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Joseph and Nicodemus

 

The Story of Joseph and Nicodemus

On the sufferings of Jesus and the harrowing of hell

 


Preface.

Written by a Jew, Aeneas, and translated into the Romaic language by Nicodemus, a Roman toparch. After the dissolution of the kingdom of the Hebrews, four hundred years having run their course, and the Hebrews also coming at last under the kingdom of the Romans, and the king of the Romans appointing them a king; when Tiberius Caesar at last swayed the Roman sceptre, in the eighteenth year of his reign, he appointed as king of Judaea, Herod, the son of the Herod who had formerly slaughtered the infants in Bethlehem, and he made Pilate procurator in Jerusalem; when Annas and Caiaphas held the high-priesthood of Jerusalem, Nicodemus, a Roman toparch, having summoned a Jew, Aeneas by name, asked him to write an account of the things done in Jerusalem about Christ in the times of Annas and Caiaphas. The Jew accordingly did this, and delivered it to Nicodemus; and he, again, translated it from the Hebrew writing into the Romaic language. And the account is as follows:

Part 1.
Nicodemus on the Sufferings of Jesus

01.

Our Lord Jesus Christ having worked in Judaea many and great and extraordinary miracles, and on account of this being hated by the Hebrews, while Pilate was procurator in Jerusalem, and Annas and Caiaphas high priests, there came of the Jews to the chief priests, Judas, Levi, Nephthalim, Alexander, syrus, and many others, speaking against Christ. And these chief priests sent them away to say these things to Pilate also. And they went away, and said to him: a man walks about in this city whose father is called Joseph, and his mother Mary; and he calls himself king and Son of God; and being a Jew, he overturns the Scriptures, and does away with the Sabbath. Pilate then asked, in order to learn from them how lie did away with the Sabbath. And they answered, saying: he cures the sick on the Sabbath. Pilate says: If he makes the sick whole, he does no evil. They say to him: If he effected the cures properly, small would be the evil; but by using magic he does these things, and by having the demons on his side. Pilate says: To cure a person that is ill is not a diabolic work, but a grace from God.

The Hebrews said: We beseech your highness to summon him, in order that you may make accurate enquiry into what we say. Pilate therefore, throwing off his cloak, gave it to one of his officers, saying: Go away, and show this to Jesus, and say to him, Pilate the procurator calls you to come before him. The officer accordingly went away, and finding Jesus, summoned him, having unfolded on the ground also Pilate's mantle, and urged him to walk on it. And the Hebrews, seeing this, and being greatly enraged, came to Pilate, murmuring against him, how he had deemed Jesus worthy of so great honour.

And he, having enquired of the officer who had been sent how he had done so, the officer answered: When you did send me to the Jew Alexander, I came on Jesus entering the gate of the city, sitting on an ass. And I saw that the Hebrews spread their garments in the way, and the ass walked on the garments; and others cut branches, and they went forth to meet him, and cried out, Hhosanna in the highest! Thus, therefore, it was necessary for me also to do.

The Jews, hearing these words, said to him: How did you, being a Roman, know what was said by the Hebrews? The officer answered: I asked one of the Hebrews, and he told the these things. Pilate said: What means Hhosanna? The Jews said: Save us, O Lord. Pilate answered: Since you confess that your children said so, how now do you bring charges, and say against Jesus what you do say? The Jews were silent, and had nothing to answer.

Now, as Jesus was coming to Pilate, the soldiers of Pilate adored him. And others also were standing before Pilate holding standards. And as Jesus was coming, the standards also bowed down, and adored him. As Pilate, therefore, was wondering at what had happened, the Jews said to him: my Lord, it was not the standards that adored Jesus, but the soldiers who were holding them carelessly.

Pilate says to the ruler of the synagogue: Choose twelve powerful men, and give them the standards, so that they may hold them firmly. And this having taken place, Pilate ordered the officer to take Jesus outside, and bring him in again. And as he was coming in, the standards again bowed down, and adored him. Pilate therefore wondered greatly. But the Jews said: he is a magician, and through that he does these things.

02.

Pilate says to Jesus: Hear you what these testify against you, and do you answer not? And Jesus answered and said: Every man has power to speak either good or bad, as he wishes; these also, therefore, having power, say what they wish.

The Jews said to him: What have we to say about you? First, that you were begotten from sin; second, that on account of you, when you were born, the infants were murdered; third, that your father and your mother fled into Egypt, because they had no confidence in the people. To these the Jews who were there present, God-fearing men, answered and said: We say that his birth is not from sin; for we know that Joseph received into keeping his mother Mary, according to the practice of betrothal. Pilate said: Consequently you lie who say that his birth is from sin. They say again to Pilate: All the people testify that he is a magician. The God-fearing Jews answered and said: We also were at the betrothal of his mother, and we are Jews, and know all his daily life; but that he is a magician, that we do not know. And the Jews that thus said were these: Lazarus, Astharius, Antonius, James, Zaras, samuel, Isaac, Phinees, Crispus, Dagrippus, Amese, and Judas.

Pilate therefore says to them: By the life of Caesar, I wish you to swear whether the birth of this man is without sin. They answered: Our law lays down that we are to swear not at all, because an oath is great sin. Notwithstanding, by the life of Caesar we swear that his birth is without sin; and if we lie, order us all to be beheaded. And when they had thins spoken, the Jews that were bringing the charge answered Pilate, and said: And do you believe these twelve single Jews more than all the multitude and us, who know for certain that he is a magician and blasphemer, and that he names himself Son of God?

