Holy Week #3. Who was Joseph of Arimathea?

Where is Arimathaea?
Joseph was born at Arimathaea — which is very likely, Ramathaim-Zophim, the birthplace of the Prophet Samuel, (1 Samuel 1:1) located some 22 miles (35km) northwest of Jerusalem. The Greek translation of the name of the city is Arimathaim. Some scholars prefer to identify it with the town of Ramalleh, a town about five miles north of Jerusalem.

How rich was Joseph and where did he get his riches?
Scripture describes Joseph of Arimathaea as “a rich man”. “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus”. (Matt 27:57) Some scholars believe that he was exceedingly rich, perhaps the richest man in Israel at the time.

Scripture is silent on how he obtained his riches, but some early, yet unsubstantiated Christian writers say that Joseph was an international merchant involved in the tin trade with the Roman government. Tin is needed to make bronze. This tin came from the British Isles where there existed remote Jewish settlements involved in the mining of tin and lead. If Joseph was in charge of Rome’s mining interests in Britain, he would have been influential and familiar with the Roman authorities. If this were true, it would also explain how Joseph was able to so easily gain an audience with Pilate. He was a prominent man in both the Roman and Jewish worlds. He was also wealthy enough to have his own tomb cut cut of rock.

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