Keith Hunt - Joseph Leaves Palestine with.... - Page Three   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

Joseph Leaves Palestine with ....

And arrives in France!

Continuing with the travels of Joseph of Arimathia


The Death of Christ and the Saulian Persecution

     When Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to claim the body of
Christ, he really sealed his fate as far as the Sanhedrin was
concerned. It was bad enough when Joseph defended Christ before
the hastily assembled group of Jewish leaders; now he was rubbing
salt into an already festering wound! Jesus was charged by the
Jewish authorities with the most heinous of crimes - that of
BLASPHEMY (see Matt.26:65). This meant that Christ was looked
upon by the Sanhedrin as "accursed of God"; and Joseph, because
of his long association with Him and the "heresy" He promoted,
was looked upon in a similar vein.
     Joseph's audience with Pilate to retrieve Christ's body was,
in the eyes of the Sanhedrin, a slap in the face and perceived as
a defilement of Jewish law. Because Christ was considered
"accursed of God," even the instrument of death and the very soil
it stood in was defiled. The apostle Paul said that the TREE (the
"stauros") Christ died on was reckoned "a shame" (Hebrew 12:2)
and he called the crosspiece (Latin - "patibulum") "the reproach"
-- see Hebrews 13:13. In other words, all the instruments of
death were "accursed" because they came into contact with the
"accursed one" - Christ! How this was dealt with by the Jewish
authorities is explained by Ernest L. Martin:

"The essential teaching on how to CLEANSE the land of such
'accursedness' is found in Deuteronomy 21:22,29, and in the
previous verse 21 it, says this purging was to be done by BURNING
(Hebrew: 'bahger'). In the Old Testament example of such purging,
it was thaught necessary to BURN THE POSSESSIONS of such an
'accursed one' because the abominable sin of the person was even
touched them and ths reckoned even his possessions 'accursed'.
This was the case with the things belonging to ACHAN who sinned
so grievously in the time of Joshua (Josh.7:15, 24-26). What
happened was that Achan himself was killed (with his children and
animals) and all his 'accursed' things were burnt up together
with him. This practice of utter destruction was considered the
only way to purify the land of Israel from such defilements....
To keep the land from being polluted, Christ HAD TO BE DESTROYED
before sundown and the "accursed" stauros had to be burnt up so
that no person could ever touch it.
What the Jewish authorities wanted to do was to take the dead
body of Christ AND the 'accursed' (shameful) tree and BURN THEM
UP TOGETHER just as the Israelites did with Achan in the Old
Testament. - Secrets of Golgotha. ASK Publications, Alhambra, CA
1988. pp. 180.181.

(Martin is correct but yet incorrect. This was the basic custom
of the Jews if you were accursed, but in Jesus' case, it was a
UNIQUELY DIFFERENT, nothing was as "usual" - the arrest, trial,
demand of the Jewish leaders to execute Jesus against Roman
wishes not to do so, the darkness over the land, the earthquake
and renting of the Temple curtain dividing the Holy Place from
the Most Holy Place - all this was enough to scare the pants off
the Jewsish leaders. As I brought out in the New Testament Bible
Story, the Jews had fled the place, they were scared silly, they
could care less what happened to Jesus' body. AND it was not TILL
EVENING (after 6 pm - as the NT uses the word "evening" - letting
the Bible interpret itself - see my study on the word "evening")
that Joseph of Arimathea came to Pilate to ask for the body of
Jesus. Ernest Martin and others are very wrong on their thoughts
and teaching on the later part of this 14th day of the first
month - Keith Hunt)

     This is WHY Joseph of Arimathea sought an urgent audience
with Pilate - he had to claim Christ's body before the Jewish
authorities could burn it to ashes. 

(Just not so - the Jews and the Jewish leaders with all that had
taken place and the mighty earthquake causing destruction to
their beloved Temple - could have cared less about the body of
Jesus. The Gospels clearly state it was only some of the women
that remained there at the cross - they it would seem were the
only ones not scared stiff. Joseph did not come until EVENING to
request that Pilate give him the body of Jesus - Keith Hunt). 

     In doing so, however, he fueled the anger and hatred of the
religious authorities 

(conjecture only, there is no Biblical proof that was so - they
were too busy and strung out over their Holy Temple being hit by
an earthquake to bother with what was going on with the body of
Jesus. They could have cared less about taking the time to take
Jesus down and burn Him up - Keith Hunt)

     Following the retrieval and the resurrection of Christ, the
anger of the riling priesthood of the Sanhedrin exploded to the
surface. In secret conclave they plotted and planned a campaign
of unremitting persecution against the newly formed Church of
God. Maliciously, they determined to exterminate or imprison all
those who followed "The Way" - and Joseph was at the top of the
list! (Again conjecture only, no NT passage states they were
after the neck of Joseph - Keith Hunt). Soon a great persecution
swept through the land 

(that is true, they did hate those who were still preaching Jesus
as the Messiah, of course they would hate that preaching, for if
Jesus was the Messiah, they had just put Him to death, as Peter
in early sermons told them plainly - Keith Hunt)

     Saul (who was later to become Paul) raged through Jerusalem
and the surrounding countryside, aiding the vengeful Sanhedrin in
their program against the followers of Christ. He struck quickly
and viciously. Members of the Church of God - whether they were
Greek, Roman or Jew - were openly (or in secret) struck down like
vermin. No mercy was shown. The records of the time indicate that
the prisons of Judea were filled to capacity with the unfortunate
victims of the persecution.

     The first notable victim Saul seized upon was Stephen. Along
with Peter, John and others, Stephen had defied the Saduccees by
vigorously preaching the Kingdom of God throughout the city of
Jerusalem. Thousands were converted daily, a fact which further
infuriated the corrupt Sadducean priesthood. Fate soon caught up
with Stephen; and he was stoned to death by the minions of the
Sanhedrin as Paul looked on.

     George Jowett writes that "so fierce was Saul's vindictive
purge that he wrought havoc within the Church at Jerusalem. The
boundaries of Judea could not confine him. Illegally, he
trespassed far within Roman territory where he hounded the
devotees without censure or interference from the Roman
administration. No doubt the Romans felt Saul was doing them a
service, and a good job in ridding them of what they considered
an undesirable religious pestilence" ("The Drama of the Lost
Disciples," p.30).

     Throughout this terrible time Joseph of Arimathea remained
the fearless, stalwart protector of the disciples of Christ - and
especially the women. On every possible occasion he placed
himself between them and their vengeful enemies - using his power
and influence to avert danger to his brethren. Saul's fury knew
no bounds. Try as they may, Joseph's position as a Roman
official prevented Saul and his partners in crime from harming
his person, or those whom he personally defended.
     Nevertheless, it soon became a losing battle. Within FOUR
YEARS after the death of Christ (34 A.D.) many of the Christians
were scattered out of Jerusalem and Judea. There can be little
doubt that the ships of Joseph's vast mercantile enterprises
carried the numerous refugees to safety in other lands. This
fearless and indomitable man of God spared neither help nor
wealth in aiding all the people he could.    
     The time came when the Sanhedrin finally caught up with
Joseph and his faithful companions. Frederic Mistral, the French
Provencal poet who lived in the nineteenth century (1830-1914),
relates what happened in his work called "Mireio" - published in

     According to this, after Saul's persecution Joseph and his
companions were thrust into A BOAT WITHOUT OARS OR SAILS by the
Jews, who were glad to be finally rid of them. This occurred,
according to Mistral, on the coast of Palestine - somewhere near
to Mt.Carmel. Thrust into the boat with Joseph were Lazarus,
Trophimus, Maximin, Cleon, Eutropius, Sidonius (Restitutus, "the
man born blind"), Martial and Saturninus. Included in the boat
were also Mary, wife of Cleopas; Salome; Mary Magdalene; Martha
and the maid of the two latter, Marcella.
     The poem relates that as the boat was drifting out to sea
Sarah, the handmaid of Salome and Mary Cleopas, cast herself into
the sea to join her mistress, and by the help of Salome was
brought into the boat. After beating about the Mediterranean for
some time, the boat drifted to THE COAST OF PROVENCE IN GAUL
(FRANCE) and, following the RIVER RHONE, ARRIVED AT ARLES, which
was eventually converted to Christianity by the preaching of
     Mistral drew his material from the Provencal traditions as
they live today in the scattered homesteads of the Camargue, and
in the minds and hearts of all the people in the adjacent

     Further information can be found in the "Ecclesiastical
Annals" of the sixteenth century Vatican librarian, CARDINAL
CAESAR BARONIUS (1538-1609 A.D.). Baronius, an historian of great
integrity who was known for his uncompromising treatment of the
truth, discovered a document of great antiquity in the Vatican
archives. To his fascination, the manuscript revealed that in THE
YEAR 35 A.D. Joseph of Arimathea and a group of companions that
included Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha and a number of others,
WERE CAST ADRIFT IN A BOAT from the coast of Palestine by

"In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in A
VESSEL WITHOUT SAILS OR OARS. The vessel drifted finally TO
MARSEILLES and they were saved. From Marseilles JOSEPH AND HIS
COMPANY PASSED INTO BRITAIN and after preaching the Gospel there,
died" ("Ecclesiastical Annals," under section A.D.35).

     On commenting about this information from Cardinal Baronius,
Ivor C. Fletcher notes:

"No trace of Joseph in Palestine is found after about A.D.35, no
record of any martyrdom and no reference to his movements outside
of the areas of Britain and France. The information given by
Baronius relating to the enforced voyage to Marseilles of Joseph
HIS MOVEMENT" - "The Incredible History of God's True Church,"

     The Cardinal's "Annals" quote the "Acts of Magdalen," which
we have already discussed, for the record of the voyage to
Marseilles and the spreading of the gospel in the south part of
     In chapter 37 of the "Acts," after listing the names of
Joseph's companions in the OARLESS BOAT, Rabanus Maurus goes on
to describe their dangerous voyage: 

"Leaving the shores of Asia and favoured by an east wind, they
went round about, down the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Europe and
Africa, leaving the city of Rome and all the land of Italy to the
right. Then happily turning their course to the right, they came
near to the city of Marseilles, in the Viennoise province of the
Gauls, where the RIVER RHONE is received by the sea. There,
having called upon God, the great King of all the world, they
parted, each company going to the province where the Holy Spirit
had directed them, presently preaching everywhere, 'the Lord
working with them, and confirming the word with signs

     Gladys Taylor, in her book "Our Neglected Heritage" takes
note of the same incident:

"Caesar Baronius, the church historian who was also appointed
librarian of the Vatican in 1596, wrote is his magnium opus,
'Annales Ecclesiastici,' of the finding in the Vatican Library of
a most ancient menuscript in which was described the voyage of a
company of our Lord's friends, travelling in an OLD BOAT which
had been abandoned by its master and was WITH-OUT OARS OR SAILS,
who LANDED AT MARSEILLES, whence they spread out over SOUTHERN
FRANCE where many churches record them as their founders. Among
this company is JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, who not mentioned as founder
of any of these churches, a fact which suggests that he may have
journeyed on and could not have spent much time in southern
France. Baronius dates the arrival of this boat to AD.35" -
Covenant Books, London, 1969, p.15.

     Further confirmation of the voyage of Joseph and his
companions can be found in the "Otia Imperialia," a book written
by Gervais de Tilbury who was Marshall of the Kingdom of Arles
(in France) in the year 1212.

     Dedicating the book to Otho IV, Tilbury writes about the old
church of Les Saintes Maries in the Camargue:

"There, on the seacoast, one sees the first of Continental
churches which was founded in honour of the most blessed mother
of our Lord, and consecrated by many of the seventy-two disciples
BOAT: Maximin of Aix, Lazarus of Marseilles, the brother of
Martha and Mary, Eutrope of Orange, George of Velay, Saturninus
of Toulouse, Martial of Limoges, in the presence of Martha, Mary
Magdalene and many others.
The tradition of Joseph of Arimathea and his companions in the
oarless boat was accepted by the whole LATIN CHURCH for over a
thousand years. For proof of this we have only to turn to the
BREVIARY (book of prayers, hymns, psalms and readings used by
Roman Catholic priests) at ST.MARTHA'S DAY, JULY 29th There we
find a a LECTION FOR THE SECOND NOCTURNE (NIGHT) which tells how
Mary, Martha and Lazarus, with their servant and Maximin, one of
the seventy-two disciples, WERE SEIZED BY THE JEWS, PLACED IN A
MARSEILLES. Moved by this remarkable fact, the people of the
neighbouring lands were speedily converted to Christianity;
Lazarus became bishop of Marseilles, Maximinus of Aix..
and...Martha --- died on the fourth day before the Kalends of
August, and was buried with great honour at Tarascon" ("Monuments
Inedits," By Faillon. Vol.ii, p.114).

