Nicodemus the Pharisee Who Accepted Jesus
Nicodemus was a famous pharisee who accepted Jesus, and who apocryphal sources consider a martyr. In Rabbinical traditions, he probably matches Nakdimon ben Gurion, also known as Buni, who provided water for Jerusalem's festivals. The Talmud (Tractate Taanith, Chapter 3) relates that Nakdimon once borrowed twelve wells of water for the pilgrims in a dry year, promising 297 kg of silver if the wells weren't refilled. On the day for repayment, he went to the Temple and prayed: "Creator of the Universe! It is known to Thee, that not for the sake of glory for me... but for the glory of Thy name, that the pilgrims in Jerusalem might have water, did I borrow those wells." Rain fell, the twelve wells refilled, but the sun had already set, and the master demanded payment. So Nakdimon returned and prayed in the Temple, and the sun reappeared. The Talmud concludes: "We have learned in a Boraitha: His name was not Nakdimon, but Boni, and he was called Nakdimon because on his account the sun hastened. The rabbis taught: 'For the sake of each of three men alone the sun shone, and they are Moses, Joshua, and Nakdimon ben Gurion.'"
John 3:1-21 records Nicodemus coming to Jesus secretly by night and saying "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" and refers to him as "a master of Israel." At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus cried "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water", and the pharisees wanted to punish Him. (John 7:32-49). Nicodemus tells them "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" The pharisees rebuke him with "Art thou also of Galilee?" and leave. (John 7:50-53). In fact, Tractate Erub 3(4):17 says that the Gurion family's estates were in Ruma, Lower Galilee. Nicodemus Threatened for Defending Jesus
The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia dates to the 3rd century AD, describes Nicodemus telling Pilate that Jesus did miracles like previous prophets, and that "he is not worthy of death." Supposedly, the rest of the people raged against Nicodemus, saying "Mayest thou receive his truth and his portion", and Nicodemus replied: "Amen, Amen: may I receive it as ye have said."(Nico. V)
John 19:39-40 records that after the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arithmea took Jesus' body and Nicodemus "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." The Gospel of Nicodemus claims that while the disciples scattered, "Nicodemus alone shewed himself," and the rest of the people asked: "how durst thou enter into the synagogue who wast a confederate with Christ? Let thy lot be along with him in the other world." Nicodemus answered, "Amen; so may it be, that I may have my lot with him in his kingdom."(Nico. IX)The Execution of Buni
Since Jesus' body vanished after Nicodemus buried it, the other pharisees might have enforced this threat. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 43) records that Jesus, or Yeshu, was "hanged on the eve of the Passover" because he "practised sorcery." It says that:
"he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].' ...Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah. When Matthai was brought [before the court] he said to them [the judges], Shall Matthai be executed? ...they retorted; Yes... When Nakai was brought in he said to them; Shall Nakai be executed? It is not written, Naki [the innocent] and the righteous slay thou not? Yes, was the answer, Nakai shall be executed, since it is written, in secret places does Naki [the innocent] slay ... When Buni was brought in, he said: Shall Buni be executed? Is it not written, Beni [my son], my first born? Yes, they said, Buni shall be executed, since it is written, Behold I will slay Bine-ka [thy son] thy first born."
The only associate of Jesus in Christianity named Buni is the ruler Nicodemus, and the Talmud describes the trial after mentioning Jesus' connection with royalty. Further, the names "Nico-demus" and "Nak-dimon" have the same prefix as Nakai, or "innocent." The Ruin of Nakdimon's Family
While the Talmud had praised Nakdimon as Jerusalem's patron, it changes tone when describing his family's later poverty. In Kesubos 66-67, the Talmud says that Johanan ben Zakkai (30 - 90 AD) "saw a girl picking barley grains in the dung of Arab cattle. As soon as she saw him she wrapped herself with her hair and stood before him. 'Master', she said to him, 'feed me'. 'My daughter', he asked her, 'who are you?' 'I am', she replied, 'the daughter of Nakdimon b. Gorion'. 'My daughter', he said to her, 'what has become of the wealth of your father's house?' 'Master', she answered him, 'is there not a proverb current in Jerusalem: "The salt of money is diminution?'"
The Avot of Rabbi Nathan (Chapter 17 ; 8th-10th cent. AD) gives her words as: "Your wealth will keep if you don't keep it." So rather than citing a verse from the Tanakh, she gave a "proverb current in Jerusalem" that resembles Christian sayings. Jesus gave parables about sharing one's possessions to keep them, ending in the phrase "he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." (See: Matthew 13:12, 25:29 Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; John 15:2)
The Talmud portrays her as both shameful, digging in dung, and as starved and strongly needing help. It seems like someone should help her at least enough so she wouldn't have to get grain from dung. Next, she seems to try to persuade Zakkai to help her, by saying "Do you remember, Master... when you signed my kethubah?" He weeps, but instead of offering her help, he uses her as a learning tool for his students, saying: "when they do not do the will of the Omnipresent he delivers them into the hands of a low people, and not only in the hands of a low people but into the power of the beasts of a low people." Zakkai portrays her fate as sad but just, so he doesn't seem that he will help her either.
The Talmud asks: "Did not Nakdimon b. Gorion, however, practice charity? Surely it was taught: It was said of Nakdimon b. Gorion that, when he walked from his house to the house of study, woollen clothes were spread beneath his feet and the poor followed behind him and rolled them up!" Nicodemus' large gift of spices in John 19 for the burial of his friend Jesus matches his custom of targeted donations.
The Talmud's explanation for this contradiction is that "He did it for his own glorification — And if you prefer I might reply: He did not act as he should have done, as people say, 'In accordance with the camel is the burden.'" The comparison of a rich man to a camel having trouble is like Jesus' words "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." However, the answer that "He did it for his own glorification" contradicts the Talmud's endorsement of Nakdimon's prayer that He borrowed water for God's glory instead of His own. It appears that Nakdimon or his family, widely considered to be generous, have done something far more socially unacceptable than failing to give enough. The story never answers how Nakdimon's family became so poor they had to search for grains in dung without anyone to help them in the least way. Her poverty can't just be from general lack of food following the siege of Jerusalem, since there was food for the cattle, Zakkai himself wasn't eating grains from dung, and Nakdimon's family should have at least something more than regular people.SUMMARY OF FACTS
Thus, the gospel's description of Nicodemus matches the Talmud's description of Nakdimon as a generous ruling patron of Jerusalem from Galilee. The Talmud says that Jesus was connected to influential rulers, and a pharisee from Galilee would be one of the most likely associates of Jesus in a Sanhedrin mostly run by Saducees. Jesus' burial is so central to the gospels that it would be one of their more certain statements. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Nicodemus fell under public censure because he buried Jesus' body and it disappeared.CONTRASTING ENDPOINTS?
Photius, writing many centuries later in his Codices said that Nicodemus died from being beaten up by a crowd. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/photius_copyright/photius_04bibliotheca.htm
). However, he says he read this from a book by Eustratios or Eustratius, and a researcher wrote in the footnotes that Photius' account of Eustratius' book is very wrong sometimes.
Another problem is that Jesus was crucified in 33 AD, so Nakdimon would seem to have been martyred within a few years. However, another part of the Talmud says that in 70 AD, four people still have the most wealth in the city. Two of the people are Ben Gorion and Ben Nakdimon. However, those are not their first names. Technically, though, they could just be the brother and son of Nakdimon ben Gorion.
After mentioning the four counselors' wealth, it describes the Zealots' destruction of their storehouses to prevent them from making peace with Rome. So it looks like Nakdimon's family's wealth lasted a long time after Jesus' crucifixion. However, if Nakdimon was associated with Jesus, it might explain why people might not want to help his family.How did Saint Nicodemus die? Martyrdom by execution, beat up, or just old age?