On the Burial of Jesus in Mark 15:42-47
George W. Shea, S.T.D.
Catholic Biblical Quarterly The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
Raymond Brown begins with the evangelist's statement (v. 43) that
Joseph was a "respected () councillor ()" (238-
239). We take the latter term first. Brown thinks it means Joseph
was a member of the Great Sanhedrin, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, not
just of some lesser council. And rightly so, given the absence of
any indication that a lesser council is meant,3 plus the
consideration that a mere member of an inferior body would not have
had the "clout" needed to gain access to Pilate, as will be seen
later. True, Brown finds it curious that Mark uses this Greek word
here for the first and only time, but W. Lane plausibly explains that
the evangelist chose the word with Gentile readers in mind.4
Councillor Joseph is described as , a word which has met
with a wide variety of translations. Joachim Jeremias, for one,
thought it meant the Sanhedrist was rich,5 but this has not found
much favor: if Mark had wanted to declare Joseph's wealth, would he
not have used , as elsewhere (10:25; 12:41), instead of the
ambiguous 6 Brown opts for "respected," but he lists
also, seemingly as acceptable, "prominent," "honorable,"
"outstanding" (238 with note 20).
Other renderings by translators and commentators are: reputable,
decent, well-respected, honored, distinguished, comely, noble = of
the nobility; noble = upright, virtuous; in good standing; and
finally, of good position,7 of high rank8 of some distinction in the
Which translation is on target? Since the rest of Mark's burial
account wastes no words, one may assume that is vital to
the report, does not assert anything irrelevant, such as Joseph's
appearance, or social graces, or affability. Nor can it be affirming
something that would be self-understood of a senator, that is, a
quality verifiable of all by reason of their membership in the
highest Jewish civil and religious body, as well as their pure
Israelitic ancestry.10 Nor does it wish to declare Joseph to be
upright, virtuous or the like, since his high moral character is
implicit in the following clause, "who was also himself looking for
the kingdom of God" (v. 43).
Thus we are left with the conclusion that the of v. 43
means "of good position," "of high rank," "of some distinction in the
Sanhedrin," taken as ascribing to Joseph some sort of preeminence in
the Sanhedrin. In that body there was a group known as the high
priest's consistory,11 and it must be that Mark is saying Joseph
belonged to this top echelon. Such could be Bruce Vawter's
understanding of , when he describes Joseph as a "leading"
member of the Sanhedrin.12
This interpretation of Mark, not found in Brown, supports the usual
understanding of Mark's burial account. Vawter rejected a Markan
Joseph similar to Brown's with the reflection that it would be
difficult to explain why Joseph went to all the trouble he did for
someone in whom he did not take a personal interest.13 Vawter's
reflection becomes all the more telling when we think of Joseph as a
high-ranking, a "leading," Sanhedrist, with many responsibilities and
things to do, whereas there were, surely, others who were less busy,
but no less zealous for the sanctity of the Sabbath and for
compliance with Deut 21:22-23, who could do the burying.
Our attention is next directed to the fact that Mark does not term
Joseph a "disciple." Seeking to exploit this, the article argues
that, had Mark wished to describe the burial of Jesus as one
performed by a disciple, he could easily have done so, as when he
told of the interment of John the Baptist (6:29) by "his disciples"
It is surprising to find Brown arguing in this way. For he attended
the reading of a paper by Joseph Blinzler at the Symposium of 1979
held in Rome on the Resurrection, wherein this scholar pointed out
that Mark reserves the term "disciple" for those who accompanied
Jesus on his journeys14 (while remaining well aware there were others
who were attached to Jesus in various degrees: see, e.g., 2:2.12;
Therefore it is not enough to note that Mark does not call Joseph a
disciple; one must further establish that Mark's Joseph was not
attached to Jesus in any degree at all.
And in fact Brown tries to do just that, by appealing to the phrase
"the whole Sanhedrin," which Mark uses twice (14:55; 15:1) for the
Jewish authorities who had decided on Jesus' death (239). From this
phrase Brown concludes that nothing would dispose the reader to think
of Sanhedrist Joseph as a follower of Jesus (239).
Assuredly, no follower of Jesus would have voted for his death. But
that Joseph did thus vote is far from certain, since the texts in
question readily admit of other interpretations, compatible with the
usual view of Mark.
