Saint Joseph of Arimathea


We don't know much about Saint Joseph of Armiathea's early life - including his home town. At first glance there is no town named it, but the historian Eusebius of Caesarea identified it with Ramathiam-Zophim near the town of Diospolis. It is believed that Arimathea derived from the town's name in Hebrew (Ramathaim Sophim). Ramathaim Sophim was rendered into Greek as Armathaim Sipha.



Matthew 27:57 described him as a rich man and disciple of Jesus, and Mark 15:43 described him as a "respected member of the council, who himself was looking for the Kingdom of God".

In John 19:38 we find:


38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

With extreme courage immediately following the crucifixion, Joseph asked Pilate that he could take the body of Jesus away for burial. In Mark 15:46 we find that he purchased a fine linen shroud and took the body of Jesus down from the cross. John 19:39-40 describes what happened next:


He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.


Matthew 27:60 describes the tomb being Joseph's own tomb:


and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

This act is believed to be a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy regarding the grave of the "suffering servant" in which the grave would be with a rich man.


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.

Saint Joseph of Arimathea is referenced in apocryphal and non-canonical accounts in the Acts of Pilate, Gospel of Nicodemus and the Narrative of Joseph ; he is also mentioned in the works of the early church historians Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Eusebius. Saint John Chrysostom the Patriarch of Constantinople added Joseph to one of the 70 apostles appointed in Luke 10. Robert de Boron added him to the King Arthor narritive - writing that he received the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and send its to Britain in his book Joseph d'Arimathie.


Saint Joseph is also very much connected to Britain. Tertullian wrote in Adversus Judaeos that Britain had already received and accepted the Gospel, but not how. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote that Christ's disciples had crossed the ocean and reached the Isles of Britain. Though in none of these writings is Saint Joseph mentioned, we do find him written in William of Malmesbury's De Antiquitate Glasoniensis Ecclesiae (on the antiquity of the church of Glasonbury). Among additional later tales, Elizabeth I would cite these stories of Joseph's missionary work in England when telling the Roman Catholic bishops that the Church of England pre-dated the Roman Church in England.


One legend regarding his time in England was that when Joseph set his walking staff down to sleep it miraculously took root and blossomed as the "Glastonbury Thorn".

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