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Call it a guilty secret of Christian history: a secret about secrecy.
As I have been describing over several recent posts, a great many Christian believers have held their faith in secret, even to the point of denying that they were really Christians. On the one hand, we think of the martyrs who stood up and proclaimed their faith at risk of torture and death, but there were also plenty of others who remained private and clandestine. In the modern world, we might be looking at tens of millions of such cases. And they have a name, one that resonates through long periods of Christian history, but which is largely forgotten today. They were Nicodemites.
Nicodemus - John - Chapter - Leader - Archon
Nicodemus appears in John chapter 3, as a leader [archon] of the Jews: “he came to Jesus at night [nuktos]” (compare John 7.50, 19.39). That chapter is among the most celebrated in the New Testament, as the source of Jesus’s language about being born again. Through the centuries, Nicodemus was also among the most famous figures of the whole New Testament because of his association with the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which reports Jesus’s visit to liberate the souls in **** after his Crucifixion. Unlike many such texts, that remained popular and beloved long after the Reformation, and was much reprinted by Protestants and Catholics alike.
So Nicodemus was famous for things he had never said or done. But what made him so distinctive was that he was a secret believer, one who was afraid to confess his faith openly. He came to Jesus, but only at night – as “the night disciple.” During the Reformation, this made him a controversial object lesson for believers, a prototype of those who would not come out and frankly avow where they stood in the great religious struggles of the day....
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Millions in tribute, but not a penny left for charity.