Then Pilate ordered them all to go forth out of the praetorium except the said twelve alone. And when this had been done, Pilate says to them privately: As to this man, it appears that from envy and madness the Jews wish to murder him: for of one thing – that he does away with the Sabbath – they accuse him; but he then does a good work, because he cures the sick. For this, sentence of death is not on the man. The twelve also say to him: Assuredly, my Lord, it is so.

03.

Pilate therefore went outside in rage and anger, and says to Annas and Caiaphas, and to the crowd who brought Jesus: I take the sun to witness that I find no fault in this man. The crowd answered: If he were not a sorcerer, and a magician, and a blasphemer, we should not have brought him to your highness. Pilate said: Try him yourselves; and since you have a law, do as your law says. The Jews said: Our law permits to put no man to death. Pilate says: If you are unwilling to put him to death, how much more am I!

Then Pilate returned to the palace, and says to Jesus: Tell me, are you the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: do you say this, or have the other Jews said this to you, that you mightst question me? Pilate said: you do not think that I am a Hebrew? I am not a Hebrew. Your people and the chief priests have delivered you into my hands; and tell me if you are king of the Jews? Jesus answered: my kingdom is not of this world; for if my kingdom were in this world, my soldiers would not be unconcerned at my being seized: therefore my kingdom is not in this world. Pilate says: But are you a king? Jesus said: you have said: for this was I born, to bear witness to the truth; and if anyone be a man of the truth, he believes my word, and does it. Pilate says: What is the truth? Jesus answered: The truth is from the heavens. Pilate says: On earth, then, is there no truth? Christ says: I am the truth; and how is the truth judged on earth by those that have earthly power!

04.

Pilate therefore, leaving Christ alone, went outside, and says to the Jews: I find no fault in this man. The Jews answered: Let us tell your highness what he said. He said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days to build it. Pilate says: And what temple did he say that he was to destroy? The Hebrews say: The temple of Solomon, which Solomon built in forty-six years.

Pilate says privately to the chief priests and the scribes and the Pharisees: I ask you, do nothing evil against this man; for if you do evil against him, you will do unjustly: for it is not just that such a man should die, who has done great good to many men. They said to Pilate: If, my Lord, he who has dishonoured Caesar is worthy of death, how much more this man who dishonours God!

Then Pilate dismissed them, and they all went outside. Thereupon he says to Jesus: do you wish that I shall do to you? Jesus says to Pilate: Do to me as is determined. Pilate says: How is it determined? Jesus answered: Moses and the prophets wrote about me being crucified, and rising again. The Hebrews, hearing this, said to Pilate: Why do you seek to hear a greater insult out of him against God? Pilate says: These words are not an insult against God, since they are written in the books of the prophets. The Hebrews said: Our Scripture says, If a man offend against a man, that is to say, if he insult him, he is worthy to receive forty strokes with a rod; but if anyone insult God, to be stoned.

Then came a messenger from Procle, the wife of Pilate, to him; and the message said: Take care that you do not agree that any evil should happen to Jesus the good man; because during this night I have seen fearful dreams on account of him. And Pilate spoke to the Hebrews, saying: If you hold as insult against God the words which you declare Jesus to have spoken, take and judge him yourselves according to your law. The Jews said to Pilate: We wish that you should crucify him. Pilate says: This is not good. And Pilate, turning towards the people, saw many weeping, and said: To me it seems that it is not the wish of all the people that this man should die. The priests and the scribes say: We on this account have brought all the people, that you mightst have full conviction that all wish his death. Pilate says: For what evil has he done? The Hebrews said: he says that he is a king, and the Son of God.

05.

A God-fearing Jew, therefore, Nicodemus by name, stood up in the midst, and said to Pilate: I ask your highness to permit me to say a few words. Say on, said Pilate. Nicodemus says: I, being present in the synagogue, said to the priests, and the Levites, and the scribes, and the people, what have you to say against this man? This man does many miracles, such as man has never yet done nor will do. Let him go, therefore; and if indeed what he does be from God, it will stand; but if from man, it will be destroyed. Just as happened also when God sent Moses into Egypt, and Pharaoh king of Egypt told him to do a miracle, and he did it. Then Pharaoh had also two magicians, Jannes and Jambres; and they also did miracles by the use of magic art, but not such as Moses did. And the Egyptians held these magicians to be gods; but because they were not from God, what they did was destroyed. This Jesus, then, raised up Lazarus, and he is alive. On this account I ask you, my Lord, by no means to allow this man to be put to death.

The Hebrews were enraged against Nicodemus, and said: May you receive the truth of Jesus, and have a portion with him. Nicodemus says: Amen, amen; be it to me as you say.

06.

When Nicodemus had thus spoken, another Hebrew rose up, and said to Pilate: I beg of you, my Lord Pilate, hear me also. Pilate answered: Say what you wish. The Hebrew says: I lay sick in bed thirty-eight years; and when he saw me he was grieved, and said to me, Rise, take up your couch, and go into your house. And while he was saying the word to me, I rose and walked about. The Hebrews say: Ask him on what day of the week this happened. He says: On Sabbath. The Jews said: And consequently we say truly, that he does not keep the Sabbath. Another, again, standing in the midst, said: I was born blind; and as Jesus was going along the road, I cried to him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David. And he took clay, and anointed my eyes; and straight, way I received my sight. Another said: I was crooked; and seeing him, I cried, Have mercy on me, O Lord. And he took me by the hand, and I was immediately raised. Another said: I was a leper, and he healed me merely by a word.

