Joseph of Arimathea part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
Joseph of Arimathea
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church · Eastern Orthodox Church · Oriental Orthodox Church · Anglican Church · Lutheran Church and some Protestant Churches
Central shrine: Syriac Orthodox Chapel of Holy Sepulchre
Feast: August 31 (Roman Catholic Church) · July 31 (Eastern Rite) · August 1 (Episcopal Church) · 3rd Sunday of Pascha, Feast of the Myrrh-bearing women (Orthodox Church) · Monday after sixth Sunday after the feast of the Holy Cross (Armenian Apostolic Church)
• Joseph of Arimathea used a box to transport the body of Jesus to England that was filled with embalming fluid and from which it is said the ancient British kings were anointed.
• Joseph of Arimathea was, according to all four canonical gospels, the man who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion. The historical location of Arimathea is uncertain, although it has been identified with several towns.
• Gospel narratives
Matthew 27:57 describes him simply as a rich man and disciple of Jesus. However, according to Mark 15:43, Joseph of Arimathea was "a respected member of the council (Sanhedrin), who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God."
• Old Testament prophecy
Many Christians interpret Joseph's role as fulfilling Isaiah's prediction that the grave of the "Suffering Servant" would be with a rich man (Isaiah 53:9), assuming that Isaiah was referring to the grave of Jesus.
Medieval interest in Joseph centered on two themes, that of Joseph as the founder of British Christianity (even before it had taken hold in Rome).
Joseph of Arimathea is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestant churches. The traditional Roman calendar marked his feast day on March 17, but he is now listed, along with Saint Nicodemus, on August 31.
Development of legends
Since the 2nd century, a mass of legendary detail has accumulated around the figure of Joseph of Arimathea in addition to the New Testament references.
Arimathea is not otherwise documented, though it was "a town of Judea," according to Luke 23:51.
Who was Joseph of Arimathea?
ANSWER, Joseph of Arimathea was a biblical figure who played an essential role in the burial of Jesus Christ. His account can be found in the four Gospels: Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–53; and John 19:38–42. He is called "Joseph of Arimathea" because "he came from the Judean town of Arimathea" (Luke 23:51) and to distinguish him from other Josephs in the Bible.
While there is not much information in the Bible about Joseph of Arimathea, there are certain things we can glean from the text. In Luke 23:50, we learn that Joseph was a part of the Council, or Sanhedrin—the group of Jewish religious leaders who called for Jesus' crucifixion. However, as we read on to verse 51, we see that Joseph was opposed to the Council's decision and was a secret follower of Jesus (see also Mark 15:43). Joseph was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57), although the source of his wealth is unknown. In addition, the Bible refers to Joseph as a "good and upright man" (Luke 23:50).
After Jesus' death on the cross, Joseph, at significant risk to himself and his reputation, went to the Roman governor Pilate to request Jesus' body. Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had visited Jesus at night to ask questions about God's Kingdom (John 19:39; cf. John 3), accompanied Joseph. The two men were granted custody of Jesus' body, and they immediately began to prepare the body for burial. Following Jewish custom, they wrapped the body in strips of linen and mixed in myrrh and aloe. However, it was the Day of Preparation—the sixth day of the week, just before the Jewish Sabbath—and it was late in the day. So Joseph and Nicodemus hurriedly placed Jesus in Joseph's tomb, located in a garden near the place of Jesus' crucifixion.
Unbeknownst to Joseph and Nicodemus, their choice to put Jesus in Joseph's tomb fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy spoken hundreds of years before Jesus' death: "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:9, emphasis added). This is one of the many prophecies that have confirmed Jesus' identity as the Messiah and Son of God.
The day after Jesus' burial, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to request that the stone Joseph had placed in front of the tomb be sealed and a guard posted for three days. They cited Jesus' assertion that He would rise after three days and claimed the disciples might attempt to steal the body to fabricate a resurrection (Matthew 27:63–64). Their precautions were for naught, as Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, just as He had predicted (Matthew 28).
Many false stories and legends have arisen regarding Joseph. Some purport that Joseph of Arimathea was the uncle of Jesus' mother, Mary. However, the Bible makes no such connection, so the claim is unsubstantiated. In addition, Joseph supposedly made many trips to Britain for trade and is said to have eventually brought the gospel to that country. Again, though, the Bible is silent about Joseph after Jesus' burial, so we cannot know for sure what path he took later in life. We do know what we find in the Scriptures: Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man and part of the Sanhedrin, and he procured Jesus' body and laid it in his own tomb—from which Jesus would rise again in power three days later.
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus because he feared the Jewish leaders. He is probably best known for asking Pilate for Jesus' body and then placing it in his tomb.
Joseph of Arimathea appears in the four Gospels (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-54, and John 19:38-42), explicitly around the time of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. These short verses in the Gospels reveal a surprising amount of information relating to Joseph of Arimathea and his characteristics which we will explore below.
Joseph of Arimathea
Luke states that Joseph of Arimathea was a "good and just man" who did not consent to the Sanhedrin's "decision or deed" to crucify Jesus. (See Luke 23:50, 51.) He was a prominent member of the Jewish Council (Mark 15:43) and yet was "waiting for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:51). Joseph of Arimathea secretly followed Christ and yet found the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus. (See Mark 15:43.)
1. He stood for what was right
In Luke 23:51, Joseph of Arimathea is said to have not "consented to their decision and deed" regarding the Jewish Council's crucifixion of Jesus. Imagine how hard it would have been to hear your fellow council members verbally attack Jesus and then finally see the culmination of their hatred towards Jesus at the cross.
2. He was from Arimathea
Matthew 27:57 explains that Joseph was from Arimathea. The Greek word for Arimathea (Ἁριμαθαία), transliterated "Arimathaea," means "heights." Arimathea is of Hebrew origin and is transliterated as "Ramah," meaning "hill." There appear to be four places in Palestine with the name Ramah, one of which is the birthplace of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1, 19), the priest who served during the time of Saul and a portion of David's reign.
The Thayer's Greek Lexicon states that Joseph of Aramathea was likely from Mt Ephraim, the same place where Samuel was born.
3. He was a secret follower of Jesus
The Bible says in John 19:38 that Joseph of Arimathea secretly followed Christ because he feared the Jews. Like Nicodemus, it was not until after Jesus' death that he openly showed his allegiance to Jesus. At Jesus' death, Joseph of Arimathea no longer cared what those around him thought, and he took Jesus down from the cross.
4. He was a good and just man
Luke 23:50, 51 says that Joseph of Arimathea was "a good and just man" and was waiting for the kingdom of God. He probably even secretly hoped that Jesus was the Messiah and would establish His kingdom during Joseph's lifetime.
5. He was a prominent Jewish leader
As a prominent member of the Jewish Council (Mark 15:43), Joseph of Arimathea would no doubt have been a well-known public figure and had the respect of many of his peers. His position and prominence did not prevent him from showing his full support for Jesus after His death.