Thursday, August 11, 2016

Joseph of Arimathea, who was he?

Joseph of Arimathea is a key figure in the Gospels. Prominent member of the Sanhedrin, secret disciple of Yeshua, Joseph is described as " righteous and good man" ( a tsaddiq). We know that Joseph came from Ramatayim ( Arimathea) in Judea.
He is known to have bought a pure linen shroud to wrap Yeshua's body after he descended Him from the Cross. Our Father, in His immense mercy, has preserved the pure linen shroud in which Yeshua's body has been wrapped and that carries Yeshua's image for 2000 years. This shroud is known worldwide as the Shroud of Turin.

Joseph of Arimathea's role might look insignificant at first sight, when we examine the reports of the Gospels superficially. However, one has to consider that this rich and influent man is the one to allow Yeshua to have a more than decent burial, with the honors that a true King actually deserves.

We know from the Gospels that Joseph was waiting for the Kingdom of God.

Joseph of Arimathea in the Gospel of Matthew

Through Matthew's mouth, the following details about Joseph of Arimathea are available:

" In the evening, there came a rich man from Ramatayim ( Arimathea) named Yosef, and he was also one of the disciples of Yeshua. He approached Pilatos to request the body of Yeshua and Pilatos offered for it to be given to him.
Yosef took the body and wrapped it into a pure linen garment ( besadin tahor in Hebrew).
He placed it in the new tomb that was hewn for him in the rock, rolled a large stone over the entrance of the tomb and left.
Myriam HaMagdalit and the other Myriam were sitting there, facing the tomb."

Matthew 27:57-60 Franz Delitzsch version ( Hebrew Gospels)

From Matthew's mouth we learn that Yosef was originally of Judea. The detail is of importance, because Pilate was the procurator of Judea. As a Judean having authority within the Sanhedrin, Yosef was entitled to reclaim Yeshua's body.
He was rich, so he could afford to buy a piece of pure linen to envelop Yeshua's body ( the Shroud of Turin is very expensive material) and he could also provide a newly cut tomb for Him. Thanks to this man, who happened to also be a disciple of our Lord, Yeshua would be given honors in death.
בסדין טהור besadin tahor, pure sheet-tahor is an adjective visible in Psalm 51, lev tahor, pure heart)
Especially the verse about the shroud is very interesting in Hebrew. Matthew chooses another word than John.
ויקח יוסף את הגויה ויכרך אותה בסדין טהור
Yosef took the body and wrapped it into a pure linen garment.

This is what Mark reports about Joseph of Arimathea

Interestingly, Mark uses the same word as Matthew to describe the Shroud ( sadin)...and he purchased a sheet ( vehou kana sadin והוּא קנה סדין )
" The time of the evening arrived, and since it was erev Shabbat, which is the day before Shabbat, Yosef haRamati came, a respected counselor, who was awaiting the Kingdom of God; he strengthened himself and came to Pilatos, and he asked for the body of Yeshua.
Pilatos was amazed that he was dead, and he called the centurion and asked him if he already died. He was informed by the centurion that it was so, and he gave the body as a gift to Yosef.
He purchased a sheet ( sadin  in Hebrew), took Him down, wrapped Him in the sheet, placed Him in a tomb sewn into the rock and rolled a stone at the entrance of the rock. Myriam haMagdalit and the other Myriam the mother of Yosei saw the place where He was put." 

Mark 15:42-47 Franz Delitzsch version ( Hebrew Gospels)

We know from Mark that people were all in a hurry, because of the preparation of Shabbat.
Yosef is described as a respected counselor. He had Scripture knowledge and was awaiting the Kingdom of God.
His act of requesting Yeshua's body was an act of courage. It was also recognizing publicly that he was in favor of Yeshua, which wasn't easy because of the weight of the hateful members of the Sanhedrin.
Yosef is described as the person who bought the shroud, descended Yeshua from the Cross and placed it into a new tomb.

Although great quantities of naive and unrealistic paintings of Joseph of Arimathea exist all over the internet, one must bear in mind that this man was a member of the Sanhedrin and is more likely to have worn clothes that had to do with his official counselor functions, so rather like the picture above.

