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Who was who during the Crucifixion of Jesus, who is called the Christ?

Just recently I came across this question: Who witnessed the crucifixion?

I desire to expand this question to extra biblical sources as well.

For this question, I desire to know who was who during the Crucifixion of Jesus, according to both what the historical Gospels tell and also what diverse traditions, and legends tell us about who were present on that first Good Friday?

I believe some traditional responses will come from the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox viewpoints. I desire to also know if other denominations may have historical legends and or proofs of those who either witnessed or participated in Christ’s Crucifixion!

I am guessing that roughly 25 or less number of people would be to able to be named for each category: Gospel accounts and extra biblical accounts.

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Who was who during the Crucifixion of Jesus, who is called the Christ?

I will divide this into two sections: Part 1 will focus on witnesses named in the canonical Gospels. Part 2 will focus on the those witnesses which are known to us from exterior sources of the Gospels, such as named by tradition, legend or Apocrypha.

Part 1

According to the Gospels, the following persons were named as witnessing Christ’s Crucifixion:

  • Mary (Mariam), mother of Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene
  • Joseph of Arimathea: “After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.” - (John 19:38).
  • Disciple whom Jesus loved: John
  • Nicodemus: He is named in the Gospel of St. John immediately after the Jesus expires on the Cross to provide the customary embalming spices, and assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:39–42).
  • Salome
  • Mary of Clopas
  • Simon of Cyrene

The following Gospel passages name those present at the Crucifixion, other individuals who were present remain unknown to historical proofs: Matthew 27:38-54, Mark 15:27-39, Luke 23:35-49, and John 19:23-34.

Part 2

According to other sources than the four Canonical Gospels, the following persons were named as witnessing Christ’s Crucifixion:

Abenadar

Abenadar is the name of a captain Roman who, in the view of the nun and mystic Agustina Anna Katharina Emmerich (1774-1824), had a role in the Passion of Christ. Its historical existence is not assured, it is not mentioned by name in the canonical gospels . However, his name appears frequently in modern works of art and the Passion of Jesus, for which he has received the status of an apocryphal extra-biblical figure.

Abenadar, in addition to Longinus (centurion) , is one of the two Roman soldiers mentioned by name, in the annals Das bittere Leiden unseres Herrn Jesus Christus ("The Sorrowful Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ") by Anna Katharina Emmerick written by Clemens Brentano . Abenadar had been Arab by birth, later, as a convert, he was baptized with the name of Ctésiphon. Captain Abenadar's squad replaces another squad during the crucifixion. Abenadar prevents one from stoning the "good" thief Dismas, who has regulated the scoffers of Jesusamong the gaping spectators. Later, Abenadar makes Jesus take a drink from the sponge that is soaked in vinegar placed on a hyssop (cf. Jn 19:29 ). When Jesus died, when the earth began to shake, Abenadar came to faith and recognized Jesus as " Son of God " (see Matthew 27:54 , Mark 15:39 , Luke 23:47 ). Later, Abenadar tells the governor Pontius Pilate about the death of Jesus (see Mk 15, 44 ) and the earthquake. Abenadar also is present in the Descent from the Cross.

Abenadar and Stephaton

In Christian iconography, the sponge bearer is usually named Stephaton. The sonorous similarity of the names of Stephaton and Ctesiphon (the name of Abenadar after his baptism), which come from the Greek, is striking. In the legends of the Christian tradition, sometimes the figures of the captain and the Longinus come together.

Longinus

Longinus is the name given to the unnamed Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance and who in medieval and some modern Christian traditions is described as a convert to Christianity. His name first appeared in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. The lance is called in Christianity the "Holy Lance" (lancea) and the story is related in the Gospel of John during the Crucifixion. This act is said to have created the last of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ.

This individual, unnamed in the Gospels, is further identified in some versions of the legend as the centurion present at the Crucifixion, who said that Jesus was the son of God, so he is considered as the first Christian. Longinus' legend grew over the years to the point that he was said to have converted to Christianity after the Crucifixion, and he is traditionally venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and several other Christian communions.

