The Avenging of the Savior
tr. Alexander Walker
This translation into English was edited done by Alexander Walker,
(see citation below), as part of the monumental Ante-Nicene Fathers
series and turned into electronic form by the Christian Classics Etherial Library
whose efforts have gone so far to extend the world of on-line scholarship. I have made a few changes,
as noted below. Except for #12, the notes are Walker's, not mine.
Please notify me of any errors -- they are probably my
Walker may have complained that the underlying Latin was barbarous. I
will refrain from going on about Walker's English. I do not have any
interest in retranslating from scratch, although I have taken the
liberty of removing his obvious Elizabethianisms (thee's and thou's -
anachronistic even in the late 19th century when he was writing). I have
also added the 'verse' numbers (if we may call them that) from
Tischendorf's Latin (the purple numbers), in
case anyone wants to read them in parallel. The paragraph breaks appear
to be the same.
The story obviously seeks to exonerate the Roman empire, from a Christian point of view, by having the Emperors Tiberius, Vespacian, and Titus all convert to Christianity. Tiberius and Titus are miraculously healed in the process. The Jewish war that culminated in the destruction of the temple in 70, CE now becomes an imperial act of revenge for the murder of Christ. Most scholars see a connection between this story and the Acts of Pilate. There is evidence for the Acts being in existence in the second century, although if The avenging is pre-Constantinian, it must written with an eye to ingratiating the Christians to their Roman overlords (and sometime persecutors). I would guess it is a good deal later. It is possible that the Saxon, and not the Latin, version is the oldest (contra Tischendorf). See note 12.
It is combined with a probably previously known folk story about Veronica, who is said to have received a cloth with the image of Christ's face in blood on it. The name she is known by is not her name but reflects her cloth, meaning "true image" (one tradition has her real name as Βερενικη [Bernice]). The tradition associates her with the woman healed of an issue of blood in Mark 5.25 and parallels) Although she, and her famous cloth, appear in the story, that story is simply assumed here, rather than being told in full.
This version of the legend of Veronica is written in very barbarous Latin, probably of the seventh or eighth century. An Anglo-Saxon version, which Tischendorf concludes to be derived from the Latin, was edited and translated for the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, by C. W. Goodwin, in 1851. The Anglo-Saxon text is from a ms. in the Cambridge Library, one of a number presented to the Cathedral of Exeter by Bishop Leofric in the beginning of the eleventh century.
The reader will observe that there are in this document two distinct legends, somewhat clumsily joined together- that of Nathan's embassy, and that of Veronica.
Tr. Alexander Walker. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.)
Here Begins the Avenging of the Savior.1 In the days of the Emperor Tiberius Caesar, when Herod was tetrarch, Christ was delivered under Pontius Pilate by the Jews, and revealed by Tiberius.
In those days Titus  was a prince under Tiberius in the region of Equitania, in a city of Libia which is called Burgidalla. And Titus had a sore in his right nostril, on account of a cancer, and he had his face torn even to the eye. 2 There went forth a certain man from Judaea, by name Nathan the son of Nahum; for he was an Ishmaelite who went from land to land, and from sea to sea, and in all the ends of the earth. Now Nathan was sent from Judaea to the Emperor Tiberius, to carry their treaty to the city of Rome. And Tiberius was ill, and full of ulcers and fevers, and had nine kinds of leprosy. 3 And Nathan wished to go to the city of Rome. But the north wind blew and hindered his sailing, and carried him down to the harbor of a city of Libia. Now Titus, seeing the ship coming, knew that it was from Judaea; and they all wondered, and said that they had never seen any vessel so coming from that quarter. 4 And Titus ordered the captain to come to him, and asked him who he was. And he said: I am Nathan the son of Nahum, of the race of the Ishmaelites, and I am a subject of Pontius Pilate in Judaea. And I have been sent to go to Tiberius the Roman emperor, to carry a treaty from Judaea. And a strong wind came down upon the sea, and has brought me to a country that I do not know.
5 And Titus says: If you could at any time find anything either of cosmetics or herbs which could cure the wound that I have in my face, as you see, so that I should become whole, and regain my former health, I should bestow on you many good things. 6 And Nathan said to him: I do not know, nor have I ever known, of such things as you speak to me about. But for all that, if you had been some time ago in Jerusalem, there you would have found a choice prophet, whose name was Emanuel, for He will save His people from their sins. And He, as His first miracle in Cana of Galilee, made wine from water; and by His word He cleansed lepers, He enlightened the eyes of one born blind, He healed paralytics, He made demons flee, He raised up three dead; a woman caught in adultery, and condemned by the Jews to be stoned, He set free; and another woman, named Veronica, who suffered twelve years from an issue of blood, and came up to Him behind, and touched the fringe of His garment, He healed; and with five loaves and two fishes He satisfied five thousand men, to say nothing of little ones and women, and there remained of the fragments twelve baskets. All these things, and many others, were accomplished before His passion. After His resurrection we saw Him in the flesh as He had been before. 7 And Titus said to Him: How did he rise again from the dead, seeing that he was dead? And Nathan answered and said: He was manifestly dead, and hung up on the cross, and again taken down from the cross, and for three days He lay in the tomb: thereafter He rose again from the dead, and went down to Hades, and freed the patriarchs and the prophets, and the whole human race; thereafter He appeared to His disciples, and ate with them; thereafter they saw Him going up into heaven. And so it is the truth, all this that I tell you. For I saw it with my own eyes, and all the house of Israel. 8 And Titus said in his own words: Woe to you, O Emperor Tiberius, full of ulcers, and enveloped in leprosy, because such a scandal has been committed in your kingdom; because you have made such laws in Judaea, in the land of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they have seized the King, and put to death the Ruler of the peoples; and they have not made Him come to us to cure you of your leprosy, and cleanse me from my infirmity: on which account, if they had been before my face, with my own hands I should have slain the carcasses of those Jews, and hung them up on the cruel tree, because they have destroyed my Lord, and my eyes have not been worthy to see His face. 9 And when he had thus spoken, immediately the wound fell from the face of Titus, and his flesh and his face were restored to health. And all the sick who were in the same place were made whole in that hour. And Titus cried out, and all the rest with him, in a loud voice, saying: My King and my God, because I have never seen You, and You have made me whole, bid me go with the ship over the waters to the land of Your birth, to take vengeance on Your enemies; and help me, O Lord, that I may be able to destroy them, and avenge Your death: do, Lord, deliver them into my hand. And having thus spoken, he ordered that he should be baptized. And he called Nathan to him, and said to him: How have you seen those baptized who believe in Christ? Come to me, and baptize me in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.  For I also firmly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, and with all my soul; because nowhere in the whole world is there another who has created me, and made me whole from my wounds.
And having thus spoken, he sent messengers to Vespasian to come with all haste with his bravest men, so prepared as if for war.
11 Then Vespasian brought with him five thousand armed men, and they went to meet Titus. And when they had come to the city of Libia, he said to Titus: Why is it that you have made me come hither? And he said: Know that Jesus has come into this world, and has been born in Judaea, in a place which is called Bethlehem, and has been given up by the Jews, and scourged, and crucified on Mount Calvary,  and has risen again from the dead on the third day. And His disciples have seen Him in the same flesh in which he was born, and He has shown Himself to His disciples, and they have believed in Him. And we indeed wish to become His disciples. Now, let us go and destroy His enemies from the earth, that they may now know that there is none like the Lord our God on the face of the earth.
12 With this design, then, they went forth from the city of Libia which is called Burgidalla,  and went on board a ship, and proceeded to Jerusalem, and surrounded the kingdom of the Jews, and began to send them to destruction. And when the kings of the Jews heard of their doings, and the wasting of their land, fear came upon them, and they were in great perplexity. Then Archelaus  was perplexed in his words, and said to his son: My son, take my kingdom and judge it; and take counsel with the other kings who are in the land of Judah, that you may be able to escape from our enemies. And having thus said, he unsheathed his sword and leant upon it; and turned his sword, which was very sharp, and thrust it into his breast, and died. 13 And his son allied himself with the other kings who were under him, and they took counsel among themselves, and went into Jerusalem with their chief men who were in their counsel, and stood in the same place seven years. 14 And Titus and Vespasian took counsel to surround their city. And they did so. And the seven years being fulfilled, there was a very sore famine, and for want of bread they began to eat earth. 15 Then all the soldiers who were of the four kings took counsel among themselves, and said: Now we are sure to die: what will God do to us? or of what good is our life to us, because the Romans have come to take our place and nation? It is better for us to kill each other, than that the Romans should say that they have slain us, and gained the victory over us. And they drew their swords and smote themselves, and died, to the number of twelve thousand men of them. 16 Then there was a great stench in that city from the corpses of those dead men. And their kings feared with a very great fear even unto death; and they could not bear the stench of them, nor bury them, nor throw them forth out of the city. And they said to each other: What shall we do? We indeed gave up Christ to death, and now we are given up to death ourselves. Let us bow our heads, and give up the keys of the city to the Romans, because God has already given us up to death. And immediately they went up upon the walls of the city, and all cried out with a loud voice, saying: Titus and Vespasian, take the keys of the city, which have been given to you by Messiah, who is called Christ.