07.

There was found there also a woman named Veronica, and she said: Twelve years I was in an issue of blood, and I only touched the edge of his garment, and directly I was cured. The Jews say: Our law does not admit the testimony of a woman.

08.

Other men cried: This man is a prophet, and the demons are afraid of him. Pilate says: And how were the demons not at all thus afraid of your parents also? They say: We do not know. Others, again, said: Lazarus, after having been four days in the tomb, he raised by a single word. Pilate therefore, hearing of the raising of Lazarus, was afraid, and said to the people: Why do you wish to shed the blood of a just man?

09.

Then he summoned Nicodemus and the twelve God-fearing Jews, and said to them: What do you say that I should do? because the people are in commotion They say: We do not know: do as you will; but what the people do, they do unjustly, in order to kill him. Pilate again went outside, and said to the people: you know that in the feasts of unleavened bread it is customary that I free on your account one of the criminals kept in custody. I have, then, one malefactor in the prison, a robber named Barabbas. I have also Jesus, who has never done any evil. Which of the two, then, do you wish that I release to you? The people answered: Release to us Barabbas. Pilate says: What then shall I do with Jesus? They say: Let him be crucified. Again, others of them cried out: If you release Jesus, you are no friend of Caesar, because he calls himself Son of God, and king. And if you free him, he becomes a king, and will take Caesar's kingdom.

Pilate therefore was enraged, and said: Always has your nation been devilish and unbelieving; and ever have you been adversaries to your benefactors. The Hebrews say: And who were our benefactors? Pilate says: God, who freed you out of the hand of Pharaoh, and brought yon through the Red Sea as on dry land, and fed you with quails, and gave you water to drink out of the dry rock, and who gave you a law which, denying God you broke; and if Moses had not stood and entreated God, you would have perished by a bitter death. All these, then, you have forgotten. Thus also, even now, you say that I do not at all love Caesar, but bate him, and wish to plot against his kingdom. And having thus spoken, Pilate rose up from the throne with anger, wishing to flee from them. The Jews therefore cried out, saying: We wish Caesar to be king over us, not Jesus, because Jesus received gifts from the Magi. And Herod also heard this – that there was going to be a king – and wished to put him to death, and for this purpose sent and put to death all the infants that were in Bethlehem. And on this account also his father Joseph and iris mother fleet from fear of him into Egypt. So then Pilate, hearing this, silenced all the people, and said: This, then, is the Jesus whom Herod then sought that he might put him to death? They say to him: Yes.

Pilate therefore, having ascertained that he was of the jurisdiction of Herod, as being derived of the race of the Jews, sent Jesus to him. And Herod, seeing him, rejoiced greatly, because he had been long desiring to see him, hearing of the miracles which he did. He put on him, therefore, white garments. Then he began to question him. But Jesus did not give him an answer. And Herod, wishing to see also some miracle or other done by Jesus, and not seeing it, and also because he did not answer him a single word, sent him back again to Pilate. Pilate. Seeing this, ordered his officers to bring water. Washing, then, his bands with the water, he said to the people: I am innocent of the blood of this good man. See yon to it. That he is unjustly put to death, since neither I have found a fault in him, nor Herod; for because of this he has sent him back again to me. The Jews said: his blood be on us, and on our children. Then Pilate sat down on his throne to pass sentence. He gave order, therefore, and Jesus came before him. And they brought a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and a reed into his right hand. Then he passed sentence, and said to him: your nation says, and testifies against you, that you wish to be a king. Therefore I decree that they shall beat you first with a rod forty strokes, as the laws of the kings decree, and that they shall mock you; and finally, that they shall crucify you.

10.

The sentence to this effect, then, having been passed by Pilate, the Jews began to strike Jesus, some with roots, others with their hands, others with their feet; some also spat in his face. Immediately, therefore, they got ready the cross, and gave it to him, and flew to take the road. And thus going along, bearing also the cross, he came as far as the gate of the city of Jerusalem. But as He, from the many blows and the weight of the cross, was unable to walk, the Jews, out of the eager desire they had to crucify him as quickly as possible, took the cross from him, and gave it to a man that met them, Simon by name, who had also two sons, Alexander and Rufus. And he was from the city of Cyrene. They gave the cross, then, to him, not because they pitied Jesus, and wished to lighten him of the weight, but because they eagerly desired, as has been said, to put him to death more speedily.

Of his disciples, therefore, John followed him there. Then he came fleeing to the mother of God. And said to her: Where have you been, that you have not come to see what has happened? She answered: What is it that has happened? John says: Know that the Jews have laid hold of my Master, and are taking him away to crucify him. Hearing this, his mother cried out with a loud voice, saying: my son, my son, what evil then have you done, that they are taking you away to crucify you? And she rose up as if blinded, and goes along the road weeping. And women followed her – Martha, and Mary Magdalene, and Salome, and other virgins. And John also was with her. When, therefore, they came to the multitude of the crowd, the mother of God says to John: Where is my son? John says: Do you see him bearing the crown of thorns, and having his hands bound? And the mother of God, hearing this, and seeing him, fainted, and fell backwards to the ground, and lay a considerable time. And the women, as many as followed her, stood round her, and wept. And as soon as she revived and rose up, she cried out with a loud voice: my Lord, my son, where has the beauty of your form sunk? How shall I endure to see you suffering such things? And thus saying, she tore her face with her nails, and beat her breast. Where are they gone, said she, the good deeds which you did in Judaea? What evil have you done to the Jews? The Jews, then, seeing her thus lamenting and crying, came and drove her from the road; but she would not flee, but remained, saying: Kill me first, you lawless Jews.

