Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28 Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
Who buried Jesus?
—Mark: Joseph of Arimathea
—Matthew: Joseph of Arimathea
—Luke: Joseph of Arimathea
—John: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus
—Book of Acts: the enemies of Jesus
Yes, it is possible that the Synoptic authors knew that Nicodemus helped Joseph with the burial of Jesus. Nic allegedly brought along 100 pounds of spices for the burial! (That is four pounds more than the quantity of spices used in Herod the Great’s burial.) But for some bizarre reason, all three authors chose not to mention him. However, there is no (credible) way to harmonize the Gospels of Matthew and John with the Book of Acts: either friends/disciples buried Jesus or the enemies of Jesus buried Jesus.
Someone is wrong.
Bottom line: these books are not reliable sources of historical information.
Then Joseph[l] bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body,[m] wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body[n] was laid.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 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.
Gary: Why didn’t Mary Magdalene help Joseph of Arimathea with the burial preparations of Jesus? Was she afraid of the Romans? She sure didn’t seem to be afraid of Matthew’s Roman guards on Sunday, so what was the problem on late Friday afternoon? It wasn’t as if women were forbidden from participating in Jewish burial preparations. Even if Joseph of Arimathea refused her help wrapping the body of Jesus with the linen cloth, she and Mary the mother of Joses could have participated in a small funeral procession as mourners. Why was she lurking in the distance while Joseph did all the work? Is it possibly because Joseph was not a disciple of Jesus???
Let me beat “ftbond” and other Christian apologists to the punch:
Of course there are many possible harmonizations for this apparent discrepancy. For instance, maybe the Romans didn’t allow women to be at the foot of the cross. Whoops. If true, then what was John’s Mary the mother of Jesus doing at the foot of the cross? Maybe Joseph was too rushed to set up a proper funeral procession? But wait, according to Christian apologists, he had THREE hours to bury Jesus. How difficult would it have been to arrange a small funeral party? Joseph had Mary the mother of Jesus, the Beloved disciple, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses, maybe a couple of other women followers of Jesus, and John’s Nicodemus. That is plenty of people to carry the body and a small procession of mourners following behind them. But nope, Joseph simply wraps the body in linen (no mention that he washed or anointed the body with spices in the original account, the Gospel of Mark). It is as if Joseph did notwant to give Jesus an honorable burial.
Dear Readers, isn’t it obvious: Joseph of Arimathea was not a disciple.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.
–Gospel of John 19
Ok, so the Jews are in a hurry to speed up the deaths of Jesus and the two thieves crucified on either side of him, so they rush down to Pilate and ask him to break their legs. Why would they ask for the men’s legs to be broken? One of the agonies of crucifixion is that the person is forced to push down on his legs in order to lift himself up to breath. Obviously, if your legs are broken you can’t push yourself up, hence you can’t breath, hence you die very quickly.
But then the author of Mark adds a very curious detail to this story:
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.
What??? Pilate had just ordered the legs of Jesus and the two thieves to be broken, which everyone with a functioning brain knows would result in immediate death, yet, when Joseph trots down to Pilate’s to ask for Jesus’ body, Pilate is shocked: “What?? He’s already dead? I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you!” And then sends for the centurion to confirm that Jesus is really dead.
Oh brother! This is fiction, folks. This is a typical legend. As one reads the Gospels in the order in which they were written, one sees layer after layer of titillating details (embellishments) added to this tale, some of them completely contradictory to the original.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph[l] bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body,[m] wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body[n] was laid.
–Gospel of Mark 15
Read the above passage again, but this time read it without interpolating the additional information added to this pericope by the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John. What stands out? First, notice that there is no mention that Joseph is a follower of Jesus, secret or otherwise. There is no suggestion at all that Joseph has any sympathies for Jesus. All we are told is that he is a devout Jew. All devout first century Jews were waiting for the kingdom of God. Second, he only asks for the body of Jesus. Isn’t that a little odd? If Joseph was concerned about not defiling the Sabbath as Christians claim (neither Mark nor Matthew give any hint that this was Joseph’s concern), why didn’t he ask for the bodies of the two thieves? If Roman permission was required to remove the bodies of crucified persons, does that mean that the bodies of the two thieves remained on the cross, possibly for days, as was the usual Roman custom? Why was Joseph only concerned about the body of Jesus? (Remember, if we only read Mark, there is no hint that Joseph was doing this out of sympathy for Jesus.)
Third, if Joseph was so concerned about following strict Jewish traditions regarding the dead, why is there no mention that he washed Jesus’ body? Why no mention of placing spices on the body (This detail is only added in the accounts of later Gospel authors)? Why is there no traditional funeral procession? Why were there no mourners? Remember, according to Christian apologists, Joseph had THREE hours to accomplish these tasks (3 PM – 6 PM). Surely with his resources as a wealthy, prominent man, all these things could have been accomplished in three hours! If Joseph was truly a follower or even a sympathizer of Jesus, why didn’t he give Jesus a proper Jewish burial??? He had plenty of time to do it!