17 Then they gave themselves up into the hands of Titus and Vespasian, and said: Judge us, seeing that we ought to die, because we judged Christ; and he was given up without cause. Titus and Vespasian seized them, and some they stoned, and some they hanged on a tree, feet up and head down, and struck them through with lances; and others they gave up to be sold, and others they divided among themselves, and made four parts of them, just as they had done of the garments of the Lord. And they said: They sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, and we shall sell thirty of them for one denarius. And so they did. And having done so, they seized all the lands of Judaea and Jerusalem.
18 Then they made a search about the face or portrait  of Jesus, how they might find it.  And they found a woman named Veronica who had it. Then they seized Pilate, and sent him to prison, to be guarded by four quaternions of soldiers at the door of the prison. 19 Then they forthwith sent their messengers to Tiberius, the emperor of the city of Rome, that he should send Velosianus to them. And he said to him: Take all that is necessary for you in the sea, and go down into Judaea, and seek out one of the disciples of him who is called Christ and Lord, that he may come to me, and in the name of his God cure me of the leprosy and the infirmities by which I am daily exceedingly burdened, and of my wounds, because I am ill at ease. And send upon the kings of the Jews, who are subject to my authority, your forces and terrible engines, because they have put to death Jesus Christ our Lord, and condemn them to death. And if you shall there find a man as may be able to free me from this infirmity of mine, I will believe in Christ the Son of God, and will baptize myself in his name. And Velosianus said: My lord emperor, if I find such a man as may be able to help and free us, what reward shall I promise him? Tiberius said to him: The half of my kingdom, without fail, to be in his hand.
20 Then Velosianus immediately went forth, and went on board the ship, and hoisted the sail in the vessel, and went on sailing through the sea. And he sailed a year and seven days, after which he arrived at Jerusalem. And immediately he ordered some of the Jews to come to his power, and began carefully to ask what had been the acts of Christ. 21 Then Joseph, of the city of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus, came at the same time. And Nicodemus said: I saw Him, and I know indeed that He is the Savior of the world. And Joseph said to him: And I took Him down from the cross, and laid Him in a new tomb, which had been cut out of the rock. And the Jews kept me shut up on the day of the preparation, at evening; and while I was standing in prayer on the Sabbath-day, the house was hung up by the four corners, and I saw the Lord Jesus Christ like a gleam of light, and for fear I fell to the ground. And He said to me, Look upon me, for I am Jesus, whose body you buried in your tomb. And I said to Him, Show me the sepulcher where I laid You. And Jesus, holding my hand in His right hand, led me to the place where I buried Him. 