     There are many other sources, including Greek and Roman
authorities that tell the story of Joseph and the oarless boat.
Even the Jewish Encyclopedia, under the title "Arles," mentions
that the first Jews in Arles arrived by boat without captain,
sails of oars.

     Another source adds that "without sails and oars, they
drifted with the wind and the currents arriving unharmed at
CYRENE, in northern Africa. After obtaining sails and oars, the
little party of refugees followed the trade route of the 
Phoenician merchant ships as far west as Marseilles, France."
("The Traditions of Glastonbury," p.37).

The South of France

     Joseph of Arimathea was no stranger to the city of
Marseilles. As the chief port in the continent of Europe for the
export of tin and lead, the ships of Joseph were probably a
common sight in the harbor. It has been said that Joseph's name
was as well known in the area as the names of Carnegie, Schwab
and Bethlehem Steel are to us today. It can therefore be assumed
that Joseph had many influential friends at Marseilles who would
gladly welcome him amongst them.

     Marseilles, situated in southern France on the Med-
iterranean coast, is the capital of  the department (province) of

Bouches-du-Rhone. Sitting slightly east of the mouth of the
Rhone, the city was originally called MASSALIA and was founded
circa 600 B.C. by mariners from Phocaea in Asia Minor. There is,
however, evidence that Marseilles was settled by the Phoenicians
at a much earlier date; and the name of the city is taken from
the Phoenician word for "settlement." J.W.Taylor records that
"the great port of Massilia, the modern Marseilles, by means of
which most of the intercourse between Provence and the rest of
the civilized world was carried on, was quite an old city in the
early days of Christianity. Founded by the Greeks some six
centuries before the birth of our Lord, it had steadily increased
in size and in importance as the commerce of the world had
widened. Pytheas sailed from Marseilles when he made his first
voyage to British waters in 350 B.C., and consequently at this
early date, Marseilles must have been a maritime centre of very
considerable importance" ("The Coming of the Saints," p.111).

     A fascinating account of both Marseilles and the surrounding
countryside is found in the works of STRABO - Greek geographer
and historian of the time of Christ (63? B.C. - 24? A.D.).
Strabo's account, therefore, shows the city that Joseph did
business in, and later arrived at in the "oarless" boat. Strabo

"Marseilles, founded by the Phocaeans, is built in a stony
region. Its harbour lies beneath a rock which is shaped like a
theatre, and looks toward the south. It is well surrounded with
walls, as well as the whole city, which is of considerable size.
Within the citadel are placed the 'Ephesium' and the temple of
the Delphian Apollo. The 'Ephesium' is the temple consecrated to
Diana of Ephesus. All the colonies sent out from Marseilles hold
this goddess in peculiar reverence, preserving both the shape of
her image and also every rite observed in the metropolis.
The Massilians live under a well-regulated aristocracy. They have
a council, composed of six hundred persons, called Timuchi, who
enjoy this dignity of life. Fifteen of these preside over the
council and have the management of current affairs; these fifteen
are in their turn presided over by three of their number, in whom
rests the principal authority; and these again by one.
No one can become a Timuchus who has not children, and who has
not been a citizen for three generations. The country abounds in
olives and vines, but on account of its ruggedness the wheat is
poor; consequently the people trust more to resources of the sea
than of the land, and avail themselves fully of their excellent
position for commerce."