Then they got safe to the place called Cranium, which was paved with stone; and there the Jews set up the cross. Then they stripped Jesus, and the soldiers took his garments, and divided them among themselves; and they put on him a tattered robe of scarlet, and raised him, and drew him up on the cross at the sixth hour of the day. After this they brought also two robbers, the one on his right, the other on his left. Then the mother of God, standing and looking, cried out with a loud voice, saying: my son! my son: And Jesus, turning to her, and seeing John near her, and weeping with the rest of the women, said: Behold your son! Then he says also to John: Behold your mother!

And she wept much, saying: For this I weep, my son, because you sufferest unjustly, because the lawless Jews have delivered you to a bitter death. Without you, my son, what will become of me? How shall I live without you? What sort of life shall I spend? Where are your disciples, who boasted that they would die with you? Where those healed by you? How has no one been found to help you? And looking to the cross, she said: Bend down, O cross, that I may embrace and kiss my son, whom I suckled at these breasts after a strange manner, as not having known than. Bend down, O cross; I wish to throw my arms round my son. Bend down, O cross, that I may bid farewell to my son like a mother.

The Jews, hearing these words, came forward, and drove to a distance both her and the women and John. Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: Father, let not this sin stand against them; for they do not know what they do. Then he says: I thirst. And immediately one of the soldiers ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with gall and vinegar mixed, and put it on a reed, and gave Jesus to drink. And having tasted it, he would not drink it.

And the Jews standing and looking on laughed at him, and said: If you truly say that you are the Son of God, come down from the cross, and immediately, that we may believe in you. Others said mocking: Others he saved, others he cured, and he healed the sick, the paralytic, the lepers, the demoniacs, the blind, the lame, the dead; and himself he cannot cure.

In the same manner also, the robber crucified on his left hand said to him: If you are the Son of God, come down and save both yourself and us. His name was Gestas. And he that was crucified on the right, Dysmas by name, reproved that robber, saying: O wretched and miserable man, do you not fear God? We suffer the due punishment of what we have done; but this man has done no evil at all. And turning to Jesus, he says to him: Lord, when you shall reign do not forget me. And he said to him: Today, I tell you truth, I shall have you in paradise with me.

11.

Then Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, Father, into your hands I shall commit my spirit, breathed his last. And immediately one could see the rocks rent: for there was an earthquake over all the earth; and from the earthquake being violent and great, the rocks also were rent. And the tombs of the dead were opened, and the curtain of the temple was rent, and there was darkness from the sixth hour till the ninth. And from all these things that had happened the Jews were afraid, and said: Certainly this was a just man. And Longinus, the centurion who stood by, said: Truly this was a son of God. Others coming and seeing him, beat their breasts from fear, and again turned back.

And the centurion having perceived all these so great miracles, went away and reported them to Pilate. And when he heard, he wondered and was astonished, and from his fear and grief would neither eat nor drink that day. And he sent notice, and all the Sanhedrin came to him as soon as the darkness was past; and he said to the people: you know how the sun has been darkened; you know how the curtain has been rent. Certainly I did well in being by no means willing to put to death the good man. And the malefactors said to Pilate: This darkness is an eclipse of the sun, such as has happened also at other times. Then they say to him: We hold the feast of unleavened bread tomorrow; and we ask you, since the crucified are still breathing, that their bones be broken, and that they be brought down. Pilate said: It shall be so. He therefore sent soldiers, and they found the two robbers yet breathing, and they broke their legs; but finding Jesus dead, they did not touch him at all, except that a soldier speared him in the right side, and immediately there came forth blood and water.

And as the day of the preparation was drawing towards evening, Joseph, a man well-born and rich, a God-fearing Jew, finding Nicodemus, whose sentiments his foregoing speech had shown, says to him: I know that you did love Jesus when living, and did gladly hear his words, and I saw you fighting with the Jews on his account. If, then, it seem good to you, let us go to Pilate, and beg the body of Jesus for burial, because it is a great sin for him to lie unburied. I am afraid, said Nicodemus, in case Pilate should be enraged, and some evil should befall me. But if you will go alone, and beg the dead, and take him, then will I also go with you, and help you to do everything necessary for the burial.

When Nicodemus had said this, Joseph directed his eyes to heaven, and prayed that he might not fail in his request; and he went away to Pilate, and having saluted him, sat down. Then he says to him: I ask you, my Lord, not to be angry with me, if I shall ask anything contrary to what seems good to your highness. And he said: And what is it that you ask? Joseph says: Jesus, the good man whom through hatred the Jews have taken away to crucify, him I ask that you give me for burial.

Pilate says: And what has happened, that we should deliver to be honoured again the dead body of him against whom evidence of sorcery was brought by his nation, and who was in suspicion of taking the kingdom of Caesar, and so was given up by us to death? And Joseph, weeping and in great grief, fell at the feet of Pilate, saying: my Lord, let no hatred fall on a dead man; for all the evil that a man has done should perish with him in his death. And I know your highness, how eager you were that Jesus should not be crucified, and how much you saidst to the Jews on his behalf, now in entreaty and again in anger, and at last how you did wash your hands, and declare that you would by no means take part with those who wished him to be put to death; for all which reasons I ask you not to refuse my request. Pilate, therefore, seeing Joseph thus lying, and supplicating, and weeping, raised him up, and said: Go, I grant you this dead man; take him, and do whatever you will.

