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/hospitality-and-ointment-of-the-bandit/.
Posted July 2015. Updated July 2017.
This short story was interpolated into the Arundel form (but not the Hereford) of the Book about the Birth of the Savior (CANT 53) sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries. The story nowhere names the bandit, hence the lack of a reference to any Dismas, the traditional name of the bandit, in the title. The story begins with a brief mention of the bending palm tree from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew 21 and then greatly elaborates on a gang of twelve bandits and the so-called good bandit. Seeing the holy family approaching slowly and thinking them rich, the good bandit sees this as an occasion to get out of an evil trade. His companions tease him, making him furious. After the bandit approaches and begins looking over the entourage, the infant Christ miraculously converts him from enemy into protector. He then shows the holy family hospitality in his home. A bath is provided for the infant, and out of the bath arises a mystical and fragrant white foam, which the bandit’s wife gathers into a container. The next morning they bid the holy family farewell to continue their journey. Following the holy family but preoccupied with the bandit, the narrative quickly moves forward to the holy family’s return and a second round of hospitality at the bandit’s home. They quickly find out that a series of miraculous events had taken place in the interim, including the healing of the wife’s ailments, the instant treatment of her husband’s wounds, and the enrichment of this family by the other bandits in exchange for mere access to this healing ointment, akin to a holy relic that the bandit’s wife refuses to sell. The second time they gladly run to show the holy family hospitality—extremely lavish this time around—and grieve when they opt to leave the next day. The conclusion bluntly links together this tale with the crucifixion, identifying the hospitable bandit as the same one pardoned on the cross. When compared with the related literature listed above, this story is but one of many dealing with the good bandit and his encounter with the holy family in Egypt.
3.1 Manuscripts and Editions
A London, British Library, Arundel 404, fols. 1–19 (14th cent.)
V Trier, Stadtbibliothek, 550/1538, fols. 9r–47v (end 14th cent.)
Ehrman, Bart and Zlatko Pleše. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. The Latin text by Kaestli and McNamara is reproduced here on pp. 146–54 even.
James, M. R. Latin Infancy Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927. Edition of MS A (Arundel), pp. 121–26.
Kaestli, Jean Daniel and Martin McNamara. “Latin Infancy Gospels: The J Compilation.” Pages 866–71 in part 2 of Apocrypha Hiberniae I. Evangelia Infantiae. Edited by Martin McNamara, Caoimhín Breatnach, John Carey, Máire Herbert, Jean-Daniel Kaestli, Brian Ó Cuív, Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire. CCSA 13–14. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001. An edition based on both known manuscripts of the Arundel form of the Latin Infancy Gospel (A and V). Kaestli and McNamara, later followed by Ehrman and Pleše, entitle this the “Story of the Compassionate Robber.”
3.2. Modern Translations
Ehrman, Bart and Zlatko Pleše. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. An English translation of sections 111–25. based on the edition by Kaestli and McNamara appears on pp. 147–55 odd.
3.3 General Works
Bilby, Mark Glen. As the Bandit Will I Confess You: Luke 23, 39–43 in Early Christian Interpretation. Turnhout: Brepols; Strasbourg: University of Strasbourg, 2013. A critical overview of patristic interpretations of the so-called good bandit.
Bilby, Mark Glen. “The Hospitality of Dysmas.” Page 39–51 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016. The introduction covers and compares various medieval stories about the bandit.
Dzon, Mary. “Out of Egypt, Into England: Tales of the Good Thief for Medieval English Audiences.” Pages 147–241 in Devotional Culture in Late Medieval England and Europe: Diverse Imaginations of Christ’s Life. Edited by Stephen Kelly and Ryan Perry. Medieval Church Studies 31. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. See esp. pp. 204–207 for a highly learned summary of this story and detailed notes about its sources, similar medieval legends, as well as scholarship on the Book about the Birth of the Savior more generally. Contrary to James, Ehrman and Pleše, and Kaestli and McNamara, Dzon includes Birth Sav. sections 109–10 as part of this story.
Ehrman, Bart and Zlatko Pleše. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. An introduction to the Book about the Birth of the Savior as a whole is provided on pp. 115–117. A lengthy footnote on p. 145 introduces the interpolated story about the bandit.
Gounelle, Rémi. “Une légende apocryphe relatant la rencontre du bon larron et de la sainte famille en Égypte (BHG 2119y).” AnBoll 121 (2003): 241–72. Recounts many of the legends about the bandit and shows their respective affinities with the edited and translated text.
James, M. R. Latin Infancy Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927. A brief but critical introduction appears on pp. 120–21.
Kaestli, Jean Daniel and Martin McNamara. “Latin Infancy Gospels: The J Compilation.” Pages 623–70 of part 1 of Apocrypha Hiberniae I. Evangelia Infantiae. Edited by Martin McNamara, Caoimhín Breatnach, John Carey, Máire Herbert, Jean-Daniel Kaestli, Brian Ó Cuív, Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire. CCSA 13–14. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001. This section deals extensively with the major manuscripts of the Book about the Birth of the Savior as a whole, but it does address the place of the bandit’s story as an interpolation within some of these manuscripts.
Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. Le Voleur De Paradis : Le Bon Larron Dans L’art Et La Société (XIVe-XVIe Siècles). Paris: Alma, 2015.