SAINT JUDAS CYRIACUS
A second-century bishop of Jerusalem associated in legend with the discovery of the cross. In connection with Judas Cyriacus we must distinguish history from legend. EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA is the earliest witness that Judas was the fifteenth bishop of Jerusalem, after James, the brother of the Lord. But Eusebius himself was astonished that there were thirteen bishops between 107 when Symeon died at 120 years of age, and 135, when Judas became a bishop.
It is clear that Eusebius has harmonized independent sources. His note on Symeon is borrowed from Hegesippus, that on the third bishop, Justus Barsabas, from Papias, and that on the first non-Jewish bishop of Jerusalem, Mark, from Aristo of Pella. The historical Judas may have lived later, and it is very likely that the period of his episcopate occurred a century later, since there were both a Judeo-Christian hierarchy and a Gentile hierarchy.
Judas Cyriacus is at the center of the legends of the discovery of the cross. These developed as early as the fourth century. They consist basically of three connected versions, of which only one has come down to us in Coptic in a sufficiently accurate form. But the other two, fragmentary accounts have nevertheless had much influence on the characterization of Judas Cyriacus in more than one Coptic literary text. From these texts, his person has to be taken as a symbol of the growing autonomy of Jerusalem from Byzantium.
The three legends of the discovery of the cross that were woven around the person of Judas Cyriacus appear in almost all languages of the Christian East, including, of course, Coptic.
The discovery of the cross by Saint Helena starts with the vision of Constantine on the shores of the River Danube in the seventh year of his reign. Following the promise of victory as a result of the vision of the cross, Constantine receives baptism at the hands of Eusebius of Rome and sends his mother, Helena, to the Holy Land on a kind of pilgrimage. The discovery of the cross is supposed to take place in the 233rd year of the Resurrection. That fact might be the last vestige of the actual life of Judas as bishop of Jerusalem. Helena questions the Jewish dignitaries about their traditions and the whereabouts of the cross.
Judas, himself Jewish, refuses to point out where the cross is hidden, and consequently is thrown into a pit for seven days. Emerging from the pit, he recites a long prayer in Hebrew, the earth trembles, and the holy relics of the crucifixion appear. The corpse of a young man lying near the three crosses revives when that of Jesus is presented to him. The devil appears to Judas and tells him that he will suffer martyrdom for his treasonable action. At this point, Helena baptizes Judas under the name of Cyriacus and obtains for him the title of bishop of Jerusalem from Eusebius of Rome.
The second legend is that of the martyrdom of Judas Cyriacus under JULIAN THE APOSTATE. The Greek legend in its best form is still unpublished, but the corresponding Coptic version was edited by I. Guidi (1904) from the Vatican Coptic codex 62. Different from the Greek text and other versions, this manuscript introduces the Passion of Judas Cyriacus under Julian with the account of the discovery of the cross by Helena. This may explain the nonexistence of the text in Coptic.
The other known texts in Greek and Syriac recount the occasion of the questioning of Judas by Emperor Julian the Apostate and how Judas reveals his identity, recalling his consecration as bishop by Eusebius of Rome when Helena came to Jerusalem. The martyrdom presents Judas Cyriacus along with his mother, Anna, and a magus, Admon, who suffer martyrdom with him. An unpublished Greek text (Sinai, Gr. 493) gives the exact date of the martyrdom as 25 May 362, the month of Artemisius.
The third legend in which Judas Cyriacus figures exists only in Syriac. It has been incorporated into the Doctrina Addai in two sixth-century manuscripts. In this legend, Protonike, the wife of Emperor Claudius, witnesses the miracles of Simon Cephas (Peter) in Rome and believes in Christ. With her two daughters and her son, she goes to James, the Lord’s brother and bishop of the town, and asks to see Golgotha, the cross, and the tomb. As the holy places are held by the Jews, she summons the priests Onias ben Hannan, Guedalla ben Kajapha, and Judas ben Ebedshalom to lead her to what she seeks.
