AND JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
In this lesson we shall study the history of two individuals,
from the time they are mentioned in the Bible and after any record of them in
the Bible has ceased. These two individuals are Nicodemus and Joseph of
Arimathea, who are well-established historical characters, in addition to the
mention of them in Biblical records.
In our Bible, the only reference to Nicodemus in found in the
gospel of John. It is a surprise to find Nicodemus is also mentioned in the
Jewish Talmud. There is also the Book of Nicodemus, which was written some time
during the first three centuries A.D.. None of the early Christian writers,
before 250 A.D. or 275 A.D., mention the Book of Nicodemus at all, although
later it is extensively quoted.
There was a period of several centuries in which people
thought they had to help Yahweh, He couldn't get along by Himself. These people
were eager to make as many converts among the pagans as they could. In those
days, as well as now, people were greatly impressed by miracles. Remember how
the Jews were constantly demanding that Yahshua perform miracles, just to show
them that he was more than just an ordinary man, before they would take Him
seriously. Yahshua always refused these demands. He performed many miracles but
only those that had been prophesied in the Old Testament, that He would do.
These prophecies were mostly in Isaiah. Yahshua would not perform like a clown
for the amusement of the Jewish population.
The Book of Nicodemus is full of these fake miracles that
were later concocted by writers, trying to make some impressive documents for
the church missionaries to show the pagans. One of the examples of the stories
of these fake miracles relates to when Yahshua was brought before Pontius
Pilate, the Roman flags, carried by the soldiers, bowed before Him, the very
flag staffs bent over. This was the type of miracle Yahshua refused to do, the
grandstand play. The Bible makes no mention of this incident because it never
These various, falsified stories were produced by people who
were well known cranks. Nobody would take them seriously if they wrote under
their own names. They used the name of some prophet or well-known person in the
Bible, who had been dead a few centuries. This way they would be sure he wasn't
going to come back and deny the alleged miracles. These false writers wrote
their fairy tales in the dead person's name and hoped it would get circulation
on the basis of the authorship, falsely ascribed to these tales. The Book of
Nicodemus is in this category, however it does contain some elements of truth,
in this way giving it better credibility. Don't ever mistake this book as being
genuine, or having been written by Nicodemus, because it wasn't.
John 3:1 starts out by telling us Nicodemus was of the
Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews. However, he came to Yahshua at night and
confessed he knew Yahshua came from Yahweh. In John 3:10, Yahshua calls
Nicodemus a master of Israel, so we know he wasn't a Jew. The Pharisees knew
about the prophesies of the coming Messiah, but they expected Him to come as a
military conqueror to enslave all the non Jewish people of the world. They
wanted all the wealth of the world delivered into Jewish hands. The Pharisees
had seen Yahshua do a number of miracles, so this made them think because he was
doing these miracles, He should kill off the Roman army and set them free to
Have you ever wondered why Pontius Pilate was so jittery
about something that might upset these Jews, during this period of time? The
prophesies from the Book of Daniel told when the Messiah was going to come, but
the date had been falsified. The first Herod was the one who had all the male
babies, two years old and younger killed, trying to kill Yahshua.
Herod had tried to get the people to receive him as being the
Messiah. For this purpose, the priests, who were the ones who kept the
historical records, falsified the calendar dates. The purpose of this
falsification was to make the dates come out right, to support Herod's claim of
being the Messiah. By this chicanery Herod didn't fool the people and his plan
fizzled out. The people continued looking for the real Messiah, as this was the
time that it had been prophesied He would come.
John chapter 10 records, "And the dedication in
Jerusalem came and it was winter and Yahshua was walking in the temple and
Solomon's porch. The Jews therefore, came and surrounded Him and said to Him,
Till when dost Thou hold our soul in suspense? If thou art the Messiah tell us
plainly. Yahshua answered them, I told you, and ye do not believe. The works
that I do in the name of my Father, these testify concerning me: but ye do not
believe for ye are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice and
I know them, and they follow me."
This dedication was the Maccabean feast on the anniversary of
the reconsecration of the temple after itís cleansing by Judas Maccabean. Here
was all this unrest; the zealots were ready to rise in insurrection against
Rome, regardless of the circumstances. The rest of the population was ready to
rise in military insurrection, when the Messiah came as the leader.
Pontius Pilate had been sent to Palestine as the Roman
governor. His job was to extract the most money in taxes, with the least
possible expense to the government. He had enough troops to take care of small,
ordinary disturbances of the peace, but he didn't have enough troops to take
care of a major uprising. This is why Pontius Pilate was so afraid of pushing
things too far, starting a general rebellion.
Before the time where it mentions the Jews coming to the
dedication feast in December, the Pharisees had sent Nicodemus, in private, to
Yahshua to inquire as to what was going on. John chapter 3 tells us,
"And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus his name, a ruler of the
Jews (Judeans). This one came to him by night and said to him, Rabbi; we know
that from Yahweh hast thou come, a teacher. For no one these signs is able to do
which thou doest except Yahweh is with him. Yahshua answered and said to him,
indeed I say to thee, if anyone be not born from above, he is not able to see
the kingdom of Yahweh. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How is a man able to be born
being already old? Is he able to enter into the womb of his mother a second time
and be born?"
These verses in John chapter 3 about being born again,
are one of the worst mistranslations in the Bible. A lot of false doctrine has
been woven around these verses. I have translated it, in the above chapter, the
way it reads in the Greek. The correct translation is born from above, not born
It is only Nicodemus, not understanding born from above, who
brings in any idea of being born again. Notice what Yahshua replied.
"Indeed, indeed, I say to thee, if a man be not born of water and the
spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of Yahweh. That being born of
the flesh is flesh and that being born of the spirit is spirit. Do not wonder
that I said to thee, you must be born from above. The wind blows where it wills
and the sound of it thou hearest; but you know not whence it comes and where it
Thus is everyone who is born out of the spirit. Nicodemus
answered and said unto Him, How is this able to be? Yahshua answered and said to
him, Art thou the teacher of Israel and thou dost not knowest this? Indeed,
indeed, I say to thee, that which we know we speak, and what we have seen we
testify; and our testimony you do not receive. If I have told you the earthly
things and you do not receive, how would ye believe if I told you the heavenly
things? And no one ascended into heaven except the Son of man who descended from
And even as Moses held aloft the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of man be raised. That everyone who believes in him may not be
destroyed, but may have life age abiding. For Yahweh so loved the world that He
gave his only begotten Son that everyone believing in him may not be destroyed,
but may have life age abiding. Yahweh sent not his son into the world that He
might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
He who believes in him is not judged; but he who does not
believe is judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten son of Yahweh. And this is the judgment that the light has come into
the world, and the men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works
were evil. For everyone who does vile things hates the light, and comes not to
the light that his works might not be detected; but he who does the truth comes
to the light so that it may be made manifest that his works have been done in
There is more concentrated plain speech in this passage, than
Yahshua gave directly to His apostles. Yahshua was telling Nicodemus how it
really was but, Nicodemus couldn't understand it as yet. Yahshua saw beneath
outward appearances, He knew that here was a man who had what it took to respond
to the truth.
However the Pharisees wouldn't come to Yahshua, other than
scoffing and ridiculing Him in the daytime, they only came when they couldn't be
seen. They would come, or send their emissary at night when nobody could see
that they were just possibly willing to believe Yahshua.
John 7:43-53 records, "So there was a division
among the people because of him, and some of them would have taken him, but no
man laid hands on Him. Then came
the officers to the high priests and Pharisees and they said to them, why have
ye not brought him? The officers answered, never a man spoke like this man. Then
answered the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the
Pharisees believed in Him? But this people that knows not the law are accursed.
Nicodemus said to them (he that came to Yahshua by night, being one of them):
Does our law judge any man before it hears him, and knows what it is that he
does? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search and
look, for out of Galilee arises no prophet; and every man went into his own
The Pharisees treated the common people with the utmost
contempt. They called them, am ha eratz meaning the people of the land.
The Pharisees did believe in resurrection but said the common people weren't
worthy of it. Like the Pharisees of today in our churches, they didn't know
their scriptures. Remember how often Yahshua had to say to them, "Ye do
err, not knowing the scriptures. If ye had believed Moses ye would have believed
me, because he wrote of me."
Here it was again, the Pharisees said there weren't any
prophets from Galilee. If they had known the Old Testament, the scriptures, as
they existed up to that time, they would have known that Jonah, Nahum and
Malachi were from Galilee. Like most of the clergy of today, they didn't read or
know the book they professed to rely upon.
Nicodemus had already courageously spoken up in Yahshua's
defense, after the Sanhedrin openly planned his murder. After the crucifixion,
Nicodemus again took his life in his hands, to render Yahshua his last act of
respect. John 19:38-42 records, "And after this Joseph of Arimathea,
being a disciple of Yahshua, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate
that he might take away the body of Yahshua; and Pilate gave him leave. He came
therefore, and took the body of Yahshua; and there came also Nicodemus, who at
first came to Yahshua by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about
a hundred pound weight. Then they took the body of Yahshua, and wound it in
linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the
place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new
sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There they laid Yahshua because of
the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulcher was nigh at hand."
I don't believe it is recorded in the Bible, but this tomb
was one Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for his own death.
Both Roman and Jewish law recognized both the right and the
duty of the nearest relative to bury the dead. This included even someone who
had been executed as a common criminal. However, the Jews and the Pharisees had
made a new rule that unless the relatives claimed the body of an executed
criminal within an hour of execution, the body was to be taken to one of the two
cemeteries outside Jerusalem. These cemeteries were reserved for the bodies of
executed criminals, and the bodies were just dumped into a common pit. There
would be no separate grave that could be marked with its own headstone or
Joseph of Arimathea had to step in quickly, to stop the Jews
from taking Yahshua's body. You can understand why these Jews were especially
anxious to prevent a decent burial for Yahshua's body, even though they didn't
expect Him to be resurrected. If Yahshua's tomb were known, it would be
something to keep alive His memory and the Christian movement they were
determined to stamp out.
This is the last mention of Nicodemus in the Bible. However,
we are going to follow what happened to him through the historical records.
To obtain some idea of the background of the times, it is
necessary to have some understanding of the Jewish ecclesiastical groups or
parties. There were the Pharisees, the name being derived from pharash, meaning
separated, so Pharisee meant set apart. The beginning of the Pharisees was
somewhere between 500 B.C. and 450 B.C., very soon after the return from
Babylon. They were deep students of Judaism, meaning the Talmud, and they didn't
pay much attention to the Bible. Their belief in the necessity of separation
from other nations and their other customs grew out of this.
After the return from Babylon, here along the Palestinian
coast (most of the time under the domination of Syria in the north), they had
come into the ancient pagan world where the military power was Rome, but the
outstanding culture was that of the Greeks. Literature was exclusively Greek
along with art, but with all this came Greek paganism.
As the nation of Palestine developed, from the return from
Babylon, until somewhere around 150 B.C., the Judeans were not an independent
nation. They were only governed as a tributary province of one nation or
another, which was Syria much of the time. Syria had entirely adopted the Greek
culture and paganism, and they didn't see why they should allow any distinction
to be made in this little conquered, tributary province of Judea.
There was a large faction, among the local people, who wanted
to get along with their conquerors, so they just went along with the crowd. The
Greek culture was only a thin end of the wedge for Greek paganism. Even after
the independence of Palestine was obtained, under Judas Maccabeus about 150
B.C., there still was this strong pagan Greek influence. The King James Bible
records them as the Greeks. It doesn't mean actual Greek people; it means
the Judeans who wanted to adopt the Greek culture.
