The Book Synopsis

The events of the Crucifixion continue to fascinate biblical scholars and artists alike. Amongst the drama of that momentous day was a humble request and the reply that it received, an incident that manages to crystallise something of the essence of Christianity.  Dismas – The Penitent Thief: An Introduction seeks to explore what is known of the individual who made that request and discover his story, his significance and how he continues to inspire others, especially those involved in Prison Ministry and outreach programmes. If you have ever been curious and had questions about those who were crucified along with Jesus Christ, well some of the answers are to be found here.  

The Crucifixion (15th century) Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 152v, The Condé Museum, Chantilly, France. Books of Hours of this nature and quality contained images that were intended to be a means of devotion and prayer. Here Dismas can clearly be seen looking earnestly at Christ. 

So often we set great store by the ephemeral yet neglect the eternal. Here is an opportunity to find out how one whose life had fallen well short of the ideal became the focus of supreme love. The story of the Penitent Thief and the Crucifixion poses questions that deserve to be asked and should set us thinking about our own journey of faith.  

Maybe this book will encourage us to look as well as see, cause us to question differently, and hopefully allow us to start to see majesty in the margins. The subject of this book is an individual who is so much more than a bit player in the Crucifixion of Jesus; he is someone who can serve as a reminder that no one is beyond God’s Grace. 

In endeavouring to explore something of the life, death, and legacy of Dismas, this book delves into a range of sources from which we gain a broader understanding of what is known, and what has been lost in the mists of time. Its analysis of the iconography of the Crucifixion will certainly help readers develop a better understanding of various works of art, and hopefully encourage them to view them differently. A character who variously goes by the name of Dismas, the Penitent, the Wise and the Good Thief is revealed to have resonated with churches in different ways and who remains a remarkable symbol of hope.  

The Good Thief (16th century), Rostov Kremlin, Russia. The icon is believed to have originally been part of the Tolgskaya icon of Our Lady in Rostov. The Good Thief is sometimes known as the Prudent Robber in the Orthodox Church. 

This Introductory work provides some remarkable detail about the Crucifixion, and even asks us how we might have behaved had we been present at that fateful event.  The reader might be surprised to discover the degree to which Dismas continues to inspire good works, and this book explores this as well as supplying a range of weblinks of organisations with a Dismas connection, along with some for charities engaging in transformational work with prisoners and ex-offenders. Dismas – The Penitent Thief: An Introduction should be essential reading for all Christians and those wanting to have a better understanding of the Christian Faith, for Dismas; “remains someone who has lessons to teach each one of us on our quest for moral and spiritual transformation.”. With its handy glossary and its judicious selection of Further Reading this book is certain to get the reader thinking and set them off on a journey of exploration into events that can truly be said to have transformed lives and indeed the history of mankind.  

Having read this book the curious will be eager to discover what the tragic back story of John Pett’s The Wales Window for Alabama is, find out why what happened to Stefan Kisko (1952-1993) should be a salutary lesson to us all, and maybe track down and watch Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew) by the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The story of the thief who turned to Christ continues, and whilst this book does not claim to have all the answers it provides a meaningful route into the narrative, one that in its own way might foster the desire to want to know more. 

Download the sample pages below for a further read into the book: