View Full Version : The Two Thieves
06-08-2012, 05:31 PM
In the New Testament gospel story, Jesus Christ is depicted has being hung on a cross between two "thieves," "criminals" or "malefactors."
This episode is represented at Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27, Luke 23:39-43 and John 19:18. The passage in Matthew says:
"Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left."
The Greek word rendered here as "robbers" and elsewhere as "thieves" is λῃσταί or lestai, plural of λῃστής or lestes (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3027&t=KJV)
which Strong's Dictionary defines as: "a robber, plunderer, freebooter, brigand." The Greek word is used 15 times across all four gospels. In Matthew, both criminals mock Christ, and there is no hint of a "penitent thief."
Mark 15:27 says:
"And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left."
Here again the Greek word rendered "robber" is lestes.
In a note in the RSV, we learn that there is in some Bible editions an insertion, Mark 15:28, which reads:
"And the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was reckoned with the transgressors."
We thus learn that this episode is included in order to "fulfill prophecy" (Is 53:12 http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Isa&c=53&v=12&t=KJV#conc/12) i.e., as part of the messianic scriptural blueprint used by the creators of Christianity.
John 19:18 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Jhn&c=19&v=18&t=RSV#conc/18)
"There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them."
The word here is simply ἄλλους or allous, from allos or "other."
The passages at Luke provide more details:
"One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
This passage does not identify these individuals as "thieves." They are simply crucified "criminals." Departing from Mark and Matthew, Luke does not use the word λῃστής or lestes here to describe the "robbers." The Greek word at Luke 23:39 for "criminals" is κακοῦργος or kakourgos
meaning "bad-doer." Hence, the Latin "malefactor" is closest to the literal translation. the same word κακοῦργος is used in the NT only in Luke 23, at verses 32, 33 and 39, and at 2 Timothy 2:9.
These facts are suggestive of a later interpolation, especially since the term is used elsewhere only in an epistle widely accepted as attributed to Paul but which was evidently written in the middle of the second century.
What is the meaning of this story? What does it represent? Why is it present in the scriptures?
I want to leave this here until other people offer their opinions as to the meaning of the story
06-08-2012, 05:33 PM
Where does the story of Christ hanging between "two thieves" come from and why was it emphasized? This motif gained great popularity throughout Christendom, with the characters receiving various names.
According to Christian tradition, the thief going to heaven is named Dysmas/Dismas/Desmas/ Demas/Dimas/Dymas, while the one destined for hell is Ctegas/Cystas/Cesmas/Gestas/Gistas, the names being introduced in several texts, including the apocryphal Acts of Pilate or Acta Pilati. In most manuscripts, Demas appears on the right of Jesus, while Gestas is on the left. In one manuscript of the Acts, however, and in several other texts, these positions are reversed.
As part of the rise in popularity of this penitent thief story, Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria (385–412), wrote a "classic Coptic" tract called Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief. Theophilus is, of course, the infamous leader who provoked mobs of Christians to destroy the Serapeum and whose successor and nephew, Cyrus, murdered the Egyptian female sage Hypatia. Theophilus also "cleaned out" the local Mithra temple or Mithraeum.
And it is with the mention of Mithra that I wish to continue. In fact we find this motif of a divine figure surrounded by two important characters, whether "malefactors," "thieves" or other, in Egyptian and Persian religion, as well as within Buddhism. The "two-thieves" motif's is also to be found in the well-known imagery of the Persian god Mithra surrounded by the two "torchbearers," Cautes and Cautopates
This imagery of the god between two important figures is abundant within Mithraism, which was widely spread from Persia to Great Britain during the centuries concerning Christian origins. Surely, the creators of subsequent Christian art depicting Christ hanging between two "companions" were not oblivious to this motif within Mithraism.
In Mithraism, one of the "torchbearers" is pointing up to the heavens, while the other points down to hell, much like the Christian tale of the penitent thief going to heaven, while the other is destined for hell. Moreover, Mithraic astronomy as explained by Dr. Roger Beck indicates these two represent the months following the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the one pointing upward indicating the movement towards the "heaven" of the summer solstice and the one pointing downward showing the path to the "hell" of the winter solstice.
Within Egyptian religion we find an interesting depiction in the Dendera zodiac of the Egyptian god Horus situated on the line of the vernal equinox, surrounded by the baboon god Aan and a jackal, representing Anubis. Both of these animals are considered to be "thieves," and the fact that Horus is thus "crucified" on the line of the vernal equinox or at "Easter" is significant and suggestive of both the Christian and Persian iconography, predating the former by centuries.
Thus, we can see that this "Christian" motif of the god between the two evil-doers is unoriginal and, indeed, mythical, possibly influenced by Mithraism, Egyptian religion, as well as the Jewish scripture mandating that the suffering servant (Isaiah 53) must be counted "among the transgressors."