Here was this strong faction, wanting to keep all the Greek
customs which lead right back into paganism. Persecutions of any dissenting
religions, by Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria were harsh, so it became a precarious
situation. Resistance to this Greek paganism centered in the Pharisee group, who
at that time was called Hasidim, the pious ones.
The Hasidim gradually broke into two groups, those who were
interested only in Judaism, as a religious cult, became the Essenes. Those who
also became a political party, became the Pharisees.
One of the Maccabee kings, John Hyrcanus, who came to the
throne around 125 B.C., sought to create an ordinary kingdom with political
alliances with other nations, because of their strength.
He also was the one who was responsible for bringing the Edomite Jews
into the kingdom and giving them full citizenship. This was more of a disaster
than anything else that could have been done.
The Pharisees became the opposition party. In the time of the
grandsons of John Hyrcanus, civil war broke out between the Pharisees and the
Sadducees. The Sadducees were very much on the Grecianized side so this civil
war finally led to conquest by the Romans in 63 B.C.. The Pharisees refused to
take the oath of allegiance either to the Romans or to Herod, and because of
this refusal; they had to pay a fine.
The Pharisees were greatly respected by the learned and the
common people, as students of the law. However, they developed to the extreme,
the doctrines of the so called oral law. They taught that Moses gave them lots
of other laws, besides the written laws. This tradition, saying that these laws
came down from Moses, even though Moses wouldn't write them down, supposedly
entitled their tradition to at least equal importance to the laws Moses did
write down. This tradition later became known as the Talmud. In the time of
Yahshua, it was still called The Tradition of the Elders. Remember how often
Yahshua rebuked the Pharisees for having set aside the laws of Yahweh by their
The Pharisees believed in immortality, with rewards and
punishments, and eventual resurrection. They also believed in the existence of
angels and both good and bad spirits. They believed in the coming of the
promised Savior, the Messiah. The Pharisees are the ones who developed the
institution of the synagogue because the Sadducees were in complete control of
the temple for the last one and a half centuries B.C.
The Sadducees had a certain tendency toward asceticism,
although they didn't carry it to the extremes the Essenes did. Yahshua speaks
scornfully of this tendency in Luke 18:11-12 saying, "The Pharisees
stood and prayed thus with themselves, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other
men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I
fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess."
The Essenes were the extreme development of Phariseeism; they
were practically a monastic order. They lived by themselves in barracks, however
they didn't entirely retire to these monasteries. They went out and worked at
jobs in the nearby communities to support themselves, but they went back at
night to the monastery barracks to sleep. They were celibates, none of them
could marry, no women were admitted to the order, and they were strict
Sabbatarians and vegetarians. They also objected to the animal sacrifices
offered at the temple, so they were denied admission to the temple. However,
they did believe in immortality.
The other principal party was the Sadducees. They were
numerically smaller than the Pharisees, but they were composed of wealthy and
influential persons. Because of this wealth, they were more powerful than the
larger group of Pharisees. The Sadducees began as the party favoring the
Grecianizing of their customs and in this they were led by their high priest.
They were out of power from the time of Mattathias Maccabeus, one of the early
Maccabee kings, to John Hyrcanus.
Then the Sadducees regained power and control of the temple
in the time of John Hyrcanus. The Pharisees' opposition to John's political
policies caused them to be entirely removed from any positions of power. From
then on the Sadducees controlled the temple, except for one very short period at
the very beginning of the reign of the first Herod.
The Sadducees were also the party favorable to the Romans.
These Sadducees were the worldly men, the materialists, whose motto was to get
along with those with power and wealth. As to their religious belief, they
accepted only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible that were
written by Moses and contained the law. They rejected all the prophets and also
the Talmud, the so-called oral law.
The Sadducees rejected a lot of things among them
predestination, immortality or resurrection, the existence of angels or spirits,
they were purely materialists. They quickly adapted the priesthood, which they
controlled completely, to the Babylonian corruption of religion.
There was another group that receives only slight mention in
the Bible, the Zealots. They were a Pharisee extremist group but politically,
not doctrinally, like the Essenes. The Zealots believed in immediate revolt
against the Romans, not even waiting for the Messiah. One of Yahshua's apostles,
whom the King James Bible wrongly calls Simon the Canaanite, (No Canaanite was
ever an apostle, you can be sure of that) Simon was a Zealot.
This mistranslation may come from one of two things. It is
believed that Simon's home town was a little village of Cana where Yahshua
performed His first miracle, that of changing water into wine. From Cananite to
Canaanite, didn't take much of a slip of the pen. The Hebrew word meaning
Zealots was Cana, was very much like the word Canaan. The Greek equivalent of
the Hebrew word Cana, meaning Zealot, was Zelotes. Notice that in Acts 1:13
Simon is correctly called Simon Zelotes, Simon the Zealot. Moffatt, Smith and
Goodspeed, and some other modern English translations, have correctly translated
the name in Matthew, Mark and Luke, where the King James Bible has it wrong.
The Sanhedrin is also mentioned, the origin of which is
rather uncertain. It possibly goes back to Babylon under Persian rule, but
cannot be positively traced any earlier than the time of the Greek domination
under Alexander the Great. Upon Alexander's death, the eastern shores of the
Mediterranean fell into the hands of his general who was in command in Syria, so
there was a continuation of Greek domination and culture there.
The Romans allowed the Jews a large measure of
self-government, which was recognized as being in this council. The Aramaic word
Sanhedrin means council. The number of men in the council is fixed in the
Talmud, as seventy members plus a president, a nasi as head, therefore
seventy-one members in total. The membership of the council had originally been
limited to the Sadducee priesthood and the nobility. The Pharisees were a
minority but still a substantial number. From about 75 B.C. on, many Pharisees
were admitted under the classifications of scribes and elders. Exactly how the
members of the scribes and elders were selected was not known. The nasi,
the head, was the high priest.
