The Good Thief
On the supposition that our Lord was crucified upon March 25 the Roman Martyrology for this day contains the following entry: "At Jerusalem the commemoration of the holy thief who confessed Christ upon the cross and deserved to hear from Him the words: 'This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'" We know no more of his history than is contained in the few sentences devoted to him by the evangelist St. Luke, but, as in the case of most of the other personalities mentioned in the gospels, such as Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, Martha, a story was soon fabricated which gave him a notable place in the apocryphal literature of the early centuries. In the Arabic "Gospel of Infancy" we are told how, in the course of the flight into Egypt, the Holy family was waylaid by robbers. Of the two leaders, named Titus and Dumachus, the former, stirred by compassion, besought his companion to let them pass unmolested, and when Dumachus refused, Titus bribed him with forty drachmas, so that they were left in peace. Thereupon the Blessed Virgin said to her benefactor, "The Lord God shall sustain thee with His right hand and give thee remission of sins". And the Infant Jesus, intervening, spoke, "After thirty years, mother, the Jews will crucify me in Jerusalem, and these two robbers will be lifted on the cross with me, Titus on my right hand Dumachus on my left, and after that day Titus shall go before me into paradise". This story, with others, subsequently found popular acceptance in western Christendom, though the names there most commonly given to the thieves were Dismas and Gestas. But we also find Zoathan and Chammatha, and yet other variants. That genuine devotional feeling was sometimes evoked by the incident of the pardon of the good thief upon the cross seems to be shown by the vision of St. Porphyrius (c. 400), to which passing reference was made herein on his day (February 26). We find the two thieves represented in pictures of the crucifixion at a quite early date, as for example, in the Syriac manuscript illuminated by Rabulas in 586, which is preserved in the Laurentian Library at Florence. The words of the good thief, "Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom", are adapted to very solemn usage in the Byzantine Mass, at the "great entrance" and again at the communion of the ministers and people.
See the Évangiles apocryphes, edited by P. Peeters, vol. ii; the article "Larrons" in the Dictionnaire de la Bible; Bauer, Leben Jesu im Zeitalter der N.T. Apokryphen, pp. 221-222; Rendel Harris in The Expositor, 1900, vol. i, pp. 304-308; and Notes and Queries, 10th series, vol xi, pp. 321 and 394; vol. xii, p. 133. Echos of the legend of the Good Thief are met with both in the medieval Cursor Mundi, ll. 16739 seq., in Longfellow's Golden Legend, and elsewhere.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII