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An Intriguingly Legendary Account of Jesus’ Death

Here is some more of the intriguing (later) Gospel, allegedly written by none other than Joseph of Arimathea, the figure who, in the New Testament Gospels, buried Jesus.  It is entirely apocryphal of course, based on some information from the Gospels, later legends, and an extremely vivid imagination!   The point of these posts has been to talk about whether Jesus ever wrote anything.  Here he does, kind of.  While hanging on the cross.  You don’t find stories like *this* every day!

This is my own translation, taken from the book The Other Gospels, co-edited/translated with my colleague Zlatko Plese.


Jesus Put on Trial

(1) At three o’clock on the next day, the fourth day of the week, they brought him into the courtyard of Caiaphas.   Annas and Caiaphas said to him, “Tell us, why did you carry off our law?  And why have you preached against the promises of Moses and the prophets?”  But Jesus made no answer.  Again a second time, when the multitude was also present, they said to him, “Why do you want to destroy in a single moment the sanctuary that Solomon constructed in forty-six years?”  Again Jesus made no answer to these things — for the sanctuary of the synagogue had been plundered by the robber.

(2) When the evening of the fourth day had come to an end, the entire multitude began looking for the daughter of Caiaphas, to burn her at the stake because …

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The Books of Peter
A Gospel Written by Joseph of Arimathea!



  1. Avatar
    Judith  December 5, 2018

    This is random, I know, but is it too early to send a donation to wish you a Merry Christmas?

  2. Avatar
    Todd  December 5, 2018

    The recent posts regarding the early writings that are erroneous are very interesting from an academic perspective, but I am at a point that I would like to read more regarding what teaching of Jesus you think are authentic.

    I am still very much a follower of Jesus and I would like to know what we can regard as reliable, authentic (true) in the New Testament scriptures. Can you provide some of that for us from time to time ?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      That’s the topic of my book Jesus: Apocalpytic Prophet of the New Millennium. You might start there!

      • Avatar
        rivercrowman  December 7, 2018

        Todd, the book Bart just suggested has an Index of Passages at the end of the book. After reading the book, I have found the Index to be a rough guide to the Gospel verses Bart was most interested in in describing an “apocalyptic prophet.” Enjoy the book!

  3. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  December 5, 2018

    I’m wondering if the word “expiation” [in Greek or other original language] was used in writings of the first century, or before. Or was it a label accorded to Jesus at some later point in time?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      There are words *translated* as expiation, yes. See Romans 3:25.

  4. Avatar
    randal  December 5, 2018

    What did Annas and Ciaphas mean by carrying off our law?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Apparently the idea is that “the law” was an actual book, in a single copy, kept in Jerusalem. Until it got carried off!

  5. Avatar
    AstaKask  December 5, 2018

    You mentioned the Pilate cycle in the previous post. What writings are part of the Pilate cycle?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      They include the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Report of Pontius Pilate, the Handing over of Pilate, And Letters of Pilate to Claudius, and Herod, and Letters of Herod and Tiberius to Pilate, and the Death of Pilate. YOu wouldn’t have heard of them if you weren’t deeply into early Christian apocrypha!

  6. Avatar
    Kirktrumb59  December 5, 2018

    For anyone’s interest, this terrific article re: ‘the kiss.’ https://www.francomormando.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mormando_Kiss_of_Judas.pdf

    • Avatar
      AstaKask  December 7, 2018

      If you want to know, if he loves you so
      It’s in his kiss
      That’s where it is, oh yeah

  7. Avatar
    mikezamjara  December 5, 2018

    Hi Dr Ehrman. I am intrigued by two questions.
    1. ¿Why do you think that the church fathers chose to keep four gospels in the bible instead of one? If they would have chosen only one they would have less problems adressing the issues of contradictions and ambiguous claims in them.

    2. In Mark, Matthew and Luke Jesus is talking a lot of the kingdom of god. And He claims almost in the end: I am the king of the jews. ¿Isn’t that a claim of being god in the gospels before John?

    Thank you for your attentions Dr Ehrman

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      1. I think their hands were tied by the fact that hte four were all so widely used; 2. He doesn’t claim to be God in these Gospels, only God’s messiah. Big difference!

      • Avatar
        mikezamjara  December 7, 2018

        thank you Dr Ehrman, very interesting.

  8. Avatar
    mkahn1977  December 5, 2018

    Not so much about Joseph but on the other two being crucified- are they another literary creation for the symbolism of three (father, son and spirit)?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Probalby not at this early stage of the tradition. It was instead to fulfill the prophecy that he was to be executed “among criminals.”

  9. Avatar
    Matt2239  December 5, 2018

    In the dirt, in letters to foreign rulers, and even while on the cross, Jesus was known to be capable of writing. Apparently all that time with those in the temple (who were amazed by his knowledge and intellect) resulted in some formal instruction.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Remember, these accounts do not go back to his own time, but are all later legends. They wouldn’t tell us much about the historical Jesus.

  10. Avatar
    fishician  December 5, 2018

    This story agrees with the Gospel of John about Nicodemus being there and the crucifixion taking place on the day of preparation, and it agree with Luke about one of the robbers repenting, but is at odds with other details of the gospel accounts. Do you think such story tellers were simply not concerned with making their stories entirely compatible with the gospels? Do you think this kind of thing shows that the early Christians did not have the concern for details, consistency and historicity that we see in some people today, like the fundamentalists? Or just a by-product of a primarily oral tradition where most people couldn’t read and compare?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Right — they were giving their own legendary expansions, without being too concerned that they might say something different from the canonical books. I suppose people still do that all the time!

