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The Greek Gospel of Nicodemus in the Context of First-Millennium Culture

Anne-Catherine Baudoin, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, Summer Fellow 2015–2016

During my fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, I worked on the Apocry­phon known as Acts of Pilate or Gospel of Nicodemus in its Byzantine context. I gathered material on Joseph of Arimathea, a figure from the canonical Gospels who appears in the Acts of Pilate as the first witness of the Resurrection and who gives testimony to his encounter with the resurrected Christ. I studied the peculiar elements of this narrative, especially the chronology of the events and the Jewish-Christian background of Joseph’s experience. I traced rewritings or allusions to it in Greek, Georgian, Syriac, Ethiopian, and Arabic literature—the two last ones being particularly of interest because there is no known version of the Apocryphon in those languages—as well as in Eastern and Western iconography. Traditions do not know political borders, and examining the diffusion of this narrative improves our understanding of how noncanonical elements spread in the Christian world—in Byzantium and its surroundings. I also worked on the earliest witness of the Acts of Pilate, which is a Latin palimpsest of the fifth century (Vienna, ÖNB 563). Its phrasing is particularly close to Greek. Studying its linguistic peculiarities, I compared the text with the extant Greek versions and prepared a reconstruction hypothesis of the source text used by the translator. I also examined the extant chapters of the Gospel of Matthew transmitted by the same manuscript, which are a so far unstudied witness of the Vetus Latina.