Guards Are Placed At The Tomb Of Jesus

Arimathea Lowers Body Of Jesus With Same Care As He Would A Wounded Friend

After Pilate gave Joseph of Arimathea permission for the burial of Jesus, he together with Nicodemus, another important member of the Sanhedrin, and Abenadar a centurion began to take down the body from the cross. There is information in the New Testament apocrypha that Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, testified in favor of Jesus during the trial and angered the accusers (1).

Abenadar was responsible for drawing the huge nails that were driven through the feet of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus held the upper body of Jesus with the same care as one would a badly wounded dear friend. The tenderness that the two showed would make one wonder if these two were afraid that they would cause Jesus more pain. According to some sources Joseph of Arimathea went about lowering the body of Jesus after he had obtained permission from Mary his mother.

According to Mark 15:42–46, after bringing down the body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea took it to a place with water, presumably within his residence which was located just beyond the city walls. According to some sources the family tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was quite close to the cross and it would have been possible for Joseph of Arimathea to carry the body of Jesus all by himself, in spite of being past middle age. There they washed the body and anointed it with myrrh and aloe. According to (Acts 9:37), it is imperative that the body of a deceased is first washed before it is anointed and wrapped in linen. There is no reason to believe that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would not have done this. After that they wrapped the body in a sheet and laid it on the burial bench in a rock-cut tomb. He then rolled a stone across the doorway. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were present during the entombment (2).

Matthew 27:57-60 endorses Joseph of Arimathea’s involvement in the burial of Jesus. Based on the accounts of the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea is reported to have wrapped the body of Jesus in a linen burial cloth (sindon), known in Hebrew as a takrik and in the rabbinic sources as a sadin. According to the Gospel of Peter (6:24) the body of Jesus was first washed before it was wrapped in burial linen.

It was the Jewish custom to prop the body of the deceased and then wash it, making sure that the impurities from the feet do not reach the other parts of the body. It was only after this that the body was anointed with oils and perfumes and wrapped in burial linen (3).

Jews don’t embalm their dead. Instead they anoint them. It is for this that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe to anoint the body of Jesus and treat the linen burial cloth, to counter the smell of death. Some believe that myrrh and aloe were dry aromatics that would help dry any fluids still oozing from the body of Jesus. Anointing the body and treating the burial cloth must have been done outside the tomb as it would have been impossible to carry out these tricky procedures with the confines of a dark tomb. It is quite likely that by the time the body was placed within the tomb it must have already turned dark (4).

Jesus Was Buried In The Tomb Of A Rich Man As Prophesied

Joseph of Arimathea had to complete the burial of Jesus before sundown on Friday to comply with Jewish tradition. Since there was no time to get a grave ready before the beginning of the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea offered to entomb the body of Jesus in an unused rock-cut tomb that he had got ready for his own family. All the Synoptic Gospels are in support of what is said about the entombment of Jesus’ body in the family tomb of Joseph of Arimathea a wealthy man (5). This is in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah who had predicted that the messiah would be buried in the tomb of a rich man. (Isa. 53:9).

The Stone Covering The Mouth Of The Tomb of Jesus Could Not Have Been Round

Not everyone agrees that the stone covering the mouth of the tomb was a round blocking stone. (See fig. 8). Of the hundreds of tombs that were uncovered only a handful of them had a round blocking stone. And these were found at the more sophisticated tombs that had at least two rooms or as in the case of one, a spacious hall. These tombs belonged to people who were rich and famous, such as Herod. Round blocking stones in such tombs as the one in which Jesus was buried were unheard of. The tomb of Jesus must have been of the regular type and would have had a square chunk of stone that served as a plug that blocked the entrance. Such a stone was called a golal.

A round blocking stone

The “Herod Family Tomb” in Jerusalem. This first-century BC/AD tomb is
the only major ancient tomb located west of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It features a round disk sealing stone at its entrance. (Fig. 8)

A Square Blocking Stone

In the case of square blocking stone the wider end of the stone remained outside the tomb, while the narrower face fit snugly into the tomb’s entryway.

Square Blocking Stone

Guards Are Placed At The Tomb Of Jesus

Matthew 27:64 tells us that the Pharisees went to Pilate to request him to guard the tomb in which Jesus was buried. Their reason “Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

According to some sources Pilate rebuffed the Jewish leaders. But according to others he accommodated them. It is not certain exactly how Pilate responded. When it was found that the tomb of Jesus was empty, according to Matthew, the guards report the incident to Pilate. This would make the guards Roman. But according to Peter, the guards report the empty tomb to the chief priest. This would indicate that the guards were Jewish. If in fact the guards were Roman, they would have been executed for dereliction of duty. And as there is no report of such an eventuality, it would appear that the guards were Jewish (6).

In further support of the guards being Jewish we must consider Pilate’s reply to the Jews telling them to make the tomb as “secure as they know how.”

This brings us to the question as to the number of guards that were posted to watch the tomb of Jesus. From a reading of Matthew 28 it is clear that there were more than two guards. Matthew 28 tells us that “some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests [what] had happened.” If what Matthew says is correct then there would have been a minimum of four guards in all. It must be mentioned that of the evangelists only Matthew records the posting of guards to watch the tomb of Jesus. The other story relating to guards at the tomb of Jesus is by Peter. It can be safely said that the two stories are independent of each other as the language of the two are entirely different from each other (7).


(1) Joseph of Arimathea. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(2) New Testament, An American Translation. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York

(4) Derstine, Todd. (2009). Acts 20:7- Chronological Landmark of the New Testament. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Gibson, Shimon. (2009) The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York.


(7) Craig, William Lane. (2007). The Guard at the Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Round blocking stone

(Fig 2) A square blocking stone


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