For one, Joseph was not present at the proceedings against Jesus.15
Or else the phrase "the whole Sanhedrin" _ and the "all" of Mk 14:64
_ are instances of the hyperboles found frequently in Mark, and in
other Gospels, as well as elsewhere in Jewish literature.16
Unlike Brown's understanding of Mark, neither interpretation puts the
evangelist in conflict with Jn 19:38 (Joseph a disciple [John's
terminology differs from Mark's]), or with Mt 27:57 (Joseph a
disciple; or, attached to Jesus17). And both do justice to John's
assertion that some authorities (i.e., Sanhedrists) were pro-Jesus.18
As to the statement of Luke 23:51 that Joseph had not consented to
the Sanhedrin's purpose and deed, it can, of course, signify that
Joseph did not attend the Council session, or that he was present and
voted "no," or else abstained.
Brown next takes up Mark's description of Joseph as one "who also
himself was looking for the kingdom of God" (v. 43). This does not
necessarily mean, we are told, that Joseph was an adherent of Jesus,
because Mark includes, among seekers after the kingdom, pious
observers of the law who were outside the circle of Jesus' followers
Conceding that anyone looking for the kingdom would be an observer of
the law, we must still wonder why Mark, understood as Brown
understands him, introduces Joseph in that way. The expression, "who
was himself also looking for the kingdom of God" clearly suggests an
expectancy of something which has yet to come to pass, or at least is
not yet possessed. It can hardly refer to something already existing
and in hand _ the law.
If concern for the law was Joseph's motive in going to Pilate, it
seems more likely that Mark would have called him "devout"
().19 That he instead has Joseph "looking for the kingdom
of God" intimates the Sanhedrist was a follower of Jesus.
In behalf of this view one could cite a great number of noted New
Testament scholars for whom Mark's clause, of itself, or when taken
in its context, bespeaks an attachment of Joseph to Jesus. A
selection must suffice.
J. Blinzler reasoned that the expression must be taken as ranking our
Joseph among Jesus' adherents.20 Elsewhere he says the courageous,
great-hearted, reverent actions of Joseph, reported in Mk 15:43-46,
clearly show his attachment to and love of Jesus.21
For William Lane, Joseph's earnest expectation of the coming
redemption had apparently attracted him to Jesus and his teaching
about the kingdom of God.22 Mark's statement about Joseph seeking
God's kingdom led Rudolph Schnackenburg to conclude the Sanhedrist
had obviously been impressed by Jesus' teaching.23 D. E. Nineham
conceded "looking for the kingdom of God" may mean Joseph expected it
to be brought by Jesus and that he was a disciple.24
H. C. Kee couples "looking for the kingdom of God" with Joseph's
courageous request to Pilate (v. 43) to arrive at the conclusion that
Joseph had responded to Jesus' announcement about the dawning of the
kingdom.25 Mark's assertion about Joseph and the kingdom moved Henry
Swete to deem Joseph a secret disciple.26 C. H. Dodd thought it
implied Joseph was friendly to Jesus, and perhaps a potential
Bruce Vawter rounded out his above-mentioned rejection of a theory
like Brown's with the remark that, furthermore, "Mark's observation
that 'he too was looking forward to the kingdom of God,' we may be
sure, was not idly written." Finally, Brown himself says in effect
that Mark may have subtly suggested Joseph was pro-Jesus by
describing him as one "who was also himself looking for the kingdom
of God!" (245).
Before we leave the topic of Joseph's motive for burying Jesus, we
may put the question: if the motive was zeal for the Sabbath and the
law, why did not that zeal extend also to Jesus' two crucified
companions, spoken of in Mk 15:27?
Mk 15:43 indicates Joseph needed courage to approach Pilate with his
request for the body of Jesus. Brown believes this poses a
difficulty no matter what view one has of Joseph (241). But this is
not true for the usual understanding of Joseph. One can readily
account for his need of courage vis-a-vis Pilate. Joseph's plea
would have been irksome to the Prefect, because he had already been
approached in this matter (Jn 19:31), and would have to reverse, as
to Jesus, the decision he had made on that occasion. This reversal
would open the door to more wrangling with the Jewish authorities
(see Jn 19:21-22) who had made the first request.28 Add to this that
Joseph would be coming with his petition well after the close of
Pilate's working day, which, like that of all Roman officials, had
begun around dawn and ended at noon.29 There is no basis for the
suggestion that Joseph's need of courage stemmed from the fact that
Jesus had been crucified for treason, and to request his body for
burial might implicate Joseph in the treason.30 For, after all,
Pilate did not really think Jesus was a traitor.31
The further import of Mk 15:43-44 for our discussion should not be
overlooked. According to the Greek text of v. 43 (),
Joseph "went in to Pilate" (Lattimore: "went into the presence of
Pilate"32). So determined was Joseph to obtain the body of Jesus for
decent burial that he ignored the Jewish ban (lest one incur ritual
impurity) on entering a Gentile's quarters (see Jn 18:29), in the
hope that this gesture would help win a favorable response to his
So we find Joseph on Pilate's "turf," and in the role of a suppliant.