Scarcely has she reached the three crosses when her daughter dies suddenly. Thanks to the Lord’s cross, which becomes identified through that incident, she revives. Protonike goes back to Rome and incites Claudius to issue an edict against the Jews. As a consequence, the Jews, under Trajan, stir up persecution against Symeon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, and the cross is taken by Niketas and buried at a depth equivalent to the height of twenty men. There, according to Eusebius, it remained during the reigns of thirteen bishops until it was found by Judas for the second time.
Such are the Greek and Syriac legends; all three complement one another. But the Coptic tradition is apparently earlier than the Greek form, which begins with the vision of Constantine on the Danube. This episode is intended to blacken the memory of Constantius the Arian, to whom CYRIL OF JERUSALEM had dedicated a letter in 351 on the occasion of the battle of Mursa, in which Constantius II was victorious at the Danube. By bringing this vision back to 312 (Constantine’s seventh year), the anonymous apologist places all the enemies of Christianity out of reach of the shame of apostasy.
This composition undoubtedly dates from about 400. In fact, the legend of Saint Helena is known by Saint Ambrose in 395 in connection with the death of Theodosius the In Rufinus, at the beginning of the fifth century, Macarius is actually the bishop of the discovery of the Cross. In Socrates and Sozomen, it is always Macarius who is bishop of Jerusalem.
The originality of the Coptic tradition is plain in the panegyric on the cross, attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem, whose text has been published from a London manuscript by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1915 and A. Campagnano from the Pierpont Morgan Library in 1980.
The origin of this first discovery is easy to find. It had to be explained why the cross had been buried the first time. Moreover, under Claudius, Helena of Adiabene, who was Jewish, traveled to Jerusalem and offered gold utensils for the Jerusalem temple. Of the family of Berenice (Protonike), this Helena was Christianized on account of the second Helena in order better to justify direct dependence on James of Jerusalem. Note that the date 233, as it paradoxically remained in the Greek legend, might correspond to the person of Judas.
In any case, the Latin legend of the discovery, which is very old, still mentions the death of Macarius before the nomination of Judas Cyriacus.
Graf (1944, vol. 1, p. 244) gives some details of an Arabic version of the discovery by Helena in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca 395. His data are confined today to a single manuscript, the scattered parts of which belong to a Sinaitic manuscript dated 950. The portion dealing with the discovery of the cross is in a manuscript at Leiden (Oriental Arabic manuscript 14238, fol. 40), as well as in the fragments scattered in two manuscripts (Mingana Arabic 149, 1, and Mingana Arabic 94, fols. 3, 2 and 4). More recent is a sixteenth-century codex in the National Library, Paris (Arabic codex 281, fols. 342-49; Troupeau, 1972, vol. 1, p. 250, no.27.G., and Graf, 1944), which quotes several other manuscripts.
The Sinaitic manuscript of 950 includes the legend of Cyriacus within the Arabic framework of the dormition of the Virgin in six books, today in the pages preserved at Bryn Mawr College.
- Budge, E. A. W. Miscellaneous Coptic Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt, pp. 220-26. London, 1915.
- Campagnano, A. P. Cirillo di Gerusalemme. Omelie copte sulla passione, sulla croce et sulla vergine. Testi e Documenti per lo Studio dell’Antichità, Serie Copta 65, pp. 76-148. Milan, 1980.
- Esbroeck, M. van. “L’Opuscule ‘sur la croix’ d’Alexandre de Chypre et sa version géorgienne.” Bedi Kartlisa 37 (1979):102-132.
- . “Remembrement d’un manuscrit sinaïtique arabe de 950.”
- Orientalia Christiana Analecta 218 (1982):135-47.
- Guidi, J. “Textes orientaux inédits du martyr de Judas Cyriaque, évêque de Jérusalem, II. Texte copte.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 9 (1904):310-32.
- Levison, W. “Konstantinische Schenkung und Silvester-Legende.” Miscellanea Bransesco Ehrle 2 (1924):159-247.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol. 1. Paris, 1972.
M. VAN ESBROECK