John and the Robber

Standard abbreviation:  John Rob. with Stählin’s paragraph numbering as represented in Brannan’s Introduction and Translation (see §3.2 below)

Other titles: St. John and the Robber, John and Young Bishop of Ephesus, The Apostle John and the Young Bishop of Ephesus

Clavis numbers: none

Category: Patrictic Anecdotes

Related literature: the story of John and the Robber is found in Clement of Alexandria’s Quis dives salvetuer §42.1–15; also recorded in Antiochus of Palestine, Homily 122 (7th cent.; erroneously attributed to Irenaeus); Anastasius of Sinai, Homilia in sextum Psalmum (7th cent.); and Virtutes Iohannis (6th cent.).

Compiled by Rick Brannan, independent scholar (

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Brannan, Rick. “John and the Robber.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.

Posted January, 2016.


At the end of the homily Quis dives salvetur, Clement of Alexandria introduces the story of John and the Robber by emphasizing that it is not really a story, but a true and genuine account of John the Apostle. According to the account, John was released from his exile on Patmos after the death of Domitian and came to live in Ephesus (42.2). While in Ephesus, John would visit area churches to appoint bishops and resolve issues in each region. In one of these visits, perhaps to Smyrna, John encountered a charismatic young man. After his business with the bishop, John entrusted this young man to the bishop (42.3). Then John departed Ephesus. The bishop did what John asked, ensuring the baptism of the young man (42.4). Considering the young man secure, the bishop put his attention elsewhere. The young man, now on his own, soon fell in with a band of robbers, was slowly corrupted, and renounced his faith. Due to his charisma and passion, he soon became the chief of the band of robbers (42.5–7). After a while, John returned to the bishop on regular business. After the business was conducted, John asked the bishop about the deposit he had left with him. The bishop was confused, thinking John was attempting to extort money from him. John clarified, and the bishop recounted the story of the young man’s descent to thievery and subsequent alienation (42.8–9). John responded with action, mounting a horse and commandeering a guide to bring him to the young man (42.10–12). When he confronted the young man, John offered him salvation, heard his repentance, and restored him in the name of Christ (42.13–15).


2.1 Art and Iconography

The Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, houses a manuscript with a three-panel depiction of John and the Robber. Butterworth, in his Loeb Classical Library edition of Clement of Alexandria’s The Rich Man’s Salvation, includes a black and white reproduction and the following description:

John and the RobberThe Illustration reproduces (by kind permission of the Master and Fellows) a page from a manuscript Apocalypse in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, which is perhaps the finest example of the English art of its time, viz. the middle of the thirteenth century. It is one of the very few representations of the story of St. John and the Robber which occur in mediaeval art. The inscriptions, in Anglo-French, explain the scenes quite adequately.

Picture 1 (top of page).—Here is how St. John asks for the youth, and how he is in the forest with the robbers.

On label (St. John says to the Bishop) Restore me him whom I entrusted to you, and, by the witness of the Holy Church which you govern, I demand of you the youth whom I commended to you. (The Bishop says) He is dead. Verily he is dead to God; for he is gone away full of all mischief, and in the end he is become a wicked robber, and now he is in the mountain with a great company of robbers and hath taken the mountain for to spoil and to kill and to rob the people.

Picture 2.—Here is how the youth fled, and how St. John gallops after him and calls him gently.

(St. John says) Fair son, why dost thou flee from thy father? Wherefore dost thou flee from an old man unarmed? Have pity on thyself and have no fear, for thou canst still have hope of life. Fair son, stay!

Picture 3.—Here is how St. John kisses the youth’s right hand, and how he baptizes him, and how he leads him back to the Church from whence he had gone out. (T. E. Page et al., eds., Clement of Alexandria [trans. G. W. Butterworth; The Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann, 1960], xxi.)


3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

Generally, manuscripts and editions that contain Clement of Alexandria’s Quis dives salvetuer will contain John and the Robber. Further, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 3.23.5–19 transmits the story in an edition directly related to the version in Clement. This bibliography will not comprehensively list editions of Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius as these are readily available.

3.1.1 Greek

There are two primary manuscripts for Quis div.:

El Escorial, Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo, MS Ω III 19 (11th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, gr. 623 (16th cent.) ~ most likely a copy of the El Escorial manuscript.

