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31 July #2

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  • ambrós
    Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Message 1 of 14 , Jul 30, 2003
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      Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

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      * St. Joseph of Arimathea
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      Saint Joseph of Arimathea
      Biblical & Legendary Accounts
      by Robert Jones

      This essay may be read on line at
      http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


      Table of Contents
      Introduction

      Canonical Sources

      Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

      Involvement in the burial of Christ

      Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

      Non-Canonical Sources

      The Gospel of Nicodemus

      The Narrative of Joseph

      The Passing of Mary

      Legendary Accounts

      Founder of the first Christian Church in England

      Joseph and the Holy Grail

      And did those feet in ancient times...

      Conclusions

      Sources

      About the author
      _________________________

      Introduction
      Joseph of Arimathea is one of the more mysterious figures in the New
      Testament. He is mentioned briefly, by all four of the evangelists, and
      yet we glean little about him from the Gospel accounts.

      "Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy". ("Homilies of
      St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John")

      Yet, while little is written about Joseph in the Gospels themselves, he
      was a popular figure in both apocryphal (non-canonical ) accounts
      ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), and in numerous
      medieval Arthurian epics, including Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur", and
      Robert de Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathie".

      In legend, Joseph is a quite remarkable figure - his exploits (in
      various accounts) include:

      Founder of the first Christian Church in England

      Keeper of the Holy Grail, the Cup from the Last Supper of Christ

      Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

      Merchant involved in the tin trade between the West coast of England,
      and the Mediterranean - took the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
      in England sometime between the ages of 12 and 30

      Ancestor of Sir Lancelot & Sir Galahad of Arthurian fame

      This booklet will examine the life of Joseph from canonical,
      non-canonical (apocryphal), and legendary sources. No claims are made as
      to the authenticity of the latter two, but the mere fact of their
      existence adds to the mystery of Joseph of Arimathea.

      Canonical Sources

      Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four evangelists, in generally
      consistent accounts. Bible commentator Dwight Moody notes:

      "Read the four accounts given, in the four Gospels, of Joseph of
      Arimathea. There is very seldom anything mentioned by all four of the
      Evangelists. If Matthew and Mark refer to an event, it is omitted by
      Luke and John; and, if it occur in the latter, it may not be contained
      in the former." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 115)

      By drawing on all four accounts, we can at least discern some basic
      characteristics regarding Joseph. The key passages are listed below:

      Mat 27:57/60 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from
      Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
      Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be
      given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
      and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He
      rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
      (NIV)

      Mark 15:43/46 "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council,
      who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate
      and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
      already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already
      died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
      body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,
      wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then
      he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb." (NIV)

      Luke 23:50/55 "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the
      Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision
      and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting
      for the kingdom of
      God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down,
      wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one
      in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the
      Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from
      Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in
      it." (NIV)

      John 19:38/42 "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of
      Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he
      feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body
      away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited
      Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
      seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it,
      with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish
      burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a
      garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been
      laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb
      was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (NIV)

      As can be seen from the canonical texts, little detail is given
      regarding Joseph of Arimathea, other than details of his involvement in
      the burial of Christ. No occupation is given (although we are told that
      he was a "rich man"), nor is his age or personal description revealed
      (although Joseph of Arimathea is often depicted as an elderly man by the
      time of the crucifixion). Even his place of origin is obscure - although
      the Gospels identify that he was from the "Judean town of Arimathea",
      there was no town of that exact name at the time of Jesus' earthly life.
      Many scholars identify Arimathea with the town of "Ramathaim", mentioned
      in 1 Sam 1:1. Other scholars view that the modern city of Rentis
      (located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) is the ancient
      Arimathea. However, the reference to "Arimathea" remains obscure.

      Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea
      The table below shows the main characteristics regarding Joseph of
      Arimathea that can be gleaned from the Gospel accounts.

      Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

      Joseph was a rich man Mat 27:57
      He was from the Judean town of Arimathea (see map below) Mat 27:57; Luke
      23:51
      He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
      Joseph was probably a fairly influential man - he (boldly) asked Pilate
      for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58; Mark 15:43
      He was rich enough to own his own tomb Mat 27:60
      Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin Mark 15:43
      He was "waiting for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43
      He was a "a good and upright man" Luke 23:50
      He had not agreed to the Sanhedrin actions regarding Jesus Luke 23:51
      Joseph feared reprisals from the Jewish elders, so he was a secret
      disciple of Jesus John 19:38

      Involvement in the burial of Christ
      The most detailed canonical descriptions regarding Joseph have to do
      with his involvement in the burial of Christ. The table below captures
      the highlights of this involvement.

      He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
      Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58
      Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial by wrapping it in
      linen, along with 75 pounds of "myrrh and aloes" John 19:40 Jesus was
      buried according to Jewish burial customs John 19:40 Joseph placed the
      body in his own new tomb, located in a garden at the place where Jesus
      was crucified, and rolled a stone in front of it Mat 27:60; John 19:41

      Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?
      Through the ages, a theological debate has raged regarding whether
      Joseph of Arimathea was a coward, or saint. On the coward side, critics
      point out that Joseph, while being a disciple of Jesus, was afraid to
      announce so publicly "because he feared the Jews" (John 19:38). It
      appears to be just another case of a rich member of a ruling elite who
      is afraid to proclaim
      potentially socially unacceptable viewpoints, for fear of disturbing the
      status quo.

      The alternate view of Joseph seems to have a stronger backing. While
      Joseph may not have revealed his discipleship of Jesus during the
      earthly ministry of the Saviour, two acts would seem to strongly put him
      in the category of "defender of the faith":

      Joseph appears to have been one of (or perhaps the sole) member of the
      Sanhedrin "who had not consented to their decision and action" (Luke
      23:51) regarding the trial of Jesus

      Joseph bravely went to Pilate, boldly requesting the body of Jesus, and
      (with Nicodemus), buried the body according to Jewish burial customs.
      This was an amazingly brave act, because it should be remembered that
      during this time, all of the apostles had fled (except, possibly, John),
      and Peter had denied he even knew Christ. And yet Joseph, at the seeming
      low point in the earthly ministry of Christ, bravely and openly took
      care of Christ's body, risking possible censure from both the Romans and
      the Jewish elders. Commentator Dwight Moody discusses the bravery of
      Joseph in asking Pilate for the body:

      "I consider this was one of the sublimest, grandest acts that any man
      ever did. In that darkness and gloom - His disciples having all forsaken
      Him; Judas having sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; the chief
      apostle Peter having denied him with a curse, swearing that he never
      knew Him; the chief priests having found Him guilty of blasphemy; the
      council having condemned Him to death; and when there was a hiss going
      up to heaven over all Jerusalem - Joseph went right against the current,
      right against the influence of all his friends, and begged the body of
      Jesus." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 116)

      It is perhaps not a surprise to lean that St Joseph became the Patron
      Saint of Undertakers. His feast day is March 17 and March 27 on the
      Western Calendar and in the Orthodox Churches he has his feast day on
      July 31 and has a very special mention in the hymns for Good Friday and
      the Deposition of Christ's Body from the Cross.

      Non-Canonical Sources

      There are at least three non-canonical (apocryphal) references to Joseph
      of Arimathea which give additional (although not contradictory)
      information regarding Joseph's actions after the death and resurrection
      of Christ. Keep in mind that the early church father's did not consider
      these three sources to be authoritative enough to be included in the New
      Testament. On the other hand, they were not condemned by the early
      church fathers, either (they were not Gnostic texts, for example).

      The Gospel of Nicodemus
      Few scholars today view that this account was really written (or
      inspired) by Joseph's Sanhedrin colleague Nicodemus - some scholars
      would date it as late as the third century. (Gregory of Tours, writing
      in the 6th century, references this gospel). It is the major source of
      early, non-canonical information regarding Joseph of Arimathea.

      A summary of the references to Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus
      follows, with certain key passages printed verbatim.

      Joseph asks for the body of Christ from Pilate, embalms the body (with
      the help of Nicodemus), buries the body in a new tomb, and rolls a stone
      in front of the tomb (totally consistent with the Gospel accounts)

      The Jewish elders express anger at Joseph for burying the body of
      Christ. Joseph replies indignantly:

      "And likewise Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you
      angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put
      him in my new tomb, wrapping him in clean linen; and I have rolled a
      stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the
      just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have
      pierced him with a spear." ("Gospel of Nicodemus", translated by
      Alexander Walker, Esq.)

      The Jewish elders capture Joseph, and imprison him. A seal is placed on
      the door to the cell, and a guard is posted. Before being imprisoned,
      Joseph warns the elders:

      "The God whom you have hanged upon the cross, is able to deliver me out
      of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you." ("Gospel of
      Nicodemus", from "The Lost Books of the Bible", p. 75)

      When the elders return to the cell, the seal is still in place, but
      Joseph is gone. The elders later discover that Joseph has returned to
      Arimathea. The elders have a change of heart, and desire to have a more
      civil conversation with Joseph.

      The elders send a letter of apology to Joseph via seven of his friends

      Joseph travels back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders.
      The elders question Joseph on how he escaped. Joseph tells his story:

      "On the day of the Preparation, about the tenth hour, you shut me in,
      and I remained there the whole Sabbath in full. And when midnight came,
      as I was standing and praying, the house where you shut me in was hung
      up by the four corners, and there was a flashing of light in mine eyes.
      And I fell to the ground trembling. Then some one lifted me up from the
      place where I had fallen, and poured over me an abundance of water from
      the head even to the feet, and put round my nostrils the odour of a
      wonderful ointment, and rubbed my face with the water itself, as if
      washing me, and kissed me, and said to me, Joseph, fear not; but open
      thine eyes, and see who it is that speaks to thee. And looking, I saw
      Jesus; and being terrified, I thought it was a phantom. And with prayer
      and the commandments I spoke to him, and he spoke with me. And I said to
      him: Art thou Rabbi Elias? And he said to me: I am not Elias. And I
      said: Who art thou, my Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus, whose body
      thou didst beg from Pilate, and wrap in clean linen; and thou didst lay
      a napkin on my face, and didst lay me in thy new tomb, and roll a stone
      to the door of the tomb. Then I said to him that was speaking to me:
      Show me, Lord, where I laid thee. And he led me, and showed me the place
      where I laid him, and the linen which I had put on him, and the napkin
      which I had wrapped upon his face; and I knew that it was Jesus. And he
      took hold of me with his hand, and put me in the midst of my house
      though the gates were shut, and put me in my bed, and said to me: Peace
      to thee! And he kissed me, and said to me: For forty days go not out of
      thy house; for, lo, I go to my brethren into Galilee." ("Gospel of
      Nicodemus", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

      Joseph stresses to the elders (specifically mentioning Annas and
      Caiaphas) that Jesus has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

      Joseph says that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of
      Christ (compare to Mat 27:52/53). He specifically identifies the two
      sons of the high-priest Simeon (see Luke 2:25/35). Annas, Caiaphas,
      Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel (under whom Paul studied) travel to
      Arimathea to interview Charinus and Lenthius, sons of Simeon.

      As mentioned before, the account of Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus is
      not canonical, but it is (at least) plausible.

      The Narrative of Joseph
      Another apocryphal account of Joseph's interaction in the passion story
      appears in the "Narrative of Joseph". In basic outline, the story told
      in "The Narrative of Joseph" coincides with the account in "The Gospel
      of Nicodemus", with some interesting additions. The account starts with
      the words:

      "I am Joseph of Arimathea, who begged from Pilate the body of the Lord
      Jesus for burial, and who for this cause was kept close in prison by the
      murderous and God-fighting Jews..." ("The Narrative of Joseph",
      translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

      The narrative then goes on to discuss the fate of the two robbers that
      were crucified with Jesus on Golgotha. Joseph refers to them as Gestas
      and Demas. It also gives an alternative version of the betrayal of Jesus
      by Judas (identified as the son of the brother of Caiaphas), and the
      trial of Jesus.

      Also:

      The description of the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph by the Jewish
      elders is told. As in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph receives a visit
      in the jail cell from Christ, who saves him from the prison. The saved
      robber (Demas) is with Jesus.

      Joseph spends three days with Jesus in Galilee

      The narrative ends with the words:

      "And I, having seen these things, have written them down, in order that
      all may believe in the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord, and may no
      longer obey the law of Moses, but may believe in the signs and wonders
      that have happened through Him, and in order that we who have believed
      may inherit eternal life, and be found in the kingdom of the heavens.
      For to Him are due glory, strength, praise, and majesty for ever and
      ever. Amen." ("The Narrative of Joseph", translated by Alexander Walker,
      Esq.)

      The Passing of Mary
      A third non-canonical source, entitled "The Passing of Mary" is also
      attributed to Joseph. Joseph appears as an attendant of Mary, Mother of
      Jesus, and is present at her falling asleep and her ascension into
      heaven (which is described in great detail). Joseph is not identified as
      the author until the last paragraph:

      "I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him
      rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of
      the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin
      Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which
      came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above
      were done by the judgement of God. And I have made known to all, Jews
      and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my
      ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them." ("The
      Passing of Mary", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

      Legendary Accounts

      While Joseph of Arimathea is a fairly minor character in the canonical
      Gospels (and even in the non-canonical sources), he achieves superstar
      status in later legendary accounts, most of which date to the Middle
      Ages. In Medieval legend, Joseph is, variously, the founder of the first
      Christian Church in England, the keeper of the Holy Grail, the uncle of
      Mary Mother of Jesus, and the ancestor of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and
      Sir Galahad. No Biblical figure (other than Christ) equalled the amount
      of popular press attention given to Joseph of Arimathea during the
      Middle Ages. A look at the primary legends follows.

      Founder of the first Christian Church in England
      The most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea regards his
      foundation of the first Christian Church in England at Glastonbury, in
      the first century (37 A.D. or 63 A.D., depending on the source). The
      traditional view of the Christianization of England is that it didn't
      occur until the missionary efforts of St. Augustine late in the 6th
      century (other legends discuss a missionary journey to England in the
      2nd-century, by Faganus and Deruvianus).

      The distinction between the Arimathean legend and the traditional
      Augustine view is a significant one - if Joseph really did bring
      Christianity to England as early as 37 A.D., it means that Christianity
      in England predates Christianity in other Western European nations such
      as Spain and France - and may even pre-date the establishment of
      Christianity in Rome itself.


      There are two basic types of sources concerning the legends connecting
      Joseph of Arimathea to England in general, and Glastonbury
      specifically - histories, and Medieval (and later) literature. We'll
      examine entries from both types of sources in this discussion.

      The basic legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea, and the establishment of
      the first Christian Church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England goes
      something like this:

      In the year 63 A.D. (or, possibly, earlier) Joseph is sent by the
      Apostle Philip from Gaul to England, with 11 (or 12, in some accounts)
      disciples, one of whom is his son Josephes

      Joseph lands in the British west country (Somerset), and is granted some
      land on the Island of Yniswitrin ("Isle of Glass") by a local King,
      Arviragus

      He places his staff in the ground on Weary-All hill, and a hawthorn bush
      (the "Holy Thorn") grows on the spot, and it still grows there today,
      blossoming in a strange manner every year at the feast of the Nativity
      in midwinter.

      Joseph & his followers create an ascetic community

      At the bidding of the archangel Gabriel, they build a church of daub and
      wattle in honour of the Blessed Mary, 31 years after the resurrection of
      Christ. The church is built on the site that will later become the great
      Benedictine monastery of Glastonbury (Glastonbury Abbey is also
      associated with being the burial place of King Arthur).

      After the death of King Arviragus, his son and grandson (Coillus and
      Marius, respectively) grant 12 additional hides of land (about 120 acres
      per hide) to Joseph and his followers

      Joseph brought with him (variously) two cruets "filled with blood and
      sweat of the prophet Jesus", collected when Joseph took Jesus down from
      the cross, or the Cup from the Last Supper (a.k.a. the Holy Grail, or
      the Sangreal)

      After the death of Joseph and his followers, the site is abandoned, but
      the church remains standing, to later be restored (possibly, in 170 A.D.
      by legendary missionaries from Rome Faganus and Deruvianus)



      "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are records of facts;
      but the existence of those legends is a very great fact." - E.A. Freeman
      ("Avalonian Quest", p. 131)

      So, is there any historical evidence to back up the aforementioned
      legends? There is, but much of it is disputed.

      First, is there any early evidence that Britain was evangelized in the
      Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century? Various Early
      Church Fathers are quoted to make this claim, including Irenaeus (c.
      125 - 189 A.D.), Eusebius (260 - 340 A.D.), St. Hilary of Poitiers
      (300 - 367 A.D.), and Origin (185 - 254 A.D.). One reference that seems
      especially relevant is by Tertullian (155 - 222 A.D.):

      "All the limits of the Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and
      the haunts of the Britons - inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated
      to Christ, and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and
      Scythians, and of many remote nations, and of provinces and islands
      many, to us unknown, and which we can scarce enumerate. In all which
      places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns, as of Him
      before whom the gates of all cities have been opened, and to whom none
      are closed, before whom iron bars have been crumbled, and brazen gates
      opened." - Tertullian, "An Answer to the Jews" ("The Anti-Nicene Fathers
      Volume 3", p. 296)

      The above passage would seem to clearly indicate that Britain had been
      "subjugated to Christ" long before the papal mission of St. Augustine in
      597 A.D. (one of the traditional dates for the foundation of
      Christianity in Britain).

      An early British reference to the possibility of 1st century
      Christianization of Britain comes from a 6th century monk/historian
      named Gildas the Wise (500? - 572? A.D.), who reportedly spent some
      years at Glastonbury Abbey:

      "These islands received the beams of light - that is, the holy precepts
      of Christ - the true Sun, as we know, at the latter part of the reign of
      Tiberius Caesar, in whose time this religion was propagated without
      impediment and death threatened to those who interfered with its
      professors." - "De Excidio Britanniae" ("The Ruin and Conquest of
      Britain") (Matthews, p. 87)

      As Tiberius Caesar died in 37 A.D., this reference places Christianity
      in Britain even before the typical 63 A.D. date assigned in the
      Arimathean legends!

      So where does Joseph come into the picture? There may be a reference as
      early as the 6th century, from a "bard" named Melkin (or, variously,
      Melchinus or Maelgwn). If a source document of this reference existed,
      it would provide strong evidence linking Joseph to England. Alas, the
      first existing reference to the Melkin document is in a 14th century
      document written by monk John of Glastonbury. Here are the relevant
      parts of Melkin's "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis". Note that Avalon is
      traditionally connected with Glastonbury:

      "Avalon's island...
      Amid there Joseph in marble,
      Of Arimathea by name,
      Hath found perpetual sleep:
      He lies in a two-forked [bifurcated] line
      Next the south corner of an oratory
      Fashioned of wattles
      For the adorning of a mighty virgin
      By the aforementioned sphere-betokened
      Dwellers in that place, thirteen in all.
      For Joseph hath with him
      In his sarcophagus
      Two cruets, white and silver,
      Filled with blood and sweat
      Of the prophet Jesus." (Matthews, p. 67/68)

      If we can be comfortable that this document actually existed (and wasn't
      a literary creation of John of Glastonbury), it establishes several key
      points, from a 6th-century source:

      Joseph came to Avalon (Glastonbury) with 12 followers

      An oratory made of wattles was created, and was dedicated to Mary,
      Mother of Jesus

      Joseph had with him two cruets, "filled with blood and sweat of the
      prophet Jesus"

      The legend assumes more form by the 12th century writings of historian
      William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - 1143 A.D.), who, in two books, wrote
      much of the history of Glastonbury Abbey. In his "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
      ("Acts of the Kings of the English"), William comments about the "Old
      Church" in Glastonbury:

      "The church of which we are speaking - from its antiquity called by the
      Angles, by way of distinction 'Ealde Chiche', that is the 'Old Church'
      of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even
      from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country,
      claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean..." (Lewis,
      p. 68)

      While William stops short of linking the "Old Church" with Joseph of
      Arimathea, or even the first century, he does verify its antiquity, and
      the fact that the original church was built of wattle. William goes on
      to suggest that the Old Church was built in the second century by the
      missionaries Faganus and Deruvianus, but adds the following comment:

      "There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in
      certain places to the following effect: 'No other hands than those of
      the disciples of Christ erected the Church of Glastonbury'. Nor is it
      dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the
      Gauls, as Freculfus relates in the fourth chapter of his seventh book,
      it may be believed that he planted the word on this side of the channel
      also." ("King Arthur's Avalon", Ashe, p. 42)

      In the above passage, the possibility of 1st century erection of the Old
      Church by the "disciples of Christ" is mentioned, as well as the
      possibility that the Apostle Philip sent missionaries from Gaul.



      William of Malmesbury came to the great Medieval Abbey of Glastonbury
      early in the 12th century to research his books "The Acts of the Kings
      of the English", and "The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"

      Several years after William wrote "The Acts of the Kings of the
      English", he wrote a second book which was dedicated to telling the
      history of Glastonbury Abbey. The book was called "De Antiquitate
      Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" ("The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"),
      and here is yet another blazing controversy - the earliest extant copy
      of this document (written c. 1130) dates to approximately 1240 A.D. The
      passages below, which give the first detailed history of Joseph and the
      establishment of the church at Glastonbury, were added as an
      introductory chapter written in another hand. So, this is either the
      definitive history of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles, written
      by the prominent and respected historian William of Malmesbury, or a
      later interpolation by an unknown author!

      "St. Philip...coming into the country of the Franks to preach, converted
      many to the Faith and baptized them. Working to spread Christ's word, he
      chose twelve from among his disciples, and sent them into Britain. Their
      leader, it is said, was Philip's dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea,
      who buried the Lord.

      Coming therefore into Britain 63 years from the Incarnation of the Lord,
      and 15 from the Assumption of Blessed Mary, they began faithfully to
      preach the Faith of Christ. But the barbaric king and his people,
      hearing such novel and unaccustomed things, absolutely refused to
      consent to their preaching, neither did he wish to change the traditions
      of his ancestors, yet, because they came from far, and merely required a
      modest competence for their life, at their request he granted them a
      certain island, surrounded by woods, thickets and marshes, called by the
      inhabitants Ynys-witrin...

      Thereupon the said twelve saints residing in this desert, were in a very
      short time warned by a vision of the angel Gabriel to build a church in
      honour of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary in a place shown to
      them from heaven, and they, quick to obey the divine precepts, completed
      a certain chapel according to what had been shown them...

      And as it was the first in the kingdom, God's Son distinguished it with
      greater dignity by dedicating it in honour of his Mother...

      The said saints continued to live in the same hermitage for many years,
      and were at last liberated from the prison of the flesh. The place then
      began to be a covert for wild beats - the spot which had before been the
      habitation of saints - until the Blessed Virgin was pleased to recall
      her house of prayer to the memory of the faithful..." ("Avalonian
      Quest", Ashe, p. 56)

      As can be seen, most of the basic legend of Joseph in the British Isles
      is contained in this (possibly interpolated) passage from "De
      Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae". Only the legend of the Grail (see
      next section), and the Glastonbury Holy Thorn is missing.

      The next major chronicler of the Joseph legends was 14th century monk
      John (Seen) of Glastonbury, who seemingly gathered all of the extant
      sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey, and
      published them in one book, entitled "Cronica sive Antiquitates
      Glastoniensis Ecclesie" ("Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
      Glastonbury"). A sample:

      "In the fifteenth year after this he went to St. Philip in Gaul, taking
      with him Josephes, whom the Lord had consecrated a bishop in the city of
      Sarath...Then the apostle, desiring that the word of God should be
      spread abroad, sent twelve of his disciples to preach in Britain,
      placing at their head his favourite disciple Joseph of Arimathea,
      together with his son Josephes..." (Matthews, p. 69)

      It was John, you'll recall, that published the 6th century Melkin poem
      that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ.
      The Grail has not yet made its way into the story.

      The last part of the basic legend (sans the Grail, which deserves its
      own section) regards a hawthorn bush which grows in Glastonbury, now
      called the Holy Thorn. The bush (or tree, really) has the interesting
      property of blooming twice a year - in May, and at Christmas time! The
      type of thorn ("crataegus oxyacantha praecox"), seems to be native to
      Syria. Like many
      other things in Glastonbury, the tree is an unexplained anomaly.

      The Holy Thorn isn't connected to the Joseph legend until the publishing
      of a 1520 anonymous poem (published by Richard Pynson, the royal
      printer), entitled "The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia". While the poem
      discusses the hawthorn and its properties, the story of it growing from
      Joseph's staff is missing. (Note: this poem also refers to Joseph
      bringing two cruets with him, containing the blood of Christ - "Thys
      blode in two cruettes/Joseph dyd take". No Cup from the Last Supper,
      yet).

      In 1677, a Dr. Plot refers to the thorn, and ascribes its planting to
      Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, in 1716, the full story of Joseph placing
      his staff on a hill at Glastonbury ("Wirral Hill", because Joseph and
      his companions were "Weary-All"), and having the thorn grow on the spot
      is published.

      The original thorn was destroyed by Puritan fanatics during the English
      Civil War, but cuttings from the original have grown into trees in both
      Glastonbury, and other parts of England. And they continue to bloom at
      approximately Christmas each year.

      The claim of England as the first Christianised Western country was
      taken quite seriously in the middle ages. The claim was advanced at four
      church councils: the Council of Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Sienna
      (1424) and Basle (1434). Glastonbury was known as "Roma Secunda" in some
      circles during the Middle Ages, and four pilgrimages to Glastonbury were
      counted as one to Rome to venerate the Apostles Peter and Paul.

      Queen Elizabeth II, in 1965, erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with
      the following inscription:

      "The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II
      marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its
      origin."


      Joseph and the Holy Grail

      Perhaps the most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea - his
      connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, or the Holy Grail - is
      even harder to pin down than the other parts of the Joseph-in-England
      legends. There is no reference connecting Joseph to the Cup from the
      Last Supper in either the canonical Gospels, the non-canonical sources
      ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), or the historical
      sources (William of Malmesbury, Melkin, John of Glastonbury).

      If one accepts the validity of the aforementioned 6th-century document
      by Melkin entitled "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis", as translated by
      John of Glastonbury in the 14th century, Joseph is early identified, not
      with the Cup from the Last Supper, but rather:

      For Joseph hath with him
      In his sarcophagus
      Two cruets, white and silver,
      Filled with blood and sweat
      Of the prophet Jesus. (Matthews, p. 67/68)

      The references connecting Joseph to the Holy Grail (and the later
      Arthurian-era quests for said Grail) are all from Medieval and later
      romances and literature. Thus, from a historical standpoint, they are
      the most difficult to verify.

      The Medieval romances in question all have to do with one basic topic -
      the stories of King Arthur, and his band of chivalrous knights. Joseph
      of Arimathea comes into the stories as a key character, because of one
      of the greatest subplots in the Arthurian epics - the quest for the Holy
      Grail.

