Standard abbreviation: Reb. Dimas
Other titles: De bono latrone, the Good Bandit
Clavis number(s): CANT 78.2
Category: Infancy Gospels
Related literature: Arabic Infancy Gospel, Die Neu Eu, Ethiopic Miracles of Jesus, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Homily of the Church on the Rock, Hospitality of Dysmas, Hospitality and Ointment of the Bandit, 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, Vision of Theophilus, Vita beate virginis Marie et Salvatoris rhythmica.
Compiled by: Mark G. Bilby, California State University, Fullerton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Bilby, Mark Glen. “Rebellion of Dimas.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/rebellion-of-dimas/.
Posted July 2016. Updated July 2017.
The Rebellion of Dimas is known only in one manuscript, which is held by the seminary library of Namur, Belgium, where it is designated as manuscript 80 (late 12th century). The story about the bandit is found split into two segments, folios 13v–15v and 17r–17v. The first part of this interpolation is situated between chapters 19 and 20 of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in its tales of the Holy Family’s sojourn to Egypt. The Latin prose and range of vocabulary in this interpolation is actually quite impressive and erudite, more so than in other contemporary Latin stories about the bandit. The story centers on Dimas, who is straightaway identified as the bandit crucified to Jesus’ right. He is described as Jewish and royalty, the son of a procurator. At the instructions of Herod, he joins his father to guard the border between Israel and Egypt so as not to allow any infants to pass. One day, Dimas’s father walks away on a routine inspection and the Holy Family approaches. Divine mercy leads him to look upon this family, and especially the infant Jesus, with care and affection, even as he is undertaking a careful inspection and inquiry which makes Mary nervous. Joseph, cleverly taking advantage of Dimas’s initial evaluation of them as poor, pays false respect to the young man and deceptively commends his duty to find and report an infant born to a royal and wealthy family. At the same time, Joseph adeptly acts the part of a traveling beggar whose family is fleeing starvation in the hope of finding food to beg or to earn by work. In other words, Joseph’s excellent rhetorical argument prompts Dimas to dismiss the Holy Family as a legitimate political threat to Herod and leads him to let them pass across the border unmolested. Even after he lets the Holy Family go, Dimas feels a tremendous longing for Jesus and wants to join him, but he stays out of respect for his father. When his father returns, he quickly finds out about the infant being allowed to escape. Knowing that they are now beyond capture, he is furious with his son, explaining that he is oath-bound to report the truth back to Herod and reminding him of their duty to detain all infants, rich and poor alike. The procurator is eventually brought to trial and found guilty of treason, which leads him to disown his son. Forsaken, Dimas starts his rough life of violent banditry. Thus the first part of this interpolation ends, and the Pseudo-Matthew narrative turns immediately to the episode of the bending palm tree. The interpolation recommences as an extension to Pseudo-Matthew 25 and its brief mention of the return from Egypt. But here the interpolation suddenly jumps forward in time to preview the crucifixion of Jesus, where Dimas now reappears as one who is voluntarily captured to rejoin the Jesus whom he still remembers, is tortured together with Jesus, and joins him in eternal joy.
3.1 Manuscripts and Editions
N Namur, Bibliothèque du Séminaire, lat. 80 (=Gijsel A3a3) (late 12th cent.)
Geerard, Maurits. “Le bon larron, un apocryphe inédit,” Pages 355–63 in Philologia Sacra: Biblische und patristische Studien für Hermann J. Frede und Walter Thiele zu ihrem siebzigsten Geburtstag, Band II: Apocryphen, Kirchenväter, Verschiedenes. Edited by R. Gryson. GLB 24.2. Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 1993 (Latin text pp. 361–63).
3.2. Modern Translations
Bilby, Mark Glen. “The Rebellion of Dimas.” In vol. 2 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [forthcoming].
Poucet, Jacques. “La Fuite de la Sainte-Famille en Égypte chez Jean d’Outremeuse: Un episode de l’Évangile vu par un chroniqueur liégeois du XIVe siècle.” Folia Electronica Classica (Louvain-la-Neuve) 28 (2014 July-December). Accessed July 6, 2016. http://bcs.fltr.ucl.ac.be/FE/28/Egypt_MM/Egyptien/Larrons.htm (excerpts).
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.” Pages 39–51 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016 (introduction covers and compares various medieval stories about the bandit).
Billiard, Carine. Présentation et description du manuscrit 80 (Grand Séminaire, Salzinnes-Namur). 2 vol. Louvain-la-Neuve, mémoire de licence, 1984.
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.
Geerard, Maurits. “Le bon larron, un apocryphe inédit,” Pages 355–63 in Philologia Sacra: Biblische und patristische Studien für Hermann J. Frede und Walter Thiele zu ihrem siebzigsten Geburtstag, Band II: Apocryphen, Kirchenväter, Verschiedenes. Edited by R. Gryson. GLB 24.2. Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 1993.
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).
Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. Le Voleur De Paradis : Le Bon Larron Dans L’art Et La Société (XIVe-XVIe Siècles). Paris: Alma, 2015.
Poucet, Jacques. “La Fuite de la Sainte-Famille en Égypte chez Jean d’Outremeuse: Un episode de l’Évangile vu par un chroniqueur liégeois du XIVe siècle.” Folia Electronica Classica (Louvain-la-Neuve) 28 (2014 July-December). Accessed July 6, 2016. http://bcs.fltr.ucl.ac.be/FE/28/Egypt_MM/Egyptien/Larrons.htm.