Some manuscripts of Maximus the Confessor’s scholia on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite contains the account in a form that is likely based on  a manuscript of Quis div. In his edition of Quis div., Barnard lists the following additional manuscripts of the scholia that contain the account:

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, v. 32, fol. 217v (15th cent.)
Florence, Biblioteca di San Marco 686, fol. 214r (12th cent.)
Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Conv. Suppr. 202, fol. 190v (10th cent., with some supplied by 15th cent. hand)
Jerusalem, Bibliotheke tou Patriarcheiou, 414 (16th cent.)
London, British Library, Add. 18231, fol. 12r (972 C.E.)
Milan, Biblioteca Abrosiana, H 11 Sup. 2, fol. 212 (13th cent.)
Moscow, Russian State Library, 36 (10th cent.)
Oxford, Corpus Christi College, 141, fol. 2v(12th cent.)
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon. 97, fol. 221r (14th cent.)
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 440, fol. 177r (12th cent.)
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Coislin 86 (12th cent.)
Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, gr. 374, fol. 242 (13/14th cent.)
Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, gr. 404, fol. 76 (11/12th cent.)
Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Regin. 38, fol. 321 (11th cent.)
Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Ottob. 326, fol. 1 (16th cent.)
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Theol. gr. 110, fol. 197v (10th cent.)
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Theol. gr. 65 (olim 49), fol. 117r (14th cent.?)

Barnard, Percy Mordaunt. Clement of Alexandria: Quis Dives Salvetur. Vol. V, no. 2. Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1897.

Clement of Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria. Translated by G. W. Butterworth. Loeb Classical Library 92. London; New York: W. Heinemann ; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919.

Stählin, Otto. Clemens Alexandrinus. Vol. 3. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1909.

3.1.2 Latin

The scholia of Maximus were translated into Latin around 860 C.E. Barnard mentions two Latin manuscripts of the scholia that he consulted:

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmole 1526 (early 14th cent.)
Cambridge, University Library, Ii–3–32 (13th cent.)

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Barnard, Percy Mordaunt. A Homily of Clement of Alexandria, Entitled: Who Is the Rich Man That Is Being Saved? London [etc.] Society for promoting Christian knowledge; New York, E. & J. B. Young & co., 1901.

Brannan, Rick. “John and the Robber: A New Translation and Introduction.” Pages 362–70 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. (translation of Stählin’s Greek text).

Clement of Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria. Translated by G. W. Butterworth. Loeb Classical Library 92. London; New York: W. Heinemann ; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919.

3.3 General Works

Butterworth, G. W. “The Story of St John and the Robber.” JTS os-XVIII, no. 70–71 (1917): 141–46.

Cotterill, J. M. “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians and the Homilies of Antiochus Palaestinensis.” Edited by W. Aldis Wright, Ingram Bywater, and Henry Jackson. The Journal of Philology 19 (1891): 241–85.

Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. “Clement of Alexandria.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Culpepper, R. Alan. John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2000.

Dindorf, Ludwig August. Chronicon paschale. E. Weber, 1832.

Halloix, Pierre. Illustrium Ecclesiae Orientalis Scriptorum, Vitae et Documenta. Vol. 1. 2 vols. Duaci: Bogard, 1633.

Herbert, Máire, and Martin McNamara. Irish Biblical Apocrypha: Selected Texts in Translation. London; New York: T & T Clark International, 2004.

Hoek, Annewies Van Den. “Divergent Gospel Traditions in Clement of Alexandria and Other Authors of the Second Century.” Apocrypha 7 (1996): 43–62.

Junod, Eric and Jean-Daniel Kaestli, eds. Acta Iohannis. Vol. 1: Praefatio – Textus. Vol. 2: Textus alii – Commentarius – Indices. CCSA 1-2. Turnhout: Brepols, 1983 (edition and translation of Virtutes Iohannis in vol. 2, 799–834).

Lightfoot, J. B. The Apostolic Fathers, Part II: S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp. Revised Texts with Introductions, Notes, Dissertations, and Translations. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1885.

Swete, H. B. “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.” JTS os-XVII, no. 7 (1916): 371–74.

Taylor, C. “St. Polycarp to the Philippians.” Edited by William Aldis Wright, Ingram Bywater, and Henry Jackson. The Journal of Philology 20 (1892): 65–110.