  11. Avatar
    Brian  December 5, 2018

    Weird.Were they accusing Jesus of stealing the Ark?

  12. Avatar
    rivercrowman  December 5, 2018

    Off-topic but very seasonal … Bart published a feature article in Newsweek magazine about Christmas! It’s in the December 12, 2012 issue. Not many of us have published in a national magazine. Put “Christmas” in this blog’s search box and you’ll likely find in the list his Part 2 of the article. Don’t sweat it, if you page down in the post itself, you’ll see he posted Part 1 the previous day. I don’t remember who contacted who, the editor, or did Bart make an unsolicited submission?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      They approached me. I suggested that since I wasn’t a believer, I might not be the best to write the piece. But they wanted me precisely because I’d have a different persepctive.

  13. Avatar
    John Murphy  December 5, 2018


    A very quick off-topic question!

    I assume you haven’t had time to read Paula Fredriksen’s new book about the “first generation” of Christians yet, but have you heard any reports on it, good or bad? It’s a very interesting subject.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Yes, I read it in manuscript to write a blurb for it. Good book!

  14. JulieGraff
    JulieGraff  December 5, 2018

    Where was this supposedly taking place, shall I ask! 😉

  15. Avatar
    brenmcg  December 5, 2018

    The “day of preparation” always seems to mean the day before the weekly Sabbath. Do you think that means Johns gospel gospel agrees with the synoptics in the passion narratives?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      No, it doesn’t always mean that. It also means the day that preparations were being made for a Jewish festival/celebration ,such as Passover (which was prepared the day before, therefore on the Day of Preparation), whatever day of the week it fell on.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  December 8, 2018

        But is there any actual example of it being used for feast days?

        Here in this gospel its seems to be used as a name for a day of the week. The days are just called “the first” to “fifth” days of the week then “preparation” day then “sabbath”.

        which seems to be how its used in the synoptics.

        is there any reason to think John is not using it the same way?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 9, 2018

          Yes, it simply means the day on which preparations for a meal were made for the next day. That’s why John says explicitly that it was the Day of Preparation *for the Passover*. That way the reader knows exactly what he means: it’s the day before Passover.

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  December 9, 2018

            I think John says Day of Preparation *of* the Passover.

            For John the Passover was not just the Passover meal – it was a synonym for the week long celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

            Every week-long celebration will have exactly one Sabbath and one Day of Preparation.

            If this correct then “ην δε παρασκευη του πασχα” just means “it was the Day of Preparation of Passover-week” or – “it was the Friday of Passover-week” making it consistent with the synoptics.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 10, 2018

            I think you’re assuming that the week of the Feast always began on the same day of the week every year? Not so. It’s quite clear that even though both John and the Synoptics have Jesus die on a Friday, in John it is the day before Passover (which began on Friday evening) and in the Synoptics it is the day of Passover itself (which began on Thursdasy evening).

            You really do seem interested in this material: why not read scholarship on it? Again, I would suggest starting with Raymond Brown’s commentary.

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  December 10, 2018

            I think what John means by Passover is the whole week-long celebration – which wouldn’t have a single day of preparation. Which I think should mean the Day of Preparation is a day during the Passover festival not before it. I think Day of Preparation just means day before the Sabbath so according to John Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath of the Passover festival – which had begun the day/night before.

            I’ve read some extracts of Raymond Browns commentary – but I should probably read more than that. Thanks for the replies!

          • Bart
            Bart  December 11, 2018

            No, the “preparation day” is the day preparing for the next day; it’s not the next day itself.

  16. Avatar
    gwayersdds  December 6, 2018

    Bart, I have an off topic question that I hope you or your readers can help me with. At this Advent time of year we read from Matthew where the Gospel says that ” a virgin shall conceive..and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us”. Why then is her son named Jesus and not Emmanuel? Is the gospel of Luke where Mary is told to call her son Jesus considered to be more “authorative” and is that why he is named Jesus? I’m confused.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Ha! Good question. Emmanuel actually means “God is with us.” For Matthew, God was present in Jesus, as his messiah, and so the prophecy was fulfilled.

  17. Avatar
    Stephen  December 6, 2018

    I’m interested in the cosmology here. Is “paradise” a hidden place on earth or in the heavenlies?


    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      For this particular text it appears to be located in heaven.

      • Avatar
        brandon284  December 8, 2018

        Dr. Ehrman, if the synoptic gospels seem to primarily focus on Jesus’ teaching about an impending earthly kingdom, what would Jesus mean by telling the thief that “today you shall be with me in paradise”?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 9, 2018

          Yes, it’s one of the big points I make in my (new) book. Luke is already “de-apocalypticizing” Jesus’ message; for him, the imminent end of all things is receding, and he is beginning ot think about what happens to a person immediately after death (instead of just at the end of the age).

  18. Avatar
    ftbond  December 6, 2018

    So, if a book simply has the word “gospel” in the title, does that mean it is supposed to be of some relevance?

    I read “The Gospel According to Todd once”… Partly, anyway…

  19. Avatar
    doug  December 6, 2018

    I wonder how many people believed this account was the “gospel truth”? People may have believed many stories about Jesus that we now have good reason to think are, to a lesser or a greater degree, false.

  20. galah
    galah  December 6, 2018

    Did all this begin with oral traditions, and stories kept changing from there?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2018

      Yup, see my book Jesus Before the Gospels. That’s the theme!

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