Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea is also an affluent follower of Jesus. And though he is mentioned in all four Gospels, each names him only one time, and in each case it is to mention that it was he who asked Pilate for permission to remove Jesus' body from the cross and bury it in his own private sepulcher.

Mark calls Joseph “an honorable counselor” (meaning, most likely, a lawyer); Luke calls him a Jew who was waiting for the Kingdom of God, and John says he was a secret disciple of Jesus “for fear of the Jews,” meaning the Temple leaders who sought to destroy Jesus, of course, not all Jewish people. Catholic writer Francis E. Gigot says that there's evidence that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish people, which would shed light on his access to Pilate.

Extra-biblical Texts

But unlike Zaccheus, for whom no extra-biblical legend is found, there is more nonbiblical legend about Joseph of Arimathea than in the Gospels. One text attributes to apocryphal sources a legend that the Apostle Philip led Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, and others to Marseilles, in Gaul, and thence Philip and Joseph continued north, over the English Channel, to what was then the Roman province of Britain.

Joseph might have been a trader in metals, a business that may have taken him to Britain even before the crucifixion of Jesus. Even the Arthurian myth includes a passage saying that Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Britain in the middle of the first century A.D.


Nicodemus is mentioned in connection with Joseph of Arimathea's request to take the body of Jesus. He, too, is identified as a rich member of Israel's Sanhedrin, and a Pharisee, and is the man who came to Jesus by night and asked him the often-cited question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). This was his response to Jesus telling him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 says that in his night visit to Jesus, Nicodemus “[was] a learned and intelligent believer, but timid and not easily initiated into the mysteries of the new faith. He next appears (John 7:50–51) in the Sanhedrin, offering a word in defense of the accused Galilean; and we may infer from this passage that he embraced the truth as soon as it was fully made known to him. He is mentioned finally in John 19:39, where he is shown co-operating with Joseph of Arimathea in the embalming and burial of Jesus.”

The latter passage in John says Nicodemus “brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about a hundred pounds” to the burial, which would indicate a rather serious commitment. An Orthodox source contrasts Nicodemus' courage in openly taking the body of Jesus when the apostles had all gone into hiding, and calls the hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes “a symbolic number exalting the dignity of Christ as King.”


A later apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus is considered orthodox (in the sense that it doesn't counter the general teachings of the church), but it is believed to have been first published centuries after the church's beginning, and after Nicodemus's lifetime.

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