Originally the high priest had authority equal to all the
other seventy members of the council. After Herod reduced the high priesthood
from a hereditary religious office to just a political plum, as a payoff for
political services rendered, the high priest lost his prestige and great power,
he became just one vote among the seventy-one. How little things change over the
years, this sounds just like what happens with appointments for the United
States Supreme Court.
Among the political powers of the Sanhedrin, was the
collection of taxes. The King James Bible uses the word publican. Yahshua
classified the harlots and the publicans together. When you make out your income
tax return, you'll understand exactly why this was the classification of the tax
The Sanhedrin was the high court of Jewish law. As such, it
had its own armed police force and made arrests at its own discretion. The
Romans did not interfere with Jewish local self-government. Under Biblical law,
the method of killing a condemned criminal was stoning him to death. The Jews
could pass this death sentence and execute it without getting permission from
the Roman governor.
When the Jews wanted to murder the first Christian martyr
Stephen, they didn't go to ask permission from Pontius Pilate, they just picked
up the stones and stoned Stephen to death. When the Jews wanted to use a method
of execution that was not according to their own custom this was a different
matter. Then they were getting outside the permitted sphere of self-government,
so they had to go to the Roman governor for this.
When the Jews wanted to put Yahshua to death by a peculiarly
horrible method of torture, crucifixion, they had to get Pontius Pilate to do
the job for them. When the Jews were urging Pontius Pilate to have Yahshua
killed he said, "You take Him and judge Him according to your law."
Stoning was a relatively merciful death as it caused very quick unconsciousness,
but the Jews didn't want this.
The Sanhedrin was composed of three groups. First the high
priests, note this is in the plural. Under the rule set up in the Old Testament,
there was only one high priest at any one time. The high priest held the office
for life, and upon his death his oldest son succeeded to the office.
Herod the First murdered the last of the legitimate high
priests who could still trace his descent from Aaron. Thereafter Herod appointed
to the high priesthood, a succession of scoundrels out of his own political
following. The high priesthood was never held very long by one man, only a few
months in some instances, before he was deposed and Herod replaced him with
somebody else. The Talmud records the almost yearly change of the high priest.
At the time of the trial Yahshua, there were about twelve
former high priests around, along with Caiaphas, who was then high priest.
Translating right from the Greek John 11:47-48 reads, "Then
assembled the high priests and the Pharisees a high council, and said, what are
we doing? Because this man doeth many miracles, if we allow Him thus, all will
believe in Him; and will come the Romans then and take away from us both the
place and the nation."
What were they referring to? They weren't afraid because
somebody was going around, meekly whimpering that people ought to behave
themselves and be good. Yahshua was reminding the people that nothing they had,
in their then existing religious or political system, was according to the laws
When Herod the Great died, he willed Judea to one of his sons
Herod Archelaus, to be king over this area, as the Romans had also confirmed the
first Herod as king of Judea. The Romans were not new at this game; they weren't
about to make an untried man king. Consequently they confirmed Herod Archelaus
only as governor for a test period. From 4 B.C. to 6 A.D. Herod Archelaus gave
the people of Judea, about the most miserable misrule any nation has had in
The Romans were hated as the alien conquerors, who maintained
rule by military force. The people would not easily, on any trifling ground of
discontent, ask the Romans to take over the complete government. To pacify the
people, they had been allowed a measure of local self-government. Under Herod's
misrule, it was so intolerable that the people sent an ambassador to Rome,
complaining of what Herod Archelaus was doing. Finally the Romans put him on
trial, found him guilty of the crimes the people had charged him with, then
removed him from office and exiled him to Gaul. Then the people asked that a
Roman governor be appointed to rule Judea.
So the Romans appointed a series of procurators, Roman
governors of whom Pontius Pilate happened to be number six. Would that the
people today, would rise up and throw the rascals out that are ruining our once
Now we can understand what the high priests were talking
about when they said, "We're not going to get away with our racket if we
let this man (Yahshua) continue educating the people. They'll complain to the
Romans until the Romans take the rulership of this country away from us."
This is the reason these Jews determined to murder Yahshua, not because they
disliked His religious doctrines. If Yahshua was just a meek man of sorrows,
that the churches try to picture him, the Sadducees wouldn't even have bothered
sneering at Him. However, He was a threat to their power and for this they
determined to murder Him.
There are similar circumstances today. You can be a thief,
murderer or rapist and you can get off with a light sentence. However, if you
threaten the money system or the power structure, you could be imprisoned for
life on one trumped up charge or another.
It is doubtful, if at any time in history, we could find such
a collection of criminals as these high priest, who were part of the Sanhedrin
at the time of the trial of Yahshua. Among those scoundrels we can trace is
Simon Ben Boethus, who was high priest for some period of time ending in 4 B.C.,
at the death of the first Herod. Joazar, who was the son of Simon, was high
priest from 4 B.C. to 2 A.D. Eleazar, a second son of Simon Ben Boethus, was
high priest three months in the year 2 B.C.
Jesus Ben Sie was high priest from 2 A.D. to 6 A.D. Annas was
the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Annas was the first one Yahshua was brought
before, for a mock trail. He was high priest from 7 A.D. to 10 A.D.. Ishmael Ben
Phabi was high priest for nine years, probably 14 A.D. to 23 A.D., and so forth.
There were a number of important priests who are largely related to Annass, who
later in their turn, became high priests and were also in this chamber of
Next was the chamber of the scribes, chosen from the Levites
and the learned laity. One of these was Gamaliel, grandson of the famous Rabbi
Hillil, who came from Babylon in 40 A.D.. Gamaliel was the most brilliant of the
teachers; among his disciples were Paul, Barnabas and Stephen. He successfully
defended the apostles before the Sanhedrin in the year 33 A.D., as you can read
in Acts 5:34-40.
Others in the chamber of scribes were Simon, the son
of Gamaliel, and Onkelos, who wasn't Jewish by birth but was a proselyte.