He, the high-ranking Sanhedrist, entreats the Prefect; he, the pure-
blooded Israelite, beseeches the Gentile, Pilate.34 And the Prefect,
after obtaining verification of Jesus' death from the centurion (v.
45), graciously granted, freely gave () the corpse to
All this is readily intelligible of Joseph as usually understood, but
not of Brown's Joseph. There would be no reason for the latter to go
against his Jewish grain and enter a Gentile habitat, no reason to
plead with Pilate, no place for graciousness on the Prefect's part.
In office since 26 A.D., Pilate must have known of Jewish concern for
the Sabbath and the dictates of Deut 21:22-23, and would have been
prepared for, and ready to comply with, a request for timely removal
and burial of the crucified. No doubt, a liaison officer was posted
outside his quarters to receive and forward messages from the Jewish
authorities. Notice that Jn 19:31 tells of the latter's request put
to Pilate, but not of the Prefect's assent _ so routine was this that
it could be left to be understood.
Reply may be made at this point to the surmise (241) that Pilate
would not have been apt to release the body of a crucified would-be-
king to a follower or sympathizer. Even if Pilate thought of Jesus
as a would-be-king, he had no reason to fear his followers would
abuse the concession of the body (by making a hero of the "king of
the Jews" and a shrine or rallying point out of his tomb). For they
would know that such conduct would surely result in destruction of
the tomb, and for the body of Jesus the abhorred fate of cremation.36
Pilate's ability and will to act quickly and ruthlessly against
demonstrators was common knowledge (see Lk 13:1). Moreover, Joseph
was a man of wealth and his fortune could be confiscated.
We move on now with Brown as he seeks (242-243) to determine the kind
of burial given Jesus _ honorable or dishonorable? Inexplicably, in
this task he completely ignores the import of the Greek word used by
Mark for the cloth Joseph bought to shroud the body of Jesus (v. 46):
. It regularly means a fine (finely woven) fabric, most
often linen, but sometimes cotton.37 Brown does not advert to the
fine quality of the shroud;38 in fact his article does not even
Although not the most expensive,39 nevertheless such material was
costly. From the fact that the "young man" of Mk 14:51 was clad in a
commentators conclude he was from a well-to-do family.40
Certainly it was not the grade of material a non-adherent would buy
for the dishonorable burial of an executed malefactor.
Therefore Mark's signals, and according to J. Blinzler41 was
meant to signal, the dignity of the burial. W. Lane asserts that
Mark's detail about the wrapping of Jesus' body in fine linen
indicates he was given an honorable burial.42 D. Daube makes the
point that when Joseph is said to have bought a linen cloth,
therefore not using just any cloth that was to hand, this was to
eliminate any suggestion of shame marking the burial.43 The
significance of the linen bought for Jesus' burial mounts, if at the
time of Jesus executed criminals were buried "in ragged, torn, old,
dirty winding sheets."44 Be that as it may, the of Mk 15:46
thoroughly refutes Brown's dictum (242) that nothing in Mark's burial
account suggests an honorable burial for Jesus.
But does not Mark's Greek word for "wrapped" (, v. 46)
hint at a dishonorable burial, as Brown imagines? He terms the verb
"pedestrian," and opines that the substitution of a different verb in
Matthew and Luke represents the first step in the (alleged) upgrading
of the burial to an honorable one (242-243). C. S. Mann, however,
observes that Mark's verb has a wide range of meanings, including the
quite neutral sense of "to wrap."45 One may, therefore, and in view
of Mark's , one must rule out Brown's "pedestrian" sense of
What of other amenities regarded as requisite for an honorable burial
_ washing and anointing of the corpse? Mark makes no mention of
these, and Brown argues from this that they were really and
deliberately omitted, in keeping with an ignominious burial (242).
Many others likewise believe washing and anointing were omitted, but
simply because there was not enough time. Blinzler, however,
maintained (in the paper read in Rome) that these services were
rendered but Mark did not need to report these customary practices:
it is their omission that he would have mentioned.46
But, even if these amenities did not take place, must their omission
necessarily spell dishonor to Jesus? After all, in the experience of
the Jewish people there must have been countless situations wherein
amenities were omitted, not willfully, but of necessity (e.g., as in
Various reasons may be advanced to explain why Joseph (and his
assistants), although anxious to do so, may have been unable to
provide these services for Jesus. Lack of time is often proposed as
a reason. That aside, there is Paul Gaechter's suggestion that
ointments could not be obtained from the shops, because the throngs
of Passover pilgrims had bought up all the supplies.48 Gaechter
added that this would help account for the large quantity of scented
substances brought by Nicodemus (Jn 19:39): he wished to compensate
in this way for the absence of ointments.
