Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus
Joseph of Arimathea
All that is known for certain concerning him is derived from the canonical Gospels . . He was born at Arimathea - -
hence his surname - - "a city of Judea", which is very likely identical
with Ramatha, the birthplace of the Prophet Samuel, although several scholars prefer to identify it with the town of Ramleh. He was a
wealthy Israelite, "a good and a just man", "
who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God". He is also called by Saint Mark
and by Saint Luke a Bouleutes, literally, "a senator", whereby is meant
a member of the Sanhedrin or Supreme Council of the Jews. He was a disciple of Jesus, probably ever since
Christ's first preaching in Judea, but he did not declare himself as such "
for fear of the Jews". On account of this secret allegiance to Jesus, he did not
consent to His condemnation by the Sanhedrin, and was most likely absent from
the meeting which sentenced Jesus to death.
The Crucifixion of the Master quickened Joseph's
faith and love, and suggested to him that he should provide for
Christ's burial before the Sabbath began. Unmindful therefore of all personal danger, a danger which was
indeed considerable under the circumstances, he boldly requested from Pilate the Body of Jesus, and was
successful in his request. Once in possession of this sacred treasure, he - - together with Nicodemus, whom
his courage had likewise emboldened, and who brought abundant spices - - wrapped up Christ's Body in fine
linen and grave bands, laid it in his own tomb, new and yet unused, and hewn out of a rock in a neighboring garden, and withdrew after
rolling a great stone to the opening of the sepulchre. Thus was fulfilled Isaiah's prediction that the grave of the
Messiah would be with a rich man (Isaiah 53:9). The Greek Church celebrates the feast of Joseph of Arimathea on
31 July, and the Roman Church on 17 March.
A prominent Jew of the time of Christ, mentioned only in John's Gospel. The name is
of Greek origin, but at that time such names were occasionally borrowed by the Jews. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and in his capacity of
Sanhedrist, was a leader of the Jews. Christ, in the interview when Nicodemus came to
Him by night, calls him a master in Israel. Judging from John 19:39, Nicodemus must have been a man of means, and it is probable
that he wielded a certain influence in the Sanhedrin. Some writers conjecture from his
question: "How can a man be born when he is old?", that he was already
advanced in years. He appears in this interview as a learned and intelligent believer, but timid and not easily initiated into the
mysteries of the new faith. He next appears 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.
His name occurs later in some of the apocryphal writings. The time of his death is unknown. The Roman
Martyrology commemorates the finding of his relics, together with those of Saints Stephen, Gamaliel, and Abibo, on