To uncover what may have persuade the Christian Church to keep
a story about Joseph of Arimathea secret at the beginning of the 13th. century, we first
need to go back in time to the Judea of the 1st. century A. D. when Joseph of Arimathea
was alleged to have lived.
However, if we ignore the Bible interpretation of events at the
beginning of the first century for the time being, we have scant information to go on
regarding how the people of Judea behaved prior to the work of the Jewish historian,
What we do know, is that Flavius Josephus (circa 34 to 100 AD), was a
Pharisee who compiled a history of the Jews that included the first revolt of the Jews
against Roman rule that occurred in the period 68 to 74 AD.
As a Pharisee, Josephus believed in the resurrection of the dead and a
free interpretation the Bible using the oral tradition and that divine providence
cooperating with free will. In his time, the Pharisees were the largest major group with
the popular support of the people
Josephus starts the section depicting his own involvement in the
rebellion in the following manner:-
"The family from which I derived is not an ignoble one, but
hath descended all along from the priests. ..........I am not only sprung from a
sacerdotal family in general, but from the first of the twenty four courses,.......... by
my mother I am of the royal blood."
The infamous Nero was the Roman Emperor when the Jews first rebelled
against Roman rule in Palestine and when the general Vespasian was sent with a legion from
Egypt to deal with it.
Josephus goes on to tell us of his own reluctant involvement in the
rebellion and how he was sent by the leaders of the rebellion from Jerusalem to take over
the Galileen region on their behalf after the Romans lost control of that area.
The reason why Josephus was chosen was presumably due to his status in
the Jewish heirachy but we are left with the impression that he was not all that
commitment to it, believing it was doomed to failure.
He also gives the impression that his purpose was to ensure the
ordinary people of Galilee would not unduly suffer once the rebellion failed and the
Romans regained control.
Because of this lack of commitment, several attempts were made on his
life by the more zealous members of the Galileen Jews involved in the rebellion. But when
his army did come up against the Romans they were defeated and Josephus was imprisoned by
We will never know for certain wether it was due to his conduct during
the campaign or his status in Jewish society or his intellectual ability or a combination
of these that first impressed his captors.
However, Josephus does reveal how all of society was superstitious and
believed that magic influenced events and it is this that makes it easy for us to see how
this particular Jewish pharisee gained access to the highest ranking family in the Roman
Empire. We then discover that Josephus foretold that Vespasian was destined to become the
Emperor of Rome.
To understand the significance of this, is to recognise that Vespasian
was then only a Roman general and the chance of his attaining this high office were
However, when we refer to the history of the Roman Empire, we discover
that when Nero died in 69 A.D. Galba took over. Civil War then broke out and Galba was
disposed of by Otho. Civil unrest persisted and it was only then that Vespasian was called
upon to settle the issue. He then marched on Rome and became the new emperor. Because of
these unusual events, the year 69 A.D. is known as the year of the four Emperors by Roman