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Nicodemus is the name of a person from the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible . The Greek word (actually Nicodemos ) means: "Winner in the popular assembly" or "Winner from the people".

Nicodemus in an entombment group. Sculpture in Great St. Martin

Biblical testimony

According to Joh 3,1  EU Nicodemus belongs to the Jewish group of the Pharisees and is also referred to as a "leader of the Jews". During a nocturnal visit to Jesus, Jesus advises him that entry into the kingdom of God requires a spiritual rebirth. However, Nicodemus misunderstood this birth as a bodily event. Thereupon Jesus uses the comparison: “The wind blows where it wants; you hear its roar, but you don't know where it's coming from or where it's going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit ” ( Jn 3 :EU ). The Gospel of John thus emphasizes the primacy of the spiritual dimension in the relationship with God.

Later in the Gospel of John ( John 7 : 50–52 EU ) Nicodemus stands up for Jesus before  the Jewish authorities. He is mentioned a third time at the burial of Jesus when he brings a considerable amount of myrrh and aloes to the anointing of the corpse ( Jn 19.39  EU ).

The figure of Nicodemus in exegesis

In exegesis it is controversial whether the Gospel of John sees in Nicodemus a representative of the "many" in Jerusalem who are only superficially fascinated by Jesus ( Jn 2:23  EU ), or whether it wants to represent a group of Jewish authorities in this form as the evangelist might have encountered from his own experience of a Christian community at the end of the 1st century. In contrast to other passages in John's Gospel, where “the Jews” are openly portrayed as opponents of Jesus, Nicodemus is by no means hostile towards Jesus, even if he does not understand the spiritual dimensions of Christian existence. Nicodemus is often seen as a sympathizer of Jesus, who, however, does not dare to show this publicly out of fear for his social position in Judaism and therefore acts under cover of darkness. But this element is also valued differently, insofar as the night with the rabbis is considered a special time to deal with the Torah and therefore also provides the appropriate framework for the spiritual conversation with Jesus. In addition, there is the element of opposition between darkness and light, which fundamentally plays an important role in John's Gospel and also closes the Nicodemus scene ( Jn 3: 19-21  EU ). Nicodemus' incomprehension, illustrated by the darkness, is supposed to be replaced by the light of spiritual knowledge.

Whether the anointing of the body of Jesus by Nicodemus according to Jn 19 : 39-42  EU is an indication of his ultimately public confession to Jesus remains a matter of dispute. Many researchers understand the enormous amount of anointing oil with which he and Joseph of Arimathäa anointed the dead Jesus as an ironic reference by the evangelist to the exclusively sensual and physical dimension, which for Nicodemus is also the horizon of his actions at the end.

Extra-biblical sources and later reception

Flavius ​​Josephus mentions in his Antiquitates (XIV, 3,2) a Nicodemus as an envoy of Aristobulus to Pompey; However, this lived before 63 BC. And can therefore not be identical with the Nicodemus of the Gospel of John.

The Nicodemus of the Gospel could rather be equated with Naqdemon ben Gorjon, who is mentioned several times in rabbinic literature. His name is also said to have been Buni and to have been one of the three richest people in Jerusalem who wanted to receive the people from their supplies during the siege of the city by Titus . Since the Talmud (Sanh 43a) claims that Jesus had a disciple named Buni, equation with Nicodemus of the Gospel would be possible.

An apocryphal Gospel of the Passion from the 4th century claims to be the " Gospel of Nicodemus ". The typeface had an extraordinarily rich history, especially up into the early modern period.

According to a medieval legend, Nicodemus made the first representation of Jesus crucified out of wood. The so-called Volto Sancto is located in the Cathedral of Lucca . Because of this story, Nicodemus has become an important figure to identify with for Christian sculptors . Michelangelo Buonarroti and Tilman Riemenschneider , for example, made self-portraits as Nicodemus.

The Catholic Church venerated Nicodemus as saints with the commemoration on August 3 .

Single receipts

  1. Hartwig Thyen: The Gospel of John , p. 185.
  2. Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium 1 , pp. 118–119.
  3. Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium 1 , p. 119.
  4. Jürgen Becker: The Gospel according to Johannes. Chapter 1-10 , p. 131.
  5. ^ Charles K. Barrett, The Gospel According to John , p. 226.
  6. Hartwig Thyen: The Gospel of John , p. 753.
  7. ^ Strack and Billerbeck, Commentary on the New Testament from Talmud and Midrash , Munich 1924, Volume 2, pp. 413-418
  8. ^ Zöllner, F .: Michelangelo - The complete work. P. 437


  • Charles K. Barrett: The Gospel according to Johannes , Göttingen 1990 ISBN 3-525-51623-1 .
  • Jürgen Becker : The Gospel according to Johannes . (= Ecumenical paperback commentary on the New Testament. Volume 4 / 1–2; = Gütersloher Taschenbücher Siebenstern. Volume 505/506). 3. Edition. 2 volumes, Gütersloher publishing house Mohn u. a., Gütersloh 1991.
  • Jan Dobraczyński : Letters from Nicodemus , Warsaw 1952.
  • Cornel Heinsdorff: Christ, Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at Juvencus. With an appendix to the Latin Gospel template , Berlin / New York 2003 (Studies on Ancient Literature and History, Vol. 67) ISBN 3-11-017851-6
  • Hartwig Thyen : The Gospel of John (= manual for the New Testament. Volume 6). Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-16-148485-1 .
  • Klaus Wengst : The Gospel of John , ThK NT 4.1, Stuttgart 2000 ISBN 3-17-016696-4 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Nicodemus  - collection of images, videos and audio files