If one thinks it unlikely that the ointments were sold out,
Gaechter's basic idea could still be retained: ointments required
preparation from sundry ingredients (mixing and cooking were
involved49) and the supply of ready-to-use ointments had been bought
up, but not the raw materials. These, however, were useless to
Jesus' buriers, because time and the facilities for preparing the
ingredients were lacking.
Since the tomb was in a garden (Jn 19:41), cared for by a gardener
(see Jn 20:15), water must have been available, from a spring,
stream, or brooklet.50 Was the body of Jesus washed? Yes, if with
Blinzler (above) one holds Mark did not think it necessary to report
the customary amenities. Others deny a washing, usually on the
grounds of a supposedly hasty burial.
W. Bulst, S.J., formerly of the latter opinion, subsequently offered
a different reason for the omission: a custom, based on the age-old
Jewish respect for blood as the seat of life, of not washing a
bloodied corpse before burial.51 The same reason could apply, one
may assume, to the omission of an anointing.
In sum, the body of Jesus may or may not have been washed and
anointed, but even if these offices were omitted, unproved is Brown's
claim that this would indicate a dishonorable burial.
So much for the modalities of the interment. The next topic to be
discussed is the burial place _ was that honorable? Of course, the
Sanhedrist's own tomb would have been an honorable burial place. But
Brown denies (243) that the body of Jesus was put there: Jesus'
burial place was near Golgotha, but a wealthy Sanhedrist would not
have had his family tomb in such a locality, i.e., in the immediate
vicinity of a place of public execution.
To his contention Brown himself had supplied the beginning of a reply
in his commentary on John: "We are not certain that Golgotha was an
habitual place of execution."52 Indeed, it has been said that it was
the custom of the time not to have a fixed place of execution.53
So it may be that Joseph had obtained the property before Golgotha
became an execution site; appropriate here is Blinzler's remark that
we do not know when or under what circumstances Joseph acquired the
property.54 Also noteworthy here is an earlier remark of Brown, that
"the area may have been a prestigious place for burial."55 Finally,
Joseph, being now removed from Arimathea, and getting along in years
(a high-ranking senator!) had need of a family burial tomb in the
environs of Jerusalem, but a suitable one could have been hard to
come by,56 so he may have had to settle for the area near Golgotha,
even if the latter was an execution site. Blinzler added a further
thought on the matter _ the tomb met the Jewish requirement that a
human habitation be at least fifty yards away from a place of
execution (he was viewing the garden as a place of human
To return now to Brown's scenario, Jesus' body was, he insists,
consigned to a place meant for the burial of executed Jewish
criminals, a cavity chiseled out of the wall of the execution hill
How well does this contention square with what we can learn from Mark
(15:45; 16:3-5) about the burial place of Jesus? Hewn out of rock
(v. 46), the Markan tomb was cut into a hillside. This issues from
the fact that, of the women coming to the sepulchre on Easter, it is
said that "looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back."58
"Looking up" is the usual sense of the Greek verb used here
(), and there is no good reason to understand it
Thus the Markan burial site was not a grave dug into an open, flat
area of earth, but rather a cavity in a rocky hillside; and, indeed,
a man-made cavity, "hewn out of the rock" (15:46).
Within it, as can be gathered from Mk 16:5, was a stone bench or
shelf, formed by cutting back the wall. The tomb interior was roomy
enough for the presence of Joseph and an assistant, as they laid the
body of Jesus on the shelf, and for the three women on Easter
(16:1.5) and for the "presence" of the "young man" of Mk 16:5.
After the burial the tomb was made secure by a stone (15:45), a very
large one (16:4), which was rolled against the entry.
Whether there was an anteroom to the burial chamber cannot be
ascertained from Mark. Even so, the Markan tomb has emerged for us
as one wrought by considerable labor, of the sort that belonged to
people of high station.60
Hence the Markan tomb, contrary to Brown, cannot have been a place
intended for the burial of an executed criminal: it is incompatible
with the Jewish attitude, mentioned by Brown (242) that such a person
should be buried shamefully.
Nor does Mark's tomb correspond in any other way to what is commonly
held about the place officially appointed for interring executed
By all accounts, this burying place was located far outside the city;
but Mark's tomb was near the city.62
Moreover, the criminal's grave was dug out of the soil, whereas
Mark's tomb was hewn out of rock.63
And, instead of being called a tomb (, Mark's term, v. 46),
the burial site for executed criminals was referred to as a "place,"
or, more graphically, as a "pit," or "trench," or "ditch."64
Finally, whereas, being on a hill near Jerusalem, Mark's grave was
located on high ground, while the burial place for criminals was down
in the boggy lowland of a valley, in order that the corpses interred
there might decompose the more quickly in the humid atmosphere.65
Obviously, therefore, Brown's vision of an executed criminal's grave,
which he takes the Markan burial place to be, is completely at odds
with what is commonly held about the officially appointed grave for
executed Jewish malefactors.