      There is great argument over exactly what the Holy Grail is - a cup? a
      chalice? a stone? There are also learned treatises on the possibility
      that the model for the Holy Grail predates Christianity. However, many
      of the Medieval romances squarely associate the Holy Grail with the Cup
      from the Last Supper of Christ, and further identify that it was Joseph
      of Arimathea that brought the Cup to England in the first place
      (otherwise, there wouldn't have been anything in England for Arthur and
      his knights to search for!)

      The first major romance that explicitly links Joseph to the Grail is
      Robert de Boron's (or Borron) "Joseph d'Arimathie" (c. 1190). Robert de
      Boron seems to start with the account from the Gospel of Nicodemus, and
      then adds his own slant to the story. Essentially:

      After Jesus is stabbed with the spear on the cross, Joseph captures some
      of the blood of Jesus in the Cup from the Last Supper (the Holy Grail)

      Joseph is imprisoned, and is taught the mysteries of the Grail by Christ
      himself

      Joseph spends 42 years in prison, and is released by Vespasian (!)

      Joseph and a group of fellow Christians travel to an unspecified foreign
      country. Joseph builds a table symbolic of the table used at the Last
      Supper. The place for Judas is kept empty - it will be filled someday by
      a descendent of one of the companions of Joseph (Brons). (In later
      romances, this seat will be called "The Siege Perilous", and will be
      occupied by Sir
      Galahad).

      A companion of Joseph (Petrus) travels to the "Vales of Avaron" (which,
      for the purposes of this discussion, is assumed to refer to
      Avalon-Glastonbury) to prepare a place for the Grail

      The Grail as the "Ark of the New Covenant"

      Other Medieval romances with similar themes include:

      "Grand Saint Grail" (c. 1200)

      "Parzival", by Wolram von Eschenbach (c. 1207)

      "Qeuste del Saint Graal (The Vulgate Cycle)" (c. 1210). In this account,
      the character of Sir Galahad appears for the first time.

      Galahad is identified in various romances as being descendent from
      Joseph of Arimathea (through his father, Sir Lancelot). Galahad is the
      only truly pure knight in the world, and is the only knight that can
      occupy the "Siege Perilous" on Arthur's Round Table. He is the only
      knight that completely attains the Grail.

      "Perlesvaus" (1225)

      "Le Morte D'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur"), by Sir Thomas Mallory
      (published 1485)

      As "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the most well-known of the English versions of
      the Arthurian romances, I've compiled several quotes that refer to
      Joseph:

      "And here followeth the noble tale of the Sangreal, that called is the
      holy vessel; and the signification of the blessed blood of our Lord Jesu
      Christ, blessed mote it be, the which was brought in to this land by
      Joseph of Aramathie." - Introduction to Book 13 (Mallory, p. 370)

      "...it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty-two year
      that Joseph of Aramathie the gentle knight, the which took down our Lord
      off the holy Cross, at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great
      party of his kindred with him...And so by fortune they came into this
      land, that at that time was called Great Britian...And after that all
      the people were turned to the Christian faith." (Mallory, p. 380)

      "...ye have heard much of Joseph of Aramathie, how he was sent by Jesu
      Christ into this land to teach and preach the holy Christian faith...and
      ever he was busy to be there as the Sangreal was..." (Mallory, p. 393)

      "And therewithal beseemed them that there came a man, and four angels
      from heaven, clothed in likeness of a bishop, and had a cross in his
      hand; and these four angels bare him in a chair, and set him down before
      the table of silver whereupon the Sangreal was; and it seemed that he
      had in middes of his forehead letters the which said, See ye here Joseph
      the first bishop of Christendom...Then the nights marvelled, for that
      Bishop was dead more than three hundred year tofore. O knights, said he,
      marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man." (Mallory, p. 442)

      Note that Mallory is not at all shy about proclaiming that Joseph is
      "the first bishop of Christendom"!

      Another famous literary reference that links Joseph to the Grail is from
      Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1859 "Idylls of the King" (idylls means "poems"
      or "songs"):

      ...What is it?
      The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?

      Nay, monk! what phantom? answer'd Percivale.
      The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
      Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
      This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
      After the day of darkness, when the dead
      Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
      Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
      To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
      Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord,
      And there awhile it bode; and if a man
      Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
      By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
      Grew to such evil that the holy cup
      Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.

      To whom the monk: "From our old books I know
      That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
      And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
      Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
      And there he built with wattles from the marsh
      A lonely church in the days of yore...

      Notice that by the 19th century, not only was the Cup closely associated
      with Joseph (and Glastonbury), but also the hawthorn bush that blooms at
      Christmas time. Also of note in Tennyson' poem is the reference to "From
      our old books I know..." Most Medieval references to Joseph, whether
      from histories or literature, claim to have received the basis of the
      story from old or ancient books. Perhaps the most romantic such
      assignation comes from the anonymous 1225 A.D. epic "Perlesvaus":

      "The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in
      the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the
      head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen
      Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that
      are therein, that have the whole history thereof." ("King Arthur's
      Avalon", p. 201)

      There is a well at Glastonbury named "Chalice Well". Some esoteric
      legends say that Joseph placed the Cup somewhere in the depths of the
      well. The well is a curious place - 25,000 gallons of red-tinted water
      pass through the well area per day. The red tint, caused by a high iron
      content, caused the Well to at one time be called the "Blood Spring", or
      the "Blood Well", seemingly in reference to the Blood of Christ.



      The legends associating Joseph with the Grail seem weaker, and harder to
      grasp hold of, than the legends regarding his establishment of the first
      Christian church in England, at Glastonbury. The Joseph/Grail connection
      are not mentioned in any early histories, and first appear in 12th
      century romances. However, if the 6th-century Melkin account is accepted
      as
      legitimate, Joseph is, at least, early-on associated with bringing some
      kind of container ("two cruets") containing the blood of Christ with him
      to Glastonbury.

      So could Joseph have ended up with the Cup from the Last Supper? Could
      he have had in his possession drops of the blood of Christ? Certainly,
      the Gospels identify Joseph as a disciple (although not apostle) of
      Christ, and he is also identified as having taken down the body of
      Christ from the cross, and preparing it for burial. Assumedly, Joseph
      would have come in contact with Christ's blood - remember, Christ was
      speared on the cross, and bled:

      John 19:34 "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a
      spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (NIV)

      Thus, while the idea that Joseph could have had in his possession the
      Cup and/or a container with Christ's blood is not implausible, there is
      no early source to verify this legend.

      The table below traces the sources of the various legends regarding
      Joseph and his connection with England. Romances and other literary
      works are indicated in red.

      Tracing the legends

      Source
      Date
      Notes

      Tertullian - An Answer to the Jews 193/216 A.D.
      Britain was already "subjugated to Christ" in the late 2nd century

      Melkin the Bard 6th century?
      Quoted by John of Glastonbury

      Joseph & 12 followers in Avalon

      Wattled oratory

      Two cruets with blood and sweat of Christ

      Gildas Ruin and Conquest of Britain c. 540
      Britain received "the holy precepts of Christ...at the latter part of
      the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (!)

      William of Malmesbury - Acts of the Kings of the English c. 1125
      The Old Church, "of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly
      sanctity even from its very foundation"

      Mentions the possibility of foundation by the disciples of Christ, sent
      by the Apostle Philip

      William of Malmesbury - The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury
      c.1130
      Story of Faganus & Deruvianus, papal envoys, in 170 A.D. as builders
      of the Old Church

      Joseph referred to in a preface, written in another hand, dating to c.
      1240.
      Almost the whole Joseph/Glastonbury legend is contained here, except
      for the Cup, and the hawthorn

      Robert de Boron - Joseph d'Arimathie c. 1190
      Joseph as keeper of the Cup from the Last Supper (The Holy Grail)

      The Cup brought to the "Vales of Avaron"

      John of Glastonbury - Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
      Glastonbury 14th century
      Gathered all extant sources together to produce a book on Joseph

      Joseph as an ancestor of King Arthur

      Quotes Melkin manuscript ("two cruets") - no mention of the Grail

      Joseph is an attendant of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and is present at her
      ascension

      Thomas Mallory - Le Morte D'Arthur 1485
      Most famous English Arthurian romance

      Joseph as "first bishop of Christendom"

      The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia 1520
      Connects the Holy Thorn with Joseph
      Alfred Tennyson - Idylls of the King 1859
      Directly states that Joseph brought the Cup to Glastonbury

      And did those feet in ancient times...

      There is one more legend associated with Joseph of Arimathea that should
      be briefly explored, if for no other reason than its popularity. This is
      the legend that Joseph brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
      one or more times. This legend can't be directly traced to early
      histories or Medieval romances, although it appears that William Blake
      refers to it in his famous poem "Jerusalem" (see below).

      The Bible is, of course, rather mysterious about the events that
      happened in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he
      began his ministry). As a result, many people have attempted on their
      own to define what happened in those lost years. India, North America,
      and England have all been posited as possibilities for where Jesus might
      have traveled as a
      youth/young adult. The Biblical references usually quoted to set the
      stage for theories regarding the travels of Jesus between the ages of 12
      and 30 include:

      Luke 4:16/22 - Jesus preaches in Nazareth, where he doesn't seem
      immediately known, thus giving the impression that he had been away for
      a long time.

      John 1:29/31 - John the Baptist, although a relative of Jesus, seems not
      to recognize him when they meet in the river Jordan, thus causing some
      people to think that Jesus had been absent from Israel for a long time.

      John 1:29/31 "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
      "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the
      one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me
      because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I
      came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
      (NIV)

      The legends connecting Jesus and Joseph with Cornwall/Somerset go
      something like this:

      There is a tradition preserved in the Orthodox Churches that Joseph was
      the Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

      Further tradition states that Joseph was a merchant in the tin trade
      that flourished between the west coast of England, and Europe and the
      Mediterranean

      On one or more occasions, the legends state that Joseph brought his
      grandnephew Jesus with him on business trips to the mines in
      Cornwall/Somerset

      On one of those trips, Jesus and Joseph built the church in Glastonbury
      (later to be used by Joseph and his followers after the death and
      resurrection of Jesus). Jesus dedicated the church to his Mother (the
      niece of Joseph of Arimathea).

      As stated earlier, there are no direct early historical, or even
      literary references to these legends. The earliest reference of any kind
      may be in William Blake's famous poem, "Jerusalem", which is now a
      much-loved hymn in England (watch the last 10 minutes of the movie
      "Chariots of Fire" to hear it sung):

      Jerusalem

      And did those feet in ancient times
      Walk upon England's mountains green?
      And was the Holy Lamb of God
      On England's pleasant pastures seen?
      And did the Countenance Divine
      Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
      And was Jerusalem builded here
      Among those dark Satanic mills?

      Bring me my bow of burning gold!
      Bring me my arrows of desire!
      Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
      Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
      I will not cease from mental fight,
      Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
      Till I have built Jerusalem
      In England's green and pleasant land.

      - William Blake, 1757-1827

      There is some background and indirect evidence that just prevent the
      legend from being totally implausible:

      There is no question that there were tin mines in Western Britain in the
      early first century. And there is no question that the tin was traded
      with other parts of the Continent. (For example: Greek historian
      Herodotus (5th century B.C.)) refers to the tin trade in the "Isles of
      the West" (Capt, p.23))

      Proponents of the legend point to several place names in
      Cornwall/Somerset that have Jewish names, or that refer directly to
      Christ ("Jesus Well", "Penzance" ("Holy Headland") etc.)

      There are several ancient references that claim that the church at
      Glastonbury was either built by God himself, or dedicated to Mary,
      Mother of Jesus by Jesus himself. Some examples include:

      "There is on the confines of western Britain a certain royal island,
      called in the ancient speech Glastonia...In it the earliest neophytes of
      the christian way of life, God guiding them, found a church, not built
      by the art of man, they say, but prepared by God himself for the
      salvation of mankind, which church the heavenly Builder himself
      declared - by many miracles and many mysteries of healing - he had
      consecrated to himself and to holy Mary, Mother of God." - from "Life of
      St. Dunstan", c. 1000 ("Avalonian Quest", p.23)

      "...the Son of God was pleased to grace it with particular dignity,
      dedicating it Himself in honour of His Mother..." - from the possibly
      interpolated c. 1240 edition of "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis
      Ecclesiae", by William of Malmesbury (Matthews, p. 97)

      "The church of which we are speaking...savoured somewhat of heavenly
      sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole
      country, claiming superior reverence, though the structure was
      mean..." - "Acts of the Kings of the English", by William of Malmesbury
      (Lewis, p. 68)

      Proponents of the legend also point to the mysterious stone on the south
      side of the Old Church (St. Mary's Chapel), which says "Jesus Maria".

      Conclusions

      Joseph of Arimathea remains an enigmatic character. While he appears to
      be a fairly minor player in the canonical Gospels, he, not Mary, Mother
      of Jesus, not Mary Magdalen, and not any of the apostles, is entrusted
      with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross, respectfully preparing
      him for burial, and donating a tomb for the body. These facts would seem
      to speak of some special significance accorded to Joseph's role as a
      disciple of Christ, and suppoert the Orthodox belief that he was the
      uncle of Mary.

      That being said, Joseph seems an unlikely character to have become one
      of the centerpieces of the Medieval literary craze which became the
      Arthurian legends. Likewise, he seems an unlikely character to create a
      story around as the founder of the Christian church in England. Why not
      pick Paul, or Philip, or another better known disciple than Joseph of
      Arimathea, if one was going to make up the story?

      So, are the stories and legends true? In my personal opinion - The idea
      that Joseph brought a small band of followers to Britain in the 1st
      century, and started a church at Glastonbury seems reasonably credible
      (although not absolutely provable). The idea that, as the undertaker of
      Jesus, he might have saved some drops of blood also seems, at least
      plausible (but again, not provable). The legends regarding Joseph's
      connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, the hawthorn bush at
      Glastonbury, and bringing the boy Jesus to Cornwall/Glastonbury seem (in
      decreasing order) less credible.

      However, I can speak quite personally that Glastonbury is a very eerie
      place, and if miracles could occur anywhere in the world, I could
      believe that they could occur there.

      Sources


      A Glastonbury Reader Compiled and edited by John Matthews The Aquarian
      Press 1991

      The Arthurian Encyclopedia Norris J. Lacy, Editor Boydell Press 1986

      Avalonian Quest Geoffrey Ashe Fontana Paperbacks 1982

      Bible Characters Dwight Moody The Sage Digital Library 1996

      Holman Bible Dictionary for Windows Parsons Technology 1994

      Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson American Book Company 1915

      King Arthur's Avalon - The Story of Glastonbury Geoffrey Ashe Barnes &
      Noble 1992

      Le Morte D'Arthur Sir Thomas Mallory Harrison House 1985

      St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury Lionel Smithett Lewis James
      Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1922

      The Traditions of Glastonbury E. Raymond Capt M.A. Artisan Sales 1983

      The Lost Books of the Bible Bell Publishing Co. 1979

      The Anti-Nicene Fathers Volumes 3 & 8 Edited by A. Roberts and J
      Donaldson The Sage Digital Library 1996

      The Grail - Quest for the Eternal John Matthews Thames and Hudson 1981

      PC Bible Atlas for Windows Parsons Technology 1994
      ________________________________________


      St. Mary's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

      Copyright 1997 by Robert C. Jones

      This material may be reprinted free of charge for use by non-profit
      church groups, as long as the author and copyright information is
      retained.
    • emrys@globe.net.nz
      Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
      Message 2 of 14 , Jul 30, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
        * St. Joseph of Arimathea
        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

        Saint Joseph of Arimathea
        Biblical & Legendary Accounts
        by Robert Jones

        This essay may be read on line at
        http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


        Table of Contents
        Introduction

        Canonical Sources

        Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

        Involvement in the burial of Christ

        Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

        Non-Canonical Sources

        The Gospel of Nicodemus

        The Narrative of Joseph

        The Passing of Mary

        Legendary Accounts

        Founder of the first Christian Church in England

        Joseph and the Holy Grail

        And did those feet in ancient times...

        Conclusions

        Sources

        About the author
        _________________________

        Introduction
        Joseph of Arimathea is one of the more mysterious figures in the New
        Testament. He is mentioned briefly, by all four of the evangelists, and
        yet we glean little about him from the Gospel accounts.

        "Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy". ("Homilies of
        St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John")

        Yet, while little is written about Joseph in the Gospels themselves, he
        was a popular figure in both apocryphal (non-canonical ) accounts
        ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), and in numerous
        medieval Arthurian epics, including Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur", and
        Robert de Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathie".

        In legend, Joseph is a quite remarkable figure - his exploits (in
        various accounts) include:

        Founder of the first Christian Church in England

        Keeper of the Holy Grail, the Cup from the Last Supper of Christ

        Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

        Merchant involved in the tin trade between the West coast of England,
        and the Mediterranean - took the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
        in England sometime between the ages of 12 and 30

        Ancestor of Sir Lancelot & Sir Galahad of Arthurian fame

        This booklet will examine the life of Joseph from canonical,
        non-canonical (apocryphal), and legendary sources. No claims are made as
        to the authenticity of the latter two, but the mere fact of their
        existence adds to the mystery of Joseph of Arimathea.

        Canonical Sources

        Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four evangelists, in generally
        consistent accounts. Bible commentator Dwight Moody notes:

        "Read the four accounts given, in the four Gospels, of Joseph of
        Arimathea. There is very seldom anything mentioned by all four of the
        Evangelists. If Matthew and Mark refer to an event, it is omitted by
        Luke and John; and, if it occur in the latter, it may not be contained
        in the former." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 115)

        By drawing on all four accounts, we can at least discern some basic
        characteristics regarding Joseph. The key passages are listed below:

        Mat 27:57/60 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from
        Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
        Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be
        given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
        and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He
        rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
        (NIV)

        Mark 15:43/46 "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council,
        who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate
        and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
        already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already
        died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
        body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,
        wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then
        he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb." (NIV)

        Luke 23:50/55 "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the
        Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision
        and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting
        for the kingdom of
        God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down,
        wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one
        in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the
        Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from
        Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in
        it." (NIV)

        John 19:38/42 "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of
        Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he
        feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body
        away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited
        Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
        seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it,
        with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish
        burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a
        garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been
        laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb
        was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (NIV)

        As can be seen from the canonical texts, little detail is given
        regarding Joseph of Arimathea, other than details of his involvement in
        the burial of Christ. No occupation is given (although we are told that
        he was a "rich man"), nor is his age or personal description revealed
        (although Joseph of Arimathea is often depicted as an elderly man by the
        time of the crucifixion). Even his place of origin is obscure - although
        the Gospels identify that he was from the "Judean town of Arimathea",
        there was no town of that exact name at the time of Jesus' earthly life.
        Many scholars identify Arimathea with the town of "Ramathaim", mentioned
        in 1 Sam 1:1. Other scholars view that the modern city of Rentis
        (located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) is the ancient
        Arimathea. However, the reference to "Arimathea" remains obscure.

        Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea
        The table below shows the main characteristics regarding Joseph of
        Arimathea that can be gleaned from the Gospel accounts.

        Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

        Joseph was a rich man Mat 27:57
        He was from the Judean town of Arimathea (see map below) Mat 27:57; Luke
        23:51
        He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
        Joseph was probably a fairly influential man - he (boldly) asked Pilate
        for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58; Mark 15:43
        He was rich enough to own his own tomb Mat 27:60
        Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin Mark 15:43
        He was "waiting for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43
        He was a "a good and upright man" Luke 23:50
        He had not agreed to the Sanhedrin actions regarding Jesus Luke 23:51
        Joseph feared reprisals from the Jewish elders, so he was a secret
        disciple of Jesus John 19:38

        Involvement in the burial of Christ
        The most detailed canonical descriptions regarding Joseph have to do
        with his involvement in the burial of Christ. The table below captures
        the highlights of this involvement.

        He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
        Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58
        Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial by wrapping it in
        linen, along with 75 pounds of "myrrh and aloes" John 19:40 Jesus was
        buried according to Jewish burial customs John 19:40 Joseph placed the
        body in his own new tomb, located in a garden at the place where Jesus
        was crucified, and rolled a stone in front of it Mat 27:60; John 19:41

        Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?
        Through the ages, a theological debate has raged regarding whether
        Joseph of Arimathea was a coward, or saint. On the coward side, critics
        point out that Joseph, while being a disciple of Jesus, was afraid to
        announce so publicly "because he feared the Jews" (John 19:38). It
        appears to be just another case of a rich member of a ruling elite who
        is afraid to proclaim
        potentially socially unacceptable viewpoints, for fear of disturbing the
        status quo.

        The alternate view of Joseph seems to have a stronger backing. While
        Joseph may not have revealed his discipleship of Jesus during the
        earthly ministry of the Saviour, two acts would seem to strongly put him
        in the category of "defender of the faith":

        Joseph appears to have been one of (or perhaps the sole) member of the
        Sanhedrin "who had not consented to their decision and action" (Luke
        23:51) regarding the trial of Jesus

        Joseph bravely went to Pilate, boldly requesting the body of Jesus, and
        (with Nicodemus), buried the body according to Jewish burial customs.
        This was an amazingly brave act, because it should be remembered that
        during this time, all of the apostles had fled (except, possibly, John),
        and Peter had denied he even knew Christ. And yet Joseph, at the seeming
        low point in the earthly ministry of Christ, bravely and openly took
        care of Christ's body, risking possible censure from both the Romans and
        the Jewish elders. Commentator Dwight Moody discusses the bravery of
        Joseph in asking Pilate for the body:

        "I consider this was one of the sublimest, grandest acts that any man
        ever did. In that darkness and gloom - His disciples having all forsaken
        Him; Judas having sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; the chief
        apostle Peter having denied him with a curse, swearing that he never
        knew Him; the chief priests having found Him guilty of blasphemy; the
        council having condemned Him to death; and when there was a hiss going
        up to heaven over all Jerusalem - Joseph went right against the current,
        right against the influence of all his friends, and begged the body of
        Jesus." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 116)

        It is perhaps not a surprise to lean that St Joseph became the Patron
        Saint of Undertakers. His feast day is March 17 and March 27 on the
        Western Calendar and in the Orthodox Churches he has his feast day on
        July 31 and has a very special mention in the hymns for Good Friday and
        the Deposition of Christ's Body from the Cross.

        Non-Canonical Sources

        There are at least three non-canonical (apocryphal) references to Joseph
        of Arimathea which give additional (although not contradictory)
        information regarding Joseph's actions after the death and resurrection
        of Christ. Keep in mind that the early church father's did not consider
        these three sources to be authoritative enough to be included in the New
        Testament. On the other hand, they were not condemned by the early
        church fathers, either (they were not Gnostic texts, for example).

        The Gospel of Nicodemus
        Few scholars today view that this account was really written (or
        inspired) by Joseph's Sanhedrin colleague Nicodemus - some scholars
        would date it as late as the third century. (Gregory of Tours, writing
        in the 6th century, references this gospel). It is the major source of
        early, non-canonical information regarding Joseph of Arimathea.

        A summary of the references to Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus
        follows, with certain key passages printed verbatim.

        Joseph asks for the body of Christ from Pilate, embalms the body (with
        the help of Nicodemus), buries the body in a new tomb, and rolls a stone
        in front of the tomb (totally consistent with the Gospel accounts)

        The Jewish elders express anger at Joseph for burying the body of
        Christ. Joseph replies indignantly:

        "And likewise Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you
        angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put
        him in my new tomb, wrapping him in clean linen; and I have rolled a
        stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the
        just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have
        pierced him with a spear." ("Gospel of Nicodemus", translated by
        Alexander Walker, Esq.)

        The Jewish elders capture Joseph, and imprison him. A seal is placed on
        the door to the cell, and a guard is posted. Before being imprisoned,
        Joseph warns the elders:

        "The God whom you have hanged upon the cross, is able to deliver me out
        of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you." ("Gospel of
        Nicodemus", from "The Lost Books of the Bible", p. 75)

        When the elders return to the cell, the seal is still in place, but
        Joseph is gone. The elders later discover that Joseph has returned to
        Arimathea. The elders have a change of heart, and desire to have a more
        civil conversation with Joseph.

        The elders send a letter of apology to Joseph via seven of his friends

        Joseph travels back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders.
        The elders question Joseph on how he escaped. Joseph tells his story:

        "On the day of the Preparation, about the tenth hour, you shut me in,
        and I remained there the whole Sabbath in full. And when midnight came,
        as I was standing and praying, the house where you shut me in was hung
        up by the four corners, and there was a flashing of light in mine eyes.
        And I fell to the ground trembling. Then some one lifted me up from the
        place where I had fallen, and poured over me an abundance of water from
        the head even to the feet, and put round my nostrils the odour of a
        wonderful ointment, and rubbed my face with the water itself, as if
        washing me, and kissed me, and said to me, Joseph, fear not; but open
        thine eyes, and see who it is that speaks to thee. And looking, I saw
        Jesus; and being terrified, I thought it was a phantom. And with prayer
        and the commandments I spoke to him, and he spoke with me. And I said to
        him: Art thou Rabbi Elias? And he said to me: I am not Elias. And I
        said: Who art thou, my Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus, whose body
        thou didst beg from Pilate, and wrap in clean linen; and thou didst lay
        a napkin on my face, and didst lay me in thy new tomb, and roll a stone
        to the door of the tomb. Then I said to him that was speaking to me:
        Show me, Lord, where I laid thee. And he led me, and showed me the place
        where I laid him, and the linen which I had put on him, and the napkin
        which I had wrapped upon his face; and I knew that it was Jesus. And he
        took hold of me with his hand, and put me in the midst of my house
        though the gates were shut, and put me in my bed, and said to me: Peace
        to thee! And he kissed me, and said to me: For forty days go not out of
        thy house; for, lo, I go to my brethren into Galilee." ("Gospel of
        Nicodemus", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

        Joseph stresses to the elders (specifically mentioning Annas and
        Caiaphas) that Jesus has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

        Joseph says that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of
        Christ (compare to Mat 27:52/53). He specifically identifies the two
        sons of the high-priest Simeon (see Luke 2:25/35). Annas, Caiaphas,
        Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel (under whom Paul studied) travel to
        Arimathea to interview Charinus and Lenthius, sons of Simeon.

        As mentioned before, the account of Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus is
        not canonical, but it is (at least) plausible.

        The Narrative of Joseph
        Another apocryphal account of Joseph's interaction in the passion story
        appears in the "Narrative of Joseph". In basic outline, the story told
        in "The Narrative of Joseph" coincides with the account in "The Gospel
        of Nicodemus", with some interesting additions. The account starts with
        the words:

        "I am Joseph of Arimathea, who begged from Pilate the body of the Lord
        Jesus for burial, and who for this cause was kept close in prison by the
        murderous and God-fighting Jews..." ("The Narrative of Joseph",
        translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

        The narrative then goes on to discuss the fate of the two robbers that
        were crucified with Jesus on Golgotha. Joseph refers to them as Gestas
        and Demas. It also gives an alternative version of the betrayal of Jesus
        by Judas (identified as the son of the brother of Caiaphas), and the
        trial of Jesus.

        Also:

        The description of the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph by the Jewish
        elders is told. As in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph receives a visit
        in the jail cell from Christ, who saves him from the prison. The saved
        robber (Demas) is with Jesus.