And then Joseph, having thanked Pilate, and kissed his hands and his garments, went forth, rejoicing indeed in heart as having obtained his desire, but carrying tears in his eyes. Thus also, though grieved, he was glad. Accordingly he goes away to Nicodemus, and discloses to him all that had happened. Then, having bought myrrh and aloes a hundred pounds, and a new tomb, they, along with the mother of God and Mary Magdalene and Salome, along with John, and the rest of the women, did what was customary for the body with white linen, and placed it in the tomb.

And the mother of God said, weeping: How am I not to lament you, my son? How should I not tear my face with my nails? This is that, my son, which Symeon the elder foretold to me when I brought you, an infant of forty days old, into the temple. This is the sword which now goes through my soul. Who shall put a stop to my tears, my sweetest son? No one at all except yourself alone, if, as you said, you shall rise again in three days.

Mary Magdalene said, weeping: Hear, O peoples, tribes, and tongues, and learn to what death the lawless Jews have delivered him who did them ten thousand good deeds. Hear, and be astonished. Who will let these things be heard by all the world? I shall go alone to Rome, to the Caesar. I shall show him what evil Pilate has done in obeying the lawless Jews.

Likewise also, Joseph lamented, saying: Ah, me! sweetest Jesus, most excellent of men, if indeed it be proper to call you man, who have worked such miracles as no man has ever done. How shall I enshroud you? How shall I entomb you? There should now have been here those whom you fed with a few loaves; for thus should I not have seemed to fail in what is due. Then Joseph, along with Nicodemus, went home; and likewise also the mother of God, with the women, John also being present with them.

12.

When the Jews were made acquainted with these things done by Joseph and Nicodemus, they were greatly stirred up against them. And the chief priests Annas and Caiaphas sent for Joseph, and said: Why have you done this service to Jesus? Joseph says: I know that Jesus was a man just, and true, and good in all respects; and I know also that you, through hatred, managed to murder him: and therefore I buried him. Then the high priests were enraged, and laid hold of Joseph, and threw him into prison, and said to him: If we had not tomorrow the feast of unleavened bread, tomorrow also should we have put you, like him, to death; but being kept in the meantime, early in the morning of the Lord's day you shall be given up to death. Thus they spoke, and affixed their seal to the prison, having secured it by fastenings of all sorts.

Thus, therefore, when the Preparation was ended, early on the Sabbath the Jews went away to Pilate, and said to him: my Lord, that deceiver said, that after three days he should rise again. In case, therefore, his disciples should steal him by night, and lead the people astray by such deceit, order his tomb to be guarded. Pilate therefore, on this, gave them five hundred soldiers, who also sat round the sepulcher so as to guard it, after having put seals on the stone of the tomb.

The Lord's day, then, having dawned, the chief priests, along with the Jews, called a council, and sent to take Joseph out of the prison, in order to put him to death. But having opened it, they found him not. And they were astonished at this – how, with the doors shut, and the bolts safe, and the seals unbroken, Joseph had disappeared.

13.

Upon this there came up one of the soldiers guarding the tomb, and he said in the synagogue: Learn that Jesus has risen. The Jews say: How? And he said: First there was an earthquake; then an angel of the Lord, clothed with lightning, came from heaven, and rolled the stone from the tomb, and sat on it. And from fear of him, all of us soldiers became as dead, and were able neither to flee nor speak. And we heard the angels saying to the women who came there to see the tomb: Be not you afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus. He is not here, but is risen, as he told you before. Bend down and see the tomb where his body lay; but go and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and let them go into Galilee, for there shall they find him. For this reason I tell you this first.

The Jews say to the soldiers: What sort of women were they who came to the tomb? and why did you not lay hold of them? The soldiers say: From the fear and the mere sight of the angel, we were able neither to speak nor move. The Jews said: As the God of Israel lives, we do not believe a word you say. The soldiers say: Jesus did so great wonders, and you believed not, and are you going to believe us? You say truly that God lives; and certainly he whom you crucified truly lives. But we have heard that you had Joseph shut up in the prison, and that you afterwards opened the doors, and did not find him. If you then can present Joseph, and so we also shall present Jesus.

The Jews say: Joseph, that fled from the prison, you will find in Arimathaea, his own country. And the soldiers say: Go too into Galilee, and you will find Jesus, as the angel said to the women.

At these words the Jews were afraid, and said to the soldiers: See that you tell this story to nobody, or all will believe in Jesus. And for this reason they gave them also much money. And the soldiers said: We are afraid in case by any chance Pilate hear that we have taken money, and he will kill us. And the Jews said: Take it; and we pledge ourselves that we shall speak to Pilate in your defence. Only say that you were asleep, and in your slumber the disciples of Jesus came and stole him from the tomb. The soldiers therefore took the money, and said as they were bid. And up to this day this same lying tale is told among the Jews.

14.

A few days after there came from Galilee to Jerusalem three men. One of them was a priest, by name Phinees; the second a Levite, by name Aggai; and the third a soldier, by name Adas. These came to the chief priests, and said to them and to the people: Jesus, whom you crucified, we have seen in Galilee with his eleven disciples on the Mount of Olives, teaching them, and saying, Go into all the world, and proclaim the good news; and whosoever will believe and be baptised shall be saved; but whosoever will not believe shall be condemned. And having thus spoken, he went up into heaven. And both we and many others of the five hundred besides were looking on.

And when the chief priests and the Jews heard these things, they said to these three: Give glory to the God of Israel, and repent of these lies that you have told. They answered: As the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lives, we do not lie, but tell you the truth. Then the high priest spoke, and they brought the old covenant of the Hebrews out of the temple, and he made them swear, and giving them also money, he sent them into another place, in order that they might not proclaim in Jerusalem the resurrection of Christ.

And when these stories had been heard by all the people, the crowd came together into the temple, and there was a great commotion. For many said: Jesus has risen from the dead, as we hear, and why did you crucify him? And Annas and Caiaphas said: Do not believe, you Jews, what the soldiers say; and do not believe that they saw an angel coming down from heaven. For we have given money to the soldiers, in order that they should not tell such tales to anyone; and thus also have the disciples of Jesus given them money, in order that they should say that Jesus has risen from the dead.

15.

Nicodemus says: O children of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the prophet Elijah went up into the height of heaven with a fiery chariot, and it is nothing incredible if Jesus too has risen; for the prophet Helias was a prototype of Jesus, in order that you, hearing that Jesus has risen, might not disbelieve. I therefore say and advise, that it is befitting that we send soldiers into Galilee, to that place where these men testify, that they saw him with his disciples, in order that they may go round about and find him, and that thus we may ask pardon of him for the evil which we have done to him. This proposal pleased them; and they chose soldiers, and sent them away into Galilee. And Jesus indeed they did not find; but they found Joseph in Arimathaea.

When, therefore, the soldiers had returned, the chief priests, having ascertained that Joseph was found, brought the people together, and said: What shall we do to get Joseph to come to us? After deliberating, therefore, they wrote to him a letter to the following effect: O father Joseph, peace be to you and all your house, and your friends! We know that we have offended against God, and against you his servant. On account of this, we ask you to come here to us your children. For we have wondered much how you did escape from the prison, and we say in truth that we had an evil design against you. But God, seeing that our designs against you were unjust, has delivered you out of our hands. But come to us, for you are the honour of our people. This letter the Jews sent to Arimathaea, with seven soldiers, friends of Joseph. And they went away and found him; and having respectfully saluted him, as they had been ordered, they gave him the letter, And after receiving it and reading it, he glorified God, and embraced the soldiers; and having set a table, ate and drank with them during all the day and the night. And on the following day he set out with them to Jerusalem; and the people came forth to meet him, and embraced him. And Nicodemus received him into his own house. And the day after, Annas and Caiaphas, the chief priests, having summoned him to the temple, said to him: Give glory to the God of Israel, and tell us the truth. For we know that you did bury Jesus; and on this account we laid hold of you, and locked you up in the prison. Thereafter, when we sought to bring you out to be put to death, we did not find you, and we were greatly astonished and afraid. Moreover, we prayed to God that we might find you, and ask you. Tell us therefore the truth.

Joseph said to them: In the evening of the Preparation, when you secured me in prison, I fell to praying throughout the whole night, and throughout the whole day of the Sabbath. And at midnight I see the prison-house as though four angels lifted it up, holding it by the four corners. And Jesus came in like lightning, and I fell to the ground from fear. Taking hold of me, therefore, by the hand, he raised me, saying, Fear not, Joseph. Thereafter, embracing me, he kissed me, and said, Turn yourself, and see who I am. Turning myself, therefore, and looking, I said, my Lord, I do not know who you are. He says, I am Jesus, whom you did bury the day before yesterday. I say to him, show me the tomb, and then I shall believe. He took me, therefore, by the hand, and led me away to the tomb, which had been opened. And seeing the linen and the napkin, and recognising him, I said, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; and I adored him. Then taking me by the hand, and accompanied by the angels, he brought me to my house in Arimathaea, and said to me, sit here for forty days; for I go to my disciples, in order that I may enable them fully to proclaim my resurrection.

16.

When Joseph had said this, the chief priests cried out to the people: We know that Jesus had a father and mother; how can we believe that he is the Christ? One of the Levites answered and said: I know the family of Jesus, noble-minded men, great servants of God, and receiving tithes from the people of the Jews. And I know also Symeon the elder, that he received him when he was an infant, and said to him: "Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord."

The Jews said: Let us now find the three men that saw him on the Mount of Olives, that we may question them, and learn the truth more accurately. They found them, and brought them before all, and made them swear to tell the truth. And they said: As the God of Israel lives, we saw Jesus alive on the Mount of Olives, and going up into heaven. Then Annas and Caiaphas took the three apart, one by one, and questioned them singly in private. They agreed with one another, therefore, and gave, even the three, one account. The chief priests answered, saying: Our Scripture says that every word shall be established by two or three witnesses. Joseph, then, has confessed that he, along with Nicodemus, attended to his body, and buried him, and how it is the truth that he has risen.

 

Part 2.
Joseph, on Christ's Descent into Hell

01.

Joseph says: And why do you wonder that Jesus has risen? But it is wonderful that he has not risen alone, but that he has also raised many others of the dead who have appeared in Jerusalem to many. And if you do not know the others, Symeon at least, who received Jesus, and his two sons whom he has raised up them at least you know. For we buried them not long ago; but now their tombs are seen open and empty, and they are alive, and dwelling in Arimathaea. They therefore sent men, and they found their tombs open and empty. Joseph says: Let us go to Arimathaea and find them. Then rose up the chief priests Annas and Caiaphas, and Joseph, and Nicodemus, and Gamaliel, and others with them, and went away to Arimathaea, and found those whom Joseph spoke of. They made prayer, therefore, and saluted each other. Then they came with them to Jerusalem, and brought them into the synagogue, and secured the doors, and placed in the midst the old covenant of the Jews; and the chief priests said to them: We wish you to swear by the God of Israel and Adonai, and so that you tell the truth, how you have risen, and who has raised you from the dead. The men who had risen having heard this, made on their faces the sign of the cross, and said to the chief priests: Give us paper and ink and pen. These therefore they brought. And sitting down, they wrote thus: -

02.

Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life of the world, grant us grace that we may give an account of your resurrection, and your miracles which you did in hades. We then were in hades, with all who had fallen asleep since the beginning of the world. And at the hour of midnight there rose a light as if of the sun, and shone into these dark regions; and we were all lighted up, and saw each other. And immediately our father Abraham was united with the patriarchs and the prophets, and at the same time they were filled with joy, and said to each other: This light is from a great source of light. The prophet Hesaias, who was there present, said: This light is from the Father, and from the Son, and from the Holy Spirit; about whom I prophesied when yet alive, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, the people that sat in darkness, have seen a great light.

Then there came into the midst another, an ascetic from the desert; and the patriarchs said to him: who are you? And he said: I am John, the last of the prophets, who made the paths of the Son of God straight, and proclaimed to the people repentance for the remission of sins. And the Son of God came to me; and I, seeing him a long way off, said to the people: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. And with my hand I baptised him in the river Jordan, and I saw like a dove also the Holy Spirit coming on him; and I heard also the voice of God, even the Father, thus saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And on this account he sent me also to you, to proclaim how the only begotten Son of God is coming here, that whosoever shall believe in him shall be saved, and whosoever shall not believe in him shall be condemned. On this account I say to you all, in order that when you see him you all may adore him, that now only is for you the time of repentance for having adored idols in the vain upper world, and for the sins you have committed, and that this is impossible at any other time.

03.

While John, therefore, was thus teaching those in Hades, the first-created forefather Adam heard, and said to his son Seth: my son, I wish you to tell the forefathers of the race of men and the prophets where I sent you, when it fell to my lot to die. And Seth said: Prophets and patriarchs, hear. When my father Adam, the first created, was about to fall once on a time into death, he sent me to make entreaty to God very close by the gate of paradise, that he would guide me by an angel to the tree of compassion and that I might take oil and anoint my father, and that he might rise up from his sickness: which thing, therefore, I also did.

And after the prayer an angel of the Lord came, and said to me: Seth, what, do you ask? do you ask oil which raises up the sick, or the tree from which this oil flows, on account of the sickness of your father? This is not to be found now. Go, therefore, and tell your father, that after the accomplishing of five thousand five hundred years from the creation of the world, you shall come into the earth the only begotten Son of God, being made man; and he shall anoint him with this oil, and shall raise him up; and shall wash clean, with water and with the Holy Spirit, both him and those out of him, and then shall he be healed of every disease; but now this is impossible. When the patriarchs and the prophets heard these words, they rejoiced greatly.

04.

When all were in such joy, came Satan the heir of darkness, and said to Hades: O all-devouring and insatiable, hear my words. There is of the race of the Jews one named Jesus, calling himself the Son of God; and being a man, by our working with them the Jews have crucified him: and now when he is dead, be ready that we may secure him here. For I know that he is a man, and I heard him also saying, my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death. He has also done me many evils when living with mortals in the upper world. For wherever he found my servants, he persecuted them; and whatever men I made crooked, blind, lame, lepers, or any such thing, by a single word he healed them; and many whom I had got ready to be buried, even these through a single word he brought to life again. Hades says: And is this man so powerful as to do such things by a single word? or if he be so, can you withstand him? It seems to me that, if he be so, no one will be able to withstand him. And if you say that you did hear him dreading death, he said this mocking you, and laughing, wishing to seize you with the strong hand; and woe, woe to you, to all eternity!

Satan says: O all-devouring and insatiable Hades, are you so afraid at hearing of our common enemy? I was not afraid of him, but worked in the Jews, and they crucified him, and gave him also to drink gall with vinegar. Make ready, then, in order that you may lay fast hold of him when he comes.

Hades answered: Heir of darkness, son of destruction, devil, you have just now told me that many whom you had made ready to be buried, be brought to life again by a single word. And if he has delivered others from the tomb, how and with what power shall he be laid hold of by us? For I not long ago swallowed down one dead, Lazarus by name; and not long after, one of the living by a single word dragged him up by force out of my bowels: and I think that it was he of whom you speake. If, therefore, we receive him here, I am afraid in case perhaps we be in danger even about the rest. For, see, all those that I have swallowed from eternity I perceive to be in commotion, and I am pained in my belly. And the snatching away of Lazarus beforehand seems to me to be no good sign: for not like a dead body, but like an eagle, he flew out of me; for so suddenly did the earth throw him out. Therefore also I adjure even you, for your benefit and for mine, not to bring him here; for I think that he is coming here to raise all the dead. And this I tell you: by the darkness in which we live, if you bring him here, not one of the dead will be left behind in it to me.

05.

While Satan and Hades were saying this to each other, there was a great voice like thunder, saying: Lift up your gates, O you rulers; and be lifted up, you everlasting gates; and the King of glory shall come in. When Hades heard, he said to Satan: Go forth, if you are able, and withstand him. Satan therefore went forth to the outside. Then Hades says to his demons: Secure well and strongly the gates of brass and the bars of iron, and attend to my bolts, and stand in order, and see to everything; for if he come in here, woe will seize us.

