Dismas the thief

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St. Dismas (Moscow school, XVIth century)

Saint Dismas (sometimes spelled Dysmas or only Dimas, or even Dumas), also known as the Good Thief or the Penitent Thief, is the "good thief" described in the Gospel of Luke. This unnamed thief, is crucified alongside Christ repenting of his sins, and asking Jesus Christ to remember him in his kingdom. The name Dismas for this thief dates back to the 12th century, and various traditions have assigned him other names. The church has never canonised Dismas, though he is regarded as a saint by virtue of Christ informing him that he would be the first in Paradise. Commemorated March 25.


According to the Scriptures, Christ crucified along with two others yet none of the gospel's actually name them. The Gospel of Luke describes one of these thiefs as "penitent", who was later assigned the name Dismas in the Gospel of Nicodemus. The name of "Dismas" was adapted from a Greek word meaning "sunset" or "death." The other thief's name is given as Gestas. The apocryphal Arabic Infancy Gospel calls the two thieves "Titus and Dumachus", and adds a tale about how Titus (the good one) prevented the other thieves in his company from robbing Mary and Joseph during their Flight into Egypt. In the Russian tradition the Good Thief's name is Rakh.

Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412) wrote a Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief, which is classic Coptic literature. In the Eastern Orthodox Church one of the hymns of Good Friday, commemorating the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Golgotha, is entitled, The Good Thief (or The Wise Thief, Church Slavonic: Razboinika blagorazumnago), and speaks of how Christ granted Dismas Paradise. There are also several moving compositions of this hymn which are used by the Russians and form one of the highlights of the Matins service on Good Friday.


"The Wise Thief didst Thou make worthy of Paradise, in a single moment, O Lord. By the wood of thy Cross illumine me as well, and save me."

Further reading

  • The Wise Thief -hymn, posted Friday, April 20, 2007 by Fr. John Whiteford.

External links