        Joseph spends three days with Jesus in Galilee

        The narrative ends with the words:

        "And I, having seen these things, have written them down, in order that
        all may believe in the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord, and may no
        longer obey the law of Moses, but may believe in the signs and wonders
        that have happened through Him, and in order that we who have believed
        may inherit eternal life, and be found in the kingdom of the heavens.
        For to Him are due glory, strength, praise, and majesty for ever and
        ever. Amen." ("The Narrative of Joseph", translated by Alexander Walker,
        Esq.)

        The Passing of Mary
        A third non-canonical source, entitled "The Passing of Mary" is also
        attributed to Joseph. Joseph appears as an attendant of Mary, Mother of
        Jesus, and is present at her falling asleep and her ascension into
        heaven (which is described in great detail). Joseph is not identified as
        the author until the last paragraph:

        "I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him
        rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of
        the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin
        Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which
        came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above
        were done by the judgement of God. And I have made known to all, Jews
        and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my
        ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them." ("The
        Passing of Mary", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

        Legendary Accounts

        While Joseph of Arimathea is a fairly minor character in the canonical
        Gospels (and even in the non-canonical sources), he achieves superstar
        status in later legendary accounts, most of which date to the Middle
        Ages. In Medieval legend, Joseph is, variously, the founder of the first
        Christian Church in England, the keeper of the Holy Grail, the uncle of
        Mary Mother of Jesus, and the ancestor of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and
        Sir Galahad. No Biblical figure (other than Christ) equalled the amount
        of popular press attention given to Joseph of Arimathea during the
        Middle Ages. A look at the primary legends follows.

        Founder of the first Christian Church in England
        The most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea regards his
        foundation of the first Christian Church in England at Glastonbury, in
        the first century (37 A.D. or 63 A.D., depending on the source). The
        traditional view of the Christianization of England is that it didn't
        occur until the missionary efforts of St. Augustine late in the 6th
        century (other legends discuss a missionary journey to England in the
        2nd-century, by Faganus and Deruvianus).

        The distinction between the Arimathean legend and the traditional
        Augustine view is a significant one - if Joseph really did bring
        Christianity to England as early as 37 A.D., it means that Christianity
        in England predates Christianity in other Western European nations such
        as Spain and France - and may even pre-date the establishment of
        Christianity in Rome itself.


        There are two basic types of sources concerning the legends connecting
        Joseph of Arimathea to England in general, and Glastonbury
        specifically - histories, and Medieval (and later) literature. We'll
        examine entries from both types of sources in this discussion.

        The basic legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea, and the establishment of
        the first Christian Church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England goes
        something like this:

        In the year 63 A.D. (or, possibly, earlier) Joseph is sent by the
        Apostle Philip from Gaul to England, with 11 (or 12, in some accounts)
        disciples, one of whom is his son Josephes

        Joseph lands in the British west country (Somerset), and is granted some
        land on the Island of Yniswitrin ("Isle of Glass") by a local King,
        Arviragus

        He places his staff in the ground on Weary-All hill, and a hawthorn bush
        (the "Holy Thorn") grows on the spot, and it still grows there today,
        blossoming in a strange manner every year at the feast of the Nativity
        in midwinter.

        Joseph & his followers create an ascetic community

        At the bidding of the archangel Gabriel, they build a church of daub and
        wattle in honour of the Blessed Mary, 31 years after the resurrection of
        Christ. The church is built on the site that will later become the great
        Benedictine monastery of Glastonbury (Glastonbury Abbey is also
        associated with being the burial place of King Arthur).

        After the death of King Arviragus, his son and grandson (Coillus and
        Marius, respectively) grant 12 additional hides of land (about 120 acres
        per hide) to Joseph and his followers

        Joseph brought with him (variously) two cruets "filled with blood and
        sweat of the prophet Jesus", collected when Joseph took Jesus down from
        the cross, or the Cup from the Last Supper (a.k.a. the Holy Grail, or
        the Sangreal)

        After the death of Joseph and his followers, the site is abandoned, but
        the church remains standing, to later be restored (possibly, in 170 A.D.
        by legendary missionaries from Rome Faganus and Deruvianus)



        "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are records of facts;
        but the existence of those legends is a very great fact." - E.A. Freeman
        ("Avalonian Quest", p. 131)

        So, is there any historical evidence to back up the aforementioned
        legends? There is, but much of it is disputed.

        First, is there any early evidence that Britain was evangelized in the
        Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century? Various Early
        Church Fathers are quoted to make this claim, including Irenaeus (c.
        125 - 189 A.D.), Eusebius (260 - 340 A.D.), St. Hilary of Poitiers
        (300 - 367 A.D.), and Origin (185 - 254 A.D.). One reference that seems
        especially relevant is by Tertullian (155 - 222 A.D.):

        "All the limits of the Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and
        the haunts of the Britons - inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated
        to Christ, and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and
        Scythians, and of many remote nations, and of provinces and islands
        many, to us unknown, and which we can scarce enumerate. In all which
        places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns, as of Him
        before whom the gates of all cities have been opened, and to whom none
        are closed, before whom iron bars have been crumbled, and brazen gates
        opened." - Tertullian, "An Answer to the Jews" ("The Anti-Nicene Fathers
        Volume 3", p. 296)

        The above passage would seem to clearly indicate that Britain had been
        "subjugated to Christ" long before the papal mission of St. Augustine in
        597 A.D. (one of the traditional dates for the foundation of
        Christianity in Britain).

        An early British reference to the possibility of 1st century
        Christianization of Britain comes from a 6th century monk/historian
        named Gildas the Wise (500? - 572? A.D.), who reportedly spent some
        years at Glastonbury Abbey:

        "These islands received the beams of light - that is, the holy precepts
        of Christ - the true Sun, as we know, at the latter part of the reign of
        Tiberius Caesar, in whose time this religion was propagated without
        impediment and death threatened to those who interfered with its
        professors." - "De Excidio Britanniae" ("The Ruin and Conquest of
        Britain") (Matthews, p. 87)

        As Tiberius Caesar died in 37 A.D., this reference places Christianity
        in Britain even before the typical 63 A.D. date assigned in the
        Arimathean legends!

        So where does Joseph come into the picture? There may be a reference as
        early as the 6th century, from a "bard" named Melkin (or, variously,
        Melchinus or Maelgwn). If a source document of this reference existed,
        it would provide strong evidence linking Joseph to England. Alas, the
        first existing reference to the Melkin document is in a 14th century
        document written by monk John of Glastonbury. Here are the relevant
        parts of Melkin's "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis". Note that Avalon is
        traditionally connected with Glastonbury:

        "Avalon's island...
        Amid there Joseph in marble,
        Of Arimathea by name,
        Hath found perpetual sleep:
        He lies in a two-forked [bifurcated] line
        Next the south corner of an oratory
        Fashioned of wattles
        For the adorning of a mighty virgin
        By the aforementioned sphere-betokened
        Dwellers in that place, thirteen in all.
        For Joseph hath with him
        In his sarcophagus
        Two cruets, white and silver,
        Filled with blood and sweat
        Of the prophet Jesus." (Matthews, p. 67/68)

        If we can be comfortable that this document actually existed (and wasn't
        a literary creation of John of Glastonbury), it establishes several key
        points, from a 6th-century source:

        Joseph came to Avalon (Glastonbury) with 12 followers

        An oratory made of wattles was created, and was dedicated to Mary,
        Mother of Jesus

        Joseph had with him two cruets, "filled with blood and sweat of the
        prophet Jesus"

        The legend assumes more form by the 12th century writings of historian
        William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - 1143 A.D.), who, in two books, wrote
        much of the history of Glastonbury Abbey. In his "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
        ("Acts of the Kings of the English"), William comments about the "Old
        Church" in Glastonbury:

        "The church of which we are speaking - from its antiquity called by the
        Angles, by way of distinction 'Ealde Chiche', that is the 'Old Church'
        of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even
        from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country,
        claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean..." (Lewis,
        p. 68)

        While William stops short of linking the "Old Church" with Joseph of
        Arimathea, or even the first century, he does verify its antiquity, and
        the fact that the original church was built of wattle. William goes on
        to suggest that the Old Church was built in the second century by the
        missionaries Faganus and Deruvianus, but adds the following comment:

        "There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in
        certain places to the following effect: 'No other hands than those of
        the disciples of Christ erected the Church of Glastonbury'. Nor is it
        dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the
        Gauls, as Freculfus relates in the fourth chapter of his seventh book,
        it may be believed that he planted the word on this side of the channel
        also." ("King Arthur's Avalon", Ashe, p. 42)

        In the above passage, the possibility of 1st century erection of the Old
        Church by the "disciples of Christ" is mentioned, as well as the
        possibility that the Apostle Philip sent missionaries from Gaul.



        William of Malmesbury came to the great Medieval Abbey of Glastonbury
        early in the 12th century to research his books "The Acts of the Kings
        of the English", and "The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"

        Several years after William wrote "The Acts of the Kings of the
        English", he wrote a second book which was dedicated to telling the
        history of Glastonbury Abbey. The book was called "De Antiquitate
        Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" ("The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"),
        and here is yet another blazing controversy - the earliest extant copy
        of this document (written c. 1130) dates to approximately 1240 A.D. The
        passages below, which give the first detailed history of Joseph and the
        establishment of the church at Glastonbury, were added as an
        introductory chapter written in another hand. So, this is either the
        definitive history of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles, written
        by the prominent and respected historian William of Malmesbury, or a
        later interpolation by an unknown author!

        "St. Philip...coming into the country of the Franks to preach, converted
        many to the Faith and baptized them. Working to spread Christ's word, he
        chose twelve from among his disciples, and sent them into Britain. Their
        leader, it is said, was Philip's dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea,
        who buried the Lord.

        Coming therefore into Britain 63 years from the Incarnation of the Lord,
        and 15 from the Assumption of Blessed Mary, they began faithfully to
        preach the Faith of Christ. But the barbaric king and his people,
        hearing such novel and unaccustomed things, absolutely refused to
        consent to their preaching, neither did he wish to change the traditions
        of his ancestors, yet, because they came from far, and merely required a
        modest competence for their life, at their request he granted them a
        certain island, surrounded by woods, thickets and marshes, called by the
        inhabitants Ynys-witrin...

        Thereupon the said twelve saints residing in this desert, were in a very
        short time warned by a vision of the angel Gabriel to build a church in
        honour of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary in a place shown to
        them from heaven, and they, quick to obey the divine precepts, completed
        a certain chapel according to what had been shown them...

        And as it was the first in the kingdom, God's Son distinguished it with
        greater dignity by dedicating it in honour of his Mother...

        The said saints continued to live in the same hermitage for many years,
        and were at last liberated from the prison of the flesh. The place then
        began to be a covert for wild beats - the spot which had before been the
        habitation of saints - until the Blessed Virgin was pleased to recall
        her house of prayer to the memory of the faithful..." ("Avalonian
        Quest", Ashe, p. 56)

        As can be seen, most of the basic legend of Joseph in the British Isles
        is contained in this (possibly interpolated) passage from "De
        Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae". Only the legend of the Grail (see
        next section), and the Glastonbury Holy Thorn is missing.

        The next major chronicler of the Joseph legends was 14th century monk
        John (Seen) of Glastonbury, who seemingly gathered all of the extant
        sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey, and
        published them in one book, entitled "Cronica sive Antiquitates
        Glastoniensis Ecclesie" ("Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
        Glastonbury"). A sample:

        "In the fifteenth year after this he went to St. Philip in Gaul, taking
        with him Josephes, whom the Lord had consecrated a bishop in the city of
        Sarath...Then the apostle, desiring that the word of God should be
        spread abroad, sent twelve of his disciples to preach in Britain,
        placing at their head his favourite disciple Joseph of Arimathea,
        together with his son Josephes..." (Matthews, p. 69)

        It was John, you'll recall, that published the 6th century Melkin poem
        that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ.
        The Grail has not yet made its way into the story.

        The last part of the basic legend (sans the Grail, which deserves its
        own section) regards a hawthorn bush which grows in Glastonbury, now
        called the Holy Thorn. The bush (or tree, really) has the interesting
        property of blooming twice a year - in May, and at Christmas time! The
        type of thorn ("crataegus oxyacantha praecox"), seems to be native to
        Syria. Like many
        other things in Glastonbury, the tree is an unexplained anomaly.

        The Holy Thorn isn't connected to the Joseph legend until the publishing
        of a 1520 anonymous poem (published by Richard Pynson, the royal
        printer), entitled "The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia". While the poem
        discusses the hawthorn and its properties, the story of it growing from
        Joseph's staff is missing. (Note: this poem also refers to Joseph
        bringing two cruets with him, containing the blood of Christ - "Thys
        blode in two cruettes/Joseph dyd take". No Cup from the Last Supper,
        yet).

        In 1677, a Dr. Plot refers to the thorn, and ascribes its planting to
        Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, in 1716, the full story of Joseph placing
        his staff on a hill at Glastonbury ("Wirral Hill", because Joseph and
        his companions were "Weary-All"), and having the thorn grow on the spot
        is published.

        The original thorn was destroyed by Puritan fanatics during the English
        Civil War, but cuttings from the original have grown into trees in both
        Glastonbury, and other parts of England. And they continue to bloom at
        approximately Christmas each year.

        The claim of England as the first Christianised Western country was
        taken quite seriously in the middle ages. The claim was advanced at four
        church councils: the Council of Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Sienna
        (1424) and Basle (1434). Glastonbury was known as "Roma Secunda" in some
        circles during the Middle Ages, and four pilgrimages to Glastonbury were
        counted as one to Rome to venerate the Apostles Peter and Paul.

        Queen Elizabeth II, in 1965, erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with
        the following inscription:

        "The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II
        marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its
        origin."


        Joseph and the Holy Grail

        Perhaps the most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea - his
        connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, or the Holy Grail - is
        even harder to pin down than the other parts of the Joseph-in-England
        legends. There is no reference connecting Joseph to the Cup from the
        Last Supper in either the canonical Gospels, the non-canonical sources
        ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), or the historical
        sources (William of Malmesbury, Melkin, John of Glastonbury).

        If one accepts the validity of the aforementioned 6th-century document
        by Melkin entitled "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis", as translated by
        John of Glastonbury in the 14th century, Joseph is early identified, not
        with the Cup from the Last Supper, but rather:

        For Joseph hath with him
        In his sarcophagus
        Two cruets, white and silver,
        Filled with blood and sweat
        Of the prophet Jesus. (Matthews, p. 67/68)

        The references connecting Joseph to the Holy Grail (and the later
        Arthurian-era quests for said Grail) are all from Medieval and later
        romances and literature. Thus, from a historical standpoint, they are
        the most difficult to verify.

        The Medieval romances in question all have to do with one basic topic -
        the stories of King Arthur, and his band of chivalrous knights. Joseph
        of Arimathea comes into the stories as a key character, because of one
        of the greatest subplots in the Arthurian epics - the quest for the Holy
        Grail.

        There is great argument over exactly what the Holy Grail is - a cup? a
        chalice? a stone? There are also learned treatises on the possibility
        that the model for the Holy Grail predates Christianity. However, many
        of the Medieval romances squarely associate the Holy Grail with the Cup
        from the Last Supper of Christ, and further identify that it was Joseph
        of Arimathea that brought the Cup to England in the first place
        (otherwise, there wouldn't have been anything in England for Arthur and
        his knights to search for!)

        The first major romance that explicitly links Joseph to the Grail is
        Robert de Boron's (or Borron) "Joseph d'Arimathie" (c. 1190). Robert de
        Boron seems to start with the account from the Gospel of Nicodemus, and
        then adds his own slant to the story. Essentially:

        After Jesus is stabbed with the spear on the cross, Joseph captures some
        of the blood of Jesus in the Cup from the Last Supper (the Holy Grail)

        Joseph is imprisoned, and is taught the mysteries of the Grail by Christ
        himself

        Joseph spends 42 years in prison, and is released by Vespasian (!)

        Joseph and a group of fellow Christians travel to an unspecified foreign
        country. Joseph builds a table symbolic of the table used at the Last
        Supper. The place for Judas is kept empty - it will be filled someday by
        a descendent of one of the companions of Joseph (Brons). (In later
        romances, this seat will be called "The Siege Perilous", and will be
        occupied by Sir
        Galahad).

        A companion of Joseph (Petrus) travels to the "Vales of Avaron" (which,
        for the purposes of this discussion, is assumed to refer to
        Avalon-Glastonbury) to prepare a place for the Grail

        The Grail as the "Ark of the New Covenant"

        Other Medieval romances with similar themes include:

        "Grand Saint Grail" (c. 1200)

        "Parzival", by Wolram von Eschenbach (c. 1207)

        "Qeuste del Saint Graal (The Vulgate Cycle)" (c. 1210). In this account,
        the character of Sir Galahad appears for the first time.

        Galahad is identified in various romances as being descendent from
        Joseph of Arimathea (through his father, Sir Lancelot). Galahad is the
        only truly pure knight in the world, and is the only knight that can
        occupy the "Siege Perilous" on Arthur's Round Table. He is the only
        knight that completely attains the Grail.

        "Perlesvaus" (1225)

        "Le Morte D'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur"), by Sir Thomas Mallory
        (published 1485)

        As "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the most well-known of the English versions of
        the Arthurian romances, I've compiled several quotes that refer to
        Joseph:

        "And here followeth the noble tale of the Sangreal, that called is the
        holy vessel; and the signification of the blessed blood of our Lord Jesu
        Christ, blessed mote it be, the which was brought in to this land by
        Joseph of Aramathie." - Introduction to Book 13 (Mallory, p. 370)

        "...it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty-two year
        that Joseph of Aramathie the gentle knight, the which took down our Lord
        off the holy Cross, at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great
        party of his kindred with him...And so by fortune they came into this
        land, that at that time was called Great Britian...And after that all
        the people were turned to the Christian faith." (Mallory, p. 380)

        "...ye have heard much of Joseph of Aramathie, how he was sent by Jesu
        Christ into this land to teach and preach the holy Christian faith...and
        ever he was busy to be there as the Sangreal was..." (Mallory, p. 393)

        "And therewithal beseemed them that there came a man, and four angels
        from heaven, clothed in likeness of a bishop, and had a cross in his
        hand; and these four angels bare him in a chair, and set him down before
        the table of silver whereupon the Sangreal was; and it seemed that he
        had in middes of his forehead letters the which said, See ye here Joseph
        the first bishop of Christendom...Then the nights marvelled, for that
        Bishop was dead more than three hundred year tofore. O knights, said he,
        marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man." (Mallory, p. 442)

        Note that Mallory is not at all shy about proclaiming that Joseph is
        "the first bishop of Christendom"!

        Another famous literary reference that links Joseph to the Grail is from
        Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1859 "Idylls of the King" (idylls means "poems"
        or "songs"):

        ...What is it?
        The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?

        Nay, monk! what phantom? answer'd Percivale.
        The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
        Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
        This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
        After the day of darkness, when the dead
        Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
        Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
        To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
        Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord,
        And there awhile it bode; and if a man
        Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
        By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
        Grew to such evil that the holy cup
        Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.

        To whom the monk: "From our old books I know
        That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
        And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
        Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
        And there he built with wattles from the marsh
        A lonely church in the days of yore...

        Notice that by the 19th century, not only was the Cup closely associated
        with Joseph (and Glastonbury), but also the hawthorn bush that blooms at
        Christmas time. Also of note in Tennyson' poem is the reference to "From
        our old books I know..." Most Medieval references to Joseph, whether
        from histories or literature, claim to have received the basis of the
        story from old or ancient books. Perhaps the most romantic such
        assignation comes from the anonymous 1225 A.D. epic "Perlesvaus":

        "The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in
        the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the
        head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen
        Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that
        are therein, that have the whole history thereof." ("King Arthur's
        Avalon", p. 201)

        There is a well at Glastonbury named "Chalice Well". Some esoteric
        legends say that Joseph placed the Cup somewhere in the depths of the
        well. The well is a curious place - 25,000 gallons of red-tinted water
        pass through the well area per day. The red tint, caused by a high iron
        content, caused the Well to at one time be called the "Blood Spring", or
        the "Blood Well", seemingly in reference to the Blood of Christ.



        The legends associating Joseph with the Grail seem weaker, and harder to
        grasp hold of, than the legends regarding his establishment of the first
        Christian church in England, at Glastonbury. The Joseph/Grail connection
        are not mentioned in any early histories, and first appear in 12th
        century romances. However, if the 6th-century Melkin account is accepted
        as
        legitimate, Joseph is, at least, early-on associated with bringing some
        kind of container ("two cruets") containing the blood of Christ with him
        to Glastonbury.

        So could Joseph have ended up with the Cup from the Last Supper? Could
        he have had in his possession drops of the blood of Christ? Certainly,
        the Gospels identify Joseph as a disciple (although not apostle) of
        Christ, and he is also identified as having taken down the body of
        Christ from the cross, and preparing it for burial. Assumedly, Joseph
        would have come in contact with Christ's blood - remember, Christ was
        speared on the cross, and bled:

        John 19:34 "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a
        spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (NIV)

        Thus, while the idea that Joseph could have had in his possession the
        Cup and/or a container with Christ's blood is not implausible, there is
        no early source to verify this legend.

        The table below traces the sources of the various legends regarding
        Joseph and his connection with England. Romances and other literary
        works are indicated in red.

        Tracing the legends

        Source
        Date
        Notes

        Tertullian - An Answer to the Jews 193/216 A.D.
        Britain was already "subjugated to Christ" in the late 2nd century

        Melkin the Bard 6th century?
        Quoted by John of Glastonbury

        Joseph & 12 followers in Avalon

        Wattled oratory

        Two cruets with blood and sweat of Christ

        Gildas Ruin and Conquest of Britain c. 540
        Britain received "the holy precepts of Christ...at the latter part of
        the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (!)

        William of Malmesbury - Acts of the Kings of the English c. 1125
        The Old Church, "of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly
        sanctity even from its very foundation"

        Mentions the possibility of foundation by the disciples of Christ, sent
        by the Apostle Philip

        William of Malmesbury - The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury
        c.1130
        Story of Faganus & Deruvianus, papal envoys, in 170 A.D. as builders
        of the Old Church

        Joseph referred to in a preface, written in another hand, dating to c.
        1240.
        Almost the whole Joseph/Glastonbury legend is contained here, except
        for the Cup, and the hawthorn

        Robert de Boron - Joseph d'Arimathie c. 1190
        Joseph as keeper of the Cup from the Last Supper (The Holy Grail)

        The Cup brought to the "Vales of Avaron"

        John of Glastonbury - Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
        Glastonbury 14th century
        Gathered all extant sources together to produce a book on Joseph

        Joseph as an ancestor of King Arthur

        Quotes Melkin manuscript ("two cruets") - no mention of the Grail

        Joseph is an attendant of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and is present at her
        ascension

        Thomas Mallory - Le Morte D'Arthur 1485
        Most famous English Arthurian romance

        Joseph as "first bishop of Christendom"

        The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia 1520
        Connects the Holy Thorn with Joseph
        Alfred Tennyson - Idylls of the King 1859
        Directly states that Joseph brought the Cup to Glastonbury

        And did those feet in ancient times...

        There is one more legend associated with Joseph of Arimathea that should
        be briefly explored, if for no other reason than its popularity. This is
        the legend that Joseph brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
        one or more times. This legend can't be directly traced to early
        histories or Medieval romances, although it appears that William Blake
        refers to it in his famous poem "Jerusalem" (see below).

        The Bible is, of course, rather mysterious about the events that
        happened in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he
        began his ministry). As a result, many people have attempted on their
        own to define what happened in those lost years. India, North America,
        and England have all been posited as possibilities for where Jesus might
        have traveled as a
        youth/young adult. The Biblical references usually quoted to set the
        stage for theories regarding the travels of Jesus between the ages of 12
        and 30 include:

        Luke 4:16/22 - Jesus preaches in Nazareth, where he doesn't seem
        immediately known, thus giving the impression that he had been away for
        a long time.

        John 1:29/31 - John the Baptist, although a relative of Jesus, seems not
        to recognize him when they meet in the river Jordan, thus causing some
        people to think that Jesus had been absent from Israel for a long time.

        John 1:29/31 "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
        "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the
        one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me
        because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I
        came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
        (NIV)

        The legends connecting Jesus and Joseph with Cornwall/Somerset go
        something like this:

        There is a tradition preserved in the Orthodox Churches that Joseph was
        the Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

        Further tradition states that Joseph was a merchant in the tin trade
        that flourished between the west coast of England, and Europe and the
        Mediterranean

        On one or more occasions, the legends state that Joseph brought his
        grandnephew Jesus with him on business trips to the mines in
        Cornwall/Somerset

        On one of those trips, Jesus and Joseph built the church in Glastonbury
        (later to be used by Joseph and his followers after the death and
        resurrection of Jesus). Jesus dedicated the church to his Mother (the
        niece of Joseph of Arimathea).

        As stated earlier, there are no direct early historical, or even
        literary references to these legends. The earliest reference of any kind
        may be in William Blake's famous poem, "Jerusalem", which is now a
        much-loved hymn in England (watch the last 10 minutes of the movie
        "Chariots of Fire" to hear it sung):

        Jerusalem

        And did those feet in ancient times
        Walk upon England's mountains green?
        And was the Holy Lamb of God
        On England's pleasant pastures seen?
        And did the Countenance Divine
        Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
        And was Jerusalem builded here
        Among those dark Satanic mills?

        Bring me my bow of burning gold!
        Bring me my arrows of desire!
        Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
        Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
        I will not cease from mental fight,
        Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
        Till I have built Jerusalem
        In England's green and pleasant land.

        - William Blake, 1757-1827

        There is some background and indirect evidence that just prevent the
        legend from being totally implausible:

        There is no question that there were tin mines in Western Britain in the
        early first century. And there is no question that the tin was traded
        with other parts of the Continent. (For example: Greek historian
        Herodotus (5th century B.C.)) refers to the tin trade in the "Isles of
        the West" (Capt, p.23))

        Proponents of the legend point to several place names in
        Cornwall/Somerset that have Jewish names, or that refer directly to
        Christ ("Jesus Well", "Penzance" ("Holy Headland") etc.)

        There are several ancient references that claim that the church at
        Glastonbury was either built by God himself, or dedicated to Mary,
        Mother of Jesus by Jesus himself. Some examples include:

        "There is on the confines of western Britain a certain royal island,
        called in the ancient speech Glastonia...In it the earliest neophytes of
        the christian way of life, God guiding them, found a church, not built
        by the art of man, they say, but prepared by God himself for the
        salvation of mankind, which church the heavenly Builder himself
        declared - by many miracles and many mysteries of healing - he had
        consecrated to himself and to holy Mary, Mother of God." - from "Life of
        St. Dunstan", c. 1000 ("Avalonian Quest", p.23)

        "...the Son of God was pleased to grace it with particular dignity,
        dedicating it Himself in honour of His Mother..." - from the possibly
        interpolated c. 1240 edition of "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis
        Ecclesiae", by William of Malmesbury (Matthews, p. 97)

        "The church of which we are speaking...savoured somewhat of heavenly
        sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole
        country, claiming superior reverence, though the structure was
        mean..." - "Acts of the Kings of the English", by William of Malmesbury
        (Lewis, p. 68)

        Proponents of the legend also point to the mysterious stone on the south
        side of the Old Church (St. Mary's Chapel), which says "Jesus Maria".

        Conclusions

        Joseph of Arimathea remains an enigmatic character. While he appears to
        be a fairly minor player in the canonical Gospels, he, not Mary, Mother
        of Jesus, not Mary Magdalen, and not any of the apostles, is entrusted
        with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross, respectfully preparing
        him for burial, and donating a tomb for the body. These facts would seem
        to speak of some special significance accorded to Joseph's role as a
        disciple of Christ, and suppoert the Orthodox belief that he was the
        uncle of Mary.

        That being said, Joseph seems an unlikely character to have become one
        of the centerpieces of the Medieval literary craze which became the
        Arthurian legends. Likewise, he seems an unlikely character to create a
        story around as the founder of the Christian church in England. Why not
        pick Paul, or Philip, or another better known disciple than Joseph of
        Arimathea, if one was going to make up the story?

        So, are the stories and legends true? In my personal opinion - The idea
        that Joseph brought a small band of followers to Britain in the 1st
        century, and started a church at Glastonbury seems reasonably credible
        (although not absolutely provable). The idea that, as the undertaker of
        Jesus, he might have saved some drops of blood also seems, at least
        plausible (but again, not provable). The legends regarding Joseph's
        connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, the hawthorn bush at
        Glastonbury, and bringing the boy Jesus to Cornwall/Glastonbury seem (in
        decreasing order) less credible.

        However, I can speak quite personally that Glastonbury is a very eerie
        place, and if miracles could occur anywhere in the world, I could
        believe that they could occur there.

        Sources


        A Glastonbury Reader Compiled and edited by John Matthews The Aquarian
        Press 1991

        The Arthurian Encyclopedia Norris J. Lacy, Editor Boydell Press 1986

        Avalonian Quest Geoffrey Ashe Fontana Paperbacks 1982

        Bible Characters Dwight Moody The Sage Digital Library 1996

        Holman Bible Dictionary for Windows Parsons Technology 1994

        Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson American Book Company 1915

        King Arthur's Avalon - The Story of Glastonbury Geoffrey Ashe Barnes &
        Noble 1992

        Le Morte D'Arthur Sir Thomas Mallory Harrison House 1985

        St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury Lionel Smithett Lewis James
        Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1922

        The Traditions of Glastonbury E. Raymond Capt M.A. Artisan Sales 1983

        The Lost Books of the Bible Bell Publishing Co. 1979

        The Anti-Nicene Fathers Volumes 3 & 8 Edited by A. Roberts and J
        Donaldson The Sage Digital Library 1996

        The Grail - Quest for the Eternal John Matthews Thames and Hudson 1981

        PC Bible Atlas for Windows Parsons Technology 1994
        ________________________________________


        St. Mary's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

        Copyright 1997 by Robert C. Jones

        This material may be reprinted free of charge for use by non-profit
        church groups, as long as the author and copyright information is
        retained.
      • emrys@globe.net.nz
        Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
        Message 3 of 14 , Jul 29, 2005
        • 0 Attachment
          Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

          =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
          * St. Joseph of Arimathea
          =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

          Saint Joseph of Arimathea
          Biblical & Legendary Accounts
          by Robert Jones

          This essay may be read on line at
          http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


          Table of Contents
          Introduction

          Canonical Sources

          Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

          Involvement in the burial of Christ

          Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

          Non-Canonical Sources

          The Gospel of Nicodemus

          The Narrative of Joseph

          The Passing of Mary

          Legendary Accounts

          Founder of the first Christian Church in England

          Joseph and the Holy Grail

          And did those feet in ancient times...

          Conclusions

          Sources

          About the author
          _________________________

          Introduction
          Joseph of Arimathea is one of the more mysterious figures in the New
          Testament. He is mentioned briefly, by all four of the evangelists, and
          yet we glean little about him from the Gospel accounts.

          "Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy". ("Homilies of
          St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John")

          Yet, while little is written about Joseph in the Gospels themselves, he
          was a popular figure in both apocryphal (non-canonical ) accounts
          ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), and in numerous
          medieval Arthurian epics, including Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur", and
          Robert de Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathie".

          In legend, Joseph is a quite remarkable figure - his exploits (in
          various accounts) include:

          Founder of the first Christian Church in England

          Keeper of the Holy Grail, the Cup from the Last Supper of Christ

          Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

          Merchant involved in the tin trade between the West coast of England,
          and the Mediterranean - took the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
          in England sometime between the ages of 12 and 30

          Ancestor of Sir Lancelot & Sir Galahad of Arthurian fame

          This booklet will examine the life of Joseph from canonical,
          non-canonical (apocryphal), and legendary sources. No claims are made as
          to the authenticity of the latter two, but the mere fact of their
          existence adds to the mystery of Joseph of Arimathea.

          Canonical Sources

          Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four evangelists, in generally
          consistent accounts. Bible commentator Dwight Moody notes:

          "Read the four accounts given, in the four Gospels, of Joseph of
          Arimathea. There is very seldom anything mentioned by all four of the
          Evangelists. If Matthew and Mark refer to an event, it is omitted by
          Luke and John; and, if it occur in the latter, it may not be contained
          in the former." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 115)

          By drawing on all four accounts, we can at least discern some basic
          characteristics regarding Joseph. The key passages are listed below:

          Mat 27:57/60 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from
          Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
          Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be
          given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
          and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He
          rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
          (NIV)

          Mark 15:43/46 "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council,
          who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate
          and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
          already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already
          died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
          body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,
          wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then
          he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb." (NIV)

          Luke 23:50/55 "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the
          Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision
          and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting
          for the kingdom of
          God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down,
          wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one
          in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the
          Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from
          Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in
          it." (NIV)

          John 19:38/42 "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of
          Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he
          feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body
          away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited
          Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
          seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it,
          with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish
          burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a
          garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been
          laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb
          was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (NIV)

          As can be seen from the canonical texts, little detail is given
          regarding Joseph of Arimathea, other than details of his involvement in
          the burial of Christ. No occupation is given (although we are told that
          he was a "rich man"), nor is his age or personal description revealed
          (although Joseph of Arimathea is often depicted as an elderly man by the
          time of the crucifixion). Even his place of origin is obscure - although
          the Gospels identify that he was from the "Judean town of Arimathea",
          there was no town of that exact name at the time of Jesus' earthly life.
          Many scholars identify Arimathea with the town of "Ramathaim", mentioned
          in 1 Sam 1:1. Other scholars view that the modern city of Rentis
          (located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) is the ancient
          Arimathea. However, the reference to "Arimathea" remains obscure.

          Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea
          The table below shows the main characteristics regarding Joseph of
          Arimathea that can be gleaned from the Gospel accounts.

          Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

          Joseph was a rich man Mat 27:57
          He was from the Judean town of Arimathea (see map below) Mat 27:57; Luke
          23:51
          He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
          Joseph was probably a fairly influential man - he (boldly) asked Pilate
          for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58; Mark 15:43
          He was rich enough to own his own tomb Mat 27:60
          Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin Mark 15:43
          He was "waiting for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43
          He was a "a good and upright man" Luke 23:50
          He had not agreed to the Sanhedrin actions regarding Jesus Luke 23:51
          Joseph feared reprisals from the Jewish elders, so he was a secret
          disciple of Jesus John 19:38

          Involvement in the burial of Christ
          The most detailed canonical descriptions regarding Joseph have to do
          with his involvement in the burial of Christ. The table below captures
          the highlights of this involvement.

          He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
          Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58
          Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial by wrapping it in
          linen, along with 75 pounds of "myrrh and aloes" John 19:40 Jesus was
          buried according to Jewish burial customs John 19:40 Joseph placed the
          body in his own new tomb, located in a garden at the place where Jesus
          was crucified, and rolled a stone in front of it Mat 27:60; John 19:41

          Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?
          Through the ages, a theological debate has raged regarding whether
          Joseph of Arimathea was a coward, or saint. On the coward side, critics
          point out that Joseph, while being a disciple of Jesus, was afraid to
          announce so publicly "because he feared the Jews" (John 19:38). It
          appears to be just another case of a rich member of a ruling elite who
          is afraid to proclaim
          potentially socially unacceptable viewpoints, for fear of disturbing the
          status quo.

          The alternate view of Joseph seems to have a stronger backing. While
          Joseph may not have revealed his discipleship of Jesus during the
          earthly ministry of the Saviour, two acts would seem to strongly put him
          in the category of "defender of the faith":

          Joseph appears to have been one of (or perhaps the sole) member of the
          Sanhedrin "who had not consented to their decision and action" (Luke
          23:51) regarding the trial of Jesus

          Joseph bravely went to Pilate, boldly requesting the body of Jesus, and
          (with Nicodemus), buried the body according to Jewish burial customs.
          This was an amazingly brave act, because it should be remembered that
          during this time, all of the apostles had fled (except, possibly, John),
          and Peter had denied he even knew Christ. And yet Joseph, at the seeming
          low point in the earthly ministry of Christ, bravely and openly took
          care of Christ's body, risking possible censure from both the Romans and
          the Jewish elders. Commentator Dwight Moody discusses the bravery of
          Joseph in asking Pilate for the body:

          "I consider this was one of the sublimest, grandest acts that any man
          ever did. In that darkness and gloom - His disciples having all forsaken
          Him; Judas having sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; the chief
          apostle Peter having denied him with a curse, swearing that he never
          knew Him; the chief priests having found Him guilty of blasphemy; the
          council having condemned Him to death; and when there was a hiss going
          up to heaven over all Jerusalem - Joseph went right against the current,
          right against the influence of all his friends, and begged the body of
          Jesus." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 116)

          It is perhaps not a surprise to lean that St Joseph became the Patron
          Saint of Undertakers. His feast day is March 17 and March 27 on the
          Western Calendar and in the Orthodox Churches he has his feast day on
          July 31 and has a very special mention in the hymns for Good Friday and
          the Deposition of Christ's Body from the Cross.

          Non-Canonical Sources

          There are at least three non-canonical (apocryphal) references to Joseph
          of Arimathea which give additional (although not contradictory)
          information regarding Joseph's actions after the death and resurrection
          of Christ. Keep in mind that the early church father's did not consider
          these three sources to be authoritative enough to be included in the New
          Testament. On the other hand, they were not condemned by the early
          church fathers, either (they were not Gnostic texts, for example).

          The Gospel of Nicodemus
          Few scholars today view that this account was really written (or
          inspired) by Joseph's Sanhedrin colleague Nicodemus - some scholars
          would date it as late as the third century. (Gregory of Tours, writing
          in the 6th century, references this gospel). It is the major source of
          early, non-canonical information regarding Joseph of Arimathea.

          A summary of the references to Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus
          follows, with certain key passages printed verbatim.

          Joseph asks for the body of Christ from Pilate, embalms the body (with
          the help of Nicodemus), buries the body in a new tomb, and rolls a stone
          in front of the tomb (totally consistent with the Gospel accounts)

          The Jewish elders express anger at Joseph for burying the body of
          Christ. Joseph replies indignantly:

          "And likewise Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you
          angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put
          him in my new tomb, wrapping him in clean linen; and I have rolled a
          stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the
          just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have
          pierced him with a spear." ("Gospel of Nicodemus", translated by
          Alexander Walker, Esq.)

          The Jewish elders capture Joseph, and imprison him. A seal is placed on
          the door to the cell, and a guard is posted. Before being imprisoned,
          Joseph warns the elders:

          "The God whom you have hanged upon the cross, is able to deliver me out
          of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you." ("Gospel of
          Nicodemus", from "The Lost Books of the Bible", p. 75)

          When the elders return to the cell, the seal is still in place, but
          Joseph is gone. The elders later discover that Joseph has returned to
          Arimathea. The elders have a change of heart, and desire to have a more
          civil conversation with Joseph.

          The elders send a letter of apology to Joseph via seven of his friends

          Joseph travels back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders.
          The elders question Joseph on how he escaped. Joseph tells his story:

          "On the day of the Preparation, about the tenth hour, you shut me in,
          and I remained there the whole Sabbath in full. And when midnight came,
          as I was standing and praying, the house where you shut me in was hung
          up by the four corners, and there was a flashing of light in mine eyes.
          And I fell to the ground trembling. Then some one lifted me up from the
          place where I had fallen, and poured over me an abundance of water from
          the head even to the feet, and put round my nostrils the odour of a
          wonderful ointment, and rubbed my face with the water itself, as if
          washing me, and kissed me, and said to me, Joseph, fear not; but open
          thine eyes, and see who it is that speaks to thee. And looking, I saw
          Jesus; and being terrified, I thought it was a phantom. And with prayer
          and the commandments I spoke to him, and he spoke with me. And I said to
          him: Art thou Rabbi Elias? And he said to me: I am not Elias. And I
          said: Who art thou, my Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus, whose body
          thou didst beg from Pilate, and wrap in clean linen; and thou didst lay
          a napkin on my face, and didst lay me in thy new tomb, and roll a stone
          to the door of the tomb. Then I said to him that was speaking to me:
          Show me, Lord, where I laid thee. And he led me, and showed me the place
          where I laid him, and the linen which I had put on him, and the napkin
          which I had wrapped upon his face; and I knew that it was Jesus. And he
          took hold of me with his hand, and put me in the midst of my house
          though the gates were shut, and put me in my bed, and said to me: Peace
          to thee! And he kissed me, and said to me: For forty days go not out of
          thy house; for, lo, I go to my brethren into Galilee." ("Gospel of
          Nicodemus", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

          Joseph stresses to the elders (specifically mentioning Annas and
          Caiaphas) that Jesus has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

          Joseph says that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of
          Christ (compare to Mat 27:52/53). He specifically identifies the two
          sons of the high-priest Simeon (see Luke 2:25/35). Annas, Caiaphas,
          Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel (under whom Paul studied) travel to
          Arimathea to interview Charinus and Lenthius, sons of Simeon.

          As mentioned before, the account of Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus is
          not canonical, but it is (at least) plausible.

          The Narrative of Joseph
          Another apocryphal account of Joseph's interaction in the passion story
          appears in the "Narrative of Joseph". In basic outline, the story told
          in "The Narrative of Joseph" coincides with the account in "The Gospel
          of Nicodemus", with some interesting additions. The account starts with
          the words:

          "I am Joseph of Arimathea, who begged from Pilate the body of the Lord
          Jesus for burial, and who for this cause was kept close in prison by the
          murderous and God-fighting Jews..." ("The Narrative of Joseph",
          translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

          The narrative then goes on to discuss the fate of the two robbers that
          were crucified with Jesus on Golgotha. Joseph refers to them as Gestas
          and Demas. It also gives an alternative version of the betrayal of Jesus
          by Judas (identified as the son of the brother of Caiaphas), and the
          trial of Jesus.

          Also:

          The description of the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph by the Jewish
          elders is told. As in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph receives a visit
          in the jail cell from Christ, who saves him from the prison. The saved
          robber (Demas) is with Jesus.

          Joseph spends three days with Jesus in Galilee

          The narrative ends with the words:

          "And I, having seen these things, have written them down, in order that
          all may believe in the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord, and may no
          longer obey the law of Moses, but may believe in the signs and wonders
          that have happened through Him, and in order that we who have believed
          may inherit eternal life, and be found in the kingdom of the heavens.
          For to Him are due glory, strength, praise, and majesty for ever and
          ever. Amen." ("The Narrative of Joseph", translated by Alexander Walker,
          Esq.)

          The Passing of Mary
          A third non-canonical source, entitled "The Passing of Mary" is also
          attributed to Joseph. Joseph appears as an attendant of Mary, Mother of
          Jesus, and is present at her falling asleep and her ascension into
          heaven (which is described in great detail). Joseph is not identified as
          the author until the last paragraph:

          "I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him
          rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of
          the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin
          Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which
          came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above
          were done by the judgement of God. And I have made known to all, Jews
          and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my
          ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them." ("The
          Passing of Mary", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

          Legendary Accounts

          While Joseph of Arimathea is a fairly minor character in the canonical
          Gospels (and even in the non-canonical sources), he achieves superstar
          status in later legendary accounts, most of which date to the Middle
          Ages. In Medieval legend, Joseph is, variously, the founder of the first
          Christian Church in England, the keeper of the Holy Grail, the uncle of
          Mary Mother of Jesus, and the ancestor of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and
          Sir Galahad. No Biblical figure (other than Christ) equalled the amount
          of popular press attention given to Joseph of Arimathea during the
          Middle Ages. A look at the primary legends follows.

          Founder of the first Christian Church in England
          The most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea regards his
          foundation of the first Christian Church in England at Glastonbury, in
          the first century (37 A.D. or 63 A.D., depending on the source). The
          traditional view of the Christianization of England is that it didn't
          occur until the missionary efforts of St. Augustine late in the 6th
          century (other legends discuss a missionary journey to England in the
          2nd-century, by Faganus and Deruvianus).

          The distinction between the Arimathean legend and the traditional
          Augustine view is a significant one - if Joseph really did bring
          Christianity to England as early as 37 A.D., it means that Christianity
          in England predates Christianity in other Western European nations such
          as Spain and France - and may even pre-date the establishment of
          Christianity in Rome itself.


          There are two basic types of sources concerning the legends connecting
          Joseph of Arimathea to England in general, and Glastonbury
          specifically - histories, and Medieval (and later) literature. We'll
          examine entries from both types of sources in this discussion.

          The basic legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea, and the establishment of
          the first Christian Church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England goes
          something like this:

          In the year 63 A.D. (or, possibly, earlier) Joseph is sent by the
          Apostle Philip from Gaul to England, with 11 (or 12, in some accounts)
          disciples, one of whom is his son Josephes

          Joseph lands in the British west country (Somerset), and is granted some
          land on the Island of Yniswitrin ("Isle of Glass") by a local King,
          Arviragus

          He places his staff in the ground on Weary-All hill, and a hawthorn bush
          (the "Holy Thorn") grows on the spot, and it still grows there today,
          blossoming in a strange manner every year at the feast of the Nativity
          in midwinter.

          Joseph & his followers create an ascetic community

          At the bidding of the archangel Gabriel, they build a church of daub and
          wattle in honour of the Blessed Mary, 31 years after the resurrection of
          Christ. The church is built on the site that will later become the great
          Benedictine monastery of Glastonbury (Glastonbury Abbey is also
          associated with being the burial place of King Arthur).

          After the death of King Arviragus, his son and grandson (Coillus and
          Marius, respectively) grant 12 additional hides of land (about 120 acres
          per hide) to Joseph and his followers

          Joseph brought with him (variously) two cruets "filled with blood and
          sweat of the prophet Jesus", collected when Joseph took Jesus down from
          the cross, or the Cup from the Last Supper (a.k.a. the Holy Grail, or
          the Sangreal)

          After the death of Joseph and his followers, the site is abandoned, but
          the church remains standing, to later be restored (possibly, in 170 A.D.
          by legendary missionaries from Rome Faganus and Deruvianus)



          "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are records of facts;
          but the existence of those legends is a very great fact." - E.A. Freeman
          ("Avalonian Quest", p. 131)

          So, is there any historical evidence to back up the aforementioned
          legends? There is, but much of it is disputed.

          First, is there any early evidence that Britain was evangelized in the
          Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century? Various Early
          Church Fathers are quoted to make this claim, including Irenaeus (c.
          125 - 189 A.D.), Eusebius (260 - 340 A.D.), St. Hilary of Poitiers
          (300 - 367 A.D.), and Origin (185 - 254 A.D.). One reference that seems
          especially relevant is by Tertullian (155 - 222 A.D.):

          "All the limits of the Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and
          the haunts of the Britons - inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated
          to Christ, and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and
          Scythians, and of many remote nations, and of provinces and islands
          many, to us unknown, and which we can scarce enumerate. In all which
          places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns, as of Him
          before whom the gates of all cities have been opened, and to whom none
          are closed, before whom iron bars have been crumbled, and brazen gates
          opened." - Tertullian, "An Answer to the Jews" ("The Anti-Nicene Fathers
          Volume 3", p. 296)

          The above passage would seem to clearly indicate that Britain had been
          "subjugated to Christ" long before the papal mission of St. Augustine in
          597 A.D. (one of the traditional dates for the foundation of
          Christianity in Britain).

          An early British reference to the possibility of 1st century
          Christianization of Britain comes from a 6th century monk/historian
          named Gildas the Wise (500? - 572? A.D.), who reportedly spent some
          years at Glastonbury Abbey:

          "These islands received the beams of light - that is, the holy precepts
          of Christ - the true Sun, as we know, at the latter part of the reign of
          Tiberius Caesar, in whose time this religion was propagated without
          impediment and death threatened to those who interfered with its
          professors." - "De Excidio Britanniae" ("The Ruin and Conquest of
          Britain") (Matthews, p. 87)

          As Tiberius Caesar died in 37 A.D., this reference places Christianity
          in Britain even before the typical 63 A.D. date assigned in the
          Arimathean legends!

          So where does Joseph come into the picture? There may be a reference as
          early as the 6th century, from a "bard" named Melkin (or, variously,
          Melchinus or Maelgwn). If a source document of this reference existed,
          it would provide strong evidence linking Joseph to England. Alas, the
          first existing reference to the Melkin document is in a 14th century
          document written by monk John of Glastonbury. Here are the relevant
          parts of Melkin's "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis". Note that Avalon is
          traditionally connected with Glastonbury:

          "Avalon's island...
          Amid there Joseph in marble,
          Of Arimathea by name,
          Hath found perpetual sleep:
          He lies in a two-forked [bifurcated] line
          Next the south corner of an oratory
          Fashioned of wattles
          For the adorning of a mighty virgin
          By the aforementioned sphere-betokened
          Dwellers in that place, thirteen in all.
          For Joseph hath with him
          In his sarcophagus
          Two cruets, white and silver,
          Filled with blood and sweat
          Of the prophet Jesus." (Matthews, p. 67/68)

          If we can be comfortable that this document actually existed (and wasn't
          a literary creation of John of Glastonbury), it establishes several key
          points, from a 6th-century source:

          Joseph came to Avalon (Glastonbury) with 12 followers

          An oratory made of wattles was created, and was dedicated to Mary,
          Mother of Jesus

          Joseph had with him two cruets, "filled with blood and sweat of the
          prophet Jesus"

          The legend assumes more form by the 12th century writings of historian
          William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - 1143 A.D.), who, in two books, wrote
          much of the history of Glastonbury Abbey. In his "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
          ("Acts of the Kings of the English"), William comments about the "Old
          Church" in Glastonbury:

          "The church of which we are speaking - from its antiquity called by the
          Angles, by way of distinction 'Ealde Chiche', that is the 'Old Church'
          of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even
          from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country,
          claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean..." (Lewis,
          p. 68)

          While William stops short of linking the "Old Church" with Joseph of
          Arimathea, or even the first century, he does verify its antiquity, and
          the fact that the original church was built of wattle. William goes on
          to suggest that the Old Church was built in the second century by the
          missionaries Faganus and Deruvianus, but adds the following comment:

          "There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in
          certain places to the following effect: 'No other hands than those of
          the disciples of Christ erected the Church of Glastonbury'. Nor is it
          dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the
          Gauls, as Freculfus relates in the fourth chapter of his seventh book,
          it may be believed that he planted the word on this side of the channel
          also." ("King Arthur's Avalon", Ashe, p. 42)

          In the above passage, the possibility of 1st century erection of the Old
          Church by the "disciples of Christ" is mentioned, as well as the
          possibility that the Apostle Philip sent missionaries from Gaul.



          William of Malmesbury came to the great Medieval Abbey of Glastonbury
          early in the 12th century to research his books "The Acts of the Kings
          of the English", and "The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"

          Several years after William wrote "The Acts of the Kings of the
          English", he wrote a second book which was dedicated to telling the
          history of Glastonbury Abbey. The book was called "De Antiquitate
          Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" ("The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"),
          and here is yet another blazing controversy - the earliest extant copy
          of this document (written c. 1130) dates to approximately 1240 A.D. The
          passages below, which give the first detailed history of Joseph and the
          establishment of the church at Glastonbury, were added as an
          introductory chapter written in another hand. So, this is either the
          definitive history of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles, written
          by the prominent and respected historian William of Malmesbury, or a
          later interpolation by an unknown author!

          "St. Philip...coming into the country of the Franks to preach, converted
          many to the Faith and baptized them. Working to spread Christ's word, he
          chose twelve from among his disciples, and sent them into Britain. Their
          leader, it is said, was Philip's dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea,
          who buried the Lord.

          Coming therefore into Britain 63 years from the Incarnation of the Lord,
          and 15 from the Assumption of Blessed Mary, they began faithfully to
          preach the Faith of Christ. But the barbaric king and his people,
          hearing such novel and unaccustomed things, absolutely refused to
          consent to their preaching, neither did he wish to change the traditions
          of his ancestors, yet, because they came from far, and merely required a
          modest competence for their life, at their request he granted them a
          certain island, surrounded by woods, thickets and marshes, called by the
          inhabitants Ynys-witrin...

          Thereupon the said twelve saints residing in this desert, were in a very
          short time warned by a vision of the angel Gabriel to build a church in
          honour of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary in a place shown to
          them from heaven, and they, quick to obey the divine precepts, completed
          a certain chapel according to what had been shown them...

          And as it was the first in the kingdom, God's Son distinguished it with
          greater dignity by dedicating it in honour of his Mother...

          The said saints continued to live in the same hermitage for many years,
          and were at last liberated from the prison of the flesh. The place then
          began to be a covert for wild beats - the spot which had before been the
          habitation of saints - until the Blessed Virgin was pleased to recall
          her house of prayer to the memory of the faithful..." ("Avalonian
          Quest", Ashe, p. 56)

          As can be seen, most of the basic legend of Joseph in the British Isles
          is contained in this (possibly interpolated) passage from "De
          Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae". Only the legend of the Grail (see
          next section), and the Glastonbury Holy Thorn is missing.

          The next major chronicler of the Joseph legends was 14th century monk
          John (Seen) of Glastonbury, who seemingly gathered all of the extant
          sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey, and
          published them in one book, entitled "Cronica sive Antiquitates
          Glastoniensis Ecclesie" ("Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
          Glastonbury"). A sample:

          "In the fifteenth year after this he went to St. Philip in Gaul, taking
          with him Josephes, whom the Lord had consecrated a bishop in the city of
          Sarath...Then the apostle, desiring that the word of God should be
          spread abroad, sent twelve of his disciples to preach in Britain,
          placing at their head his favourite disciple Joseph of Arimathea,
          together with his son Josephes..." (Matthews, p. 69)

          It was John, you'll recall, that published the 6th century Melkin poem
          that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ.
          The Grail has not yet made its way into the story.

          The last part of the basic legend (sans the Grail, which deserves its
          own section) regards a hawthorn bush which grows in Glastonbury, now
          called the Holy Thorn. The bush (or tree, really) has the interesting
          property of blooming twice a year - in May, and at Christmas time! The
          type of thorn ("crataegus oxyacantha praecox"), seems to be native to
          Syria. Like many
          other things in Glastonbury, the tree is an unexplained anomaly.

          The Holy Thorn isn't connected to the Joseph legend until the publishing
          of a 1520 anonymous poem (published by Richard Pynson, the royal
          printer), entitled "The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia". While the poem
          discusses the hawthorn and its properties, the story of it growing from
          Joseph's staff is missing. (Note: this poem also refers to Joseph
          bringing two cruets with him, containing the blood of Christ - "Thys
          blode in two cruettes/Joseph dyd take". No Cup from the Last Supper,
          yet).

          In 1677, a Dr. Plot refers to the thorn, and ascribes its planting to
          Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, in 1716, the full story of Joseph placing
          his staff on a hill at Glastonbury ("Wirral Hill", because Joseph and
          his companions were "Weary-All"), and having the thorn grow on the spot
          is published.

          The original thorn was destroyed by Puritan fanatics during the English
          Civil War, but cuttings from the original have grown into trees in both
          Glastonbury, and other parts of England. And they continue to bloom at
          approximately Christmas each year.

          The claim of England as the first Christianised Western country was
          taken quite seriously in the middle ages. The claim was advanced at four
          church councils: the Council of Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Sienna
          (1424) and Basle (1434). Glastonbury was known as "Roma Secunda" in some
          circles during the Middle Ages, and four pilgrimages to Glastonbury were
          counted as one to Rome to venerate the Apostles Peter and Paul.

          Queen Elizabeth II, in 1965, erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with
          the following inscription:

          "The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II
          marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its
          origin."


          Joseph and the Holy Grail

          Perhaps the most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea - his
          connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, or the Holy Grail - is
          even harder to pin down than the other parts of the Joseph-in-England
          legends. There is no reference connecting Joseph to the Cup from the
          Last Supper in either the canonical Gospels, the non-canonical sources
          ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), or the historical
          sources (William of Malmesbury, Melkin, John of Glastonbury).

          If one accepts the validity of the aforementioned 6th-century document
          by Melkin entitled "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis", as translated by
          John of Glastonbury in the 14th century, Joseph is early identified, not
          with the Cup from the Last Supper, but rather:

          For Joseph hath with him
          In his sarcophagus
          Two cruets, white and silver,
          Filled with blood and sweat
          Of the prophet Jesus. (Matthews, p. 67/68)

          The references connecting Joseph to the Holy Grail (and the later
          Arthurian-era quests for said Grail) are all from Medieval and later
          romances and literature. Thus, from a historical standpoint, they are
          the most difficult to verify.

          The Medieval romances in question all have to do with one basic topic -
          the stories of King Arthur, and his band of chivalrous knights. Joseph
          of Arimathea comes into the stories as a key character, because of one
          of the greatest subplots in the Arthurian epics - the quest for the Holy
          Grail.

          There is great argument over exactly what the Holy Grail is - a cup? a
          chalice? a stone? There are also learned treatises on the possibility
          that the model for the Holy Grail predates Christianity. However, many
          of the Medieval romances squarely associate the Holy Grail with the Cup
          from the Last Supper of Christ, and further identify that it was Joseph
          of Arimathea that brought the Cup to England in the first place
          (otherwise, there wouldn't have been anything in England for Arthur and
          his knights to search for!)

          The first major romance that explicitly links Joseph to the Grail is
          Robert de Boron's (or Borron) "Joseph d'Arimathie" (c. 1190). Robert de
          Boron seems to start with the account from the Gospel of Nicodemus, and
          then adds his own slant to the story. Essentially:

          After Jesus is stabbed with the spear on the cross, Joseph captures some
          of the blood of Jesus in the Cup from the Last Supper (the Holy Grail)

          Joseph is imprisoned, and is taught the mysteries of the Grail by Christ
          himself

          Joseph spends 42 years in prison, and is released by Vespasian (!)

          Joseph and a group of fellow Christians travel to an unspecified foreign
          country. Joseph builds a table symbolic of the table used at the Last
          Supper. The place for Judas is kept empty - it will be filled someday by
          a descendent of one of the companions of Joseph (Brons). (In later
          romances, this seat will be called "The Siege Perilous", and will be
          occupied by Sir
          Galahad).

          A companion of Joseph (Petrus) travels to the "Vales of Avaron" (which,
          for the purposes of this discussion, is assumed to refer to
          Avalon-Glastonbury) to prepare a place for the Grail

          The Grail as the "Ark of the New Covenant"

          Other Medieval romances with similar themes include:

          "Grand Saint Grail" (c. 1200)

          "Parzival", by Wolram von Eschenbach (c. 1207)

          "Qeuste del Saint Graal (The Vulgate Cycle)" (c. 1210). In this account,
          the character of Sir Galahad appears for the first time.

          Galahad is identified in various romances as being descendent from
          Joseph of Arimathea (through his father, Sir Lancelot). Galahad is the
          only truly pure knight in the world, and is the only knight that can
          occupy the "Siege Perilous" on Arthur's Round Table. He is the only
          knight that completely attains the Grail.

          "Perlesvaus" (1225)

          "Le Morte D'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur"), by Sir Thomas Mallory
          (published 1485)

          As "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the most well-known of the English versions of
          the Arthurian romances, I've compiled several quotes that refer to
          Joseph:

          "And here followeth the noble tale of the Sangreal, that called is the
          holy vessel; and the signification of the blessed blood of our Lord Jesu
          Christ, blessed mote it be, the which was brought in to this land by
          Joseph of Aramathie." - Introduction to Book 13 (Mallory, p. 370)

          "...it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty-two year
          that Joseph of Aramathie the gentle knight, the which took down our Lord
          off the holy Cross, at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great
          party of his kindred with him...And so by fortune they came into this
          land, that at that time was called Great Britian...And after that all
          the people were turned to the Christian faith." (Mallory, p. 380)

          "...ye have heard much of Joseph of Aramathie, how he was sent by Jesu
          Christ into this land to teach and preach the holy Christian faith...and
          ever he was busy to be there as the Sangreal was..." (Mallory, p. 393)

          "And therewithal beseemed them that there came a man, and four angels
          from heaven, clothed in likeness of a bishop, and had a cross in his
          hand; and these four angels bare him in a chair, and set him down before
          the table of silver whereupon the Sangreal was; and it seemed that he
          had in middes of his forehead letters the which said, See ye here Joseph
          the first bishop of Christendom...Then the nights marvelled, for that
          Bishop was dead more than three hundred year tofore. O knights, said he,
          marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man." (Mallory, p. 442)

          Note that Mallory is not at all shy about proclaiming that Joseph is
          "the first bishop of Christendom"!

          Another famous literary reference that links Joseph to the Grail is from
          Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1859 "Idylls of the King" (idylls means "poems"
          or "songs"):

          ...What is it?
          The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?

          Nay, monk! what phantom? answer'd Percivale.
          The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
          Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
          This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
          After the day of darkness, when the dead
          Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
          Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
          To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
          Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord,
          And there awhile it bode; and if a man
          Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
          By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
          Grew to such evil that the holy cup
          Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.

          To whom the monk: "From our old books I know
          That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
          And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
          Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
          And there he built with wattles from the marsh
          A lonely church in the days of yore...

          Notice that by the 19th century, not only was the Cup closely associated
          with Joseph (and Glastonbury), but also the hawthorn bush that blooms at
          Christmas time. Also of note in Tennyson' poem is the reference to "From
          our old books I know..." Most Medieval references to Joseph, whether
          from histories or literature, claim to have received the basis of the
          story from old or ancient books. Perhaps the most romantic such
          assignation comes from the anonymous 1225 A.D. epic "Perlesvaus":

          "The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in
          the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the
          head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen
          Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that
          are therein, that have the whole history thereof." ("King Arthur's
          Avalon", p. 201)

          There is a well at Glastonbury named "Chalice Well". Some esoteric
          legends say that Joseph placed the Cup somewhere in the depths of the
          well. The well is a curious place - 25,000 gallons of red-tinted water
          pass through the well area per day. The red tint, caused by a high iron
          content, caused the Well to at one time be called the "Blood Spring", or
          the "Blood Well", seemingly in reference to the Blood of Christ.



          The legends associating Joseph with the Grail seem weaker, and harder to
          grasp hold of, than the legends regarding his establishment of the first
          Christian church in England, at Glastonbury. The Joseph/Grail connection
          are not mentioned in any early histories, and first appear in 12th
          century romances. However, if the 6th-century Melkin account is accepted
          as
          legitimate, Joseph is, at least, early-on associated with bringing some
          kind of container ("two cruets") containing the blood of Christ with him
          to Glastonbury.

          So could Joseph have ended up with the Cup from the Last Supper? Could
          he have had in his possession drops of the blood of Christ? Certainly,
          the Gospels identify Joseph as a disciple (although not apostle) of
          Christ, and he is also identified as having taken down the body of
          Christ from the cross, and preparing it for burial. Assumedly, Joseph
          would have come in contact with Christ's blood - remember, Christ was
          speared on the cross, and bled:

          John 19:34 "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a
          spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (NIV)

          Thus, while the idea that Joseph could have had in his possession the
          Cup and/or a container with Christ's blood is not implausible, there is
          no early source to verify this legend.

          The table below traces the sources of the various legends regarding
          Joseph and his connection with England. Romances and other literary
          works are indicated in red.

          Tracing the legends

          Source
          Date
          Notes

          Tertullian - An Answer to the Jews 193/216 A.D.
          Britain was already "subjugated to Christ" in the late 2nd century

          Melkin the Bard 6th century?
          Quoted by John of Glastonbury

          Joseph & 12 followers in Avalon

          Wattled oratory

          Two cruets with blood and sweat of Christ

          Gildas Ruin and Conquest of Britain c. 540
          Britain received "the holy precepts of Christ...at the latter part of
          the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (!)

          William of Malmesbury - Acts of the Kings of the English c. 1125
          The Old Church, "of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly
          sanctity even from its very foundation"

          Mentions the possibility of foundation by the disciples of Christ, sent
          by the Apostle Philip

          William of Malmesbury - The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury
          c.1130
          Story of Faganus & Deruvianus, papal envoys, in 170 A.D. as builders
          of the Old Church

          Joseph referred to in a preface, written in another hand, dating to c.
          1240.
          Almost the whole Joseph/Glastonbury legend is contained here, except
          for the Cup, and the hawthorn

          Robert de Boron - Joseph d'Arimathie c. 1190
          Joseph as keeper of the Cup from the Last Supper (The Holy Grail)

          The Cup brought to the "Vales of Avaron"

          John of Glastonbury - Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
          Glastonbury 14th century
          Gathered all extant sources together to produce a book on Joseph

          Joseph as an ancestor of King Arthur

          Quotes Melkin manuscript ("two cruets") - no mention of the Grail

          Joseph is an attendant of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and is present at her
          ascension

          Thomas Mallory - Le Morte D'Arthur 1485
          Most famous English Arthurian romance

          Joseph as "first bishop of Christendom"

          The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia 1520
          Connects the Holy Thorn with Joseph
          Alfred Tennyson - Idylls of the King 1859
          Directly states that Joseph brought the Cup to Glastonbury

          And did those feet in ancient times...

          There is one more legend associated with Joseph of Arimathea that should
          be briefly explored, if for no other reason than its popularity. This is
          the legend that Joseph brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
          one or more times. This legend can't be directly traced to early
          histories or Medieval romances, although it appears that William Blake
          refers to it in his famous poem "Jerusalem" (see below).

          The Bible is, of course, rather mysterious about the events that
          happened in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he
          began his ministry). As a result, many people have attempted on their
          own to define what happened in those lost years. India, North America,
          and England have all been posited as possibilities for where Jesus might
          have traveled as a
          youth/young adult. The Biblical references usually quoted to set the
          stage for theories regarding the travels of Jesus between the ages of 12
          and 30 include:

          Luke 4:16/22 - Jesus preaches in Nazareth, where he doesn't seem
          immediately known, thus giving the impression that he had been away for
          a long time.

          John 1:29/31 - John the Baptist, although a relative of Jesus, seems not
          to recognize him when they meet in the river Jordan, thus causing some
          people to think that Jesus had been absent from Israel for a long time.

          John 1:29/31 "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
          "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the
          one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me
          because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I
          came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
          (NIV)

          The legends connecting Jesus and Joseph with Cornwall/Somerset go
          something like this:

          There is a tradition preserved in the Orthodox Churches that Joseph was
          the Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

          Further tradition states that Joseph was a merchant in the tin trade
          that flourished between the west coast of England, and Europe and the
          Mediterranean

          On one or more occasions, the legends state that Joseph brought his
          grandnephew Jesus with him on business trips to the mines in
          Cornwall/Somerset

          On one of those trips, Jesus and Joseph built the church in Glastonbury
          (later to be used by Joseph and his followers after the death and
          resurrection of Jesus). Jesus dedicated the church to his Mother (the
          niece of Joseph of Arimathea).

          As stated earlier, there are no direct early historical, or even
          literary references to these legends. The earliest reference of any kind
          may be in William Blake's famous poem, "Jerusalem", which is now a
          much-loved hymn in England (watch the last 10 minutes of the movie
          "Chariots of Fire" to hear it sung):

          Jerusalem

          And did those feet in ancient times
          Walk upon England's mountains green?
          And was the Holy Lamb of God
          On England's pleasant pastures seen?
          And did the Countenance Divine
          Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
          And was Jerusalem builded here
          Among those dark Satanic mills?

          Bring me my bow of burning gold!
          Bring me my arrows of desire!
          Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
          Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
          I will not cease from mental fight,
          Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
          Till I have built Jerusalem
          In England's green and pleasant land.

          - William Blake, 1757-1827

          There is some background and indirect evidence that just prevent the
          legend from being totally implausible:

          There is no question that there were tin mines in Western Britain in the
          early first century. And there is no question that the tin was traded
          with other parts of the Continent. (For example: Greek historian
          Herodotus (5th century B.C.)) refers to the tin trade in the "Isles of
          the West" (Capt, p.23))

          Proponents of the legend point to several place names in
          Cornwall/Somerset that have Jewish names, or that refer directly to
          Christ ("Jesus Well", "Penzance" ("Holy Headland") etc.)

          There are several ancient references that claim that the church at
          Glastonbury was either built by God himself, or dedicated to Mary,
          Mother of Jesus by Jesus himself. Some examples include:

          "There is on the confines of western Britain a certain royal island,
          called in the ancient speech Glastonia...In it the earliest neophytes of
          the christian way of life, God guiding them, found a church, not built
          by the art of man, they say, but prepared by God himself for the
          salvation of mankind, which church the heavenly Builder himself
          declared - by many miracles and many mysteries of healing - he had
          consecrated to himself and to holy Mary, Mother of God." - from "Life of
          St. Dunstan", c. 1000 ("Avalonian Quest", p.23)

          "...the Son of God was pleased to grace it with particular dignity,
          dedicating it Himself in honour of His Mother..." - from the possibly
          interpolated c. 1240 edition of "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis
          Ecclesiae", by William of Malmesbury (Matthews, p. 97)

          "The church of which we are speaking...savoured somewhat of heavenly
          sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole
          country, claiming superior reverence, though the structure was
          mean..." - "Acts of the Kings of the English", by William of Malmesbury
          (Lewis, p. 68)

          Proponents of the legend also point to the mysterious stone on the south
          side of the Old Church (St. Mary's Chapel), which says "Jesus Maria".

          Conclusions

          Joseph of Arimathea remains an enigmatic character. While he appears to
          be a fairly minor player in the canonical Gospels, he, not Mary, Mother
          of Jesus, not Mary Magdalen, and not any of the apostles, is entrusted
          with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross, respectfully preparing
          him for burial, and donating a tomb for the body. These facts would seem
          to speak of some special significance accorded to Joseph's role as a
          disciple of Christ, and suppoert the Orthodox belief that he was the
          uncle of Mary.

          That being said, Joseph seems an unlikely character to have become one
          of the centerpieces of the Medieval literary craze which became the
          Arthurian legends. Likewise, he seems an unlikely character to create a
          story around as the founder of the Christian church in England. Why not
          pick Paul, or Philip, or another better known disciple than Joseph of
          Arimathea, if one was going to make up the story?

          So, are the stories and legends true? In my personal opinion - The idea
          that Joseph brought a small band of followers to Britain in the 1st
          century, and started a church at Glastonbury seems reasonably credible
          (although not absolutely provable). The idea that, as the undertaker of
          Jesus, he might have saved some drops of blood also seems, at least
          plausible (but again, not provable). The legends regarding Joseph's
          connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, the hawthorn bush at
          Glastonbury, and bringing the boy Jesus to Cornwall/Glastonbury seem (in
          decreasing order) less credible.

          However, I can speak quite personally that Glastonbury is a very eerie
          place, and if miracles could occur anywhere in the world, I could
          believe that they could occur there.

          Sources


          A Glastonbury Reader Compiled and edited by John Matthews The Aquarian
          Press 1991

          The Arthurian Encyclopedia Norris J. Lacy, Editor Boydell Press 1986

          Avalonian Quest Geoffrey Ashe Fontana Paperbacks 1982

          Bible Characters Dwight Moody The Sage Digital Library 1996

          Holman Bible Dictionary for Windows Parsons Technology 1994

          Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson American Book Company 1915

          King Arthur's Avalon - The Story of Glastonbury Geoffrey Ashe Barnes &
          Noble 1992

          Le Morte D'Arthur Sir Thomas Mallory Harrison House 1985

          St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury Lionel Smithett Lewis James
          Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1922

          The Traditions of Glastonbury E. Raymond Capt M.A. Artisan Sales 1983

          The Lost Books of the Bible Bell Publishing Co. 1979

          The Anti-Nicene Fathers Volumes 3 & 8 Edited by A. Roberts and J
          Donaldson The Sage Digital Library 1996

          The Grail - Quest for the Eternal John Matthews Thames and Hudson 1981

          PC Bible Atlas for Windows Parsons Technology 1994
          ________________________________________


          St. Mary's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

          Copyright 1997 by Robert C. Jones

          This material may be reprinted free of charge for use by non-profit
          church groups, as long as the author and copyright information is
          retained.
        • emrys@globe.net.nz
          Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
          Message 4 of 14 , Jul 30, 2006
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            Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

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            * St. Joseph of Arimathea
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            Saint Joseph of Arimathea
            Biblical & Legendary Accounts
            by Robert Jones

            This essay may be read on line at
            http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


            Table of Contents
            Introduction

            Canonical Sources

            Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

            Involvement in the burial of Christ

            Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

            Non-Canonical Sources

            The Gospel of Nicodemus

            The Narrative of Joseph

            The Passing of Mary

            Legendary Accounts

            Founder of the first Christian Church in England

            Joseph and the Holy Grail

            And did those feet in ancient times...

            Conclusions

            Sources

            About the author
            _________________________

            Introduction
            Joseph of Arimathea is one of the more mysterious figures in the New
            Testament. He is mentioned briefly, by all four of the evangelists, and
            yet we glean little about him from the Gospel accounts.

            "Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy". ("Homilies of
            St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John")

            Yet, while little is written about Joseph in the Gospels themselves, he
            was a popular figure in both apocryphal (non-canonical ) accounts
            ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), and in numerous
            medieval Arthurian epics, including Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur", and
            Robert de Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathie".

            In legend, Joseph is a quite remarkable figure - his exploits (in
            various accounts) include:

            Founder of the first Christian Church in England

            Keeper of the Holy Grail, the Cup from the Last Supper of Christ

            Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

            Merchant involved in the tin trade between the West coast of England,
            and the Mediterranean - took the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
            in England sometime between the ages of 12 and 30

            Ancestor of Sir Lancelot & Sir Galahad of Arthurian fame

            This booklet will examine the life of Joseph from canonical,
            non-canonical (apocryphal), and legendary sources. No claims are made as
            to the authenticity of the latter two, but the mere fact of their
            existence adds to the mystery of Joseph of Arimathea.

            Canonical Sources

            Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four evangelists, in generally
            consistent accounts. Bible commentator Dwight Moody notes:

            "Read the four accounts given, in the four Gospels, of Joseph of
            Arimathea. There is very seldom anything mentioned by all four of the
            Evangelists. If Matthew and Mark refer to an event, it is omitted by
            Luke and John; and, if it occur in the latter, it may not be contained
            in the former." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 115)

            By drawing on all four accounts, we can at least discern some basic
            characteristics regarding Joseph. The key passages are listed below:

            Mat 27:57/60 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from
            Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
            Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be
            given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
            and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He
            rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
            (NIV)

            Mark 15:43/46 "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council,
            who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate
            and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
            already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already
            died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
            body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,
            wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then
            he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb." (NIV)

            Luke 23:50/55 "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the
            Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision
            and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting
            for the kingdom of
            God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down,
            wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one
            in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the
            Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from
            Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in
            it." (NIV)

            John 19:38/42 "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of
            Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he
            feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body
            away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited
            Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
            seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it,
            with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish
            burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a
            garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been
            laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb
            was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (NIV)

            As can be seen from the canonical texts, little detail is given
            regarding Joseph of Arimathea, other than details of his involvement in
            the burial of Christ. No occupation is given (although we are told that
            he was a "rich man"), nor is his age or personal description revealed
            (although Joseph of Arimathea is often depicted as an elderly man by the
            time of the crucifixion). Even his place of origin is obscure - although
            the Gospels identify that he was from the "Judean town of Arimathea",
            there was no town of that exact name at the time of Jesus' earthly life.
            Many scholars identify Arimathea with the town of "Ramathaim", mentioned
            in 1 Sam 1:1. Other scholars view that the modern city of Rentis
            (located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) is the ancient
            Arimathea. However, the reference to "Arimathea" remains obscure.

            Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea
            The table below shows the main characteristics regarding Joseph of
            Arimathea that can be gleaned from the Gospel accounts.

            Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

            Joseph was a rich man Mat 27:57
            He was from the Judean town of Arimathea (see map below) Mat 27:57; Luke
            23:51
            He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
            Joseph was probably a fairly influential man - he (boldly) asked Pilate
            for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58; Mark 15:43
            He was rich enough to own his own tomb Mat 27:60
            Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin Mark 15:43
            He was "waiting for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43
            He was a "a good and upright man" Luke 23:50
            He had not agreed to the Sanhedrin actions regarding Jesus Luke 23:51
            Joseph feared reprisals from the Jewish elders, so he was a secret
            disciple of Jesus John 19:38

            Involvement in the burial of Christ
            The most detailed canonical descriptions regarding Joseph have to do
            with his involvement in the burial of Christ. The table below captures
            the highlights of this involvement.

            He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
            Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58
            Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial by wrapping it in
            linen, along with 75 pounds of "myrrh and aloes" John 19:40 Jesus was
            buried according to Jewish burial customs John 19:40 Joseph placed the
            body in his own new tomb, located in a garden at the place where Jesus
            was crucified, and rolled a stone in front of it Mat 27:60; John 19:41

            Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?
            Through the ages, a theological debate has raged regarding whether
            Joseph of Arimathea was a coward, or saint. On the coward side, critics
            point out that Joseph, while being a disciple of Jesus, was afraid to
            announce so publicly "because he feared the Jews" (John 19:38). It
            appears to be just another case of a rich member of a ruling elite who
            is afraid to proclaim
            potentially socially unacceptable viewpoints, for fear of disturbing the
            status quo.

            The alternate view of Joseph seems to have a stronger backing. While
            Joseph may not have revealed his discipleship of Jesus during the
            earthly ministry of the Saviour, two acts would seem to strongly put him
            in the category of "defender of the faith":

            Joseph appears to have been one of (or perhaps the sole) member of the
            Sanhedrin "who had not consented to their decision and action" (Luke
            23:51) regarding the trial of Jesus

            Joseph bravely went to Pilate, boldly requesting the body of Jesus, and
            (with Nicodemus), buried the body according to Jewish burial customs.
            This was an amazingly brave act, because it should be remembered that
            during this time, all of the apostles had fled (except, possibly, John),
            and Peter had denied he even knew Christ. And yet Joseph, at the seeming
            low point in the earthly ministry of Christ, bravely and openly took
            care of Christ's body, risking possible censure from both the Romans and
            the Jewish elders. Commentator Dwight Moody discusses the bravery of
            Joseph in asking Pilate for the body:

            "I consider this was one of the sublimest, grandest acts that any man
            ever did. In that darkness and gloom - His disciples having all forsaken
            Him; Judas having sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; the chief
            apostle Peter having denied him with a curse, swearing that he never
            knew Him; the chief priests having found Him guilty of blasphemy; the
            council having condemned Him to death; and when there was a hiss going
            up to heaven over all Jerusalem - Joseph went right against the current,
            right against the influence of all his friends, and begged the body of
            Jesus." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 116)

            It is perhaps not a surprise to lean that St Joseph became the Patron
            Saint of Undertakers. His feast day is March 17 and March 27 on the
            Western Calendar and in the Orthodox Churches he has his feast day on
            July 31 and has a very special mention in the hymns for Good Friday and
            the Deposition of Christ's Body from the Cross.

            Non-Canonical Sources

            There are at least three non-canonical (apocryphal) references to Joseph
            of Arimathea which give additional (although not contradictory)
            information regarding Joseph's actions after the death and resurrection
            of Christ. Keep in mind that the early church father's did not consider
            these three sources to be authoritative enough to be included in the New
            Testament. On the other hand, they were not condemned by the early
            church fathers, either (they were not Gnostic texts, for example).

            The Gospel of Nicodemus
            Few scholars today view that this account was really written (or
            inspired) by Joseph's Sanhedrin colleague Nicodemus - some scholars
            would date it as late as the third century. (Gregory of Tours, writing
            in the 6th century, references this gospel). It is the major source of
            early, non-canonical information regarding Joseph of Arimathea.

            A summary of the references to Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus
            follows, with certain key passages printed verbatim.

            Joseph asks for the body of Christ from Pilate, embalms the body (with
            the help of Nicodemus), buries the body in a new tomb, and rolls a stone
            in front of the tomb (totally consistent with the Gospel accounts)

            The Jewish elders express anger at Joseph for burying the body of
            Christ. Joseph replies indignantly:

            "And likewise Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you
            angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put
            him in my new tomb, wrapping him in clean linen; and I have rolled a
            stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the
            just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have
            pierced him with a spear." ("Gospel of Nicodemus", translated by
            Alexander Walker, Esq.)

            The Jewish elders capture Joseph, and imprison him. A seal is placed on
            the door to the cell, and a guard is posted. Before being imprisoned,
            Joseph warns the elders:

            "The God whom you have hanged upon the cross, is able to deliver me out
            of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you." ("Gospel of
            Nicodemus", from "The Lost Books of the Bible", p. 75)

            When the elders return to the cell, the seal is still in place, but
            Joseph is gone. The elders later discover that Joseph has returned to
            Arimathea. The elders have a change of heart, and desire to have a more
            civil conversation with Joseph.

            The elders send a letter of apology to Joseph via seven of his friends

            Joseph travels back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders.
            The elders question Joseph on how he escaped. Joseph tells his story:

            "On the day of the Preparation, about the tenth hour, you shut me in,
            and I remained there the whole Sabbath in full. And when midnight came,
            as I was standing and praying, the house where you shut me in was hung
            up by the four corners, and there was a flashing of light in mine eyes.
            And I fell to the ground trembling. Then some one lifted me up from the
            place where I had fallen, and poured over me an abundance of water from
            the head even to the feet, and put round my nostrils the odour of a
            wonderful ointment, and rubbed my face with the water itself, as if
            washing me, and kissed me, and said to me, Joseph, fear not; but open
            thine eyes, and see who it is that speaks to thee. And looking, I saw
            Jesus; and being terrified, I thought it was a phantom. And with prayer
            and the commandments I spoke to him, and he spoke with me. And I said to
            him: Art thou Rabbi Elias? And he said to me: I am not Elias. And I
            said: Who art thou, my Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus, whose body
            thou didst beg from Pilate, and wrap in clean linen; and thou didst lay
            a napkin on my face, and didst lay me in thy new tomb, and roll a stone
            to the door of the tomb. Then I said to him that was speaking to me:
            Show me, Lord, where I laid thee. And he led me, and showed me the place
            where I laid him, and the linen which I had put on him, and the napkin
            which I had wrapped upon his face; and I knew that it was Jesus. And he
            took hold of me with his hand, and put me in the midst of my house
            though the gates were shut, and put me in my bed, and said to me: Peace
            to thee! And he kissed me, and said to me: For forty days go not out of
            thy house; for, lo, I go to my brethren into Galilee." ("Gospel of
            Nicodemus", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

            Joseph stresses to the elders (specifically mentioning Annas and
            Caiaphas) that Jesus has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

            Joseph says that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of
            Christ (compare to Mat 27:52/53). He specifically identifies the two
            sons of the high-priest Simeon (see Luke 2:25/35). Annas, Caiaphas,
            Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel (under whom Paul studied) travel to
            Arimathea to interview Charinus and Lenthius, sons of Simeon.

            As mentioned before, the account of Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus is
            not canonical, but it is (at least) plausible.

            The Narrative of Joseph
            Another apocryphal account of Joseph's interaction in the passion story
            appears in the "Narrative of Joseph". In basic outline, the story told
            in "The Narrative of Joseph" coincides with the account in "The Gospel
            of Nicodemus", with some interesting additions. The account starts with
            the words:

            "I am Joseph of Arimathea, who begged from Pilate the body of the Lord
            Jesus for burial, and who for this cause was kept close in prison by the
            murderous and God-fighting Jews..." ("The Narrative of Joseph",
            translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

            The narrative then goes on to discuss the fate of the two robbers that
            were crucified with Jesus on Golgotha. Joseph refers to them as Gestas
            and Demas. It also gives an alternative version of the betrayal of Jesus
            by Judas (identified as the son of the brother of Caiaphas), and the
            trial of Jesus.

            Also:

            The description of the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph by the Jewish
            elders is told. As in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph receives a visit
            in the jail cell from Christ, who saves him from the prison. The saved
            robber (Demas) is with Jesus.

            Joseph spends three days with Jesus in Galilee

            The narrative ends with the words:

            "And I, having seen these things, have written them down, in order that
            all may believe in the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord, and may no
            longer obey the law of Moses, but may believe in the signs and wonders
            that have happened through Him, and in order that we who have believed
            may inherit eternal life, and be found in the kingdom of the heavens.
            For to Him are due glory, strength, praise, and majesty for ever and
            ever. Amen." ("The Narrative of Joseph", translated by Alexander Walker,
            Esq.)

            The Passing of Mary
            A third non-canonical source, entitled "The Passing of Mary" is also
            attributed to Joseph. Joseph appears as an attendant of Mary, Mother of
            Jesus, and is present at her falling asleep and her ascension into
            heaven (which is described in great detail). Joseph is not identified as
            the author until the last paragraph:

            "I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him
            rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of
            the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin
            Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which
            came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above
            were done by the judgement of God. And I have made known to all, Jews
            and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my
            ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them." ("The
            Passing of Mary", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

            Legendary Accounts

            While Joseph of Arimathea is a fairly minor character in the canonical
            Gospels (and even in the non-canonical sources), he achieves superstar
            status in later legendary accounts, most of which date to the Middle
            Ages. In Medieval legend, Joseph is, variously, the founder of the first
            Christian Church in England, the keeper of the Holy Grail, the uncle of
            Mary Mother of Jesus, and the ancestor of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and
            Sir Galahad. No Biblical figure (other than Christ) equalled the amount
            of popular press attention given to Joseph of Arimathea during the
            Middle Ages. A look at the primary legends follows.

            Founder of the first Christian Church in England
            The most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea regards his
            foundation of the first Christian Church in England at Glastonbury, in
            the first century (37 A.D. or 63 A.D., depending on the source). The
            traditional view of the Christianization of England is that it didn't
            occur until the missionary efforts of St. Augustine late in the 6th
            century (other legends discuss a missionary journey to England in the
            2nd-century, by Faganus and Deruvianus).

            The distinction between the Arimathean legend and the traditional
            Augustine view is a significant one - if Joseph really did bring
            Christianity to England as early as 37 A.D., it means that Christianity
            in England predates Christianity in other Western European nations such
            as Spain and France - and may even pre-date the establishment of
            Christianity in Rome itself.


            There are two basic types of sources concerning the legends connecting
            Joseph of Arimathea to England in general, and Glastonbury
            specifically - histories, and Medieval (and later) literature. We'll
            examine entries from both types of sources in this discussion.

            The basic legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea, and the establishment of
            the first Christian Church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England goes
            something like this:

            In the year 63 A.D. (or, possibly, earlier) Joseph is sent by the
            Apostle Philip from Gaul to England, with 11 (or 12, in some accounts)
            disciples, one of whom is his son Josephes

            Joseph lands in the British west country (Somerset), and is granted some
            land on the Island of Yniswitrin ("Isle of Glass") by a local King,
            Arviragus

            He places his staff in the ground on Weary-All hill, and a hawthorn bush
            (the "Holy Thorn") grows on the spot, and it still grows there today,
            blossoming in a strange manner every year at the feast of the Nativity
            in midwinter.

            Joseph & his followers create an ascetic community

            At the bidding of the archangel Gabriel, they build a church of daub and
            wattle in honour of the Blessed Mary, 31 years after the resurrection of
            Christ. The church is built on the site that will later become the great
            Benedictine monastery of Glastonbury (Glastonbury Abbey is also
            associated with being the burial place of King Arthur).

            After the death of King Arviragus, his son and grandson (Coillus and
            Marius, respectively) grant 12 additional hides of land (about 120 acres
            per hide) to Joseph and his followers

            Joseph brought with him (variously) two cruets "filled with blood and
            sweat of the prophet Jesus", collected when Joseph took Jesus down from
            the cross, or the Cup from the Last Supper (a.k.a. the Holy Grail, or
            the Sangreal)

            After the death of Joseph and his followers, the site is abandoned, but
            the church remains standing, to later be restored (possibly, in 170 A.D.
            by legendary missionaries from Rome Faganus and Deruvianus)



            "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are records of facts;
            but the existence of those legends is a very great fact." - E.A. Freeman
            ("Avalonian Quest", p. 131)

            So, is there any historical evidence to back up the aforementioned
            legends? There is, but much of it is disputed.

            First, is there any early evidence that Britain was evangelized in the
            Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century? Various Early
            Church Fathers are quoted to make this claim, including Irenaeus (c.
            125 - 189 A.D.), Eusebius (260 - 340 A.D.), St. Hilary of Poitiers
            (300 - 367 A.D.), and Origin (185 - 254 A.D.). One reference that seems
            especially relevant is by Tertullian (155 - 222 A.D.):

            "All the limits of the Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and
            the haunts of the Britons - inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated
            to Christ, and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and
            Scythians, and of many remote nations, and of provinces and islands
            many, to us unknown, and which we can scarce enumerate. In all which
            places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns, as of Him
            before whom the gates of all cities have been opened, and to whom none
            are closed, before whom iron bars have been crumbled, and brazen gates
            opened." - Tertullian, "An Answer to the Jews" ("The Anti-Nicene Fathers
            Volume 3", p. 296)

            The above passage would seem to clearly indicate that Britain had been
            "subjugated to Christ" long before the papal mission of St. Augustine in
            597 A.D. (one of the traditional dates for the foundation of
            Christianity in Britain).

            An early British reference to the possibility of 1st century
            Christianization of Britain comes from a 6th century monk/historian
            named Gildas the Wise (500? - 572? A.D.), who reportedly spent some
            years at Glastonbury Abbey:

            "These islands received the beams of light - that is, the holy precepts
            of Christ - the true Sun, as we know, at the latter part of the reign of
            Tiberius Caesar, in whose time this religion was propagated without
            impediment and death threatened to those who interfered with its
            professors." - "De Excidio Britanniae" ("The Ruin and Conquest of
            Britain") (Matthews, p. 87)

            As Tiberius Caesar died in 37 A.D., this reference places Christianity
            in Britain even before the typical 63 A.D. date assigned in the
            Arimathean legends!

            So where does Joseph come into the picture? There may be a reference as
            early as the 6th century, from a "bard" named Melkin (or, variously,
            Melchinus or Maelgwn). If a source document of this reference existed,
            it would provide strong evidence linking Joseph to England. Alas, the
            first existing reference to the Melkin document is in a 14th century
            document written by monk John of Glastonbury. Here are the relevant
            parts of Melkin's "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis". Note that Avalon is
            traditionally connected with Glastonbury:

            "Avalon's island...
            Amid there Joseph in marble,
            Of Arimathea by name,
            Hath found perpetual sleep:
            He lies in a two-forked [bifurcated] line
            Next the south corner of an oratory
            Fashioned of wattles
            For the adorning of a mighty virgin
            By the aforementioned sphere-betokened
            Dwellers in that place, thirteen in all.
            For Joseph hath with him
            In his sarcophagus
            Two cruets, white and silver,
            Filled with blood and sweat
            Of the prophet Jesus." (Matthews, p. 67/68)

            If we can be comfortable that this document actually existed (and wasn't
            a literary creation of John of Glastonbury), it establishes several key
            points, from a 6th-century source:

            Joseph came to Avalon (Glastonbury) with 12 followers

            An oratory made of wattles was created, and was dedicated to Mary,
            Mother of Jesus

            Joseph had with him two cruets, "filled with blood and sweat of the
            prophet Jesus"

            The legend assumes more form by the 12th century writings of historian
            William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - 1143 A.D.), who, in two books, wrote
            much of the history of Glastonbury Abbey. In his "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
            ("Acts of the Kings of the English"), William comments about the "Old
            Church" in Glastonbury:

            "The church of which we are speaking - from its antiquity called by the
            Angles, by way of distinction 'Ealde Chiche', that is the 'Old Church'
            of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even
            from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country,
            claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean..." (Lewis,
            p. 68)

            While William stops short of linking the "Old Church" with Joseph of
            Arimathea, or even the first century, he does verify its antiquity, and
            the fact that the original church was built of wattle. William goes on
            to suggest that the Old Church was built in the second century by the
            missionaries Faganus and Deruvianus, but adds the following comment:

            "There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in
            certain places to the following effect: 'No other hands than those of
            the disciples of Christ erected the Church of Glastonbury'. Nor is it
            dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the
            Gauls, as Freculfus relates in the fourth chapter of his seventh book,
            it may be believed that he planted the word on this side of the channel
            also." ("King Arthur's Avalon", Ashe, p. 42)

            In the above passage, the possibility of 1st century erection of the Old
            Church by the "disciples of Christ" is mentioned, as well as the
            possibility that the Apostle Philip sent missionaries from Gaul.



            William of Malmesbury came to the great Medieval Abbey of Glastonbury
            early in the 12th century to research his books "The Acts of the Kings
            of the English", and "The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"

            Several years after William wrote "The Acts of the Kings of the
            English", he wrote a second book which was dedicated to telling the
            history of Glastonbury Abbey. The book was called "De Antiquitate
            Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" ("The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"),
            and here is yet another blazing controversy - the earliest extant copy
            of this document (written c. 1130) dates to approximately 1240 A.D. The
            passages below, which give the first detailed history of Joseph and the
            establishment of the church at Glastonbury, were added as an
            introductory chapter written in another hand. So, this is either the
            definitive history of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles, written
            by the prominent and respected historian William of Malmesbury, or a
            later interpolation by an unknown author!

            "St. Philip...coming into the country of the Franks to preach, converted
            many to the Faith and baptized them. Working to spread Christ's word, he
            chose twelve from among his disciples, and sent them into Britain. Their
            leader, it is said, was Philip's dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea,
            who buried the Lord.

            Coming therefore into Britain 63 years from the Incarnation of the Lord,
            and 15 from the Assumption of Blessed Mary, they began faithfully to
            preach the Faith of Christ. But the barbaric king and his people,
            hearing such novel and unaccustomed things, absolutely refused to
            consent to their preaching, neither did he wish to change the traditions
            of his ancestors, yet, because they came from far, and merely required a
            modest competence for their life, at their request he granted them a
            certain island, surrounded by woods, thickets and marshes, called by the
            inhabitants Ynys-witrin...

            Thereupon the said twelve saints residing in this desert, were in a very
            short time warned by a vision of the angel Gabriel to build a church in
            honour of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary in a place shown to
            them from heaven, and they, quick to obey the divine precepts, completed
            a certain chapel according to what had been shown them...

            And as it was the first in the kingdom, God's Son distinguished it with
            greater dignity by dedicating it in honour of his Mother...

            The said saints continued to live in the same hermitage for many years,
            and were at last liberated from the prison of the flesh. The place then
            began to be a covert for wild beats - the spot which had before been the
            habitation of saints - until the Blessed Virgin was pleased to recall
            her house of prayer to the memory of the faithful..." ("Avalonian
            Quest", Ashe, p. 56)

            As can be seen, most of the basic legend of Joseph in the British Isles
            is contained in this (possibly interpolated) passage from "De
            Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae". Only the legend of the Grail (see
            next section), and the Glastonbury Holy Thorn is missing.

            The next major chronicler of the Joseph legends was 14th century monk
            John (Seen) of Glastonbury, who seemingly gathered all of the extant
            sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey, and
            published them in one book, entitled "Cronica sive Antiquitates
            Glastoniensis Ecclesie" ("Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
            Glastonbury"). A sample:

            "In the fifteenth year after this he went to St. Philip in Gaul, taking
            with him Josephes, whom the Lord had consecrated a bishop in the city of
            Sarath...Then the apostle, desiring that the word of God should be
            spread abroad, sent twelve of his disciples to preach in Britain,
            placing at their head his favourite disciple Joseph of Arimathea,
            together with his son Josephes..." (Matthews, p. 69)

            It was John, you'll recall, that published the 6th century Melkin poem
            that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ.
            The Grail has not yet made its way into the story.

            The last part of the basic legend (sans the Grail, which deserves its
            own section) regards a hawthorn bush which grows in Glastonbury, now
            called the Holy Thorn. The bush (or tree, really) has the interesting
            property of blooming twice a year - in May, and at Christmas time! The
            type of thorn ("crataegus oxyacantha praecox"), seems to be native to
            Syria. Like many
            other things in Glastonbury, the tree is an unexplained anomaly.

            The Holy Thorn isn't connected to the Joseph legend until the publishing
            of a 1520 anonymous poem (published by Richard Pynson, the royal
            printer), entitled "The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia". While the poem
            discusses the hawthorn and its properties, the story of it growing from
            Joseph's staff is missing. (Note: this poem also refers to Joseph
            bringing two cruets with him, containing the blood of Christ - "Thys
            blode in two cruettes/Joseph dyd take". No Cup from the Last Supper,
            yet).

            In 1677, a Dr. Plot refers to the thorn, and ascribes its planting to
            Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, in 1716, the full story of Joseph placing
            his staff on a hill at Glastonbury ("Wirral Hill", because Joseph and
            his companions were "Weary-All"), and having the thorn grow on the spot
            is published.

            The original thorn was destroyed by Puritan fanatics during the English
            Civil War, but cuttings from the original have grown into trees in both
            Glastonbury, and other parts of England. And they continue to bloom at
            approximately Christmas each year.

            The claim of England as the first Christianised Western country was
            taken quite seriously in the middle ages. The claim was advanced at four
            church councils: the Council of Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Sienna
            (1424) and Basle (1434). Glastonbury was known as "Roma Secunda" in some
            circles during the Middle Ages, and four pilgrimages to Glastonbury were
            counted as one to Rome to venerate the Apostles Peter and Paul.

            Queen Elizabeth II, in 1965, erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with
            the following inscription:

            "The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II
            marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its
            origin."


            Joseph and the Holy Grail

            Perhaps the most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea - his
            connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, or the Holy Grail - is
            even harder to pin down than the other parts of the Joseph-in-England
            legends. There is no reference connecting Joseph to the Cup from the
            Last Supper in either the canonical Gospels, the non-canonical sources
            ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), or the historical
            sources (William of Malmesbury, Melkin, John of Glastonbury).

            If one accepts the validity of the aforementioned 6th-century document
            by Melkin entitled "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis", as translated by
            John of Glastonbury in the 14th century, Joseph is early identified, not
            with the Cup from the Last Supper, but rather:

            For Joseph hath with him
            In his sarcophagus
            Two cruets, white and silver,
            Filled with blood and sweat
            Of the prophet Jesus. (Matthews, p. 67/68)

            The references connecting Joseph to the Holy Grail (and the later
            Arthurian-era quests for said Grail) are all from Medieval and later
            romances and literature. Thus, from a historical standpoint, they are
            the most difficult to verify.

            The Medieval romances in question all have to do with one basic topic -
            the stories of King Arthur, and his band of chivalrous knights. Joseph
            of Arimathea comes into the stories as a key character, because of one
            of the greatest subplots in the Arthurian epics - the quest for the Holy
            Grail.

            There is great argument over exactly what the Holy Grail is - a cup? a
            chalice? a stone? There are also learned treatises on the possibility
            that the model for the Holy Grail predates Christianity. However, many
            of the Medieval romances squarely associate the Holy Grail with the Cup
            from the Last Supper of Christ, and further identify that it was Joseph
            of Arimathea that brought the Cup to England in the first place
            (otherwise, there wouldn't have been anything in England for Arthur and
            his knights to search for!)

            The first major romance that explicitly links Joseph to the Grail is
            Robert de Boron's (or Borron) "Joseph d'Arimathie" (c. 1190). Robert de
            Boron seems to start with the account from the Gospel of Nicodemus, and
            then adds his own slant to the story. Essentially:

            After Jesus is stabbed with the spear on the cross, Joseph captures some
            of the blood of Jesus in the Cup from the Last Supper (the Holy Grail)

            Joseph is imprisoned, and is taught the mysteries of the Grail by Christ
            himself

            Joseph spends 42 years in prison, and is released by Vespasian (!)

            Joseph and a group of fellow Christians travel to an unspecified foreign
            country. Joseph builds a table symbolic of the table used at the Last
            Supper. The place for Judas is kept empty - it will be filled someday by
            a descendent of one of the companions of Joseph (Brons). (In later
            romances, this seat will be called "The Siege Perilous", and will be
            occupied by Sir
            Galahad).

            A companion of Joseph (Petrus) travels to the "Vales of Avaron" (which,
            for the purposes of this discussion, is assumed to refer to
            Avalon-Glastonbury) to prepare a place for the Grail

            The Grail as the "Ark of the New Covenant"

            Other Medieval romances with similar themes include:

            "Grand Saint Grail" (c. 1200)

            "Parzival", by Wolram von Eschenbach (c. 1207)

            "Qeuste del Saint Graal (The Vulgate Cycle)" (c. 1210). In this account,
            the character of Sir Galahad appears for the first time.

            Galahad is identified in various romances as being descendent from
            Joseph of Arimathea (through his father, Sir Lancelot). Galahad is the
            only truly pure knight in the world, and is the only knight that can
            occupy the "Siege Perilous" on Arthur's Round Table. He is the only
            knight that completely attains the Grail.

            "Perlesvaus" (1225)

            "Le Morte D'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur"), by Sir Thomas Mallory
            (published 1485)

            As "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the most well-known of the English versions of
            the Arthurian romances, I've compiled several quotes that refer to
            Joseph:

            "And here followeth the noble tale of the Sangreal, that called is the
            holy vessel; and the signification of the blessed blood of our Lord Jesu
            Christ, blessed mote it be, the which was brought in to this land by
            Joseph of Aramathie." - Introduction to Book 13 (Mallory, p. 370)

            "...it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty-two year
            that Joseph of Aramathie the gentle knight, the which took down our Lord
            off the holy Cross, at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great
            party of his kindred with him...And so by fortune they came into this
            land, that at that time was called Great Britian...And after that all
            the people were turned to the Christian faith." (Mallory, p. 380)

            "...ye have heard much of Joseph of Aramathie, how he was sent by Jesu
            Christ into this land to teach and preach the holy Christian faith...and
            ever he was busy to be there as the Sangreal was..." (Mallory, p. 393)

            "And therewithal beseemed them that there came a man, and four angels
            from heaven, clothed in likeness of a bishop, and had a cross in his
            hand; and these four angels bare him in a chair, and set him down before
            the table of silver whereupon the Sangreal was; and it seemed that he
            had in middes of his forehead letters the which said, See ye here Joseph
            the first bishop of Christendom...Then the nights marvelled, for that
            Bishop was dead more than three hundred year tofore. O knights, said he,
            marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man." (Mallory, p. 442)

            Note that Mallory is not at all shy about proclaiming that Joseph is
            "the first bishop of Christendom"!

            Another famous literary reference that links Joseph to the Grail is from
            Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1859 "Idylls of the King" (idylls means "poems"
            or "songs"):

            ...What is it?
            The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?

            Nay, monk! what phantom? answer'd Percivale.
            The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
            Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
            This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
            After the day of darkness, when the dead
            Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
            Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
            To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
            Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord,
            And there awhile it bode; and if a man
            Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
            By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
            Grew to such evil that the holy cup
            Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.

            To whom the monk: "From our old books I know
            That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
            And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
            Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
            And there he built with wattles from the marsh
            A lonely church in the days of yore...

            Notice that by the 19th century, not only was the Cup closely associated
            with Joseph (and Glastonbury), but also the hawthorn bush that blooms at
            Christmas time. Also of note in Tennyson' poem is the reference to "From
            our old books I know..." Most Medieval references to Joseph, whether
            from histories or literature, claim to have received the basis of the
            story from old or ancient books. Perhaps the most romantic such
            assignation comes from the anonymous 1225 A.D. epic "Perlesvaus":

            "The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in
            the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the
            head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen
            Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that
            are therein, that have the whole history thereof." ("King Arthur's
            Avalon", p. 201)

            There is a well at Glastonbury named "Chalice Well". Some esoteric
            legends say that Joseph placed the Cup somewhere in the depths of the
            well. The well is a curious place - 25,000 gallons of red-tinted water
            pass through the well area per day. The red tint, caused by a high iron
            content, caused the Well to at one time be called the "Blood Spring", or
            the "Blood Well", seemingly in reference to the Blood of Christ.



            The legends associating Joseph with the Grail seem weaker, and harder to
            grasp hold of, than the legends regarding his establishment of the first
            Christian church in England, at Glastonbury. The Joseph/Grail connection
            are not mentioned in any early histories, and first appear in 12th
            century romances. However, if the 6th-century Melkin account is accepted
            as
            legitimate, Joseph is, at least, early-on associated with bringing some
            kind of container ("two cruets") containing the blood of Christ with him
            to Glastonbury.

            So could Joseph have ended up with the Cup from the Last Supper? Could
            he have had in his possession drops of the blood of Christ? Certainly,
            the Gospels identify Joseph as a disciple (although not apostle) of
            Christ, and he is also identified as having taken down the body of
            Christ from the cross, and preparing it for burial. Assumedly, Joseph
            would have come in contact with Christ's blood - remember, Christ was
            speared on the cross, and bled:

            John 19:34 "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a
            spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (NIV)

            Thus, while the idea that Joseph could have had in his possession the
            Cup and/or a container with Christ's blood is not implausible, there is
            no early source to verify this legend.

            The table below traces the sources of the various legends regarding
            Joseph and his connection with England. Romances and other literary
            works are indicated in red.

            Tracing the legends

            Source
            Date
            Notes

            Tertullian - An Answer to the Jews 193/216 A.D.
            Britain was already "subjugated to Christ" in the late 2nd century

            Melkin the Bard 6th century?
            Quoted by John of Glastonbury

            Joseph & 12 followers in Avalon

            Wattled oratory

            Two cruets with blood and sweat of Christ

            Gildas Ruin and Conquest of Britain c. 540
            Britain received "the holy precepts of Christ...at the latter part of
            the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (!)

            William of Malmesbury - Acts of the Kings of the English c. 1125
            The Old Church, "of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly
            sanctity even from its very foundation"

            Mentions the possibility of foundation by the disciples of Christ, sent
            by the Apostle Philip

            William of Malmesbury - The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury
            c.1130
            Story of Faganus & Deruvianus, papal envoys, in 170 A.D. as builders
            of the Old Church

            Joseph referred to in a preface, written in another hand, dating to c.
            1240.
            Almost the whole Joseph/Glastonbury legend is contained here, except
            for the Cup, and the hawthorn

            Robert de Boron - Joseph d'Arimathie c. 1190
            Joseph as keeper of the Cup from the Last Supper (The Holy Grail)

            The Cup brought to the "Vales of Avaron"

            John of Glastonbury - Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
            Glastonbury 14th century
            Gathered all extant sources together to produce a book on Joseph

            Joseph as an ancestor of King Arthur

            Quotes Melkin manuscript ("two cruets") - no mention of the Grail

            Joseph is an attendant of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and is present at her
            ascension

            Thomas Mallory - Le Morte D'Arthur 1485
            Most famous English Arthurian romance

            Joseph as "first bishop of Christendom"

            The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia 1520
            Connects the Holy Thorn with Joseph
            Alfred Tennyson - Idylls of the King 1859
            Directly states that Joseph brought the Cup to Glastonbury

            And did those feet in ancient times...

            There is one more legend associated with Joseph of Arimathea that should
            be briefly explored, if for no other reason than its popularity. This is
            the legend that Joseph brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
            one or more times. This legend can't be directly traced to early
            histories or Medieval romances, although it appears that William Blake
            refers to it in his famous poem "Jerusalem" (see below).

            The Bible is, of course, rather mysterious about the events that
            happened in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he
            began his ministry). As a result, many people have attempted on their
            own to define what happened in those lost years. India, North America,
            and England have all been posited as possibilities for where Jesus might
            have traveled as a
            youth/young adult. The Biblical references usually quoted to set the
            stage for theories regarding the travels of Jesus between the ages of 12
            and 30 include:

            Luke 4:16/22 - Jesus preaches in Nazareth, where he doesn't seem
            immediately known, thus giving the impression that he had been away for
            a long time.

            John 1:29/31 - John the Baptist, although a relative of Jesus, seems not
            to recognize him when they meet in the river Jordan, thus causing some
            people to think that Jesus had been absent from Israel for a long time.

            John 1:29/31 "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
            "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the
            one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me
            because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I
            came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
            (NIV)

            The legends connecting Jesus and Joseph with Cornwall/Somerset go
            something like this:

            There is a tradition preserved in the Orthodox Churches that Joseph was
            the Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

            Further tradition states that Joseph was a merchant in the tin trade
            that flourished between the west coast of England, and Europe and the
            Mediterranean

            On one or more occasions, the legends state that Joseph brought his
            grandnephew Jesus with him on business trips to the mines in
            Cornwall/Somerset

            On one of those trips, Jesus and Joseph built the church in Glastonbury
            (later to be used by Joseph and his followers after the death and
            resurrection of Jesus). Jesus dedicated the church to his Mother (the
            niece of Joseph of Arimathea).

            As stated earlier, there are no direct early historical, or even
            literary references to these legends. The earliest reference of any kind
            may be in William Blake's famous poem, "Jerusalem", which is now a
            much-loved hymn in England (watch the last 10 minutes of the movie
            "Chariots of Fire" to hear it sung):

            Jerusalem

            And did those feet in ancient times
            Walk upon England's mountains green?
            And was the Holy Lamb of God
            On England's pleasant pastures seen?
            And did the Countenance Divine
            Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
            And was Jerusalem builded here
            Among those dark Satanic mills?

            Bring me my bow of burning gold!
            Bring me my arrows of desire!
            Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
            Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
            I will not cease from mental fight,
            Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
            Till I have built Jerusalem
            In England's green and pleasant land.

            - William Blake, 1757-1827

            There is some background and indirect evidence that just prevent the
            legend from being totally implausible:

            There is no question that there were tin mines in Western Britain in the
            early first century. And there is no question that the tin was traded
            with other parts of the Continent. (For example: Greek historian
            Herodotus (5th century B.C.)) refers to the tin trade in the "Isles of
            the West" (Capt, p.23))

            Proponents of the legend point to several place names in
            Cornwall/Somerset that have Jewish names, or that refer directly to
            Christ ("Jesus Well", "Penzance" ("Holy Headland") etc.)

            There are several ancient references that claim that the church at
            Glastonbury was either built by God himself, or dedicated to Mary,
            Mother of Jesus by Jesus himself. Some examples include:

            "There is on the confines of western Britain a certain royal island,
            called in the ancient speech Glastonia...In it the earliest neophytes of
            the christian way of life, God guiding them, found a church, not built
            by the art of man, they say, but prepared by God himself for the
            salvation of mankind, which church the heavenly Builder himself
            declared - by many miracles and many mysteries of healing - he had
            consecrated to himself and to holy Mary, Mother of God." - from "Life of
            St. Dunstan", c. 1000 ("Avalonian Quest", p.23)

            "...the Son of God was pleased to grace it with particular dignity,
            dedicating it Himself in honour of His Mother..." - from the possibly
            interpolated c. 1240 edition of "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis
            Ecclesiae", by William of Malmesbury (Matthews, p. 97)

            "The church of which we are speaking...savoured somewhat of heavenly
            sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole
            country, claiming superior reverence, though the structure was
            mean..." - "Acts of the Kings of the English", by William of Malmesbury
            (Lewis, p. 68)

            Proponents of the legend also point to the mysterious stone on the south
            side of the Old Church (St. Mary's Chapel), which says "Jesus Maria".

            Conclusions

            Joseph of Arimathea remains an enigmatic character. While he appears to
            be a fairly minor player in the canonical Gospels, he, not Mary, Mother
            of Jesus, not Mary Magdalen, and not any of the apostles, is entrusted
            with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross, respectfully preparing
            him for burial, and donating a tomb for the body. These facts would seem
            to speak of some special significance accorded to Joseph's role as a
            disciple of Christ, and suppoert the Orthodox belief that he was the
            uncle of Mary.

            That being said, Joseph seems an unlikely character to have become one
            of the centerpieces of the Medieval literary craze which became the
            Arthurian legends. Likewise, he seems an unlikely character to create a
            story around as the founder of the Christian church in England. Why not
            pick Paul, or Philip, or another better known disciple than Joseph of
            Arimathea, if one was going to make up the story?

            So, are the stories and legends true? In my personal opinion - The idea
            that Joseph brought a small band of followers to Britain in the 1st
            century, and started a church at Glastonbury seems reasonably credible
            (although not absolutely provable). The idea that, as the undertaker of
            Jesus, he might have saved some drops of blood also seems, at least
            plausible (but again, not provable). The legends regarding Joseph's
            connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, the hawthorn bush at
            Glastonbury, and bringing the boy Jesus to Cornwall/Glastonbury seem (in
            decreasing order) less credible.

            However, I can speak quite personally that Glastonbury is a very eerie
            place, and if miracles could occur anywhere in the world, I could
            believe that they could occur there.

            Sources


            A Glastonbury Reader Compiled and edited by John Matthews The Aquarian
            Press 1991

            The Arthurian Encyclopedia Norris J. Lacy, Editor Boydell Press 1986

            Avalonian Quest Geoffrey Ashe Fontana Paperbacks 1982

            Bible Characters Dwight Moody The Sage Digital Library 1996

            Holman Bible Dictionary for Windows Parsons Technology 1994

            Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson American Book Company 1915

            King Arthur's Avalon - The Story of Glastonbury Geoffrey Ashe Barnes &
            Noble 1992

            Le Morte D'Arthur Sir Thomas Mallory Harrison House 1985

            St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury Lionel Smithett Lewis James
            Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1922

            The Traditions of Glastonbury E. Raymond Capt M.A. Artisan Sales 1983

            The Lost Books of the Bible Bell Publishing Co. 1979

            The Anti-Nicene Fathers Volumes 3 & 8 Edited by A. Roberts and J
            Donaldson The Sage Digital Library 1996

            The Grail - Quest for the Eternal John Matthews Thames and Hudson 1981

            PC Bible Atlas for Windows Parsons Technology 1994
            ________________________________________


            St. Mary's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

            Copyright 1997 by Robert C. Jones

            This material may be reprinted free of charge for use by non-profit
            church groups, as long as the author and copyright information is
            retained.
          • emrys@globe.net.nz
            Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
            Message 5 of 14 , Jul 30, 2007
            • 0 Attachment
              Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

              =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
              * St. Joseph of Arimathea
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              Saint Joseph of Arimathea
              Biblical & Legendary Accounts
              by Robert Jones

              This essay may be read on line at
              http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


              Table of Contents
              Introduction

              Canonical Sources

              Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

              Involvement in the burial of Christ

              Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

              Non-Canonical Sources

              The Gospel of Nicodemus

              The Narrative of Joseph

              The Passing of Mary

              Legendary Accounts

              Founder of the first Christian Church in England

              Joseph and the Holy Grail

              And did those feet in ancient times...

              Conclusions

              Sources

              About the author
              _________________________

              Introduction
              Joseph of Arimathea is one of the more mysterious figures in the New
              Testament. He is mentioned briefly, by all four of the evangelists, and
              yet we glean little about him from the Gospel accounts.

              "Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy". ("Homilies of
              St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John")

              Yet, while little is written about Joseph in the Gospels themselves, he
              was a popular figure in both apocryphal (non-canonical ) accounts
              ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), and in numerous
              medieval Arthurian epics, including Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur", and
              Robert de Boron's "Joseph d'Arimathie".

              In legend, Joseph is a quite remarkable figure - his exploits (in
              various accounts) include:

              Founder of the first Christian Church in England

              Keeper of the Holy Grail, the Cup from the Last Supper of Christ

              Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

              Merchant involved in the tin trade between the West coast of England,
              and the Mediterranean - took the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
              in England sometime between the ages of 12 and 30

              Ancestor of Sir Lancelot & Sir Galahad of Arthurian fame

              This booklet will examine the life of Joseph from canonical,
              non-canonical (apocryphal), and legendary sources. No claims are made as
              to the authenticity of the latter two, but the mere fact of their
              existence adds to the mystery of Joseph of Arimathea.

              Canonical Sources

              Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four evangelists, in generally
              consistent accounts. Bible commentator Dwight Moody notes:

              "Read the four accounts given, in the four Gospels, of Joseph of
              Arimathea. There is very seldom anything mentioned by all four of the
              Evangelists. If Matthew and Mark refer to an event, it is omitted by
              Luke and John; and, if it occur in the latter, it may not be contained
              in the former." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 115)

              By drawing on all four accounts, we can at least discern some basic
              characteristics regarding Joseph. The key passages are listed below:

              Mat 27:57/60 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from
              Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
              Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be
              given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
              and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He
              rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."
              (NIV)

              Mark 15:43/46 "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council,
              who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate
              and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
              already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already
              died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
              body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,
              wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then
              he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb." (NIV)

              Luke 23:50/55 "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the
              Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision
              and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting
              for the kingdom of
              God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down,
              wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one
              in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the
              Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from
              Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in
              it." (NIV)

              John 19:38/42 "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of
              Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he
              feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body
              away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited
              Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
              seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it,
              with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish
              burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a
              garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been
              laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb
              was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (NIV)

              As can be seen from the canonical texts, little detail is given
              regarding Joseph of Arimathea, other than details of his involvement in
              the burial of Christ. No occupation is given (although we are told that
              he was a "rich man"), nor is his age or personal description revealed
              (although Joseph of Arimathea is often depicted as an elderly man by the
              time of the crucifixion). Even his place of origin is obscure - although
              the Gospels identify that he was from the "Judean town of Arimathea",
              there was no town of that exact name at the time of Jesus' earthly life.
              Many scholars identify Arimathea with the town of "Ramathaim", mentioned
              in 1 Sam 1:1. Other scholars view that the modern city of Rentis
              (located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) is the ancient
              Arimathea. However, the reference to "Arimathea" remains obscure.

              Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea
              The table below shows the main characteristics regarding Joseph of
              Arimathea that can be gleaned from the Gospel accounts.

              Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

              Joseph was a rich man Mat 27:57
              He was from the Judean town of Arimathea (see map below) Mat 27:57; Luke
              23:51
              He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
              Joseph was probably a fairly influential man - he (boldly) asked Pilate
              for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58; Mark 15:43
              He was rich enough to own his own tomb Mat 27:60
              Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin Mark 15:43
              He was "waiting for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43
              He was a "a good and upright man" Luke 23:50
              He had not agreed to the Sanhedrin actions regarding Jesus Luke 23:51
              Joseph feared reprisals from the Jewish elders, so he was a secret
              disciple of Jesus John 19:38

              Involvement in the burial of Christ
              The most detailed canonical descriptions regarding Joseph have to do
              with his involvement in the burial of Christ. The table below captures
              the highlights of this involvement.

              He was a disciple of Christ Mat 27:57
              Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and received it Mat 27:58
              Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial by wrapping it in
              linen, along with 75 pounds of "myrrh and aloes" John 19:40 Jesus was
              buried according to Jewish burial customs John 19:40 Joseph placed the
              body in his own new tomb, located in a garden at the place where Jesus
              was crucified, and rolled a stone in front of it Mat 27:60; John 19:41

              Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?
              Through the ages, a theological debate has raged regarding whether
              Joseph of Arimathea was a coward, or saint. On the coward side, critics
              point out that Joseph, while being a disciple of Jesus, was afraid to
              announce so publicly "because he feared the Jews" (John 19:38). It
              appears to be just another case of a rich member of a ruling elite who
              is afraid to proclaim
              potentially socially unacceptable viewpoints, for fear of disturbing the
              status quo.

              The alternate view of Joseph seems to have a stronger backing. While
              Joseph may not have revealed his discipleship of Jesus during the
              earthly ministry of the Saviour, two acts would seem to strongly put him
              in the category of "defender of the faith":

              Joseph appears to have been one of (or perhaps the sole) member of the
              Sanhedrin "who had not consented to their decision and action" (Luke
              23:51) regarding the trial of Jesus

              Joseph bravely went to Pilate, boldly requesting the body of Jesus, and
              (with Nicodemus), buried the body according to Jewish burial customs.
              This was an amazingly brave act, because it should be remembered that
              during this time, all of the apostles had fled (except, possibly, John),
              and Peter had denied he even knew Christ. And yet Joseph, at the seeming
              low point in the earthly ministry of Christ, bravely and openly took
              care of Christ's body, risking possible censure from both the Romans and
              the Jewish elders. Commentator Dwight Moody discusses the bravery of
              Joseph in asking Pilate for the body:

              "I consider this was one of the sublimest, grandest acts that any man
              ever did. In that darkness and gloom - His disciples having all forsaken
              Him; Judas having sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; the chief
              apostle Peter having denied him with a curse, swearing that he never
              knew Him; the chief priests having found Him guilty of blasphemy; the
              council having condemned Him to death; and when there was a hiss going
              up to heaven over all Jerusalem - Joseph went right against the current,
              right against the influence of all his friends, and begged the body of
              Jesus." ("Bible Characters" by Dwight L. Moody, p. 116)

              It is perhaps not a surprise to lean that St Joseph became the Patron
              Saint of Undertakers. His feast day is March 17 and March 27 on the
              Western Calendar and in the Orthodox Churches he has his feast day on
              July 31 and has a very special mention in the hymns for Good Friday and
              the Deposition of Christ's Body from the Cross.

              Non-Canonical Sources

              There are at least three non-canonical (apocryphal) references to Joseph
              of Arimathea which give additional (although not contradictory)
              information regarding Joseph's actions after the death and resurrection
              of Christ. Keep in mind that the early church father's did not consider
              these three sources to be authoritative enough to be included in the New
              Testament. On the other hand, they were not condemned by the early
              church fathers, either (they were not Gnostic texts, for example).

              The Gospel of Nicodemus
              Few scholars today view that this account was really written (or
              inspired) by Joseph's Sanhedrin colleague Nicodemus - some scholars
              would date it as late as the third century. (Gregory of Tours, writing
              in the 6th century, references this gospel). It is the major source of
              early, non-canonical information regarding Joseph of Arimathea.

              A summary of the references to Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus
              follows, with certain key passages printed verbatim.

              Joseph asks for the body of Christ from Pilate, embalms the body (with
              the help of Nicodemus), buries the body in a new tomb, and rolls a stone
              in front of the tomb (totally consistent with the Gospel accounts)

              The Jewish elders express anger at Joseph for burying the body of
              Christ. Joseph replies indignantly:

              "And likewise Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you
              angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put
              him in my new tomb, wrapping him in clean linen; and I have rolled a
              stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the
              just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have
              pierced him with a spear." ("Gospel of Nicodemus", translated by
              Alexander Walker, Esq.)

              The Jewish elders capture Joseph, and imprison him. A seal is placed on
              the door to the cell, and a guard is posted. Before being imprisoned,
              Joseph warns the elders:

              "The God whom you have hanged upon the cross, is able to deliver me out
              of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you." ("Gospel of
              Nicodemus", from "The Lost Books of the Bible", p. 75)

              When the elders return to the cell, the seal is still in place, but
              Joseph is gone. The elders later discover that Joseph has returned to
              Arimathea. The elders have a change of heart, and desire to have a more
              civil conversation with Joseph.

              The elders send a letter of apology to Joseph via seven of his friends

              Joseph travels back from Arimathea to Jerusalem to meet with the elders.
              The elders question Joseph on how he escaped. Joseph tells his story:

              "On the day of the Preparation, about the tenth hour, you shut me in,
              and I remained there the whole Sabbath in full. And when midnight came,
              as I was standing and praying, the house where you shut me in was hung
              up by the four corners, and there was a flashing of light in mine eyes.
              And I fell to the ground trembling. Then some one lifted me up from the
              place where I had fallen, and poured over me an abundance of water from
              the head even to the feet, and put round my nostrils the odour of a
              wonderful ointment, and rubbed my face with the water itself, as if
              washing me, and kissed me, and said to me, Joseph, fear not; but open
              thine eyes, and see who it is that speaks to thee. And looking, I saw
              Jesus; and being terrified, I thought it was a phantom. And with prayer
              and the commandments I spoke to him, and he spoke with me. And I said to
              him: Art thou Rabbi Elias? And he said to me: I am not Elias. And I
              said: Who art thou, my Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus, whose body
              thou didst beg from Pilate, and wrap in clean linen; and thou didst lay
              a napkin on my face, and didst lay me in thy new tomb, and roll a stone
              to the door of the tomb. Then I said to him that was speaking to me:
              Show me, Lord, where I laid thee. And he led me, and showed me the place
              where I laid him, and the linen which I had put on him, and the napkin
              which I had wrapped upon his face; and I knew that it was Jesus. And he
              took hold of me with his hand, and put me in the midst of my house
              though the gates were shut, and put me in my bed, and said to me: Peace
              to thee! And he kissed me, and said to me: For forty days go not out of
              thy house; for, lo, I go to my brethren into Galilee." ("Gospel of
              Nicodemus", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

              Joseph stresses to the elders (specifically mentioning Annas and
              Caiaphas) that Jesus has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

              Joseph says that others were raised from the dead at the resurrection of
              Christ (compare to Mat 27:52/53). He specifically identifies the two
              sons of the high-priest Simeon (see Luke 2:25/35). Annas, Caiaphas,
              Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel (under whom Paul studied) travel to
              Arimathea to interview Charinus and Lenthius, sons of Simeon.

              As mentioned before, the account of Joseph in the Gospel of Nicodemus is
              not canonical, but it is (at least) plausible.

              The Narrative of Joseph
              Another apocryphal account of Joseph's interaction in the passion story
              appears in the "Narrative of Joseph". In basic outline, the story told
              in "The Narrative of Joseph" coincides with the account in "The Gospel
              of Nicodemus", with some interesting additions. The account starts with
              the words:

              "I am Joseph of Arimathea, who begged from Pilate the body of the Lord
              Jesus for burial, and who for this cause was kept close in prison by the
              murderous and God-fighting Jews..." ("The Narrative of Joseph",
              translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

              The narrative then goes on to discuss the fate of the two robbers that
              were crucified with Jesus on Golgotha. Joseph refers to them as Gestas
              and Demas. It also gives an alternative version of the betrayal of Jesus
              by Judas (identified as the son of the brother of Caiaphas), and the
              trial of Jesus.

              Also:

              The description of the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph by the Jewish
              elders is told. As in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph receives a visit
              in the jail cell from Christ, who saves him from the prison. The saved
              robber (Demas) is with Jesus.

              Joseph spends three days with Jesus in Galilee

              The narrative ends with the words:

              "And I, having seen these things, have written them down, in order that
              all may believe in the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord, and may no
              longer obey the law of Moses, but may believe in the signs and wonders
              that have happened through Him, and in order that we who have believed
              may inherit eternal life, and be found in the kingdom of the heavens.
              For to Him are due glory, strength, praise, and majesty for ever and
              ever. Amen." ("The Narrative of Joseph", translated by Alexander Walker,
              Esq.)

              The Passing of Mary
              A third non-canonical source, entitled "The Passing of Mary" is also
              attributed to Joseph. Joseph appears as an attendant of Mary, Mother of
              Jesus, and is present at her falling asleep and her ascension into
              heaven (which is described in great detail). Joseph is not identified as
              the author until the last paragraph:

              "I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him
              rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of
              the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin
              Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which
              came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above
              were done by the judgement of God. And I have made known to all, Jews
              and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my
              ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them." ("The
              Passing of Mary", translated by Alexander Walker, Esq.)

              Legendary Accounts

              While Joseph of Arimathea is a fairly minor character in the canonical
              Gospels (and even in the non-canonical sources), he achieves superstar
              status in later legendary accounts, most of which date to the Middle
              Ages. In Medieval legend, Joseph is, variously, the founder of the first
              Christian Church in England, the keeper of the Holy Grail, the uncle of
              Mary Mother of Jesus, and the ancestor of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and
              Sir Galahad. No Biblical figure (other than Christ) equalled the amount
              of popular press attention given to Joseph of Arimathea during the
              Middle Ages. A look at the primary legends follows.

              Founder of the first Christian Church in England
              The most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea regards his
              foundation of the first Christian Church in England at Glastonbury, in
              the first century (37 A.D. or 63 A.D., depending on the source). The
              traditional view of the Christianization of England is that it didn't
              occur until the missionary efforts of St. Augustine late in the 6th
              century (other legends discuss a missionary journey to England in the
              2nd-century, by Faganus and Deruvianus).

              The distinction between the Arimathean legend and the traditional
              Augustine view is a significant one - if Joseph really did bring
              Christianity to England as early as 37 A.D., it means that Christianity
              in England predates Christianity in other Western European nations such
              as Spain and France - and may even pre-date the establishment of
              Christianity in Rome itself.


              There are two basic types of sources concerning the legends connecting
              Joseph of Arimathea to England in general, and Glastonbury
              specifically - histories, and Medieval (and later) literature. We'll
              examine entries from both types of sources in this discussion.

              The basic legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea, and the establishment of
              the first Christian Church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England goes
              something like this:

              In the year 63 A.D. (or, possibly, earlier) Joseph is sent by the
              Apostle Philip from Gaul to England, with 11 (or 12, in some accounts)
              disciples, one of whom is his son Josephes

              Joseph lands in the British west country (Somerset), and is granted some
              land on the Island of Yniswitrin ("Isle of Glass") by a local King,
              Arviragus

              He places his staff in the ground on Weary-All hill, and a hawthorn bush
              (the "Holy Thorn") grows on the spot, and it still grows there today,
              blossoming in a strange manner every year at the feast of the Nativity
              in midwinter.

              Joseph & his followers create an ascetic community

              At the bidding of the archangel Gabriel, they build a church of daub and
              wattle in honour of the Blessed Mary, 31 years after the resurrection of
              Christ. The church is built on the site that will later become the great
              Benedictine monastery of Glastonbury (Glastonbury Abbey is also
              associated with being the burial place of King Arthur).

              After the death of King Arviragus, his son and grandson (Coillus and
              Marius, respectively) grant 12 additional hides of land (about 120 acres
              per hide) to Joseph and his followers

              Joseph brought with him (variously) two cruets "filled with blood and
              sweat of the prophet Jesus", collected when Joseph took Jesus down from
              the cross, or the Cup from the Last Supper (a.k.a. the Holy Grail, or
              the Sangreal)

              After the death of Joseph and his followers, the site is abandoned, but
              the church remains standing, to later be restored (possibly, in 170 A.D.
              by legendary missionaries from Rome Faganus and Deruvianus)



              "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are records of facts;
              but the existence of those legends is a very great fact." - E.A. Freeman
              ("Avalonian Quest", p. 131)

              So, is there any historical evidence to back up the aforementioned
              legends? There is, but much of it is disputed.

              First, is there any early evidence that Britain was evangelized in the
              Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century? Various Early
              Church Fathers are quoted to make this claim, including Irenaeus (c.
              125 - 189 A.D.), Eusebius (260 - 340 A.D.), St. Hilary of Poitiers
              (300 - 367 A.D.), and Origin (185 - 254 A.D.). One reference that seems
              especially relevant is by Tertullian (155 - 222 A.D.):

              "All the limits of the Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and
              the haunts of the Britons - inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated
              to Christ, and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and
              Scythians, and of many remote nations, and of provinces and islands
              many, to us unknown, and which we can scarce enumerate. In all which
              places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns, as of Him
              before whom the gates of all cities have been opened, and to whom none
              are closed, before whom iron bars have been crumbled, and brazen gates
              opened." - Tertullian, "An Answer to the Jews" ("The Anti-Nicene Fathers
              Volume 3", p. 296)

              The above passage would seem to clearly indicate that Britain had been
              "subjugated to Christ" long before the papal mission of St. Augustine in
              597 A.D. (one of the traditional dates for the foundation of
              Christianity in Britain).

              An early British reference to the possibility of 1st century
              Christianization of Britain comes from a 6th century monk/historian
              named Gildas the Wise (500? - 572? A.D.), who reportedly spent some
              years at Glastonbury Abbey:

              "These islands received the beams of light - that is, the holy precepts
              of Christ - the true Sun, as we know, at the latter part of the reign of
              Tiberius Caesar, in whose time this religion was propagated without
              impediment and death threatened to those who interfered with its
              professors." - "De Excidio Britanniae" ("The Ruin and Conquest of
              Britain") (Matthews, p. 87)

              As Tiberius Caesar died in 37 A.D., this reference places Christianity
              in Britain even before the typical 63 A.D. date assigned in the
              Arimathean legends!

              So where does Joseph come into the picture? There may be a reference as
              early as the 6th century, from a "bard" named Melkin (or, variously,
              Melchinus or Maelgwn). If a source document of this reference existed,
              it would provide strong evidence linking Joseph to England. Alas, the
              first existing reference to the Melkin document is in a 14th century
              document written by monk John of Glastonbury. Here are the relevant
              parts of Melkin's "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis". Note that Avalon is
              traditionally connected with Glastonbury:

              "Avalon's island...
              Amid there Joseph in marble,
              Of Arimathea by name,
              Hath found perpetual sleep:
              He lies in a two-forked [bifurcated] line
              Next the south corner of an oratory
              Fashioned of wattles
              For the adorning of a mighty virgin
              By the aforementioned sphere-betokened
              Dwellers in that place, thirteen in all.
              For Joseph hath with him
              In his sarcophagus
              Two cruets, white and silver,
              Filled with blood and sweat
              Of the prophet Jesus." (Matthews, p. 67/68)

              If we can be comfortable that this document actually existed (and wasn't
              a literary creation of John of Glastonbury), it establishes several key
              points, from a 6th-century source:

              Joseph came to Avalon (Glastonbury) with 12 followers

              An oratory made of wattles was created, and was dedicated to Mary,
              Mother of Jesus

              Joseph had with him two cruets, "filled with blood and sweat of the
              prophet Jesus"

              The legend assumes more form by the 12th century writings of historian
              William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - 1143 A.D.), who, in two books, wrote
              much of the history of Glastonbury Abbey. In his "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
              ("Acts of the Kings of the English"), William comments about the "Old
              Church" in Glastonbury:

              "The church of which we are speaking - from its antiquity called by the
              Angles, by way of distinction 'Ealde Chiche', that is the 'Old Church'
              of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly sanctity even
              from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole country,
              claiming superior reverence, though the structure was mean..." (Lewis,
              p. 68)

              While William stops short of linking the "Old Church" with Joseph of
              Arimathea, or even the first century, he does verify its antiquity, and
              the fact that the original church was built of wattle. William goes on
              to suggest that the Old Church was built in the second century by the
              missionaries Faganus and Deruvianus, but adds the following comment:

              "There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in
              certain places to the following effect: 'No other hands than those of
              the disciples of Christ erected the Church of Glastonbury'. Nor is it
              dissonant from probability: for if Philip, the Apostle, preached to the
              Gauls, as Freculfus relates in the fourth chapter of his seventh book,
              it may be believed that he planted the word on this side of the channel
              also." ("King Arthur's Avalon", Ashe, p. 42)

              In the above passage, the possibility of 1st century erection of the Old
              Church by the "disciples of Christ" is mentioned, as well as the
              possibility that the Apostle Philip sent missionaries from Gaul.



              William of Malmesbury came to the great Medieval Abbey of Glastonbury
              early in the 12th century to research his books "The Acts of the Kings
              of the English", and "The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"

              Several years after William wrote "The Acts of the Kings of the
              English", he wrote a second book which was dedicated to telling the
              history of Glastonbury Abbey. The book was called "De Antiquitate
              Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" ("The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury"),
              and here is yet another blazing controversy - the earliest extant copy
              of this document (written c. 1130) dates to approximately 1240 A.D. The
              passages below, which give the first detailed history of Joseph and the
              establishment of the church at Glastonbury, were added as an
              introductory chapter written in another hand. So, this is either the
              definitive history of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles, written
              by the prominent and respected historian William of Malmesbury, or a
              later interpolation by an unknown author!

              "St. Philip...coming into the country of the Franks to preach, converted
              many to the Faith and baptized them. Working to spread Christ's word, he
              chose twelve from among his disciples, and sent them into Britain. Their
              leader, it is said, was Philip's dearest friend, Joseph of Arimathea,
              who buried the Lord.

              Coming therefore into Britain 63 years from the Incarnation of the Lord,
              and 15 from the Assumption of Blessed Mary, they began faithfully to
              preach the Faith of Christ. But the barbaric king and his people,
              hearing such novel and unaccustomed things, absolutely refused to
              consent to their preaching, neither did he wish to change the traditions
              of his ancestors, yet, because they came from far, and merely required a
              modest competence for their life, at their request he granted them a
              certain island, surrounded by woods, thickets and marshes, called by the
              inhabitants Ynys-witrin...

              Thereupon the said twelve saints residing in this desert, were in a very
              short time warned by a vision of the angel Gabriel to build a church in
              honour of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary in a place shown to
              them from heaven, and they, quick to obey the divine precepts, completed
              a certain chapel according to what had been shown them...

              And as it was the first in the kingdom, God's Son distinguished it with
              greater dignity by dedicating it in honour of his Mother...

              The said saints continued to live in the same hermitage for many years,
              and were at last liberated from the prison of the flesh. The place then
              began to be a covert for wild beats - the spot which had before been the
              habitation of saints - until the Blessed Virgin was pleased to recall
              her house of prayer to the memory of the faithful..." ("Avalonian
              Quest", Ashe, p. 56)

              As can be seen, most of the basic legend of Joseph in the British Isles
              is contained in this (possibly interpolated) passage from "De
              Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae". Only the legend of the Grail (see
              next section), and the Glastonbury Holy Thorn is missing.

              The next major chronicler of the Joseph legends was 14th century monk
              John (Seen) of Glastonbury, who seemingly gathered all of the extant
              sources regarding Joseph of Arimathea's connection to his Abbey, and
              published them in one book, entitled "Cronica sive Antiquitates
              Glastoniensis Ecclesie" ("Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
              Glastonbury"). A sample:

              "In the fifteenth year after this he went to St. Philip in Gaul, taking
              with him Josephes, whom the Lord had consecrated a bishop in the city of
              Sarath...Then the apostle, desiring that the word of God should be
              spread abroad, sent twelve of his disciples to preach in Britain,
              placing at their head his favourite disciple Joseph of Arimathea,
              together with his son Josephes..." (Matthews, p. 69)

              It was John, you'll recall, that published the 6th century Melkin poem
              that mentions the two cruets filled with the blood and sweat of Christ.
              The Grail has not yet made its way into the story.

              The last part of the basic legend (sans the Grail, which deserves its
              own section) regards a hawthorn bush which grows in Glastonbury, now
              called the Holy Thorn. The bush (or tree, really) has the interesting
              property of blooming twice a year - in May, and at Christmas time! The
              type of thorn ("crataegus oxyacantha praecox"), seems to be native to
              Syria. Like many
              other things in Glastonbury, the tree is an unexplained anomaly.

              The Holy Thorn isn't connected to the Joseph legend until the publishing
              of a 1520 anonymous poem (published by Richard Pynson, the royal
              printer), entitled "The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia". While the poem
              discusses the hawthorn and its properties, the story of it growing from
              Joseph's staff is missing. (Note: this poem also refers to Joseph
              bringing two cruets with him, containing the blood of Christ - "Thys
              blode in two cruettes/Joseph dyd take". No Cup from the Last Supper,
              yet).

              In 1677, a Dr. Plot refers to the thorn, and ascribes its planting to
              Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, in 1716, the full story of Joseph placing
              his staff on a hill at Glastonbury ("Wirral Hill", because Joseph and
              his companions were "Weary-All"), and having the thorn grow on the spot
              is published.

              The original thorn was destroyed by Puritan fanatics during the English
              Civil War, but cuttings from the original have grown into trees in both
              Glastonbury, and other parts of England. And they continue to bloom at
              approximately Christmas each year.

              The claim of England as the first Christianised Western country was
              taken quite seriously in the middle ages. The claim was advanced at four
              church councils: the Council of Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Sienna
              (1424) and Basle (1434). Glastonbury was known as "Roma Secunda" in some
              circles during the Middle Ages, and four pilgrimages to Glastonbury were
              counted as one to Rome to venerate the Apostles Peter and Paul.

              Queen Elizabeth II, in 1965, erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with
              the following inscription:

              "The cross. The symbol of our faith. The gift of Queen Elizabeth II
              marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its
              origin."


              Joseph and the Holy Grail

              Perhaps the most enduring legend regarding Joseph of Arimathea - his
              connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, or the Holy Grail - is
              even harder to pin down than the other parts of the Joseph-in-England
              legends. There is no reference connecting Joseph to the Cup from the
              Last Supper in either the canonical Gospels, the non-canonical sources
              ("Gospel of Nicodemus", "The Narrative of Joseph"), or the historical
              sources (William of Malmesbury, Melkin, John of Glastonbury).

              If one accepts the validity of the aforementioned 6th-century document
              by Melkin entitled "Historia de Rebus Brittannicis", as translated by
              John of Glastonbury in the 14th century, Joseph is early identified, not
              with the Cup from the Last Supper, but rather:

              For Joseph hath with him
              In his sarcophagus
              Two cruets, white and silver,
              Filled with blood and sweat
              Of the prophet Jesus. (Matthews, p. 67/68)

              The references connecting Joseph to the Holy Grail (and the later
              Arthurian-era quests for said Grail) are all from Medieval and later
              romances and literature. Thus, from a historical standpoint, they are
              the most difficult to verify.

              The Medieval romances in question all have to do with one basic topic -
              the stories of King Arthur, and his band of chivalrous knights. Joseph
              of Arimathea comes into the stories as a key character, because of one
              of the greatest subplots in the Arthurian epics - the quest for the Holy
              Grail.

              There is great argument over exactly what the Holy Grail is - a cup? a
              chalice? a stone? There are also learned treatises on the possibility
              that the model for the Holy Grail predates Christianity. However, many
              of the Medieval romances squarely associate the Holy Grail with the Cup
              from the Last Supper of Christ, and further identify that it was Joseph
              of Arimathea that brought the Cup to England in the first place
              (otherwise, there wouldn't have been anything in England for Arthur and
              his knights to search for!)

              The first major romance that explicitly links Joseph to the Grail is
              Robert de Boron's (or Borron) "Joseph d'Arimathie" (c. 1190). Robert de
              Boron seems to start with the account from the Gospel of Nicodemus, and
              then adds his own slant to the story. Essentially:

              After Jesus is stabbed with the spear on the cross, Joseph captures some
              of the blood of Jesus in the Cup from the Last Supper (the Holy Grail)

              Joseph is imprisoned, and is taught the mysteries of the Grail by Christ
              himself

              Joseph spends 42 years in prison, and is released by Vespasian (!)

              Joseph and a group of fellow Christians travel to an unspecified foreign
              country. Joseph builds a table symbolic of the table used at the Last
              Supper. The place for Judas is kept empty - it will be filled someday by
              a descendent of one of the companions of Joseph (Brons). (In later
              romances, this seat will be called "The Siege Perilous", and will be
              occupied by Sir
              Galahad).

              A companion of Joseph (Petrus) travels to the "Vales of Avaron" (which,
              for the purposes of this discussion, is assumed to refer to
              Avalon-Glastonbury) to prepare a place for the Grail

              The Grail as the "Ark of the New Covenant"

              Other Medieval romances with similar themes include:

              "Grand Saint Grail" (c. 1200)

              "Parzival", by Wolram von Eschenbach (c. 1207)

              "Qeuste del Saint Graal (The Vulgate Cycle)" (c. 1210). In this account,
              the character of Sir Galahad appears for the first time.

              Galahad is identified in various romances as being descendent from
              Joseph of Arimathea (through his father, Sir Lancelot). Galahad is the
              only truly pure knight in the world, and is the only knight that can
              occupy the "Siege Perilous" on Arthur's Round Table. He is the only
              knight that completely attains the Grail.

              "Perlesvaus" (1225)

              "Le Morte D'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur"), by Sir Thomas Mallory
              (published 1485)

              As "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the most well-known of the English versions of
              the Arthurian romances, I've compiled several quotes that refer to
              Joseph:

              "And here followeth the noble tale of the Sangreal, that called is the
              holy vessel; and the signification of the blessed blood of our Lord Jesu
              Christ, blessed mote it be, the which was brought in to this land by
              Joseph of Aramathie." - Introduction to Book 13 (Mallory, p. 370)

              "...it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty-two year
              that Joseph of Aramathie the gentle knight, the which took down our Lord
              off the holy Cross, at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great
              party of his kindred with him...And so by fortune they came into this
              land, that at that time was called Great Britian...And after that all
              the people were turned to the Christian faith." (Mallory, p. 380)

              "...ye have heard much of Joseph of Aramathie, how he was sent by Jesu
              Christ into this land to teach and preach the holy Christian faith...and
              ever he was busy to be there as the Sangreal was..." (Mallory, p. 393)

              "And therewithal beseemed them that there came a man, and four angels
              from heaven, clothed in likeness of a bishop, and had a cross in his
              hand; and these four angels bare him in a chair, and set him down before
              the table of silver whereupon the Sangreal was; and it seemed that he
              had in middes of his forehead letters the which said, See ye here Joseph
              the first bishop of Christendom...Then the nights marvelled, for that
              Bishop was dead more than three hundred year tofore. O knights, said he,
              marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man." (Mallory, p. 442)

              Note that Mallory is not at all shy about proclaiming that Joseph is
              "the first bishop of Christendom"!

              Another famous literary reference that links Joseph to the Grail is from
              Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1859 "Idylls of the King" (idylls means "poems"
              or "songs"):

              ...What is it?
              The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?

              Nay, monk! what phantom? answer'd Percivale.
              The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
              Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
              This, from the blessed land of Aromat-
              After the day of darkness, when the dead
              Went wandering o'er Moriah - the good saint,
              Arimathean Joseph, journeying brought
              To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
              Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord,
              And there awhile it bode; and if a man
              Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once,
              By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
              Grew to such evil that the holy cup
              Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.

              To whom the monk: "From our old books I know
              That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
              And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
              Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
              And there he built with wattles from the marsh
              A lonely church in the days of yore...

              Notice that by the 19th century, not only was the Cup closely associated
              with Joseph (and Glastonbury), but also the hawthorn bush that blooms at
              Christmas time. Also of note in Tennyson' poem is the reference to "From
              our old books I know..." Most Medieval references to Joseph, whether
              from histories or literature, claim to have received the basis of the
              story from old or ancient books. Perhaps the most romantic such
              assignation comes from the anonymous 1225 A.D. epic "Perlesvaus":

              "The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in
              the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the
              head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen
              Guenievre lie, according to the witness of the good men religious that
              are therein, that have the whole history thereof." ("King Arthur's
              Avalon", p. 201)

              There is a well at Glastonbury named "Chalice Well". Some esoteric
              legends say that Joseph placed the Cup somewhere in the depths of the
              well. The well is a curious place - 25,000 gallons of red-tinted water
              pass through the well area per day. The red tint, caused by a high iron
              content, caused the Well to at one time be called the "Blood Spring", or
              the "Blood Well", seemingly in reference to the Blood of Christ.



              The legends associating Joseph with the Grail seem weaker, and harder to
              grasp hold of, than the legends regarding his establishment of the first
              Christian church in England, at Glastonbury. The Joseph/Grail connection
              are not mentioned in any early histories, and first appear in 12th
              century romances. However, if the 6th-century Melkin account is accepted
              as
              legitimate, Joseph is, at least, early-on associated with bringing some
              kind of container ("two cruets") containing the blood of Christ with him
              to Glastonbury.

              So could Joseph have ended up with the Cup from the Last Supper? Could
              he have had in his possession drops of the blood of Christ? Certainly,
              the Gospels identify Joseph as a disciple (although not apostle) of
              Christ, and he is also identified as having taken down the body of
              Christ from the cross, and preparing it for burial. Assumedly, Joseph
              would have come in contact with Christ's blood - remember, Christ was
              speared on the cross, and bled:

              John 19:34 "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a
              spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (NIV)

              Thus, while the idea that Joseph could have had in his possession the
              Cup and/or a container with Christ's blood is not implausible, there is
              no early source to verify this legend.

              The table below traces the sources of the various legends regarding
              Joseph and his connection with England. Romances and other literary
              works are indicated in red.

              Tracing the legends

              Source
              Date
              Notes

              Tertullian - An Answer to the Jews 193/216 A.D.
              Britain was already "subjugated to Christ" in the late 2nd century

              Melkin the Bard 6th century?
              Quoted by John of Glastonbury

              Joseph & 12 followers in Avalon

              Wattled oratory

              Two cruets with blood and sweat of Christ

              Gildas Ruin and Conquest of Britain c. 540
              Britain received "the holy precepts of Christ...at the latter part of
              the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (!)

              William of Malmesbury - Acts of the Kings of the English c. 1125
              The Old Church, "of wattle work at first, savoured somewhat of heavenly
              sanctity even from its very foundation"

              Mentions the possibility of foundation by the disciples of Christ, sent
              by the Apostle Philip

              William of Malmesbury - The Antiquity of the Church at Glastonbury
              c.1130
              Story of Faganus & Deruvianus, papal envoys, in 170 A.D. as builders
              of the Old Church

              Joseph referred to in a preface, written in another hand, dating to c.
              1240.
              Almost the whole Joseph/Glastonbury legend is contained here, except
              for the Cup, and the hawthorn

              Robert de Boron - Joseph d'Arimathie c. 1190
              Joseph as keeper of the Cup from the Last Supper (The Holy Grail)

              The Cup brought to the "Vales of Avaron"

              John of Glastonbury - Chronicle of the Antiquities of the Church of
              Glastonbury 14th century
              Gathered all extant sources together to produce a book on Joseph

              Joseph as an ancestor of King Arthur

              Quotes Melkin manuscript ("two cruets") - no mention of the Grail

              Joseph is an attendant of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and is present at her
              ascension

              Thomas Mallory - Le Morte D'Arthur 1485
              Most famous English Arthurian romance

              Joseph as "first bishop of Christendom"

              The Lyfe of Joseph of Armathia 1520
              Connects the Holy Thorn with Joseph
              Alfred Tennyson - Idylls of the King 1859
              Directly states that Joseph brought the Cup to Glastonbury

              And did those feet in ancient times...

              There is one more legend associated with Joseph of Arimathea that should
              be briefly explored, if for no other reason than its popularity. This is
              the legend that Joseph brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and/or Somerset
              one or more times. This legend can't be directly traced to early
              histories or Medieval romances, although it appears that William Blake
              refers to it in his famous poem "Jerusalem" (see below).

              The Bible is, of course, rather mysterious about the events that
              happened in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he
              began his ministry). As a result, many people have attempted on their
              own to define what happened in those lost years. India, North America,
              and England have all been posited as possibilities for where Jesus might
              have traveled as a
              youth/young adult. The Biblical references usually quoted to set the
              stage for theories regarding the travels of Jesus between the ages of 12
              and 30 include:

              Luke 4:16/22 - Jesus preaches in Nazareth, where he doesn't seem
              immediately known, thus giving the impression that he had been away for
              a long time.

              John 1:29/31 - John the Baptist, although a relative of Jesus, seems not
              to recognize him when they meet in the river Jordan, thus causing some
              people to think that Jesus had been absent from Israel for a long time.

              John 1:29/31 "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
              "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the
              one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me
              because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I
              came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
              (NIV)

              The legends connecting Jesus and Joseph with Cornwall/Somerset go
              something like this:

              There is a tradition preserved in the Orthodox Churches that Joseph was
              the Uncle of Mary, Mother of Jesus

              Further tradition states that Joseph was a merchant in the tin trade
              that flourished between the west coast of England, and Europe and the
              Mediterranean

              On one or more occasions, the legends state that Joseph brought his
              grandnephew Jesus with him on business trips to the mines in
              Cornwall/Somerset

              On one of those trips, Jesus and Joseph built the church in Glastonbury
              (later to be used by Joseph and his followers after the death and
              resurrection of Jesus). Jesus dedicated the church to his Mother (the
              niece of Joseph of Arimathea).

              As stated earlier, there are no direct early historical, or even
              literary references to these legends. The earliest reference of any kind
              may be in William Blake's famous poem, "Jerusalem", which is now a
              much-loved hymn in England (watch the last 10 minutes of the movie
              "Chariots of Fire" to hear it sung):

              Jerusalem

              And did those feet in ancient times
              Walk upon England's mountains green?
              And was the Holy Lamb of God
              On England's pleasant pastures seen?
              And did the Countenance Divine
              Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
              And was Jerusalem builded here
              Among those dark Satanic mills?

              Bring me my bow of burning gold!
              Bring me my arrows of desire!
              Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
              Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
              I will not cease from mental fight,
              Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
              Till I have built Jerusalem
              In England's green and pleasant land.

              - William Blake, 1757-1827

              There is some background and indirect evidence that just prevent the
              legend from being totally implausible:

              There is no question that there were tin mines in Western Britain in the
              early first century. And there is no question that the tin was traded
              with other parts of the Continent. (For example: Greek historian
              Herodotus (5th century B.C.)) refers to the tin trade in the "Isles of
              the West" (Capt, p.23))

              Proponents of the legend point to several place names in
              Cornwall/Somerset that have Jewish names, or that refer directly to
              Christ ("Jesus Well", "Penzance" ("Holy Headland") etc.)

              There are several ancient references that claim that the church at
              Glastonbury was either built by God himself, or dedicated to Mary,
              Mother of Jesus by Jesus himself. Some examples include:

              "There is on the confines of western Britain a certain royal island,
              called in the ancient speech Glastonia...In it the earliest neophytes of
              the christian way of life, God guiding them, found a church, not built
              by the art of man, they say, but prepared by God himself for the
              salvation of mankind, which church the heavenly Builder himself
              declared - by many miracles and many mysteries of healing - he had
              consecrated to himself and to holy Mary, Mother of God." - from "Life of
              St. Dunstan", c. 1000 ("Avalonian Quest", p.23)

              "...the Son of God was pleased to grace it with particular dignity,
              dedicating it Himself in honour of His Mother..." - from the possibly
              interpolated c. 1240 edition of "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis
              Ecclesiae", by William of Malmesbury (Matthews, p. 97)

              "The church of which we are speaking...savoured somewhat of heavenly
              sanctity even from its very foundation, and exhaled it over the whole
              country, claiming superior reverence, though the structure was
              mean..." - "Acts of the Kings of the English", by William of Malmesbury
              (Lewis, p. 68)

              Proponents of the legend also point to the mysterious stone on the south
              side of the Old Church (St. Mary's Chapel), which says "Jesus Maria".

              Conclusions

              Joseph of Arimathea remains an enigmatic character. While he appears to
              be a fairly minor player in the canonical Gospels, he, not Mary, Mother
              of Jesus, not Mary Magdalen, and not any of the apostles, is entrusted
              with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross, respectfully preparing
              him for burial, and donating a tomb for the body. These facts would seem
              to speak of some special significance accorded to Joseph's role as a
              disciple of Christ, and suppoert the Orthodox belief that he was the
              uncle of Mary.

              That being said, Joseph seems an unlikely character to have become one
              of the centerpieces of the Medieval literary craze which became the
              Arthurian legends. Likewise, he seems an unlikely character to create a
              story around as the founder of the Christian church in England. Why not
              pick Paul, or Philip, or another better known disciple than Joseph of
              Arimathea, if one was going to make up the story?

              So, are the stories and legends true? In my personal opinion - The idea
              that Joseph brought a small band of followers to Britain in the 1st
              century, and started a church at Glastonbury seems reasonably credible
              (although not absolutely provable). The idea that, as the undertaker of
              Jesus, he might have saved some drops of blood also seems, at least
              plausible (but again, not provable). The legends regarding Joseph's
              connection with the Cup from the Last Supper, the hawthorn bush at
              Glastonbury, and bringing the boy Jesus to Cornwall/Glastonbury seem (in
              decreasing order) less credible.

              However, I can speak quite personally that Glastonbury is a very eerie
              place, and if miracles could occur anywhere in the world, I could
              believe that they could occur there.

              Sources


              A Glastonbury Reader Compiled and edited by John Matthews The Aquarian
              Press 1991

              The Arthurian Encyclopedia Norris J. Lacy, Editor Boydell Press 1986

              Avalonian Quest Geoffrey Ashe Fontana Paperbacks 1982

              Bible Characters Dwight Moody The Sage Digital Library 1996

              Holman Bible Dictionary for Windows Parsons Technology 1994

              Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson American Book Company 1915

              King Arthur's Avalon - The Story of Glastonbury Geoffrey Ashe Barnes &
              Noble 1992

              Le Morte D'Arthur Sir Thomas Mallory Harrison House 1985

              St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury Lionel Smithett Lewis James
              Clarke & Co., Ltd. 1922

              The Traditions of Glastonbury E. Raymond Capt M.A. Artisan Sales 1983

              The Lost Books of the Bible Bell Publishing Co. 1979

              The Anti-Nicene Fathers Volumes 3 & 8 Edited by A. Roberts and J
              Donaldson The Sage Digital Library 1996

              The Grail - Quest for the Eternal John Matthews Thames and Hudson 1981

              PC Bible Atlas for Windows Parsons Technology 1994
              ________________________________________


              St. Mary's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

              Copyright 1997 by Robert C. Jones

              This material may be reprinted free of charge for use by non-profit
              church groups, as long as the author and copyright information is
              retained.
            • emrys@globe.net.nz
              Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
              Message 6 of 14 , Jul 29, 2008
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                Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

                =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                * St. Joseph of Arimathea
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                Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                by Robert Jones

                This excellent essay may be read on line at
                http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


                Table of Contents
                Introduction

                Canonical Sources

                Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                Involvement in the burial of Christ

                Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                Non-Canonical Sources

                The Gospel of Nicodemus

                The Narrative of Joseph

                The Passing of Mary

                Legendary Accounts

                Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                Joseph and the Holy Grail

                And did those feet in ancient times...

                Conclusions

                Sources

                About the author
                _________________________
              • emrys@globe.net.nz
                Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                Message 7 of 14 , Jul 30, 2009
                • 0 Attachment
                  Celtic and Old English Saints          31 July

                  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                  * St. Joseph of Arimathea
                  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

                  Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                  Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                  by Robert Jones

                  This excellent essay may be read on line at
                  http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


                  Table of Contents
                  Introduction

                  Canonical Sources

                  Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                  Involvement in the burial of Christ

                  Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                  Non-Canonical Sources

                  The Gospel of Nicodemus

                  The Narrative of Joseph

                  The Passing of Mary

                  Legendary Accounts

                  Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                  Joseph and the Holy Grail

                  And did those feet in ancient times...

                  Conclusions

                  Sources

                  About the author
                  _________________________
                • emrys@globe.net.nz
                  Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jul 29, 2010
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

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                    * St. Joseph of Arimathea
                    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

                    Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                    Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                    by Robert Jones

                    This excellent essay may be read on line at
                    http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm


                    Table of Contents
                    Introduction

                    Canonical Sources

                    Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                    Involvement in the burial of Christ

                    Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                    Non-Canonical Sources

                    The Gospel of Nicodemus

                    The Narrative of Joseph

                    The Passing of Mary

                    Legendary Accounts

                    Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                    Joseph and the Holy Grail

                    And did those feet in ancient times...

                    Conclusions

                    Sources

                    About the author
                    _________________________
                  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
                    Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jul 30, 2011
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

                      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                      * St. Joseph of Arimathea
                      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

                      Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                      Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                      by Robert Jones

                      This excellent essay may be read on line at
                      http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm

                      Alternative access to this monograph

                      http://web.archive.org/web/20071012000550/http://sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm



                      Table of Contents
                      Introduction

                      Canonical Sources

                      Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                      Involvement in the burial of Christ

                      Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                      Non-Canonical Sources

                      The Gospel of Nicodemus

                      The Narrative of Joseph

                      The Passing of Mary

                      Legendary Accounts

                      Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                      Joseph and the Holy Grail

                      And did those feet in ancient times...

                      Conclusions

                      Sources

                      About the author
                      _________________________
                    • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
                      Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jul 30, 2012
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                        * St. Joseph of Arimathea
                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

                        Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                        Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                        by Robert Jones

                        This excellent essay may be read on line at
                        http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm

                        Alternative access to this monograph

                        http://web.archive.org/web/20071012000550/http://sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/\
                        joseph.htm



                        Table of Contents
                        Introduction

                        Canonical Sources

                        Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                        Involvement in the burial of Christ

                        Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                        Non-Canonical Sources

                        The Gospel of Nicodemus

                        The Narrative of Joseph

                        The Passing of Mary

                        Legendary Accounts

                        Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                        Joseph and the Holy Grail

                        And did those feet in ancient times...

                        Conclusions

                        Sources

                        About the author
                        _________________________
                      • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
                        Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Joseph of Arimathea =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jul 31, 2013
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Celtic and Old English Saints 31 July

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                          * St. Joseph of Arimathea
                          =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

                          Saint Joseph of Arimathea
                          Biblical & Legendary Accounts
                          by Robert Jones

                          This excellent essay may be read on line at
                          http://www.sundayschoolcourses.com/joseph/joseph.htm

                          Access this essay via TinyUrl
                          Wayback Machine
                          http://tinyurl.com/3lpd88v



                          Table of Contents
                          Introduction

                          Canonical Sources

                          Characteristics of Joseph of Arimathea

                          Involvement in the burial of Christ

                          Joseph of Arimathea - coward or saint?

                          Non-Canonical Sources

                          The Gospel of Nicodemus

                          The Narrative of Joseph

                          The Passing of Mary

                          Legendary Accounts

                          Founder of the first Christian Church in England

                          Joseph and the Holy Grail

                          And did those feet in ancient times...

                          Conclusions

                          Sources

                          About the author
                          _________________________
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