Origins of the story

No name for this soldier is given in the canonical Gospels; the name Longinus is instead found in the Acts of Pilate, a text appended to the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. Longinus did not start out as a saint. An early tradition, found in a sixth or seventh century pseudepigraphal "Letter of Herod to Pilate", claims that Longinus suffered for having pierced Jesus, and that he was condemned to a cave where every night a lion came and mauled him until dawn, after which his body healed back to normal, in a pattern that would repeat till the end of time. Later traditions turned him into a Christian convert, but as Sabine Baring-Gould observed: "The name of Longinus was not known to the Greeks previous to the patriarch Germanus, in 715. It was introduced amongst the Westerns from the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. There is no reliable authority for the Acts and martyrdom of this saint."

Cassius

According to the Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Cassius was baptized sometime after the Crucifixion of Jesus and went by the name of Longinus.

The Blessed Virgin and her companions were still standing near, with their eyes fixed upon the Cross, but when Cassius thrust his lance into the side of Jesus they were much startled, and rushed with one accord up to it. Mary looked as if the lance had transfixed her heart instead of that of her Divine Son, and could scarcely support herself. Cassius meantime remained kneeling and thanking God, not only for the graces he had received but likewise for the cure of the complaint in his eyes, which had caused the weakness and the squint. This cure had been effected at the same moment that the darkness with which his soul was previously filled was removed. Every heart was overcome at the sight, of the blood of our Lord, which ran into a hollow in the rock at the foot of the Cross. Mary, John, the holy women, and Cassius, gathered up the blood and water in flasks, and wiped up the remainder with pieces of linen. [*]

Cassius, whose sight was perfectly restored at the same moment that the eyes of his soul were opened, was deeply moved, and continued his humble prayer of thanksgiving. The soldiers were struck with astonishment at the miracle which had taken place, and cast themselves on their knees by his side, at the same time striking their breasts and confessing Jesus. The water and blood continued to flow from the large wound in the side of our Lord; it ran into the hollow in the rock, and the holy women put it in vases, while Mary and Magdalen mingled their tears. The archers, who had received a message from Pilate, ordering them not to touch the body of Jesus, did not return at all.

All these events took place near the Cross, at a little before four o'clock, during the time that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were gathering together the articles necessary for the burial of Jesus. But the servants of Joseph having been sent to clean out the tomb, informed the friends of our Lord that their master intended to take the body of Jesus and place it in his new sepulchre. John immediately returned to the town with the holy women; in the first place, that Mary might recruit her strength a little, and in the second, to purchase a few things which would be required for the burial. The Blessed Virgin had a small lodging among the buildings near the Cenaculum. They did not re?nter the town through the gate which was the nearest to Calvary, because it was closed, and guarded by soldiers placed there by the Pharisees; but they went through that gate which leads to Bethlehem.

[*] Sister Emmerich added: Cassius was baptized by the name of Longinus; and was ordained deacon, and preached the faith. He always kept some of the blood of Christ,--it dried up, but was found in his coffin in Italy. He was buried in a town at no great distance from the locality where St. Clare passed her life. There is a lake with an island upon it near this town, and the body of Longinus must have been taken there.' Sister Emmerich appears to designate Mantua by this description, and there is a tradition preserved in that town to the same effect. I do not know which St. Clare lived in the neighbourhood. - The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Dismas

Dismas is the name given by tradition to the repentant thief.

The Penitent Thief, also known as the Good Thief, Wise Thief, Grateful Thief or the Thief on the Cross, is one of two unnamed thieves in Luke's account of the crucifixion of Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke describes him asking Jesus to "remember him" when Jesus arrives at his kingdom. The other, as the impenitent thief, challenges Jesus to save himself and both of them to prove that he is the Messiah.

He is officially venerated in the Catholic Church. The Roman Martyrology places his commemoration on 25 March, together with the Feast of the Annunciation, because of the ancient Christian tradition that Christ (and the penitent thief) were crucified and died exactly on the anniversary of Christ's incarnation.

He is given the name Dismas in the Gospel of Nicodemus and is traditionally known in Catholicism as Saint Dismas (sometimes Dysmas; in Spanish and Portuguese, Dimas). Other traditions have bestowed other names:

  • In Coptic Orthodox tradition and the Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, he is named Demas.

  • In the Codex Colbertinus, he is named Zoatham or Zoathan.

  • In Russian Orthodox tradition, he is named Rakh.

Two men were crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on his right and one on his left (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27–28,32, Luke 23:33, John 19:18), which the Gospel of Mark interprets as fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, respectively, both of the thieves mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32); Luke, however, mentions that:

39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us."

40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

43 He replied to him, "Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39–43)

Gestas is the traditional name of the impenitent thief. The Gospels do not name this impenitent thief.

The impenitent thief is a man described in the New Testament account of the Crucifixion of Jesus. In the Gospel narrative, two criminal bandits are crucified alongside Jesus. In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, they both join the crowd in mocking him. In the version of the Gospel of Luke, however, one taunts Jesus about not saving himself, and the other (known as the penitent thief) asks for mercy.

In apocryphal writings, the impenitent thief is given the name Gestas, which first appears in the Gospel of Nicodemus, while his companion is called Dismas. Christian tradition holds that Gestas was on the cross to the left of Jesus and Dismas was on the cross to the right of Jesus. In Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend, the name of the impenitent thief is given as Gesmas. The impenitent thief is sometimes referred to as the "bad thief" in contrast to the good thief.

The apocryphal Arabic Infancy Gospel refers to Gestas and Dismas as Dumachus and Titus, respectively. According to tradition – seen, for instance, in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Golden Legend – Dumachus was one of a band of robbers who attacked Saint Joseph and the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt.

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  • Brilliant compilation! It will be helpful if you could quote the Gospel references relating to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea as `witnesses' of Jesus'death. I for one, have strong reservations about enlisting of Nicodemus in that he used to visit Jesus in the night, having been conscious of his identity as a member of the Sanhedrin , and was afraid of giving open support to Jesus. Joseph, of course, lent his new tomb for the burial of Jesus, but that does not confirm that he was there in Calvary to witness the Lord's death. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Jun 16 at 10:56
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Jn 19:25-26 names the following five :

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby..

Mtt 27: 55-56 adds to the number:

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children .

The soldiers who remained at the site were four in number:

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares (Jn 19:23)

And the Centurion who acknowledged Jesus's divinity (Mtt 27:54) was there.

The two thieves who were crucified with him , outlived Jesus to witness his death on the cross.

Naturally, the soldiers who came to crucify the thieves (say, four each) , were also there to ensure that their respective convicts were dead. The thieves might also have had their family members around .

Is is also possible that there was a person ( a boy ?) bearing the vinegar which was administered to Jesus when he said he was thirsty (Mark 15:23)

Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the cross, may also have stayed back by divine inspiration, lest he be deprived of the climax-point of the death which redeemed the world .

So, the number of people who witnessed the death of Jesus on the Cross was definitely more than 25, only that one cannot have a list by name !

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  • "the soldiers who came to crucify the thieves"... is there any evidence these would have been different from first four soldiers? I would have guessed, rather, that there was one group of soldiers present that was responsible for all three (Jesus and the two thieves). Also, the OP says 25 people (or less) that can be named. Depending on your definition of "named", you've only named perhaps seven. – Matthew Jun 14 at 12:11
  • Thanks, Matthew. I have admitted in the concluding para that we may never have the names of all who witnessed Jesus die on the Cross. As for the number of soldiers who accompanied Jesus to Calvary, one seldom comes across a mention of the two convicted thieves being taken along with Jesus to the place of their execution, including in the Way of the Cross. A convict in death row is mostly harnessed, and/or is guarded by a number of policemen so that he does not escape. It is unthinkable that just four soldiers would be entrusted with the custody of three death row convicts. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Jun 15 at 4:59

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