Adelaide Chapter

Is Joseph of Arimathea historical? by Kevin Rogers, 8 April, 2021.

February 18, 2022

The account of Joseph of Arimathea is very familiar. It is often read in churches at Easter time. It records how Joseph requested the body of Jesus from Pilate and buried him in a tomb at a known location. However, on the following Sunday, the body was gone, many were claiming to have witnessed appearances of the risen Jesus; and Jesus’ opponents could not produce the corpse. Thus the historicity of the burial in Joseph’s tomb is paramount to the central truth claim of Christianity.

The entombment of Christ by Caravaggio 1603-1604

However, Joseph is only mentioned during one cameo appearance and is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, the location of Arimathea is not absolutely certain, and there are no references to this town in contemporary non-Christian sources. Thus, the brevity of the evidence has prompted some to challenge whether the event occurred at all. After all, isn’t absence of evidence the evidence for absence? So, is Joseph of Arimathea historical?

There are records in each of the four gospels that have some common material but are viewed from different perspectives. From these we can judge whether they are based on factual eye-witness testimony.

Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and lecturer at the University of South Australia.

Dr Kevin Rogers

Kevin’s talk is available on YouTube.