Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver

Standard abbreviation: Leg. Sil.

Other titles: none

Clavis numbers: none

Category: Hagiographa

Related literature: History of the Holy Rood-tree, Solomon of Basra, Book of the Bee 44

Compiled by: Tony Burke, York University (tburke@yorku.ca)

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Burke, Tony. “Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/legend-of-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver/.

Posted January, 2016.

1. SUMMARY

Leg. Sil. exists in two main forms: an Eastern recension in Syriac, Garshuni, and Armenian, and a Western recension in Latin and European vernaculars. Both forms relate the origin and transmission of the silver pieces paid to Judas to betray Christ. The story begins with the minting of the coins by Terah, then they are passed on to Abraham, to Solomon, to Nebuchadnezzar, to the Magi, to Jesus, who deposits them in the temple, and then to Judas. The two recensions diverge in the passing of the coins from the Magi to Jesus. In the Eastern version the Magi lose the coins in Edessa, merchants find them and give them to King Abgar, and he sends them, along with the Seamless Robe, to Jesus as a reward for healing him. In the Western version the coins pass directly from the Magi to Mary (as part of the gifts to the newborn Messiah), who loses them while the Holy Family is in Egypt; they come into the hands of a shepherd and he gives them to Jesus. Some of the Western versions include an epilogue describing the Judas penny relics that remained in circulation and elaborate descriptions of the potters’ field purchased with the coins returned to the Jews by Judas (Matt 27:7–10).

2. RESOURCES

2.1 Use in Popular Culture

web-site-bulletConstantine, Lynne. The Veritas Deception. Sailor Dance Publishing, 2016. (A thriller in which psychopathic antagonist Damon Crosse seeks use the silver pieces’ supernatural powers to achieve his evil goals; the legend is recounted pp. 240–41 and 438–39).

3. BIBLIOGRAPHY

3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

 

3.1.1 Arabic

Egypt, Coptic Museum, Serial No. 117 (Call No. Hist. 276) (18th cent.)

3.1.2 Armenian (as part of the Abgar Legend)

Yerevan, Matenadaran, 3854 (1471)
Yerevan, Matenadaran, 7993 (1692)

Outtier, Bernard. “Une forme enrichie de la Légende d’Abgar en arménien.” Pages 129–45 in Apocryphes arménians: transmission–traduction–creation–iconographie; Acts du colloque international sur la littérature apocryphe en langue arménienne (Genève, 18-20 septembre 1997). Edited by in Valentina Calzolari Bouvier, Jean-Daneil Kaestli, and Bernard Outtier. Lausanne: Éditions du Zébre, 1999 (edition and translation of the Armenian text),

3.1.3 Garšūnī

Cambridge, University Library, Syriac Add. 2881, fol. 136v–139r (1484)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 22, fol. 134v–136v (1527)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr 48, fol. 144r–145r (1906, but based in part on a MS from 1757)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 479, fol. 123v–125r (1819)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 514, fol. 140r–142r (1729 or 1750)

Mardin, Za‘faran Monastery, 240, fol. 95r–97v (19th/20th cent.)

Burke, Tony and Slavomir Céplö. “The Syriac Tradition of the Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Hugoye 19.1 (2016): 35–121 (Editions of the East Syriac, West Syriac, and Garšūnī texts with English translations).

3.1.4 Latin

Godfrey of Viterbo, Pantheon (1185)
Ludolph of Suchem, De Itinere Terrae Sanctae 39 (14th cent.)
John of Hildesheim, Historia trium Regum 28-29 (14th cent.)
Felix Fabri of Nuremburg, Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae, Arabia et Egypti peregrinationem (15th cent.)

British Library, Add. 34276, fol. 33v, 15th cent., related to John of Hildesheim, Historia trium Regum
British Library, Add. 34139 fol. 87r, 1492 or early 16th cent.
British Library, 22553 fol. 144v, 15th cent.
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAL 543, fol. 112v–113r, 14th cent.
Halle, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Stolb.-Wernig. Za 69m, fol. 23v–24v, 15th cent.

Hill, George Francis. “The Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Archaeologica 59 (1905): 235–54. Reprint in idem, The Medallic Portraits of Christ, The False Shekels, The Thirty Pieces of Silver. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1920, 91–116 (extensive discussion of the Western versions).

3.1.5 Syriac

Eastern Recension (incorporated also into Solomon of Basra, Book of the Bee 44):

London, British Library, Syr. 9 (formerly India Office Syr. 9), fol. 242r–243r (1712/1713)

Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Syr. 74 (formerly Sachau 9), fols. 20v–22r (1695)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 309, fol. 51v–53v (1869)

Budge, Ernest A. W., ed. The Book of the Bee: The Syriac Text Edited from the Manuscripts in London, Oxford, Munich, with an English Translation. Anecdota Oxoniensia, Semitic Series 1 part 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1886 (edition and translation of the East Syriac text incorporated as Bk. Bee 44).

