Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
HE was by sect a Pharisee, and passed for a master and doctor in Israel, even when he was ignorant of the truths of eternal life. He seems to have been a senator of Jerusalem; for he is called a Jewish chief. The Pharisees were in general, by their pride, the most opposite of all others to the humility of the gospel. St. Nicodemus was an exception, and believed in Christ.1 At first, something of a sacred opinion of his own wisdom and learning, which it is so hard and so rare a thing for men to be perfectly divested of, seems to have been an obstacle to his opening his heart perfectly to the grace of his conversion. To humble him, Christ explained to him the mystery of regeneration by baptism, which St. Nicodemus did not understand, though it was expressed in the prophets. Our merciful Redeemer reproached him for his ignorance. St. Nicodemus, far from being offended at the reproof, received it with such humility, and was so confounded within himself, that perfecting these dispositions, Christ conducted him into the paths of true virtue. He returned to Jesus from time to time; defended him openly against the Pharisees,2 assisted at his burial, and embalmed his sacred body with rich spices.3 Having been turned out of the synagogue by the Jews for believing in Christ, he retired to St. Gamaliel at his country house, and died there, as St. Austin4 and Photius testify from the Acts of the Invention of St. Stephens relics.