Onkelos was the author of the famous Chaldees Targum of the Pentateuch. A Targum
did not purport to be an exact translation. A Targum was a paraphrase, a
restating of the same meaning in the author's own words. A certain amount of
paraphrase creeps into almost any translation and a good paraphrase is sometimes
pretty close to a translation.
Other scribes were Jonathan Ben Uziel, who was the author of
another famous Targum, the Aramaic. Samuel Hakaton, Samuel "the less"
who was a bitter anti Christian and Rabbi Zadok were other members. The Talmud
reports that Rabbi Zadok fasted for 40 years so that God would not allow the
temple to be burned, and asks how he could have known that the temple was
threatened with this great calamity. Nobody apparently realized that Rabbi Zadok
might have read Daniel and found out about it. Perhaps he heard what Yahshua had
said which was recorded in Mark 13:1-2. Another member was Jonathan Ben
Zakai, who died in 73 A.D.
These were the principal identified men in the Sanhedrin. In Matthew
23:2-7, Yahshua scornfully said of them, "The scribes and Pharisees sit
in Moses' seat." Remember that Moses was the lawgiver. It was through Moses
they got the detailed laws. These scribes and Pharisees were not contented with
teaching the laws of Yahweh, as found in the scriptures; they were proclaiming
some new laws. "All therefore whatsoever they bid you to observe, that
observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. For
they being heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's
shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their
fingers." In the Talmud all sorts of regulations had been worked out.
In the original theory for the existence of the Talmud, you
can find a legitimate basis for it. Whenever you have to apply a law to a
specific set of facts, you come up against a question, where is the boundary
line of the law? What facts come within and what don't. For example, the law
didn't allow you to do any sort of commercial work on the Sabbath. This included
the fact you could not make a journey to another town on the Sabbath, if it was
for a commercial purpose. Even though you wouldn't do anything commercial on the
Sabbath, you just wanted to be there bright and early the next morning to start
business, you couldn't travel on the Sabbath. Then the arguments began about how
much could you lawfully do on the Sabbath. How far could you travel, even for a
The rabbis solemnly decided that one thousand paces were the
maximum travel permitted on a Sabbath day, so this was put in the Talmud. In
trying to split non-existent frog hairs of this sort, the rabbis were setting
all sorts of very burdensome regulations. Yahshua said, "But all their
works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries and
enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts,
and the chief seats in the synagogue, and greetings in the markets, and to be
called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi."
The rabbis, to show what they thought of themselves in their
own conceited esteem, established some rules, which are found in the Talmud as
follows. "If one opposes his rabbi, he is guilty in the same degree as if
he opposed God himself. If one quarrels with his rabbi, it is as if he contended
with the living God. If anyone thinks evil of his rabbi, it is as if he thought
evil of the eternal God." As you can see, these rabbis thought very highly
There was one more group found in the Sanhedrin, the chamber
of the elders. This was the least influential of the three, but the least evil
also. These elders were usually chosen from the wealthy classes and as these
were largely Sadducees, there were many Sadducees among them. In the chamber of
the elders was Ben Kalba Shevuah, one of the three richest men in Jerusalem.
Then there were Ben Tzitzith Hacksab, rich and effeminate, Simon, bold and
courageous also learned, and Doras an influential and a cruel and treacherous
conspirator. We continue with John Ben John, Dorotheas Ben Nathaniel, Tryphon
Ben Theudion and Cornelius Ben Ceron, four ambassadors sent by the Jews to
Emperor Claudius in 44 A.D. Also in the chamber of elders were Nicodemus and the
other person who we met in the Bible, whom we shall discuss at this time, Joseph
Arimathea, now called Rhama or Rhamala, is in a village eight
miles north of Jerusalem. It was the first stopping place of northbound caravans
leaving Jerusalem. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all mention Joseph of Arimathea.
Mark 15:43 says, "Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable councilor, who
also waited for the kingdom of Yahweh." Matthew 27:57 records,
"When the evening was come there came a rich man of Arimathea named Joseph,
who also himself was Yahshua's disciple".
Luke 23:50-51 records, "And behold, there was a
man named Joseph, a counselor, and he was a good man and a just one. The same
had not consented to the council and the deed of them. He was from Arimathea, a
city of the Jews; who also himself waited for the kingdom of Yahweh." John
19:38 tells of Joseph of Arimathea being a disciple of Yahshua, but secretly
for fear of the Jews.
The Bible doesn't record the fact that Joseph of Arimathea
was a great uncle of Yahshua, but the fact is well known in the ancient
traditions of Palestine. He was an uncle of Mary (Miriam) the mother of Yahshua.
Joseph was a wealthy man, as the Bible records, because he was an importer of
tin. The King James Bible wrongly translates this brass in most places. Brass is
an alloy of zinc and copper, but a far superior alloy bronze, is made of tin and
copper. There was a period of a number of centuries when the most important
metal, outside of gold and silver for jewelry and money, was bronze.
There was a small amount of tin mined in Spain, but other
than this, the known supply of the world, as is mentioned in the Bible, all came
from Cornwall in the British Isles. It is recorded in the early British
chronicles that Joseph of Arimathea was the owner of some of the tin mines in
Cornwall. Joseph also had a fairly extensive fleet of ships in which to
transport tin and they also carried other merchandise, so he was a man of
In the Latin translation by Jerome, which is the official
Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, it mentions Joseph of Arimathea was called
Decurio, which is a Roman title, which was given to an officer in charge of a
In the year 40 B.C., Julius Caesar had made some landings in
Britain. By the time of the crucifixion of Yahshua, some 70 years later, the
Romans had a very substantial foothold in Britain. Among the Romans, including
the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea not only was a wealthy
man, but was a respected Decurio and recognized as such by the Romans, so Joseph
was a very influential person.