Fourth, notice that there is no mention in Mark, the first Gospel written, that Joseph buried Jesus in his tomb! It is simply a “rock tomb”. It could have belonged to Joseph, but it also could have belonged to someone else, including the entire Sanhedrin. It could have been a tomb meant for criminals! Ask yourself this question: Why would rich people construct their tombs directly adjacent to an execution site??? Imagine rich Californians building their mausoleums directly adjacent to the walls of San Quentin! Are we really to believe that the wealthy, upper class Jews of Jerusalem selected as the site of their burial, the location where hundreds if not thousands of Jews were slaughtered?
In conclusion, isn’t it very possible that Joseph’s odd request only for the body of Jesus…was with the intent of giving Jesus a shameful burial; a burial in a location alongside criminals and the poor. A humiliating, shameful burial unfit for…the King of the Jews! If one only reads Mark’s account, this is a strong possibility. Is this why there is no mention of Christians venerating the tomb of Jesus until the FOURTH century? Christians did not venerate this site because it was an embarrassment!
There’s a fellow named Gary Matson who runs a website. I’ve been reading this website for a while but have refrained from referencing it by name. He’s an ex-Lutheran turned agnostic who now possesses extreme hostility to the Christian faith.
Just to set the record straight. I am only hostile to those forms of Christianity (and all other superstitions) which are fear-based. Beliefs such as, “Believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or you will be punished for eternity in Hell” are evil. This belief is no different than fundamentalist Islam which at times in history told non-Muslims, “Believe in Allah or you will be cut down with the sword.” Threatening people to believe something or else is immoral. Belief based on fear is evil. Period.
It is good and moral to be hostile to fear-based superstitions.
Conservative Christian commenter on Ruhl’s blog:
Gary (if I may), all beliefs are fear-based. Many people don’t commit crimes solely because they’re afraid of being imprisoned. Do you think their fear is unhealthy? You believe statement X because you fear believing the opposite statement Y is wrong, and you fear having wrong beliefs, right? Fear of God is nothing like the fear of heights or of nasty bugs. It is unique in and of itself. Your comparison of Christian beliefs to the ones held by Muslims is unfair and inadequate, because the most important commandment in Christianity is “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”(Matthew 22:37-38). The second is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Matthew 22:39-40). St. Paul urges: “Abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”(1 Corinthians 13:13).The moving force behind Christianity is love, not fear. Where in the Quran are these or similar commandments revealed? It’s all about “Fear and obey Allah, and you’ll know you’re on the right path”. May God help us all.
Any being who promises to torture you —physically, mentally, or emotionally—for not loving him is a sadistic, blackmailing, evil, immoral, monster. Period. Your attempts to justify the behavior of this (imaginary) monster demonstrate the perverse effects of the intense indoctrination used by this ancient cult on children and psychologically gullible adults.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph[l] bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body,[m] wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
–Mark 15 (NRSV)
Well, well. We found out in my last two posts that “evening” as used in the Gospels may not mean “evening” as we use that term today. In first century Judea, according to Christian theologians and apologists, it meant a period of time between 3 PM and 6 PM. Three hoursprior to sunset. No wonder Joseph of Arimathea was able to accomplish so much without violating the Sabbath!
It was still afternoon (in modern terms) when J. of A. trotted down to Pilate’s to ask for the body of Jesus. It was still afternoon when Pilate sent a messenger to fetch the centurion from Golgotha. It was still afternoon when the centurion left Golgotha and came to Pilate’s to report that Jesus was dead. It was still afternoon when Joseph stopped off at the linen merchant’s for a quick purchase of burial cloth. And it was still afternoon, with the sun still visible in the sky, when Joseph pulled the nails out of Jesus’ hands and feet, lowered him to the ground, wrapped him in the burial cloth, carried him to a rock tomb nearby, placed him inside the tomb, and finally, rolled a great stone in front of the tomb door…and still had time to walk home before sunset!
Yet…the chief priests didn’t have the time (or they forgot) during this three hour period of time to ask Pilate for guards at the tomb!
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[t] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[u]66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
–Matthew 27 (NRSV)
Nope, the chief priests and pharisees wait until the next day, the Sabbath, to all traipse down to Pilate’s, interrupting their strict observance of the sabbath, simply to ask Pilate for permission to place guards at a tomb. Were these people complete morons??? Why didn’t someone think of this idea during the three hours on Friday that Joseph of Arimathea was schlepping all over Jerusalem?
And here is another point: If Jesus died at 3 PM and there were still three hours left to the day, why the hell didn’t the Sanhedrin immediately take Jesus’ body (and that of the two thieves) down and bury it/them in a “criminals’ burial place” or in a pauper’s grave? Even if this burial plot was on the other side of the city, surely they could have gotten there in three hours. If the Sanhedrin was in charge of the disposition of the bodies of persons crucified, as many conservative Christians claim, why not grab some shovels, dig three dirt trenches (a perfectly acceptable method of burial for poor Jews in first century Palestine, according to Jewish scholars), dump the bodies in the holes, cover them up, wash their hands, and go home before sunset? But even if they didn’t have charge over the disposition of the bodies, once they or their informants saw Joseph taking down Jesus’ body, why didn’t they go then to Pilate to ask for guards at the tomb?
Why did the Jewish leadership wait until the next day, a Sabbath day, to ask Pilate a simple question that could have been asked on Friday, anytime between 3 PM and 6 PM???
oyiaV de genomenhV hlqen anqrwpoV plousioV apo arimaqaiaV tounoma iwshf oV kai autoV emaqhteuqh tw ihsou
King James Version 27:57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:
American Standard Version 27:57 And when even was come, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:
Douay Rheims 27:57 And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.
Gary: What does the Greek word “opsias” (the Greek word in bold above) mean? In most English translations of the Greek New Testament, this word is translated into English as “evening”. But what did “evening” mean to the author of the Gospel of Matthew? Most people today consider “evening” to mean a period of time after sunset. Many conservative Christian apologists say that “evening” in this passage means late afternoon before the sun has set. Which is it???
Let’s take a look at what the experts say about this passage:
John Gill’s Bible Commentary:
When the even was come The second evening, when it was just at sunset; at which time the Jewish sabbath began, and when the bodies of those that were crucified, must be taken down; and if not dead, their bones must be broken, and they dispatched, in order to be interred in the common burying place of malefactors:
Gary: This expert seems to suggest that Jesus’ body was taken down “at sunset”, which means the body was buried after sunset, which would mean that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus on the Sabbath.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
When the even was come – That is, some time after three o’clock in the afternoon. Before this, the Jews had besought Pilate that the legs of those who were crucified might be broken and the bodies be taken down, that they might not remain on the cross during the Sabbath. The soldiers, coming to Jesus for that purpose, found that he was already dead, contrary to their expectation. A soldier, however, thrust a spear into his side, and there was furnished the fullest proof that he had expired.
Gary: So this expert says that “evening” is some time after 3 PM. Note though that Barnes’ assumes that the Jews were in a hurry in Matthew’s account to get the bodies off of their crosses by sunset based on what evidence? Answer: John’s account! This is an interpolation. There is no indication in Matthew’s account of anyone being in a hurry to get the bodies in the ground prior to sunset, the start of the next day which was the sabbath.
Myer’s New Testament Commentary:
Ὀψίας δὲ γενομ.] the so-called first or early evening, just before the close of the Jewish day. Deuteronomy 21:22 f.; Joseph. Bell. iv. 5. 2. See also Lightfoot, p. 499.
When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession. —Deut. 21:22
When the even was come. This was what was called the first evening, the time between the ninth hour, or three o’clock, and sunset, and the great sabbath would shortly be beginning.
Gary: So another expert who believes that “evening” started at 3 PM.
Adam Clark Commentary:
When the even – This must have been about three o’clock, or a little after; for our Lord having expired about three o’clock, Matthew 27:46, and the Jewish passover beginning about four, it was necessary that Joseph, who would not fail to eat the passover at the usual time, should have obtained and buried the body of Christ some time before four o’clock. But such was the general consternation, occasioned by the prodigies that took place on this most awful occasion, that we may safely conjecture that nothing was done in order, and perhaps the passover itself was not eaten at the usual hour, if at all, that day. See at the end of the preceding chapter.
Gary: So this expert believes that “evening” started at 3 PM and Passover started “about 4 PM”. Wow. So Joseph had one hour to: Go to Pilate; be granted an audience with Pilate; “beg” Pilate for the body; Pilate sends a messenger to fetch the centurion; the centurion comes to Pilate; Pilate asks the centurion if Jesus is dead; The centurion gives a report about Jesus; Pilate grants permission to Joseph to bury the body; Joseph stops of at a linen store to buy the burial cloth; Joseph removes the nails from Jesus hands and feet. Joseph lowers the body of Jesus off the cross; he wraps the body in the cloth; he carries the body to his rock tomb nearby; he puts the body in the tomb; he rolls the stone in front…and still has time to make it home before 4 PM for his Passover meal! Holy Speedy Arimathean, Batman!
Vincent’s Word Studies:
When even was come
The Hebrews reckoned two evenings, an earlier and a later. The former began midway between noon and sunset, or at three o’clock in the afternoon. The latter began at sunset, six o’clock. The reference here is to the earlier evening, though the time may have been well on toward the beginning of the later. The preparations had to be hurried because the Sabbath would begin at sunset,
Gary: If there are two evenings, how does Vincent know that Matthew is referring to the first evening and not the second? Is he assuming??? There is no indication in Matthew’s Gospel of anyone “hurried” by the approaching Sabbath.
Wesley’s Explanatory Notes:
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:
When the evening was come — That is, after three o’clock; the time from three to six they termed the evening. Mark 15:42; Luke 23:50; John 19:38.
Gary: Ok, another “three o’ clocker”.
It looks like there is no conclusive proof either way. The author of “Matthew” uses a term that translated into English means “evening”. Our experts say that Jews had two evenings. Matthew does not specific to which of these evenings he was referring. If you read “Mark’s” account of this scene, he states that it was “evening, the day of preparation” which means it was still Friday. Since “Matthew” copied Mark almost verbatim in many parts of his gospel, maybe “Matthew” meant the same thing. Bottom line, we don’t know. We can only guess.