Impenitent thief

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"Gestas" redirects here. For the French commune, see Gestas, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
Crucifixion by Hans von Tübingen showing the good thief on Christ's right (the left of the picture), and the impenitent thief on Christ's left with a devil. Others portrayed are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John, and the three Marys (Mary Cleophas, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene).

The impenitent thief is a character described in the New Testament account of the Crucifixion of Jesus. In the Gospel narrative, two criminal bandits are crucified alongside Jesus. In the earliest accounts, they join the crowd in mocking him. In the version of the Gospel of Luke, however, one taunts Jesus about not saving himself, while 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. Pious folk beliefs later embellished 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[1] - Dumachus was one of a band of robbers who attacked Saint Joseph and the Holy Family on their Flight into Egypt.

New Testament narrative[edit]

The earliest version of the story is considered to be that in the Gospel of Mark, usually dated to around AD 70.[2][3] The author says that two bandits were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. The passers by and chief priests mock Jesus for claiming to be the Messiah and yet being unable to save himself, and the two crucified with him join in. (Mark 15:27-32) Some texts include a reference to the Book of Isaiah, citing this as a fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah 53:12: "And he ... was numbered among the transgressors"). The Gospel of Matthew, written around the year 85 or 90, repeats the same details.[4] (Matthew 27:38-44)

In the Gospel of Luke version however, from around the year 90,[5] the details are varied: one of the bandits rebukes the other for mocking Jesus, and asks Jesus to remember him "when you come into your kingdom". Jesus replies by promising him that he would be with him the same day in Paradise. (Luke 23:33-45) Tradition has given this bandit the name of the penitent thief, and the other the impenitent thief.

The Gospel of John, thought to be written about AD 90-100, also says that Jesus was crucified with two others, but in this account they are not described and they do not speak. (John 19:18-25)

Filipino idiom[edit]

Among Filipino Catholics, the name is popularly exclaimed as Hudas, Barabas, Hestas!, a term invoked as an exclamation of disappointment or chastisement, mentioning Gestas along with two other individuals Judas Iscariot and Barabbas, which gained prominence in the 1973 Filipino television series John En Marsha (1973-1990), starring actor Dolphy and actress Nida Blanca.[6]

See also[edit]

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. 


  1. ^ The Golden Legend
  2. ^ Witherington (2001), p. 31: 'from 66 to 70, and probably closer to the latter'
  3. ^ Hooker (1991), p. 8: 'the Gospel is usually dated between AD 65 and 75.'
  4. ^ Harrington (1991), p. 8.
  5. ^ Davies (2004), p. xii.
  6. ^