Did any of the Romans or Roman guards who killed Jesus convert to Christianity after His Resurrection or Ascension?
I can think of St. Longinus. He was the guard who stabbed Christ with a spear and converted!
How could he be in the Roman army if he was nearly blind?
That’s just a story, not the truth. Or a parable - perhaps the storyteller meant he was spiritually blind.
Read it again. The writer means eye-blind.
Does Tradition say there were other Romans who converted?
This is just a story. There is no historical evidence to back it, the same as with St. Veronica.
The answer is that we simply do not know.
I think that’s a rather minimalistic viewpoint. We shouldn’t ignore the traditions of the Church just because secular historians don’t like them. Even if some legends may have been embellished over time (e.g., St. Mary Magdalene being of royal blood), they all have a core of truth to them.
After all, the centurion is recorded as saying (in the Bible) “Truly, this man was the Son of God”. For a Roman (who worshipped Roman gods and the Emperor) to say this was quite unusual, and it’s not a stretch to believe that this officer was on the road to conversion. The blindness may have been a detail that was amplified or distorted later (loss of vision in one eye? “unable to see” because of the eclipse before Christ’s death? spiritual blindness?).
As for St. Veronica, no lesser a man than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI took her tradition very seriously:
Have you ever read The Golden Legend? It was the second most popular book of the Middle Ages. It is a collection of all the Christian legends bound into one volume. Many of the stories or “facts” of the ancient saints come from this book. There isn’t a scholar worth his weight in salt who doesn’t believe that these stories, some of which have a historical basis in fact, are simply embellishments of the author’s fancy. St. Longinus is one of those tales. It is much like reading that other medieval epic, “L’morte d’Arthur.” The fancifulness is so out of control that it makes it a rather useless read.
Check the link I provided.
Er, I think I addressed that in my post; even if there are legendary accretions, there is also a historical core. (Also, we must remember that the trashing of the “Golden Legend” began around the time of the Reformation; are we to assume that everyone was being stupid until then? :p) What I meant to say is that there almost certainly were Roman converts, including the soldier who pierced Our Lord’s side (whether his name is Longinus, Publius or Commodus is immaterial) and Cornelius the Centurion (mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles). Even before His Passion and Resurrection, there was a centurion whose faith deeply impressed Our Lord, and whose servant He healed.
I thought some of the story sounded embellished.
Oh yeah, about that.
The centurion or hekatontarch Jesus met in Capernaum likely wasn’t a Roman one; he was more likely to be an officer in Herod Antipas’ army.
The thing is that visible Roman presence in the Galilee during Jesus’ day was minimal, if non-existent, since the Galilee was Antipas’ territory - he had his own army (we know Herod the Great modeled his personal army on the Roman military, so it’s not unlikely his sons did the same) and his own currency. It would have been unusual for the Romans to station soldiers in the territory of a loyal client king such as Antipas who faced no serious internal or external threats. In fact, the reason why Antipas was paying tribute to Rome was so that Rome would give him (some degree of) autonomy in exchange - in other words, leave him alone. So basically, just about nearly everything in the Galilee was his: the soldiers, the tax collectors.
It’s more likely that the ‘centurion’ was Herodian rather than Roman since Capernaum was essentially just a small Jewish fishing village in Jesus’ day. There was no Roman presence in that area until well after Jesus walked the earth. The Galilee only came under direct Roman supervision in AD 44, and it wasn’t until the 2nd century that a Roman garrison was established in Capernaum. (It’s really telling that John’s parallel to the story of the centurion’s servant is the royal official’s son.)
Well, ‘Veronica’ or ‘Berenice’ were names given to the unnamed woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:25-29 and parallels), so we know at least that she existed.
At first, Veronica/Berenice was associated more with the gospel story where she was healed of her issue of blood after touching Jesus’ clothes. It was only later in the West that she began to be associated with a certain miraculous portrait of Jesus (also confusingly called the ‘veronica’; at this point the folk etymology ‘true image’ was ascribed to the name), and at first the stories don’t even quite agree as to whether it was just a painting of Jesus from life (a miracle-working one) either on canvas or a panel, or whether it was an imprint of His face that appeared on a piece of cloth Jesus once used as a towel to wipe His face on. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the version of the story we all know - Jesus wiped His bloodied face onto Veronica’s veil while He was carrying the cross - came into shape: before that, stories usually place the making of the image at some point during Jesus’ ministry instead of Good Friday.
Well if you were a guard in the Roman army who deserted what would you expect?
Fascinating! I never knew about that. Thanks a lot.
That I think explains the detail in Luke about the ‘centurion’ building the local synagogue; even if the officer was a non-Jew, he was not necessarily serving in the Roman army. We know that Herodian armies also employed gentiles; Herod the Great for example had foreign bodyguards (Gauls, Thracians and Germans) and soldiers from places like Trachonitis (modern southern Syria) and Sebaste (biblical Samaria, refounded by Herod as a pagan city). IMHO it would fit in with the description of Jesus having followers and sympathizers from within Antipas’ court (cf. Joanna of Chuza, Antipas’ financial minister).
That makes a lot of sense; it would certainly be easier to visualize the Jews pleading for a Herodian gentile officer than for an actual Roman soldier.
Do we have any reliable (or semi-reliable :)) traditions of what happened to that officer later on, as with St. Longinus?
We barely have any historical reference (other than the bible) on Pilot. Tradition is all we are going to have on St. Longinous, no historical record. Heck we aren’t even 100% where the real Mt Sinai is where Moses recieved the 10 commandments.