Further, as was seen above, the tomb of Jesus' burial had a shelf or
bench, formed by cutting back the wall.66 Surely, such a refinement,
honorific as well as entailing some expense, would not be a feature
of an executed felon's grave, even if this were a cave.
That Mark did not understand Jesus' burial place to be one for a
criminal may also be argued from his designation of it as a
(15:46b; 16:2). This word signifies "a token of
remembrance," "a commemorative monument," that is, something to
perpetuate the memory of the deceased.67 Hence, when that term is
used, a permanent, not temporary, burial is meant.
It follows that would not be used for a criminal's grave
(which the Markan tomb would be by Brown's reckoning), since such a
resting place was only temporary. For, after decomposition of the
flesh, kin and/or friends could remove the bones to the family burial
place, a fact noted by Brown (237). Hence authorities regularly
argue that the term , of itself alone, rules out any idea
that Mark thought of Jesus' burial place as that for an executed
If not an officially owned piece of real estate, to whom, then, did
the tomb belong? That it was someone's property, not an unclaimed
area waiting to be taken over by the first claimant, follows from the
fact that the tomb was (at least) partially man-made, "hewn out of
rock," with a shelf, and represented therefore an outlay for labor.
The owner can have been none other than Joseph of Arimathea. He, a
member of the Sanhedrin, a leading one at that, and a zealous
observer of the law, would never have usurped another's property,69
least of all another's burial place.70
To return to Brown, he sees another argument for his view in the fact
that, of the women who were present at the burial, Mk 15:47 says only
that "they saw where the body was laid." Brown believes this shows a
lack of cooperation between Joseph and the women, which is
intelligible only if Joseph was not a follower of Jesus (243-244).
Brown appears to have forgotten that in those days Jewish women were
not supposed to talk with men in public, not even with their
husbands, and, most definitely, not with strangers.71 Joseph was a
stranger to the women, both in the Brown scenario and in the usual
understanding of Mark: he was from Judea, they from Galilee. Also
to be considered is the segregation of the sexes then required at
To forestall a further objection from Mk 15:43, it is enough to note
that lamentation ceased when the burial was over.73
Finally, hoping to clinch his case, Brown claims that his
interpretation of Mark enables one to make sense of Acts 13:27-29, a
text which seems to imply that those who were involved in Jesus'
death were also involved in his burial (244).
In reply, if enemies buried Jesus, they would have made it the
ignominious burial which was standard for executed Jewish criminals,
that is, a temporary burial, in a pit, down in a valley lowland, far
from Jerusalem. But, as we have seen, Jesus' burial site was on high
ground; was near Golgotha and Jerusalem; was hewn out of a rocky
hillside; and was termed, not "pit," but , which bespeaks
an honorable and permanent burial place. And one should also notice
that Acts 13:29 uses the verb , "they laid" rather than
"cast," which speaks for rather than against an honorable burial.74
Those, therefore, who are said in this text to have buried Jesus,
cannot have been inimical Jews. Paul Gaechter arrived at the same
conclusion from Mark's description of the burial place as a tomb hewn
out of rock.75 He added that the (inimical) Jews had no right to
remove the body from the cross and bury it, because it belonged to
To sum up, whatever the explanation of Acts 13:27-29 may be, this
text cannot be used to argue an ignominious burial of Jesus by
enemies.76 As to efforts to explain the text otherwise, a few may be
Gaechter supposed an unannounced change of subject in the text, and
proposed the translation: "After they had fulfilled all that had
been written of him, one took him down from the cross. . . ."77
Likewise convinced that the text does not ascribe Jesus' burial to
enemies, E. Haenchen says "in reality Luke has only shortened the
account as much as possible."78
J. Dupont appealed to the literary function of the passage: like
similar passages in Peter's preaching, this one from Paul wishes only
to oppose, to the work of those who had Jesus put to death, the work
of God, who raised him to life; there was no need to mention the
intervention of Jesus' friends in the matter of his burial.79
Seeking to confirm his use of the text from Acts, Brown turns to a
variant reading for the end of Jn 19:38, which has "they came and
took his body," instead of "he (Joseph) came. . . ." (244). If
"they" is the original reading, Brown would have it understood of
Jesus' enemies. But we may insist, with no less right, that the word
refers to Joseph and his assistants in taking the body of Jesus down
from the cross for burial. Or, if one is willing to have Nicodemus
on the scene that early, "they" could refer to him and Joseph.80
Continuing his catena of texts thought to suggest enemy burial of
Jesus, Brown cites the 6:21.23 (244). But since
the relation of this work to the canonical Gospels is much disputed,
and its indulgence in fantasy is notorious, it is of negligible worth
in the present discussion. Neither do the other texts cited by Brown
merit serious attention.81
Before concluding, we may examine the claim that the original story
of Jesus' burial, held to be found in Mark, evolved, grew with the
telling: (a) Matthew, Luke, John escalate the burial from one by a
pious Jew, who acted solely out of zeal for the law, to one by a
disciple of Jesus; (b) John upgrades the burial to a royal interment.
