A prominent Jew of the time of Christ, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel.
The name is of Greek origin, but at that epoch such names were occasionally
borrowed by the Jews, and according to Josephus (Ant. of the Jews, XIV, iii, 2)
Nicodemus was the name of one of the ambassadors sent by Aristobulus to Pompey.
A Hebrew form of the name (Naqdimon) is found in the Talmud. Nicodemus was a
Pharisee, and in his capacity of sanhedrist, (John, vii, 50) was a leader of the
Jews. Christ, in the interview when Nicodemus came to him by night, calls him a
master in Israel. Judging from John xix, 39, Nicodemus must have been a man of
means, and it is probable that he wielded a certain influence in the Sanhedrim.
Some writers conjecture from his question:
How can a man be born when he is
old?, that he was already advanced in years, but the words are too general to
warrant such a conclusion. He appears in this interview as a learned and
intelligent believer, but timid and not easily initiated into the mysteries of
the new faith. He next appears (John, vii, 50, 51) in the Sanhedrim offering a
word in defence of the accused Galilean; and we may infer from this passage that
he embraced the truth as soon as it was fully made known to him. He is mentioned
finally in John, xix, 39, where he is shown co-operating with Joseph of
Arimathea in the embalming and burial of Jesus. His name occurs later in some of
the apocryphal writings, e.g. in the so-called
Acta Pilati, heterogeneous
document which in the sixteen century was published under the title
Nicodemi (Gospel of Nicodemus). The time of his death is unknown. The Roman
Martyrology commemorates the finding of his relics, together with those of Sts.
Stephen, Gamaliel, and Abibo, on 3 August.
Conybeare, Studia Biblica, IV (Oxford, 1896), 59-132; Le Camus, La vie de N.-S. Jesus-Christ (Paris, 1883), I, 251 sqq.; II, 24 sqq., 577 sqq., tr. Hickey (3 vols., New York, 1906-08).
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