Western Recension:

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 197, fol. 93r–94v (16th cent.)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Syr. 215, fol. 82v–83v (17th cent.), likely a copy of Syr. 197

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 71, fol. 134v–136v (ca. 1600)

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 369, fol. 130r–131r (ca. 1480), related to Syr. 71

Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, Mingana Syr. 480, fol. 241v–242r (1712)

3.1.6 Additional Languages

The Latin tradition spawned translations into several European languages including German, English, Italian, Spanish, Occitan, and Catalan, surveyed inter alia in Hook, “The Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver” (see below).

3.2 Modern Translations

Burke, Tony and Slavomir Céplö. “The Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Pages 393–308 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016.

3.3 General Works

Behland, Max. Die Dreikönigslegende des Johannes von Hildesheim. Munich: W. Fink, 1968.

Bezold, Carl. Kebra Nagast, die Herrlichkeit der Könige. Munich: Verlag der Königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1905.

Bezold, Carl. The Queen of Sheba and Her Only Son Menyelek. London: Martin Hopkinson & Co., 1922.

Cherchi, Paolo. “A Legend from St Bartholomew’s Gospel in the Twelfth Century.” RB 91 (1984): 212–18.

Creizenach, Wilhelm. Judas Ischarioth in Legende und Sage des Mittelalters, Separatabdruck aus den Beiträgen zur Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache und Literatur. Band II, Heft 2. Halle, Lippert’sche Buchhandlung, 1875.

de Lagarde, Paul. Praetermissorum libri duo. Göttingen: Officina Academica Dieterichiana, 1879.

de Mély, Fernand. “Les Deniers de Judas dans la Tradition du Moyen Âge.” Revue Numismatique 4.3 (1899): 500–509.

Deycks, Ferdinand, ed. Ludolphi, rectoris ecclesiae parochilais in Suchem, De itnere terrae Sanctae Liber. Bibliothek des Litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart 25. Stuttgart: Literarischer Verein, 1851.

du Méril, Edélestand, ed. Poésies populaires latines du Moyen Age. Paris: Firmin Didot & A. Franck, 1847.

Jullien, Florence. “La légende des Trente pièces d’argent de Judas et le roi Abgar.” Apocrypha 24 (2013): 207–20.

Godfrey of Viterbo. Pantheon, sive Vniversitatis Libri, qui Chronici appellantur. Basle: ex officina Iocabi Parci, 1559.

Gretser, Jakob. Hortus Sanctae Crucis. Ingolstadt, 1610.

Harris, Sylvia C. “German translations of the Historia Trium Regum by Johannes de Hildesheim.” Modern Language Review 53 (1958): 364–73.

Harris, Sylvia C. “The Historia Trium Regum and the Mediaeval Legend of the Magi in Germany.” Medium aevum 28 (1959): 23–30.

Hassler, Cunradus D., ed. Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae, Arabia et Egypti peregrinationem, Fratris Felicis Fabri. Vol. 1. Stuttgart: Sumptibus Societatis Litterariae, 1843.

Hill, George Francis. “The Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Archaeologica 59 (1905): 235–54 Reprint in idem, The Medallic Portraits of Christ, The False Shekels, The Thirty Pieces of Silver. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1920, 91–116.

Hofmann, Rudolph. A. Das Leben Jesu nach den Apokryphen im Zusammenhang aus den Quellen erzählt und wissenschaftlich untersucht. Leipzig: Friedrich Voigt, 1851.

Hook, David. “The Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Pages 205–21 in The Medieval Mind: Hispanic Studies in Honour of Alan Deyermond. Edited by Ian R. MacPherson and Ralph J. Penny. London: Tamesis, 1997.

Horstman, Carl, ed. The Three Kings of Cologne: An Early English Translation of the ‘Historia Trium Regum’ by John of Hildesheim. EETS, Old Series 85. London: Oxford University Press, 1886.

Jullien, Florence. “La légende des Trente pièces d’argent de Judas et le roi Abgar.” Apocrypha 24 (2013): 207–20.

Kane, Thomas L. “An Amharic Version of the Origin of the Cross.” BSAOS 44.2 (1981): 273–89.

Meyer, Wilhelm. “Die Geschichte des Kreuzholzes vor Christus.” Abhandlungen der philosophisch-philologischen Classe der Königlich Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 16 (1882): 103–66.

Napier, Arthur S. History of the Holy Rood-tree. EETS, Old Series 103. London: Oxford University Press, 1894.

Paffenroth, Kim. Judas: Images of the Lost Disciple. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2001.

Reiner, Erica. “Thirty Pieces of Silver.” JAOS 88.1 (1968): 186–90.

Stewart, Aubrey, trans. Book of the Wanderings of Brother Felix Fabri. 4 vols. Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society 7–10. London: 24 Hanover Square W., 1893–1896.

Stewart, Aubrey, trans. Ludolph von Suchem’s Description of the Holy Land, and of the Way Thither, Written in the Year AD 1350. Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society 12. London: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society, 1895.