06-08-2012, 05:36 PM
Mithras is illustrated surrounded by the 12 signs of the zodiac with the two torch bearer's - one aiming up and the other aiming down - all within the context of Sol and Luna and the Aeon of Taurus with it's associated symbolism. And it's fairly basic that this scene is astronomical in nature and the Cautes and Cautopates represent duality, which applied to the cosmos can represent everything from sunrise to sunset, spring to autumn, and even the rising and falling halves of the Great Year cycle of Platonic thought.
Just like the crucifixion, the Mithraic sacrifice takes place between the sun and moon and under the eye of the Father God. They are at every level reflections of the primal duality of light and darkness, life and death, spirit and matter, etc.
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." - Luke 23:44-45
"And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour." - Mark 15:33
The passover, which is the time when Jesus was crucified, occurs at full moon, when the earth is between the moon and the sun.
But there is much more to this and it has to do with astrological symbolism. Viewed from the south, the constellation Argo Navis appears as a ship with Canopus the prow, the false cross made of stars in Carina and Vela as the keel and hull, and stars in Vela and Puppis forming a mast. On this arrangement, Puppis is the head of the mast and the sails, and Vela forms the deck, mast base and rudder.
This constellation has the name Argo from the myth of the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts, with Argo another name for the Ark, as in the biblical story of Noah. There are stories linking Argo with Noah's Ark and other ancient mythology, indicating etymological connection from Sanskrit. http://www.constellationsofwords.com/Constellations/ArgoNavis.html
"In Greek Mythology Argo Navis represents the Ship used by Jason and fifty Argonauts to sail to fetch the Golden Fleece from Colchis (Iolcus) in the Black Sea. The Argo was built by the shipwright Argos or Argus. It was built at the port of Pagasae, using timber from nearby Mount Pelion.
Ancient authors were divided about the origin of the name of the ship. Some ascribed it to the name of the person who built it, Argus, son of Phrixus; others to the Greek word argos, 'swift', as being a light sailor; others to the city of Argos, where they suppose it was built; yet others to the Argives, who went on board it... The -naut of argonaut and the Navis of Argo Navis come from the same indo-European root *náu- 'Boat or ship'....
Argo has been identified with a number of arks: 'Egyptian story said that it was the ark that bore Isis and Osiris over the Deluge; while the Hindus thought that it performed the same office for their equivalent Isi and Iswara. And their prehistoric tradition made it the ship Argha for their wandering sun, steered by Agastya, the alpha star of Carina, Canopus. In this Sanskrit argha we perhaps may see our title'.
Christian legend identifies the constellation as Noah's Ark."
In Star Names Their Lore and Meaning (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Topics/astronomy/_Texts/secondary/ALLSTA/Argo_Navis*.html) by Richard Hinckley Allen states "Egyptian story said that it was the ark that bore Isis and Osiris over the Deluge; while the Hindus thought that it performed the same office for their equivalent Isi and Iswara. And their prehistoric tradition made it the ship Argha for their wandering sun, steered by Agastya, the star Canopus. In this Sanskrit argha we perhaps may see our title."
Canopus (Alpha Carinae) is the brightest star at the top and it is to this star and its companions that I wish to look. A very good study of the mythology of Canopus is An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and Its Transmission Through Myth, Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, 1977. (http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/hamlets_mill/hamletmill.htm)
Hamlet's Mill contains extensive discussion of Argo and Canopus because of their distinctive and unusual role in stellar mythology. They note that the Roman writer Virgil identified the South Celestial Pole, invisible from the north, as the realm of the dead. In alignment with this general model, Osiris, Egyptian Lord of the Dead, had his ship (Argo) close to the South Celestial Pole, sailing the Styxian River of the Milky Way.
The Southern Cross, the Diamond Cross and the False Cross in Argo form a set of three crosses near the south celestial pole. Visible from southern Egypt, these three crosses provide a celestial counterpart to the myth of Christ crucified among thieves.
Canopus was the Pole Star about 12,000 years ago, when these three crosses revolved around the south celestial pole. There are also three crosses formed by Crux, the diamond cross and the false cross. Jesus crucified among thieves.
Canopus was identified with Osiris, Lord of the Dead, and the South Celestial Pole was identified by Virgil as the realm of the dead. The slow shift of Canopus away from the pole over the last twelve thousand years is a southern partner to the way the cosmic mill shifted from the north pole, with possible mythic links to the fall and the flood, as discussed in Hamlet's Mill.
Basically, the old south pole star in the golden age, Canopus, stands as the common foot of three crosses readily visible among the stars in the traditional shape depicted on Calvary.
06-08-2012, 05:39 PM
In the story of Heracles and the Kerkopes we are told that the Kerkopes were a race of mischievous marauders who were punished by the gods for their immorality by being turned ugly. They are typically depicted as ape-like.
