Many years ago I watched a television program about Joseph of Arimathea. It was based upon the Bible account as well as Christian traditions that had been handed down orally and appear in many writings from multiple sources around the world. To say the least I was intrigued because it brought some clarity to things that I had pondered for many years. I didn't know whether or not to believe all of this information but like Mary, “I pondered it in my heart”. Finally, I decided to do my own research and I would like to share some of it here. This will not be an all inclusive study as to how deep the information was that I found but only enough information to bring out some points that were interesting and eye opening for me. I hope some of you find it eye opening as well.
Joseph of Arimathea is spoken of very briefly in the Brit Hadashah (New Testament) and it all has to do with the burial of Yeshua. For time sake I will break it down quickly. He is the one that asked Pilate for the body of Yeshua and along with Nicodemus they prepared and buried His body in a new tomb that belonged to Joseph. Apart from this we know that both he and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin and that they were both secret followers of Yeshua. They were both very wealthy. Scripture also records that Joseph was against the chief priests and their kangaroo court where they sentenced Yeshua to Roman crucifixion; with a charge of blasphemy.
That's about it on the surface. Really nothing else to report scripturally about this man. However, if we dig around a bit we will discover some very interesting things that actually fit as pieces in the puzzle of Yeshua's life.
Let's begin with a very simple finding, one that can be backed up by Roman law.
Why was Joseph the one to ask for the body of Yeshua and why was the request granted? Why didn't his brothers or one of His apostles ask for the body, or His mother or father? Let's answer the last question first. Mary could not claim the body because it was considered man's work and from all accounts His earthly father had passed away when He was very young. His apostles could not ask for the body because the chief priests had asked Roman authorities to guard the body from His followers so that they would not steal His body away. There is no way they would have let a follower have his body, besides according to Roman law only a next of kin could claim the body of a crucified victim. The brothers apparently all fled from fear, but standing nearby was Joseph, and he would have been one of the elders of the family. According to ancient oral tradition and written documents Joseph was the uncle of Mary. He was her father's younger brother. According to these same accounts he became the “gowra” or guardian of Mary and her family when her father passed away when she was very young. As the eldest member of the family he would have had the legal right to receive the body. Furthermore, he was a “secret” follower of Yeshua so that would not have stood in his way from obtaining the body.
If you have ever read my article, The Genealogy of Yeshua, you will notice that I bring out the birth record of Yeshua as recorded by Matthew. This lineage was attached to Mary and not his earthly father, Joseph. The lineage of his earthly father Joseph is recorded in Luke. I bring out the meaning of the word “gowra” in this lesson which appears during the last set of 14 generations, and by doing so I solve the long held belief that Matthew couldn't count. What if the person named Joseph in this last set is not speaking about his earthly father but Joseph of Arimathea who was the “gowra” or guardian of Mary, her father's brother? Again, according to oral and written sources, Mary's father died when she was quite young leaving their family's well-being in the hands of her uncle, Joseph. By using this information clarity certainly comes alive in those genealogical records as recorded by Matthew.
There are other reasons why Joseph would have had the ability to claim the body apart from just his kinship. He was a well known member of society, not only in the Jewish world, but also in the Roman world. Many claim that he was a Roman citizen. According to traditions, both oral and written, Joseph owned a fleet of ships and was in the mining (tin) industry. His clout was very significant.
Scripture is silent regarding the life of Yeshua from age 12 until He starts His ministry around the age of 30. However, tradition states that Yeshua traveled the world with His uncle Joseph; going to India, Africa, Spain, and even the British Isles. The same traditions state that Yeshua received a very good education in the British Isles at very expensive universities, all paid for by His wealthy uncle, Joseph.
It appears from all of these many sources that Yeshua and Joseph were very close and that Joseph, although secretly, believed all of the claims that He was the Messiah. Joseph believed and witnessed His miraculous birth and thus, after the death of his father, made certain that Yeshua was well cared for and never deserted Him even at the moment of death. It is also apparent that Joseph of Arimathea was a prince from the lineage of David.
I could go into much more depth but I will forego. Please see some of my references listed below and please read the article I referenced above for more clarity.
Is all of this additional (extra Biblical) information true? I don't know and can't prove any of it but it sure would explain a lot.
Let's dig deeper for a better understanding of the life of our Messiah!
The Traditions of Glastonbury. Aritsan Sales, Thousand Oaks, CA. 1983
Scripotorium Ecclesiastiicorom Historia Literaria, Oxford, 1740-1743
The Drama of the Lost Disciples, Jowett, George F.; Covenant Publishing Co.; 4th edition (January 1, 1967)