Brown upholds the first point in his article (245), and in , etc., where he labels the "introduction" of
Joseph's discipleship, "an anachronistic retrojection."82
In reply, it is not Joseph's status that changes, it is the
terminology used in his regard. Surely the evangelists had the right
to choose their own language to express the same reality.
As to the other point, espoused by Brown on more than one occasion,83
this, too, must be rejected.84 Other notables, besides kings, were
buried in gardens.85 The large quantity of spices (Jn 19:39) was not
a feature found only in the burial of kings: rabbis are known to
have been honored in this way,86 and Jesus was revered by his
followers as a rabbi.87 Recall also Gaechter's point about Nicodemus
wanting to compensate for the lack of ointments. Also to be
considered is the practice of spreading spices on the shelf where the
body was to repose, and around the floor of the burial chamber for
the sake of the mourners who would be visiting the tomb in the next
few days.88 Very likely, some of the spices were burnt for the same
To conclude, it is certain that friends buried Jesus,90 most notably,
Joseph of Arimathea. Mark, it is true, does not term Joseph a
disciple of the Lord. But his burial account, along with 16:1-5,
indicates beyond all doubt that the Sanhedrist was an adherent of
Jesus, and buried him honorably, in his own family tomb.
1 "The Burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42-47)," CBQ (50, 2), April, 1988,
2 New York: Paulist, 1973, 113-117. For brevity's sake, we omit
mention of several other views similar to that of Brown.
3 Cf., e.g., I. Marshall, (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, reprint 1979), 879, on .
4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint 1982), 577,
5 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979),
224, note 8.
6 To reject "rich" as the meaning of Mark's is not to
deny Joseph was a man of means. Jeremias, ,
223, note 8, argues Joseph's wealth from his ownership of property
with a garden (Jn 19:41; 20:15). See also Mt 27:57.
7 M. Zerwick, S.J.,
(translated, revised, adapted by Mary Grosvenor, vol. 1, Rome:
Biblical Institute 1974), 164; (rev. ed., New York: Harper and Row, 1955); C. Lattey, S.J.,
Longmans, Green, 1948).
8 (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony's
Guild, 1947). The Vulgate renders
9 J.B. Phillips, (Cleveland/New York:
Collins, 1976), 137.
10 See Jeremias, , 298, note 104, and 300, note 118. If
it be objected that the high priests of that era were anything but
revered, this is true but irrelevant, since, with few exceptions,
commentators do not consider Joseph to have been a priest.
11 On this consistory or "cabinet," made up of priests and laymen,
see Bo Reicke, (Philadelphia: Fortress,
12 Bruce Vawter, C.M., (Garden
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967), 305.
13 Ibid., 390.
14 Josef Blinzler, "Die Grablegung Jesu in historischer Sicht,"
(Rome, 1970), ed. E. Dhanis, S.J. (Citta del Vaticano:
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1974), 69. At p. 105 one learns that
Brown participated in the discussion of this paper; and the CBQ
article cites the published paper as "useful" (234, note 3).
15 John P. Kealy, C.S.Sp., (Denville, N.J.:
Dimension Books, 1979), 443.
16 On hyperbole in Jewish usage, see the note to Josephus, Wars,
2.19.1, in W. Whiston, , (new ed., Peabody,
Mass.: Hendrickson, 1987), 630. See Mk 1:22.214.171.124.45; 5:28;
6:33.5; etc. Relevant here are remarks in Werner E. Kilber, ed.,
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) by J. B.
Donohue, 65, note 15, and by K. E. Dewey, 97 with note 4. Both speak
of Mark's tendency to "universalize" scenes. Mk 14:53b is a text
17 Mt 27:57 is rendered "who was attached to Jesus" in W. F. Albright
and C. S. Mann, (AB6, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971);
see also p. lxxvii.
18 See Raymond E. Brown, (AB29,
Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), 484; C. H. Dodd, (Cambridge: University Press, 1963),
19 In Acts 8:2 "devout" () men bury Stephen and make
lamentation for him. Brown (248) regards these men as law-observant
Jews who were not followers of Jesus.
20 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 58.
21 Ibid., 69.
22 , 579.
23 (vol. 2, New York: Crossroad,
24 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1963, reprinted
25 "Joseph of Arimathea,"
(vol. 2, Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 981.
26 (ed. 3, London: Macmillan,
27 Dodd, , 87, note 2.
28 See Jn 19:31. Brown discusses this text in (AB29a, 1970), 933-934.
29 On the Roman official's working day, see W. Lane, Mark, 549; A. N.
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), 45. Joseph's wealth and his membership
in the consistory would win him access to Pilate, but, since he was
coming "after hours," would not obtain him a warm welcome.
30 J. Blinzler, (ed. 3, Regensburg: Pustet,
1960), 289, has Joseph's need of courage stem from the risk of
appearing to be involved in the treason; similarly Brown's article,
31 See Mk 15:10-14; Lane, , 555-556.
32 Richmond Lattimore, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux,
1969). J. B. Phillips, (rev.
ed., New York: Macmillan, 1972): "went into Pilate's presence."
33 On the ritual impurity that would be incurred by entering a
Gentile's quarters, see Brown's discussion in , 845-
846. Joseph could not here avoid defilement the way he may have done
at the burial _ by using his servants.
34 "Entreated," "begged": for this sense of (v. 43), see
W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, (ed. 2, Chicago/London: University of Chicago, 1979),
; see note 35 below.
35 Many take (v. 45) to suggest a gracious act on
Pilate's part, e.g., Vincent Taylor, (ed. 2, Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint 1982), 601.
36 Even though Edom was a mortal foe of Israel, Amos regarded the
Moabite burning of the Edomite king's bones as a heinous crime
calling for divine vengeance, a violation of a universally binding
divine law: Amos 2:1-2. Jews still abhor cremation; cf. Maurice
Lamm, (rev. ed., New York:
Jonathan David, 1981), 56-57, 84.
37 See Liddell-Scott, (new ed., by H.
Jones, R. McKenzie, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961) at :
"fine cloth, usually linen." Also Arndt-Gingrich, Lexicon, ;
J. Blinzler, " in evangeliis," 34 (1956),
112-113; Joseph Fitzmyr,
(AB28a, Garden City: Doubleday, 1985), 1527; Paul Gaechter, S.J.,
"Zum Begraebnis Jesu," 75
(2, 1953), 220, 222: " of first quality." "Fine linen" used
to be found in English translations of Mk 15:46 (King James version;
38 Brown, , 941, mentions twice, but says
nothing about the quality of this fabric. Some commentators on Mark
bring out the fine quality of , not at 15:46, but at 14:51-
52: thus W. Lane, , 527.
39 According to Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 61.
40 For example, W. Lane, , 527; H. Swete, , 354.
was used in the expensive embalming process to enwrap the
mummy: see F. M. Willam, "Johannes am Grab des Auferstandenen,"
71 (2, 1949), 206; also S.
Richard, "Linen," (ed. P. Achtemeier, San
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), 563.
41 Blinzler, Prozess, 291, and " in evangeliis," 112.
42 , 658.
43 (London: University of
London/Athlone, 1956), 12.
44 John Lightfoot, (vol. 3, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), 215.
45 (AB27, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1986), 658.
46 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 63.
47 Perhaps relevant here is the then lively conviction that, if
someone intended a good deed, but was prevented, God reckoned it as
though it had been done; see C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, (New York: Schocken, 1947), 288.
48 "Zum Begraebnis Jesu," 222-223;
(Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 1962), 939. The myrrh and aloes of Jn 19:39
were dry substances: Gaechter, "Zum Begraebnis," 222.
49 See Gaechter, "Zum Begraebnis," 224, Lk 23:56; also , 939.
50 See J. A. Hastings, ed., (Edinburgh:
Clark, 1898), II, 108-110, on Gardens; ,
51 "Turiner Grabtuch und Exegese heute," 28
(1, 1984), 38. See Lamm, , 15, 28, 244.
52 See Brown, , 943.
53 See Ferdinand Prat, S.J., (vol. 2, Milwaukee:
Bruce, 1950), 378; Nineham, , 421-422.
54 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 85, 105.
55 Brown, , 943.
56 Consider how difficult it was to obtain burial space on, for
example, Mount Scopus: see Y. Yadin, (New
Haven: Yale University, 1976), 67.
57 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 85.
58 , Mk 16:4.
59 Lattimore, , translates the word "looking
again." At p. 292 he defends this translation on the grounds that
the usual sense ("looking up") does not seem to have any point here.
It escaped him that the women looked up because they had to, in order
to inspect the tomb entry.