A number of ancient historians mention the trade in tin, with
the Mediterranean and Middle East countries. Herodotus, writing about 445 B.C.,
Pytheas about 352-323 B.C., Polybius about 160 B.C., and Diodorus Siculus,
writing in the times of Julius and Augustus Caesar, all mention the tin trade.
The early writers reported that in their day, the source of
the tin wasn't known. The Phoenicians had a monopoly in the trade in tin,
because the Phoenician mariners were the ones who found where the tin was mined.
They were such excellent seamen they could usually elude any other ships that
tried to follow them.
Diodorus Siculus said that the tin was mined and smelted,
then the metal was beaten out into thin sheets and cut up into squares. Then it
was carried to the island of Ictis, which we can identify as Mount Saint Michael
on the Cornwall coast. Then it was shipped across the English Channel to Morlaix
in France. Then the tin went overland to the Mediterranean port of Marseilles,
from there it was shipped to Phoenicia on the Palestinian coast. So now we know
the background of the wealth and importance of Joseph of Arimathea.
Yahshua was crucified about 30 A.D.. The Vatican library
contains a manuscript dated 35 A.D. which states that in that year Joseph of
Arimathea, Lazarus whom Yahshua had raised from the dead, Mary (Miriam), Martha,
Marcella their maid, and Maximin the disciple whose sight Yahshua had restored,
and some others, were put into a boat without sails or oars, by the Jews. They
were towed out into the Mediterranean and set adrift there.
This is recorded by Cardinal Baronius who was the great
Catholic Church historian. He lived between the years 1538 A.D. and 1607 A.D.
and for about 40 years of this time, he was in charge of the Vatican library.
This library is certainly the greatest collection of ancient historical
documents in the world.
Baronius was a very careful and exact man. He said,
"Better to be silent than to let a lie be intermixed with the truth."
What Baronius couldn't verify, he didn't write in his historical works. He spent
some 30 years writing his ecclesiastical annals. In these annals he quotes this
Vatican manuscript, which says that these people were put by the Jews, into a
boat without sails or oars and set adrift in the Mediterranean and that they
finally landed at Marseilles.
The document would seem to indicate that the boat of itself
drifted all that distance, which would imply a pretty high speed of drift. While
they could get along with scanty provisions, it is entirely possible they were
picked up by somebody else and landed in Marseilles. Early records indicate,
with the intense persecution that followed the crucifixion and resurrection of
Yahshua, that Joseph of Arimathea had been helping some of the most persecuted
of the Christians, to escape from the country.
Joseph owned many ships and his ships were regularly plying
between the Palestinian coast and the Mediterranean coast of France and then
around into Britain. Undoubtedly Joseph's ships had carried a considerable
number of these refugees to the port of Marseilles. It is also known that in
extremely early times in the Christian era, a very substantial Christian colony
existed in Marseilles. This same manuscript, of the year 35 A.D., records that
Joseph and his company landed at Marseilles. From there they crossed over into
Britain and preached the gospel there, for the rest of their lives.
An important church historian, William of Malmesbury also
says that Saint Philip, one of the original twelve disciples and the apostle to
Gaul, sent a group of twelve missionaries from France to Britain. The leader of
this group was Joseph of Arimathea. It also records that one of the early kings,
Arviragus, gave them the island of Avalon and twelve hides of land, which was
close to Glastonbury. Twelve hides of land would be equal to about 1,920 acres.
This gift of land, for their settlement there at Glastonbury
and the island of Avalon, was given to them tax free, in perpetuity. When Duke
William of Normandy, also known as William the Conqueror, conquered England in
1066 A.D., as soon as he had the fighting completed, the next important thing to
do was to see about collecting taxes. William sent a group of officers all over
England to get a careful tax roll, the description of all the privately owned
lands in England, and what tax they had been customarily paying, this was
completed in 1085 A.D.
This record is called the Doomsday Book, and it records that
the Church of Glastonbury has in its own villa 12 hides of land, which have
never paid tax. Here we have official government history confirming this.
Cressy, another church historian, a Benedictine monk who
lived shortly after the reformation, had learned many of the traditions of the
Benedictine monastery at Glastonbury, where he had lived for a number of years.
Cressy records that Joseph of Arimathea died at Glastonbury, July 27, 82 A.D.
St. Gregory of Tours, in his history of the Franks, written
between 544 A.D. and 595 A.D., Haleca, Archbishop of Zaragosa, the Chronicon of
Pseudo Dexter, and other early historians writers, all unite in saying that
Joseph of Arimathea was the first person to preach the gospel in Britain.
The apostle Philip was, by all the early records, recognized
as being the apostle to Gaul. The early church records call him the Apostle of
Gaul. Isadore the Archbishop of Seville between 606 A.D. and 636 A.D., was the
greatest man in Spanish church history of his period. Isadore records,
"Philip of the city of Bethsaida, whence also came Peter, preached Christ
to the Gauls."
Julian, the archbishop of Toledo between 680 A.D. and 690
A.D., the last eminent churchman in gothic Spain before the Moorish conquest in
711 A.D. wrote, "Saint Philip was assigned to Gaul." The Venerable
Bede the Great, an early British historian, writing about 673 A.D., says the
Archbishop Ussher was a great student of church history. When
there are dates given in the margin of the Bible, these are the dates computed
by Archbishop Ussher. He says, "St. Philip preached Christ to the
Gauls." It is worthy to note that there has been a mix-up in the Bible in
the understanding of this. This mix-up is not in the writing of it but in the
understanding. There is a letter of Paul's to the Galatians. Who are the
Galatians? Most of the ministers say this refers to Galatia, a little colony of
a few cities in central Asia Minor, called Turkey today.
The Gauls were an early Celtic people, part of the first
migration of Israel out of Scythia. They moved across southern Europe and
settled in southern France. Some of them crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, but
the majority of them remained in southern France, the early name of which was
Gaul. Julius Caesar called it Gaul or the Roman name of Gallia, in his history
of his war with the Gauls and the Greek form of the word was Galatia.