Luke's presentation of Joseph of Arimathea

"There was a man named Yosef who was one of the counselors, a good and righteous (tsaddiq in Hebrew) manfrom the Ramatayim, a town of the Yehudim who had not gone along with their plans or their actions. He was waiting for the Kingdom of God.
He approached Pilatos and asked for the body of Yeshua. He took it down and wrapped it in sheets ( besadinim- plural here singular sadin) and he placed it into a rock where no person had placed him yet.
The day was Erev Shabbat and Shabbat was arriving.

Some of the women who came with him from the Galil and followed him saw the tomb and that his body was placed in it. They returned and prepared spices and perfumes, but on Shabbat day they rested according to the mitsvah."

Luke, chapter 23, verses 50-56 Franz Delitzsch version

We know from Luke's report that Yosef, Joseph of Arimathea, was a "good" and " righteous" man  ( a tsaddiq in Hebrew.)

Most importantly, never has Joseph been an accomplice of some Sanhedrin member's wicked plans to harm and murder Yeshua. He was waiting for the Kingdom of God and reclaimed Yeshua's body to Pilate. 
Erev Shabbat was approaching. People were in a hurry. Luke's text indicates that the use of Joseph's newly cut tomb was for a temporary use.

Again I'd like to address all the people who think that observing Shabbat is obsolete. If it really was, why would Luke put an emphasis on observing the mitsvah? 
Remember that people were afflicted by Yeshua's death, they really wanted to honor Him in death, but would observe Adonai's rest in any case.

John reveals the presence of Nicodemus.

"Hatakhrikhim munakhim" =התכיריכין מֻנחים = Shroud 

" After this, Yosef haRamati (of the Ramatayim) came. He was a disciple of Yeshua secretly on the account of the Yehudim and he requested for Pilatos to permit him to take the body of Yeshua.
Nakdimon ( Nicodemus) also came, who earlier had come to Yeshua at night, and he bought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about one hundred litrin. They took the body of Yeshua and wrapped it in burial garments ( translated as shown above)  with the spices according to the customs of the Yehudim for burying the dead. In the place where He was crucified , there was a garden, and in the garden there was a new tomb which no dead person had been placed until then. 
They placed Yeshua there because it was Erev Shabbat for the Yehudim and the tomb was nearby."

John 19:38-42

John tells us that Yeshua had at least two allies in the Sanhedrin, who were secret disciples: Joseph and Nicodemus. Thanks to both men, Yeshua will be given decent honors in death- the honors due to His rank. The presence of the spices points at the burial of a prominent person.
I provided you with a link within the text of John which is a detailed study by Shroud of Turin experts. The myrrh and the aloes have been found on the piece of linen and the study will offer you many insights about Jewish burial customs as well.
John locates the tomb as the Garden Tomb and he also points at a temporary burial due to Erev Shabbat approaching.

Shroud story

Please allow me to share some insights I received thanks to David Hines, who dedicates much of his time to Shroud of Turin investigations.

It is quite amazing that the Shroud of Turin is still there, 2000 years after Yeshua's Resurrection to testify about the realness of the event.

Here is what David Hines shared with me about Yeshua's precious burial cloth. Quoting David:

" John does not record in his gospel the purchase of the Shroud, but what he saw in the tomb after the linen was purchased.

The Shroud was one piece when it came into the tomb and it was cut into two pieces. a 14' strip was cut from the left side and was used to wrap around the Shroud.
That is why John uses the plural sense of the word othinion Spelled like this.  ὀθόνια
This word means fine linen cloths. or linen cloths.
 He is describing both the Shroud, the strip of linen and the head cloth 3 pieces. That is why he used the plural sense of the word linen cloths instead of cloth and why Mathew, Mark and Luke do not.

Because the Shroud was 1 piece of linen originally and became 2 pieces. The strip removed was later sewn back on. Still has blood drops on it. On a closing note, the person who sewed this back on did a fantastic job. Likely the best sewing job of their life. Hats off to that person whoever it was!"

If you are curious to know more about the Shroud of Turin, please visit;

David's words make sense to me, as they fully explain the use of singular and plural words to define Yeshua's burial cloth.
To the attentive reader, the Gospels are a precious mine of information. Use it wisely!

Copyright© by Isabelle Esling


  1. I enjoyed reading more about Joseph here Isabelle. Very interesting.

  2. Many thanks for taking the time to read this article...five days of work and research...our Lord helped me to complete it:)


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