Dismas, the Good Thief

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(d. c.30).

The words of Christ on the Cross to the good thief, crucified with him, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise’ (cf. Luke 23: 39–43) were traditionally regarded as meaning that his salvation was assured and he could therefore be invoked as a saint. Nothing is known about him: the very name Dismas comes from the Greek dysme (dying) in the ‘Gospel of Nicodemus. An Arabic ‘Gospel of the Infancy’ embroiders the story further by positing that the Good Thief was identical with Titus, one of a band of robbers who waylaid the Holy Family during the Flight into Egypt, but subsequently released them. The words of Dismas, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’, are given prominent place in the Byzantine Mass. Dismas came to be regarded in the Middle Ages as the special patron of prisoners and thieves. He is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on 25 March.

A. Bessières, Le Bon Larron, Saint Dismas (1937); art. ‘Larrons’ in Dict. Bibl.;B.L.S., iii. 248.

Subjects: Christianity.

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