22 And there came also the woman named Veronica, and said to him: And I touched in the crowd the fringe of His garment, because for twelve years I had suffered from an issue of blood; and He immediately healed me. 23 Then Velosianus said to Pilate: You, Pilate, impious and cruel, why have you slain the Son of God? And Pilate answered: His own nation, and the chief priests Annas and Caiaphas, gave him to me. 24 Velosianus said: Impious and cruel, you are worthy of death and cruel punishment. And he sent him back to prison. And Velosianus at last sought for the face or the countenance of the Lord. And all who were in that same place said: It is the woman called Veronica who has the portrait of the Lord in her house. And immediately he ordered her to be brought before his power. And he said to her: Have you the portrait of the Lord in your house? But she said, No. Then Velosianus ordered her to be put to the torture, until she should give up the portrait of the Lord. And she was forced to say: I have it in clean linen, my lord, and I daily adore it. Velosianus said: Show it to me. Then she showed the portrait of the Lord. When Velosianus saw it, he prostrated himself on the ground; and with a ready heart and true faith he took hold of it, and wrapped it in cloth of gold, and placed it in a casket, and sealed it with his ring. And he swore with an oath, and said: As the Lord God lives, and by the health of Caesar, no man shall any more see it upon the face of the earth, until I see the face of my lord Tiberius. 25 And when he had thus spoken, the princes, who were the chief men of Judaea, seized Pilate to take him to a seaport. And he took the portrait of the Lord, with all His disciples, and all in his pay, and they went on board the ship the same day. 26 Then the woman Veronica, for the love of Christ, left all that she possessed, and followed Velosianus. And Velosianus said to her: What do you wish, woman, or what do you seek? And she answered: I am seeking the portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ, who enlightened me, not for my own merits, but through His own holy affection.  Give back to me the portrait of my Lord Jesus Christ; for because of this I die with a righteous longing. But if you do not give it back to me, I will not leave it until I see where you will put it, because I, most miserable woman that I am, will serve Him all the days of my life; because I believe that He, my Redeemer, lives for everlasting.
Then Velosianus ordered the woman Veronica to be taken down with him into the ship. And the sails being hoisted, they began to go in the vessel in the name of the Lord, and they sailed through the sea. But Titus, along with Vespasian, went up into Judaea, avenging all nations upon their land.  At the end of a year Velosianus came to the city of Rome, brought his vessel into the river which is called Tiberis, or Tiber, and entered the city which is called Rome. And he sent his messenger to his lord Tiberius the emperor in the Lateran about his prosperous arrival.
28 Then Tiberius the emperor, when he heard the message of Velosianus, rejoiced greatly, and ordered him to come before his face. And when he had come, he called him, saying: Velosianus, how have you come, and what have you seen in the region of Judaea of Christ the Lord and his disciples? Tell me, I beseech you, that he is going to cure me of my infirmity, that I may be at once cleansed from that leprosy which I have over my body, and I give up my whole kingdom into your power and his.
29 And Velosianus said: My lord emperor, I found your servants Titus and Vespasian in Judaea fearing the Lord, and they were cleansed from all their ulcers and sufferings. And I found that all the kings and rulers of Judaea have been hanged by Titus; Annas and Caiaphas have been stoned, Archelaus has killed himself with his own lance; and I have sent Pilate to Damascus in bonds, and kept him in prison under safe keeping. But I have also found out about Jesus, whom the Jews most wickedly attacked with swords, and staves, and weapons; and they crucified him who ought to have freed and enlightened us, and to have come to us, and they hanged him on a tree. And Joseph came from Arimathaea, and Nicodemus with him, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds, to anoint the body of Jesus; and they took him down from the cross, and laid him in a new tomb. And on the third day he most assuredly rose again from the dead, and showed himself to his disciples in the same flesh in which he had been born. At length, after forty days, they saw him going up into heaven. Many, indeed, and other miracles did Jesus before his passion and after. First, of water he made wine; he raised the dead, he cleansed lepers, he enlightened the blind, he cured paralytics, he put demons to flight; he made the deaf hear, the dumb speak; Lazarus, when four days dead, he raised from the tomb; the woman Veronica, who suffered from an issue of blood twelve years, and touched the fringe of his garment, he made whole. 30 Then it pleased the Lord in the heavens, that the Son of God, who, sent into this world as the first-created, had died upon earth, should send his angel; and he commanded Titus and Vespasian, whom I knew in that place where your throne is. And it pleased God Almighty that they went into Judaea and Jerusalem, and seized your subjects, and put them under that sentence, as it were, in the same manner as they did when your subjects seized Jesus and bound him. And Vespasian afterwards said: What shall we do about those who shall remain? Titus answered: They hanged our Lord on a green tree, and struck him with a lance; now let us hang them on a dry tree,  and pierce their bodies through and through with the lance. And they did so. 31 And Vespasian said: What about those who are left? Titus answered: They seized the tunic of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of it made four parts; now let us seize them, and divide them into four parts,-to you one, to me one, to your men another, and to my servants the fourth part. And they did so. And Vespasian said: But what shall we do about those who are left? Titus answered him: The Jews sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver: now let us sell thirty of them for one piece of silver. And they did so. And they seized Pilate, and gave him up to me, and I put him in prison, to be guarded by four quaternions of soldiers in Damascus. 32 Then they made a search with great diligence to seek the portrait of the Lord; and they found a woman named Veronica who had the portrait of the Lord. 33 Then the Emperor Tiberius said to Velosianus: How have you it? And he answered: I have it in clean cloth of gold, rolled up in a shawl. And the Emperor Tiberius said: Bring it to me, and spread it before my face, that I, falling to the ground and bending my knees, may adore it on the ground. Then Velosianus spread out his shawl with the cloth of gold on which the portrait of the Lord had been imprinted; and the Emperor Tiberius saw it. And he immediately adored the image of the Lord with a pure heart, and his flesh was cleansed as the flesh of a little child. And all the blind, the lepers, the lame, the dumb, the deaf, and those possessed by various diseases, who were there present, were healed, and cured, and cleansed. 34 And the Emperor Tiberius bowed his head and bent his knees, considering that saying: Blessed is the womb which bore You, and the breasts which You have sucked; and he groaned to the Lord, saying with tears: God of heaven and earth, do not permit me to sin, but confirm my soul and my body, and place me in Your kingdom, because in Your name do I trust always: free me from all evils, as You freed the three children from the furnace of blazing fire.
35 Then said the Emperor Tiberius to Velosianus: Velosianus, have you seen any of those men who saw Christ? Velosianus answered: I have. He said: Did you ask how they baptize those who believed in Christ? Velosianus said: Here, my Lord, we have one of the disciples of Christ himself. Then he ordered Nathan to be summoned to come to him. Nathan therefore came and baptized him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Immediately the Emperor Tiberius, made whole from all his diseases, ascended upon his throne, and said: Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, and worthy to be praised, who have freed me from the snare of death, and cleansed me from all my iniquities; because I have greatly sinned before You, O Lord my God, and I am not worthy to see Your face. And then the Emperor Tiberius was instructed in all the articles of the faith, fully, and with strong faith.
36 May that same God Almighty, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Himself shield us in His faith, and defend us, and deliver us from all danger and evil, and deem us worthy to bring us to life everlasting, when this life, which is temporary, shall fail; who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
 The Saxon version has Tirus.
Reges, kings, instead of leges, as suggested by Mr. Cowper, is a much better reading.
 Sax.: Then Nathan came, and baptized him in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and took away from him his name of Tirus, and called him in his baptism Titus, which is in our language Pius.
 Note this popular but erroneous appellation of Mount.
 Sax. omits "which is called Burgidalla."
 Sax.: And Herod the king was so terrified, that he said to Archelaus his son.
 Lit., countenance
Sax.: And they inquired diligently whether perchance there were there any one who had miraculous relics of the Savior, of His clothing, or other precious things; and they sought so diligently, that they found a woman, etc
In the Saxon, Joseph's speech is: I know that they took Him down from the cross, and laid Him in the tomb which I had cut out of the rock. And I was one of those who guarded His tomb: and I bent my head and thought I should see Him, but I beheld nothing of Him, but saw two angels, one at the head and the other at the foot, and they asked me whom I was seeking. I answered and said to them, I seek Jesus who was crucified. Again they said to me, Go into Galilee; there shall you see Him, as He said to you before.
A few lines of the text are here very corrupt, and are omitted by Tischendorf. The meaning of them is: And woe's me, because, contrary to the law, you have treated me most unjustly. Ah! woe's me, because you have taken my Lord from me; just as the Jews did contrary to the law in crucifying in this world the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the eyes of your Caesar have not seen. But woe's me! have I done contrary to the law? Have I deserved to suffer this punishment?
 Or, taking vengeance upon all the nations of their land.
 One is struck here by the parallel to Luke 23:27-31: "For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" But beyond being struck, I am not sure what to do with it. Thomas N. Hall ( "The Cross as Green Tree in the Vindicta Salvatoris and the Green Rod of Moses in Exodus," English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature 72.4 (1991): 297-307), cites a number of parallels to English iconography in which the cross shows up as green. From this he makes the case that this story is English in origin, in which case the Saxon, and not the Latin would be the original. But he does not have a 'theological' explanation either [AH].
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