60 R. H. Smith, "The Tomb of Jesus," 30
(1967), 87-88; cited by Lane, , 580, note 2. J. Schmid,
, 301, says Jesus was laid in an "excellent rock tomb," of a
kind that "only well-to-do and distinguished people owned." Like
Mark, Matthew says the stone closing the tomb was great (27:60), and
from this detail Donald Senior infers the "fitting magnificence of
the tomb" (
[Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1985], 152). A. Parrott,
(Paris: Paul Guenther, 1939),
81, gives as the price of a Nabatean tomb 1000 Nabatean drachmas. We
may note here that a tomb in which no one had yet been laid was
especially valuable; see F.-M. Braun, O.P.,
(Paris: J. Gabalda, 1937), 16, note 1, for evidence of this from two
tomb inscriptions; see also Parrott, 46.
61 Brown (237) notes that only after the time of Jesus is there
mention, in the Mishna, of two official burial places for executed
criminals (one for those who were beheaded or strangled, the other
for the stoned or burned). See also Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 94.
62 Far outside the city: see W. Lane, , 578; Blinzler, "Die
Grablegung," 94, 97; 98, note 2. Authors refer in this connection to
Jer 22:19. The Markan tomb, on the contrary, was near Golgotha, as
one can gather from Mark (Brown, 243), as well as Jn 19:41; and
Golgotha was near the city.
63 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 99, continuation of his note 133: the
Jewish graves for criminals were not rock-hewn, but "Gruben"
(trenches, ditches, pits), into which the bodies were cast, then
covered with earth.
64 See Arndt-Gingrich, ; Alfred Edersheim,
(vol. 2, ed. 5, New York:
Anson Randolph, n.d. ), 319-320.
65 After the flesh had decomposed, family and/or friends could remove
the bones to the family grave (as Brown notes, 237). Probable
evidence of this practice is the celebrated discovery in 1968 of the
bones of a man who had been crucified, named Jehohanon; on this find
see Lane, , 565; Brown, 237.
66 Brown's article does not deny that the Markan tomb had such
a feature, and , 982-983, 989, reasons to a shelf from
Jewish usage and from Jn 20:12.
67 See Arndt-Gingrich, ; Alfred Edersheim,
, II, 319-320; Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 62.
68 See Gaechter, , 939, note 94; Blinzler, "Die
Grablegung," 62, 107.
69 See Exod 20:15.17.
70 His burial place was a Semite's dearest possession, for various
reasons, notably because of the belief that failure to be buried
would cause suffering in the afterlife. Symbolic of this concern for
burial is the fact that the first Israelitic acquisition of land in
Palestine was the cave purchased by Abraham for a family burial place
71 See Jeremias, , 360; Brown, , 173 on Jn
4:47. Edersheim, Life, II, 618, says it would hardly have been in
accordance with Jewish manners if the women had mingled more closely
with Joseph (for Edersheim, a disciple).
72 See Brown, , 424 on Jn 11:19; Edersheim, , II,
73 See E. Feldman, (New York: Yeshiva University, 1977),
135, note 168.
74 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 96.
75 Gaechter, , 939, note 35.
76 Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 107.
77 Gaechter, , 939, note 35.
78 Ernst Haenchen, (Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1972), 410; see Carlo Martini, S.J., (Roma: Universita
Gregoriana, 1959), 81.
79 See the discussion in Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 106-107.
80 See Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 77, note 67.
81 In particular, the Ephesian inscription from the sixth century,
cited by Brown, is historically worthless: Blinzler, "Die
82 At p. 114.
83 See Brown in Blinzler, "Die Grablegung," 105; CBQ article, 242,
note 29; , etc., 116, note 193; Brown, , 960.
84 See Blinzler, "Die Grablegung, 73, note 55.
85 See article "Burial" in , 146, col. B.
86 See Brown, , 960.
87 See Mk 9:17; 11:21; Jn 4:31; 6:25; 9:2, etc.
88 See Gaechter, , 940, on Mt 27:60;
(translated and adapted by
Louis Hartmann, C.S.S.R., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 287.
89 See Jer 34:5 with 2 Chron 16:14 and 21:19.
90 C. Martini, , 81: "Mk 15:42ff. attributes the burial of
Jesus to friends."
George W. Shea, S.T.D. received his doctorate in sacred theology from
the Canisianum Seminary in Austria. Ordained to the priesthood in
1936, Msgr. Shea taught theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in
Darlington, NJ from 1939-1942 and 1946-1960. Msgr. Shea attended all
four sessions of Vatican II as a ``peritus'' and was pastor of Our
Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange, NJ for thirteen years before
retiring in 1981. Msgr. Shea died on July 8, 1990.
This article was taken from the Spring 1991 issue of "Faith &
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