While the Gauls were on the march, and fairly early before
they had migrated beyond the Balkan area of southeastern Europe, some of them
had decided not to continue going west. They crossed the Black Sea and landed on
the northern shore of Asia Minor and moved into the interior. The area was then
called Galatia because these people were Gauls, but it was only a small colony
It is the same as if some Britons moved over into one of the
little islands off the coast of Britain. You would still consider them Britons,
but you wouldn't consider them the major part. The epistle to the Galatians, as
a number of people including Archbishop Ussher have pointed out, was written not
to Galatia in Asia Minor, it was written to Galatia in Gaul.
Paul has definitely been traced in part of his travels from
Rome, right on up the Italian peninsula and over into Gaul, on one of his
expeditions there. Twice in the Book of Acts, telling about Paul's journey, it
records Paul saying, "I would have gone into Asia but the Spirit expressly
forbade me to." The Spirit basically told Paul he wasn't to go out among
these Asiatics; he was only to go to Israel, which was then mainly located in
It is a matter of record that Paul went first to Gaul. It is
also of record that he traveled on a number of missionary expeditions to others
and he eventually was murdered in Asia Minor. This wasn't the reception Paul got
when he was in the real Galatia, in Gaul.
In Britain the religion was that of the Druids and to a
certain extent, the Druid religion was also known among the Gauls, on the
continent of Europe. The Druids were bitterly slandered by the Romans; Caesar
said the Druids offered human sacrifices. Caesar recorded the Druid's belief
that a man only attains salvation, from the consequences of his sins, by the
death of another paying the penalty for him. This is the absolute essence of
In fact, the Druids were much clearer in their understanding
of the entire Old Testament. This included the fact that the Old Testament was
prophetic of the coming of Yahshua. They were far ahead in their knowledge than
anything known in Palestine.
All over western Asia the most common language was Aramaic,
which is a Semitic language quite similar to Hebrew, although not identical to
it. So everybody spoke Aramaic. This is the language Yahshua spoke in order to
be understood by the people He was talking to. When Yahshua's people decided to
branch out into Europe, and go among people who didn't understand Aramaic,
learned people who knew more than just their local language, all through Europe
and to some extent in western Asia, were Greek.
If you wanted to write up the gospels or some of the letters
of Paul, in a language that could be read by the better educated people in
Europe, Greek was the language to write them in. The native Greeks had so much
contempt for non-Greeks; they divided all humanity into two classes. One class
was Greeks, who alone were civilized to their way of thinking. All other people,
even the highly civilized Egyptians, were considered barbarians and unworthy of
any serious notice. Because of this contempt for other people, the Greeks never
bothered trying to get names from other languages accurately.
In the records that we have from early Greek travelers and
historians, of their visits into Egypt, there is not one single Pharaoh
mentioned by them whose name would give us the remotest idea of what his actual
name was, as indicated in the Egyptian historical records. The Greeks just
garbled up some collection of sounds and let it go at that. Every time they
tried to translate any of these Hebrew names into Greek letters, they botched
this up also. In the New Testament we never read of Jeremiah, we read of Jeremy
or Jeremias etc.
The first missionaries went to the Druids and said, "We
bring you good news of salvation, because Iesous has come and died to pay the
penalty for our sins." The missionaries didn't have any converting to do.
The Druids told them they had been waiting for this news for centuries, and they
were joyous it had happened; now they wanted to hear all about it.
It is then recorded the Druids sent an ambassador over to
Marseilles. There they met Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus and some of the others.
The Druids entreated the new arrivals to come to Britain and preach there of the
accomplished redemption they had been believing and hoping for over the
centuries. So Joseph and some of the others went to Britain to teach.
The British Prince Arviragus offered Joseph land and
protection against Roman molestation, as the Roman emperors were already
starting to try to stamp out Christianity. Even as early as the times of
Augustus and Tiberius, they were beginning to deify their Roman emperors as soon
as they died. A Roman emperor was then a god, with his own temple to be
worshiped as such. Among the pagans, if they already had seventeen gods why not
eighteen, no particular reason to complain about that, it was all right.
However, Christianity refused to recognize any god but the
one true God, Yahweh. Here was political opposition as well as religious
opposition. The Romans were hostile to Christianity, pretty much from the
beginning, for this reason. Philip ordained Joseph of Arimathea as the apostle
to Britain. Then Prince Arviragus gave Joseph twelve hides of land, which
amounted to 1,920 acres, at Glastonbury.
Joseph's son Josephus, went with his father to Britain. In
the years 38 A.D. and 39 A.D., Joseph and his group of followers, built their
first church. Among the Britons, when they didn't time to construct a stone
building, or an elaborate one, it was common practice to build a timber frame to
support the roof and all the roof framing. Then they filled in the walls with
wicker, this was commonly known as wattle. Then the wattle was plastered over
The district near Glastonbury and this island of Avalon was a
river marshland. Recently, during some excavation, some of these wattle huts
have been dug up, quite well preserved. So this first church was a wattle
structure, plastered over with clay. Later the outside of these wattle huts was
covered with a thin sheet of lead, as a protection against the weather.
In the year 630 A.D., as part of the great monastery
structure there at Glastonbury, St. Paulinus built over this first wattle
church, the beautiful stone chapel of St. Mary's. This magnificent chapel was
destroyed by the fire which burned down the entire Glastonbury Abbey in the year
1184 A.D. Up to the time of the fire, preserved within this St. Mary's chapel,
was this little original, lead covered wattle and clay church. This is not myth,
this is well preserved historic record.
Besides Cardinal Baronius, there was Alford, who was the
other foremost Catholic Church historian. This information is based on his
statements in the Vatican library. Alford also records that Joseph of Arimathea
was the apostle to Britain and the first to introduce Christian teaching there.
The Roman Catholic Church has tried to foster the myth that
St. Augustine, who was sent from Rome to Britain in the year 596 A.D., went
there as missionary to a pagan country to convert the British people to
Christianity. There isn't the faintest word of truth in this, as the Vatican
records themselves show. A long time before Rome could claim to be Christian,
Britain was officially a Christian nation by government decree.
Augustine was sent to Britain in 596 A.D., at a time when the
popes were trying to consolidate their power. The Catholic Church, as we know it
today, was just coming into existence and the popes were searching for
recognition. These popes were nothing but the bishops of Rome and there were
bishops in all the important centers.
There was the Bishop of Carthage, on the shores of North
Africa and the Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. There were bishops in other
important cities in western Asia. Every time the bishop of Rome got to throwing
his weight around and trying to give orders to these other bishops, they
whittled him down to size by reminding him he didn't have any authority at all
outside of Rome, they were running affairs in their own areas. This is all
well-known church correspondence.
Remembering the tradition of the times, when the Roman Empire
governed all the then known civilized world, the popes were ambitious
politicians. They were grasping for power, but they didn't have this power
consolidated as yet. They sent Augustine to Britain to persuade the large and
important church in Britain, to accept the supremacy of the Pope. This is all
Augustine had to do with it he didn't convert Britain to Christianity.
At great church councils of the Roman Catholic Church, the
representatives of the various countries were accorded honor according to the
date their country had received Christianity. The earliest that had accepted
Christianity were recognized as the more important and entitled to greater
honor. There was a great deal of jealousy towards Britain, on the part of some
of the representatives of the other countries. Several times some of these other
countries tried to be recognized as entitled to a position ahead of Britain. The
Vatican's own records show that at the Council of Pisa, in the year 1417 A.D.,
at the Council of Constance in the year 1419 A.D., and the Council of Sienna in
1423 A.D., the Roman Catholic Church recognized that the Christian church in
Britain was the earliest of all Christian churches. As such, the English church
was entitled to be honored accordingly.
Joseph of Arimathea introduced Christianity in Britain in the
year 36 A.D.. Christianity, under that name, was officially proclaimed as the
National Church of Britain by an edict of King Lucius in the year 156 A.D. This
was done at Winchester, which was the capital city of Britain at that time.
Tertullian of Carthage, one of the great early Christian writers wrote,
"The Christian church extends to all the boundaries of Gaul and to parts of
Britain inaccessible to the Romans but subject to Christ."
The Roman records show that the Roman expedition to conquer
Britain had as its principle purpose, the stamping out of Christianity. The
Gauls were Christian, so when Julius Caesar went on his expedition to conquer
Gaul for Rome, the Britains sent Gaul a lot of troops for their defense.
Caesar's own records show that his first expedition into Britain, was to punish
them for being allies of the Gauls.
Caesar was on this expedition something like three weeks. He
returned with his boastful statement, "Vini, vidi, vinci. I came, I saw, I
conquered." But Caesar's political opponents said, "I came, I saw, but
I didn't stay." Caesar had been driven out in three weeks. Here was
Britain, the principle seat of Christianity. The records of the Roman emperors,
who sent their armies there to conquer Britain, show that it was primarily to
stamp out Christianity.
The English, as well as Roman records record that the British
put up such a ferocious resistance, the Roman armies never even got to
Glastonbury. These armies were never able to molest the seat of Christianity in
Britain. Sebellius, another early Christian writer, writing around the year 250
A.D., writes this. "Christianity was privately confessed elsewhere, but the
first nation that proclaimed it as their religion and called it Christian, after
the name of Christ, was Britain."
There is similar recognition of this given in the writings of
St. Jerome, the same man who translated the Bible into Latin. Jerome's Latin
translation is the official Bible of the Catholic Church. Jerome wrote about 378
A.D., Arnobius about 400 A.D., Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople wrote in
402 A.D. and Polydore Vergil, an eminent Catholic churchman who wrote during the
period of the quarrels between the Pope and King Henry VIII of England, all
these writers are in agreement with each other.
Remember, these were Catholics who officially claimed that
Rome was the source of Christianity. Therefore they weren't likely to forge lies
to show that Britain was ahead of them. Polydore wrote, "Britain was of all
kingdoms the first to receive the gospel."
Britain's greatest early historian Gildas, writing about 520
A.D., wrote this. "Joseph introduced Christianity into Britain in the last
year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar." This would make the time 37 A.D. or
38 A.D. Remember that Joseph didn't land in Britain until 36 A.D. Then he had to
devote some time getting organized and then send his party as missionaries
throughout the country, so these dates work out.
The Emperor Constantine, who was the first Roman emperor to
even tolerate Christianity, was of British heritage. He was the son of a Roman
father and a British mother; his father was the Roman commander in Britain at
that time. Constantine was raised to manhood in Britain and learned a great deal
There is a legend about his battle, when he was trying to
become emperor of Rome. The legend says that Constantine saw a vision of the
cross with this motto, "In this sign conqueror". In 313 A.D.
Constantine issued his first Edict of Toleration. This edict declared that the
people of Rome were free to worship in any religion of their choice including
Christianity, not excluding paganism.
It was quite a few years later that he made Christianity the
official religion, deposing paganism. Constantine convened the Council of Nicea
in the year 325 A.D., to compel the divided Christian church to agree on their
doctrines. There was a great split in the Christian church at that time, so the
Council of Nicea was convened.
The Roman Catholic hierarchy didn't begin its earliest
formation until 350 A.D. For practically 300 years after this, the Bishop of
Rome was not recognized as being the universal bishop of all Christendom. He was
the bishop of Rome and Italy respected his authority, but other areas had their
With Britain officially a Christian nation in 156 A.D., and
the Catholic Church coming into existence by degrees between 350 A.D. and 610
A.D., we can see that Britain is where Christianity gained its first foothold in
the civilized world.
closing, it should be stated that history records that Nicodemus was in the
group of people with Joseph of Arimathea, who came to Britain after the