As Ovid(1st century BCE-CE) wrote in Book XIV of the Metamorphosis, in The Pilgrimage of Aeneas:
"For once the Father of the Gods, who loathed
The fruad and falsehood of the Cerocopes
And all their crafty crimes, transformed the men
Into misshapen animals that seemed
Both like and unlike humans, shriveling
Their limbs, tilting and flattening their noses,
Ploughing their cheeks with wrinkles of old age."
They were known for their marauding. In other words, they were... thieves. And then came Heracles.
In Book IV of his Library of History, chapter 31, Diodorus of Sicily(1st century BCE) wrote:
"and Heracles, healed now of the disease and serving Omphale as his slave, began to mete out punishment upon the robbers who infested the land. As for the Cercopes, for instance, as they are called, who were robbing and committing many evil acts, some of them he put to death and others he took captive and delivered in chains to Omphale."
And how many did he take captive?
And in what manner did he 'deliver them in chains'?
From the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, dated to the 6th century BCE:
A metope from the National Museum at Paestrum, also dated to the 6th century BCE:
From the National Archaeological Museum of Palermo:
Interesting, the most common depiction of this scene has a son of a god forming a 'cross' between two thieves, who are hanging from said 'cross'. In the story we are told that when Heracles delivered the two thieves to his 'father' one of the thieves repented and was turned back to human shape while the other refused and remained the same. In other words, one of the thieves was saved while the other was not.
06-08-2012, 05:40 PM
How do we know the names and identities of the two thieves crucified with Jesus? Their names are not mentioned in the Gospels. Tradition has their names as Dismas (the "good thief"), and Gestas (the one who rejected Jesus). Many times however these roles are reversed.
Interestingly in Greek, Demas = people. Also, he is one of the enemies of Paul at Ephesus. Somehow his name was attached to this thief. But how?
The names come from the Gospel of Necodemus also known as the Acta Pilati
CHAP. 10.- "And when Jesus was scourged, he delivered Him to the Jews to be crucified, and two robbers with Him; one by name Dismas, and the other by name Gestas. And when they came to the place, they stripped Him of His garments, and girt Him about with a linen cloth, and put a crown of thorns upon His head. Likewise also they hanged the two robbers with Him, Dismas on the right and Gestas on the left. And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And the soldiers parted His garments among them. And the people stood waiting; and their chief priests and judges mocked Him, saying among themselves: He saved others, now let him save himself; if he is the Son of God, let him come down from the cross. And the soldiers mocked Him, falling prostrate before Him, and offering vinegar with gall, and saying: If thou art the King of the Jews, set thyself free."
What is this Gospel? The Old Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:
"This work does not assume to have written by Pilate, but to have been derived from the official acts preserved in the praetorium at Jerusalem. The alleged Hebrew original is attributed to Nicodemus. The title "Gospel of Nicodemus" is of medieval origin. The apocryphon gained wide credit in the Middle Ages, and has considerably affected the legends of our Saviour's Passion. Its popularity is attested by the number of languages in which it exists, each of these being represented by two or more recensions. We possess a text in Greek, the original language; a Coptic, an Armenian and a Latin, besides modern translations. The Latin versions were naturally its most current form and were printed several times in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One class of the Latin manuscripts contain as an appendix or continuation, the "Cura Sanitatis Tiberii", the oldest form of the Veronica legend."
The main body of Acta Pilati is in two sections, with an appendix, Descensus ad Infernos: the Harrowing of Hell. The first (chapters i–xi) contains the trial of Jesus based upon Luke 23. The second part (xii–xvi) regards the Resurrection. In it, Leucius and Charinus, the two souls raised from the dead after the Crucifixion. The Harrowing of Hell episode depicts St Dismas accompanying Christ in Hell, and the deliverance of the righteous Old Testament patriarchs.
So the text depicts two stages: The descent into hell and the ascent into heaven. The complete initiation.
Another way to look at it is as follows:
The Caduceus of Hermes. The Greek Hermes found his analogue in Egypt as the ancient Wisdom god Thoth, as Taaut of the Phoenicians and in Rome as the god Mercury (all linked with a magic rod with twin snakes). An occult description of the Caduceus of Hermes (Mercury) is that the serpents may represent positive and negative kundalini as it moves through the chakras and around the spine (the staff) to the head where it communicates with MIND by intellection, the domain of Mercury [wings]. The rod also represents the spine [sushumna] while the serpents conduct spiritual currents [pranas] along the ida and pingala channels in a double helix pattern from the chakra at the base of the spine up to the pineal gland.
Ancient mysticism tells us that there are three principal nadis (Sanskrit for channel) in the human body. The sushumna (the spinal column through which the life-forces flow), by which means we enter and leave the body, the Ida (refreshment and stimulation of spirit), which is associated with the higher mind or manas and the Pingala, (reddish-brown), associated with kama or the force of desire.
But there is of course much more to this.
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