In the Old Testament the uniform translation (17 times) of gannabh, from ganabh, "steal," but gannabh is rather broader than the English "thief," and may even include a kidnapper (Deuteronomy 24:7). In Apocrypha and the New Testament, the King James Version uses "thief" indifferently for kleptes, and lestes, but the Revised Version (British and American) always renders the latter word by "robber" (a great improvement), See CRIMES. The figurative use of thief" as one coming without warning" (Matthew 24:43, etc.) needs no explanation.
The penitent thief ("robber," the Revised Version (British and American) Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:38,44; "malefactor," Luke 23:32,39) was one of the two criminals crucified with Christ. According to Mark and Matthew, both of these joined in the crowd's mockery, but Luke tells that one of them reproached his fellow for the insults, acknowledged his own guilt, and begged Christ to remember him at the coming of the Kingdom. And Christ replied by promising more than was asked--immediate admission into Paradise. It should be noted that unusual moral courage was needed for the thief to make his request at such a time and under such circumstances, and that his case has little in common with certain sentimental "death-bed repentances."
To explain the repentance and the acknowledgment of Christ as Messiah, some previous acquaintance of the thief with Christ must be supposed, but all guesses as to time and place are of course useless. Later tradition abundantly filled the blanks and gave the penitent thief the name Titus or Dysmas.
See ASSASSINS; BARABBAS.
Burton Scott Easton
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