The forefathers having heard this, began all to revile him, saying: O all-devouring and insatiable! open, that the King of glory may come in. David the prophet says: do you not know, O blind, that I when living in the world prophesied this saying: Lift up your gates, O you rulers? Hesaias said: I, foreseeing this by the Holy Spirit, wrote: The dead shall rise up, and those in their tombs shall be raised, and those in the earth shall rejoice. And where, O death, is your sting? Where, O Hades, is your victory? There came, then, again a voice saying: Lift up the gates. Hades, hearing the voice the second time, answered as if indeed he did not know, and says: who is this King of glory? The angels of the Lord say: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. And immediately with these words the brazen gates were shattered, and the iron bars broken, and all the dead who had been bound came out of the prisons, and we with the n And the King of glory came in in the form of a man, and all the dark places of Hades were lighted up.

06.

Immediately Hades cried out: We have been conquered: woe to us! But who are you, that have such power and might? and what are you, who comest here without sin who are seen to be small and yet of great power, lowly and exalted, the slave and the master, the soldier and the king, who have power over the dead and the living? You were nailed on the cross, and placed in the tomb; and now you are free, and have destroyed all our power. Are you then the Jesus about whom the chief satrap Satan told us, that through cross and death you are to inherit the whole world? Then the King of glory seized the chief satrap Satan by the head, and delivered him to his angels, and said: With iron chains bind his hands and his feet, and his neck, and his mouth. Then he delivered him to Hades, and said: Take him, and keep him secure till my second appearing.

07.

And Hades receiving Satan, said to him: Beelzebul, heir of fire and punishment, enemy of the saints, through what necessity did you bring about that the King of glory should be crucified, so that he should come here and deprive us of our power? Turn and see that not one of the dead has been left in me, but all that you have gained through the tree of knowledge, all have you lost through the tree of the cross: and all your joy has been turned into grief; and wishing to put to death the King of glory, you have put yourself to death. For, since I have received you to keep you safe, by experience shall you learn how many evils I shall do to you. O arch-devil, the beginning of death, root of sin, end of all evil, what evil did you find in Jesus, that you should plan his destruction? How have you dared to do such evil? How have you busied yourself to bring down such a man into this darkness, through whom you have been deprived of all who have died from eternity?

08.

While Hades was thus discoursing with Satan, the King of glory stretched out his right hand, and took hold of our forefather Adam, and raised him. Then turning also to the rest, he said: Come all with me, as many as have died through the tree which he touched: for you see, I again raise you all up through the tree of the cross. Thereupon he brought them all out, and our forefather Adam seemed to be filled with joy, and said: I thank your majesty, O Lord, that you have brought me up out of the lowest Hades. Likewise also all the prophets and the saints said: We thank you, O Christ, saviour of the world, that you have brought our life up out of destruction.

And after they had thus spoken, the Saviour blessed Adam with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and did this also to the patriarchs, and prophets, and martyrs, and forefathers; and he took them, and sprang up out of Hades. And while he was going, the holy fathers accompanying him sang praises, saying: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord: Alleluia; to him be the glory of oil the saints.

09.

Setting out to paradise, he took hold of our forefather Adam by the hand, and delivered him, and all the just, to the archangel Michael. And as they were going into the door of paradise, there met them two old men, to whom the holy fathers said: who are you, who have not seen death, and have not come down into Hades, but who dwell in paradise in your bodies and your souls? One of them answered, and said: I am Enoch, who was well-pleasing to God, and who was translated here by him; and this is Helias the Thisbite; and we are also to live until the end of the world; and then we are to be sent by God to withstand Antichrist, and to be slain by him, and after three days to rise again, and to be snatched up in clouds to meet the Lord.

10.

While they were saying this, there came another lowly man, carrying also on his shoulders a cross, to whom the holy fathers said: who are you, who have the look of a robber; and what is the cross which you carry on your shoulders? He answered: I, as you say, was a robber and a thief in the world, and for these things the Jews laid hold of me, and delivered me to the death of the cross, along with our Lord Jesus Christ. While, then, he was hanging on the cross, I, seeing the miracles that were done, believed in him, and entreated him, and said, Lord, when you shall be King, do not forget me. And immediately he said to me, Amen, amen: today, I say to you, shall you be with me in paradise. Therefore I came to paradise carrying my cross; and finding the archangel Michael, I said to him, Our Lord Jesus, who has been crucified, has sent me here; bring me, therefore, to the gate of Eden. And the flaming sword, seeing the sign of the cross, opened to me, and I went in. Then the archangel says to me, wait a little, for there comes also the forefather of the race of men, Adam, with the just, that they too may come in. And now, seeing you, I came to meet you.

The saints hearing these things, all cried out with a loud voice: Great is our Lord, and great is his strength.

11.

All these things we saw and heard; we, the two brothers, who also have been sent by Michael the archangel, and have been ordered to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord, but first to go away to the Jordan and to be baptised. There also we have gone, and have been baptised with the rest of the dead who have risen. Thereafter also we came to Jerusalem, and celebrated the passover of the resurrection. But now we are going away, being unable to stay here. And the love of God, even the Father, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

Having written these things, and secured the rolls, they gave the half to the chief priests, and the half to Joseph and Nicodemus. And they immediately disappeared: to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.