Strabo continues:

"The people of Marseilles posess dry-docks and amouries. Formerly
they had an abundance of vessels, arms and machines, both for the
purpose of navigation and for besieging towns; by means of which
they defended themselves against the barbarians, and likewise
obtained the alliance of the Romans, to whom they rendered many
important services, the Romans in their turn assisted in their
aggrandisement. Sextius, who defeated the Salyes, founded not far
from Marseilles a city which was named after him and the hot
water found there (Aquae Swim, now AIX). Here he established a
Roman garrison and drove from the sea coast which leads from
Marseilles to Italy, the barbarism whom the Massilians were not
able to entirely keep back. The land which the barbarians
abandoned he presented to the Massilians, and in their city are
laid up heaps of booty taken in NAVAL ENGAGEMENTS against those
who disputed the sea unjustly. Formerly they enjoyed singular
good fortune as well in other matters as also in their amity with
the Romans, but since the war of Pompey against Caesar, in which
they aided with the vanquished Party, then prosperity has in some
measure decayed. Nevertheless some traces of their ancient
industries my still be seen among the inhabitants, especially the
making of engines of war and SHIP-BUILDING. Now that the
surrounding barbarians under the dominion of the Romans are daily
becoming more civilized, and leave the occupation of war for
business of towns and agriculture, there is no longer the same
attention paid to these objects by the people of Marseilles. The
aspect of the city at the present day is a proof of this. All who
profess to be men of taste turn to THE STUDY OF ELOCUTION AND
PHILOSOPHY. The city for some time back has become quite A SCHOOL
FOR THE BARBARIANS, and has communicated to the Galatae such A
TASTE FOR GREEK LITERATURE that they even draw contracts on the
IN PREFERENCE TO ATHENS. These, the Galatae observing, and being
at leisure on account of peace, READILY DEVOTE THEMSELVES TO
SIMILAR PURSUITS, and that not merely individuals but the public
MEDICINE being employed not only by  private persona but by towns
for common instruction."

     We see here that Marseines was not only a great ship
building and trading center, but also a great center of learning,
greater evidently than even the city of Athens - long known for
its educational system! In fact, Marseilles was one of the FOUR
GREATEST CITIES OF CIVILIZATION during Roman times, competing
with Ephesus, Athens and Rome as a center of commerce and
learning. "Specially connected by race and religion with the
older civilization and learning of the East, it yet stood in the
very van of Western progress, and drank daily of the strength and
vitality of Roman spirit and power which ebbed and flowed as in a
ceaseless stream through the very heart of it" ("The Coming of
the Saints," p.114).

     Great roads passed through Marseilles to the west and to the
north - the great western road slicing through Narbonne into
Spain, and the great northern road leading through Arles, Vienne
and Lyons to the north parts of Gaul and across the sea to
Britain. Both of these roads were in constant use by civilians
and the Roman military. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero,
the Romans were engaged in a war with the British, and a
continual stream of troops passed along this road to and from
Britain. Claudius himself, at the head of his troops, undertook a
forced march from Rome through Marseilles and along the great
northern road to Britain.

     Strabo also describes the city of NARBONNE, another city
important to the tin trade and situated west of the River Rhone.
Founded by the Romans in 119 B.C. and their first colony beyond
the Alps, Narbonne was a leading port up until the 13th century
when its harbor silted up.

     These descriptions by an almost contemporaneous author give
us a graphic picture of the civilization of Marseilles and the
Rhone valley during the time of Joseph. This was no barbarous
country -- some distant backwater of the Empire! It was a rich
and prosperous region, full of learning and education that
rivaled the great centers of the Roman Empire. This was the area
that received Joseph and his refugee companions as their boat put
to shore after the tenuous voyage from Palestine.

     A great many local traditions have been handed down in THE
MARSEILLES AREA regarding the arrival and later activities of
Joseph of Arimathea and his little band of refugees. Ivor C.
Fletcher notes that "it is a clear historical FACT that SOUTHERN
FRANCE was one of the FIRST AREAS IN THE WEST to receive the
gospel message."

     One local tradition tells of the boat without sails or oars
drifting to the coast of Provence and, after following the RIVER
RHONE, arriving at the city of ARLES. As we have already seen in
the Jewish Encyclopedia, the first JEWISH SETTLERS in the area
are said to have "come in a boat which had been deserted by its


To be continued

Entered on this Website February 2008

  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

Navigation List:

Word Search: