Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea

Once the elders returned to the cell, the seal was still in place, but Joseph was gone. The elders later discover that Joseph had returned to Arimathea. Having a change in heart, the elders desired to have a more civil conversation with Joseph about his actions and sent a letter of apology to him by means of seven of his friends. Joseph travelled back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders, where they questioned by them about his escape. He told them this story;

According to the "Gospel of Nicodemus", Joseph testified to the Jewish elders, and specifically to chief priests Caiaphas and Annas that Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven and he indicated that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of Christ (repeating Matt 27:52-53). He specifically identified the two sons of the high-priest Simeon (again in Luke 2:25-35). The elders Annas, Caiaphas, Nicodemus, and Joseph himself, along with Gamaliel under whom Paul of Tarsus studied, travelled to Arimathea to interview Simeon's sons Charinus and Lenthius.

Other medieval texts

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), and that of Joseph as the original guardian of the Holy Grail.

Joseph and Britain

Legends about the arrival of Christianity in Britain abounded during the Middle Ages. Early writers do not connect Joseph to this activity, however. Tertullian (AD 155-222) wrote in "Adversus Judaeos" that Britain had already received and accepted the Gospel in his lifetime, writing: []

Tertullian does not say how the Gospel came to Britain before AD 222. However, Eusebius, (AD 260-340) Bishop of Caesarea and one of the earliest and most comprehensive of church historians, wrote of Christ's disciples in "Demonstratio Evangelica," Book 3 saying that "some have crossed the Ocean and reached the Isles of Britain." [] Saint Hilary of Poitiers (AD 300-376) also wrote (Tract XIV, Ps 8) that the Apostles had built churches and that the Gospel had passed into Britain. []

Hippolytus (AD 170-236), considered to have been one of the most learned Christian historians, identifies the seventy whom Jesus sent in Luke 10, and includes Aristobulus listed in Romans 16:10 with Joseph and states that he ended up becoming a pastor in Britain. [] This is further argued by Hilary in Tract XIV, Ps 8.

In none of these earliest references to Christianity’s arrival in Britain is Joseph of Arimathea mentioned. The first connection of Joseph of Arimathea with Britain is found in the 9th century "Life of Mary Magdalene" by Rabanus Maurus (AD 766-856), Archbishop of Mayence. Rabanus states that Joseph of Arimathea was sent to Britain, and he goes on to detail who traveled with him as far as France, claiming that he was accompanied by "the two Bethany sisters, Mary and Martha, Lazarus (who was raised from the dead), St. Eutropius, St. Salome, St. Cleon, St. Saturnius, St. Mary Magdalen, Marcella (the maid of the Bethany sisters), St. Maxium or Maximin, St. Martial, and St. Trophimus or Restitutus." [] An authentic copy of the Maurus text is housed in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. [ [ manuscripts] [ MSS Laud 108 of the Bodleian] .] Rabanus Maurus describes their voyage to Britain:

The route he describes is that of a supposed Phoenician trade route to Britain, described by Diodorus Siculus.

William of Malmesbury mentions Joseph going to Britain in one passage of his "Chronicle of the English Kings". He says Philip the Apostle sent twelve Christians to Britain, one of who was his dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea. William does not mention Joseph by name again, but he mentions the twelve evangelists generally. He claims Glastonbury Abbey was founded by them; Glastonbury would be associated specifically with Joseph in later literature. Cardinal Caesar Baronius [] (1538-1609), Vatican Librarian and historian, recorded this voyage by Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Marcella and others in his "Annales Ecclesiatici", volume 1, section 35.

Holy Grail

The legend that Joseph was given the responsibility of keeping the Holy Grail was the product of Robert de Boron, who essentially expanded upon stories from "Acts of Pilate". In Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathe", Joseph is imprisoned much as in the "Acts", but it is the Grail that sustains him during his captivity. Upon his release he founds his company of followers, who take the Grail to Britain. The origin of the association between Joseph and Britain is not entirely clear, but it is probably through this association that Boron attached him to the Grail. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, a vast Arthurian composition that took much from Boron, it is not Joseph but his son Josephus who is considered the primary holy man of Britain.

Later authors sometimes mistakenly or deliberately treated the Grail story as truth – John of Glastonbury, who assembled a chronicle of the history of Glastonbury Abbey around 1350 claims that when Joseph came to Britain he brought with him a wooden cup used in the Last Supper, and two cruets, one holding the blood of Christ, and the other his sweat, washed from his wounded body on the Cross. This legend is the source of the Grail claim by the Nanteos Cup on display in the museum in Aberystwyth; however, it should be noted that there is no reference to this tradition in ancient or medieval text. John further claims King Arthur was descended from Joseph, listing the following imaginative pedigree through King Arthur's mother:

Elizabeth I cited Joseph's missionary work in England when she told Roman Catholic bishops that the Church of England pre-dated the Roman Church in England. [ [ Elizabeth's 1559 reply to the Catholic bishops] ]

Other legends

The mytheme of the staff that Joseph of Arimathea set in the ground at Glastonbury, which broke into leaf and flower as the Glastonbury Thorn is a common miracle in hagiography. Such a miracle is told of the Anglo-Saxon saint Etheldreda:

Other legends claim Joseph was a relative of Jesus; specifically, Mary's uncle. Other speculation makes him a tin merchant, whose connection with Britain came by the abundant tin mines there. One version, popular during the Romantic period, even claims Joseph had taken Jesus to the island as a boy. [ [ "Joseph of Arimathea"] "Catholic Encyclopedia] . Retrieved February 5, 2007.] This was the inspiration for William Blake's mystical hymn "Jerusalem".


Arimathea itself is not otherwise documented, though it was "a city of Judea" according to Luke 23:51. Arimathea is usually identified with either Ramleh or Ramathaim-Zophim, where David came to Samuel ("1 Samuel" chapter 19).


ee also

* Christian mythology

External links

* [ A Biography of Joseph of Arimathea]
* [ "Catholic Encyclopedia" 1908: "Joseph of Arimathea"]
* [ Qumran text of Isaiah 53]
* [ Joseph of Arimathea: The secret disciple of Jesus and his legacy today]

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  • Joseph of Arimathea — n. Bible a wealthy disciple who provided a tomb for Jesus body: Matt. 27:57 60 * * * (1st century AD) a rich supporter of Jesus who appears in the Bible. He asks for Jesus’ body after he dies and puts it in his own tomb. In traditional English… …   Universalium

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  • Joseph of Arimathea — Joseph of Ar|i|ma|the|a, Saint in the New Testament of the Bible, a rich follower of Jesus who asked to be given Jesus s dead body so that he could bury it in the ↑tomb that he had built for himself. There is also an old story that he brought the …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Joseph of Arimathea, Saint — ▪ biblical figure flourished c. AD 30, ; Western feast day March 17, Eastern feast day July 31       according to all four Gospels, a secret disciple of Jesus (Jesus Christ), whose body he buried in his own tomb. In designating him a “member of… …   Universalium

  • Joseph of Arimathea —    A minor figure in the Gospels, who entered folklore when *Glastonbury claimed he founded a church there in ad 63; this story first appears in 1247, as a forged chapter inserted into William of Malmes bury s treatise On The Antiquity of… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • St Joseph of Arimathea — ➡ Joseph of Arimathea * * * …   Universalium

  • Joseph of Arimathea — Date: 14th century a rich councillor of the Sanhedrin who according to the Gospel accounts placed the body of Jesus in his own tomb and according to medieval legend took the Holy Grail to England …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Joseph of Arimathea —    He received and buried the body of Christ, and also possessed the Holy Grail until he passed it on to Bron …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

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