Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of ArimatheaJoseph of Arimathea, according to the Gospels, was the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after Jesus was crucified. A native of Arimathea, he was apparently a man of wealth, and a member of the Sanhedrin (which is the way bouleutes, literally "senator", is interpreted in Matthew 27:57 and Luke 23:50). Joseph was an "honourable counsellor, who waited (or "was searching" which is not the same thing) for the kingdom of God" (Mark, 15:43). As soon as he heard the news of Jesus' death, he "went in boldly" (literally "having summoned courage, he went") "unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus."

Pontius Pilate, who was reassured by a centurion that the death had really taken place, allowed Joseph's request. Joseph immediately purchased fine linen (Mark 15:46) and proceeded to Golgotha to take the body down from the cross. There, assisted by Nicodemus, he took the body and wrapped it in the fine linen, sprinkling it with the myrrh and aloes which Nicodemus had brought (John 19:39).

The body was then conveyed to a new tomb that had been hewn for Joseph himself out of a rock in his garden nearby. There they laid it, in the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women, and rolled a great stone to the entrance, and departed (Luke 23:53, 55). This was done speedily, "for the Sabbath was drawing on".

Joseph of Arimathea is venerated as a saint by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. His feast-day is March 17 among Latins, and July 31 in the East. He appears in some early New Testament apocrypha, and a series of legends grew around him during the Middle Ages, which tied him to Britain and the Holy Grail.


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