Joseph of Arimathea and the Knights Templar

To understand why the Knights Templar based themselves in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, the mysterious biblical figure of Joseph of Arimathea is worth knowing. He was, according to the Gospel of John, a secret disciple of Jesus – a rich Jewish merchant who may even have been the great uncle of Jesus.

Did Joseph of Arimathea possess relics sacred to the Knights Templar?

One blogger has noted that he would have to be the great uncle as being uncle would have meant he had the same name as Jesus’ father. Hardly likely two brothers would both be called Joseph. Another source stipulates that he was Mary’s uncle and so that problem is solved.

Joseph was an unusual choice for a disciple given that apparently, he was a Pharisee – the class of priest that gets a particularly bad write-up in the New Testament. You’ll perhaps remember that the Pharisees were deemed to be total hypocrites – moral on the outside, but corruption within.

It was Joseph who would provide a tomb for the body of the crucified messiah and also the shroud in which he was wrapped. The gospels claim he got permission from the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to take the body away. This begs the question how exactly he got in front of the governor to put forward this request and why it was accepted. Was he a very senior figure in local Jewish society? Did he bribe the governor?

Some have poured scorn on the idea of Jesus being removed so quickly noting that it was far more likely the Romans would have left the body of a trouble maker like Jesus to rot in public for a while on the cross and not allowed something as civilised as a tomb burial. But of course he had to be buried in order to be resurrected. And given that resurrection was supposed to be bodily – not just the soul – the idea of Christ’s body being pecked to bits by crows was never going to be very palatable.

More importantly for the Templars, Joseph was believed to be the man who collected some of Christ’s blood in a chalice as he hung on the crucifix. That chalice we know as the Holy Grail. It’s then claimed that Joseph travelled to England to spread the gospel. He arrived in Glastonbury – known as Avalon at that time – and baptised 18,000 people in one day at the nearby town of Wells. The Holy Grail was hidden away, maybe placed in a well that to this day is known at Glastonbury as the Chalice Well.

At this point I should also point out that it was widely believed in the Middle Ages that Joseph had brought Jesus as a youth to England before returning to the east. It’s even asserted that Jesus worked as a farm hand or a miner during his stay.

So with Joseph you have a lot of associations with important and sacred relics:

  • The holy shroud in which Jesus was buried
  • A chalice used to collect his blood that may also have been held by Christ at the Last Supper
  • The tomb of Jesus
  • Joseph also possessed the lance that pierced Christ’s side according to some accounts

Were the Knights Templar established to protect these relics from being found or stolen? Or they were lost for centuries and the Templars were desperately looking for them under the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem? If they found these relics, did that account for the Templars’ sudden wealth and power? These and many more theories have circulated for centuries and at the centre of it all is a rather enigmatic figure of whom we really know very little: Joseph of Arimathea.





The Turin Shroud and Jacques de Molay

150225083918-finding-jesus-shroud-1-00001125-super-169For those of you not in the know, there is a view put forward in a book called ‘The Second Messiah: Templars, the Turin Shroud and the Great Secret of Freemasonry‘ that the mysterious shroud held in Turin cathedral and claimed to be imprinted with an image of Jesus is in fact the burial shroud of Jacques de Molay, the last Templar Grand Master.

Only this year, Pope Benedict went to Turin to pray before the shroud presumably waving aside all that nonsense about carbon dating that has placed its creation around 1260 to 1380 AD.  Faith after all, can move mountains – even carbon dated ones it seems.

But that dating also blew apart a theory that the shroud had been taken by the Templars during the siege of Constantinople – when the greatest city in the world was sacked by crusaders in the year 1204 – and brought back to Europe.  1204 is a few decades before 1260 and so that theory has largely died.

So along comes the next hypothesis stating that the body of De Molay was wrapped in this and you can see the marks of his torture.

I just want to raise one obvious and possibly naive objection to this ‘theory’ from the outset – if Molay was burnt to death, how on earth can you wrap his body in a shroud?  I mean, you’d just be wrapping up some scraps of bone and cinders.  Am I being flippant?

I’m sure I’ve also read that after his burning, every scrap of what was left was swept up and dumped (in the Seine?) to avoid any worship of his remains.  He had after all died a heretic to the church and effectively a rebel/outlaw in the eyes of the French king.  They were hardly likely to let anybody politely remove what was left of him.

The shroud connection to the Templars is almost supported by one fact and that is the first owner of what we now call the ‘Turin Shroud’ was the widow of a French knight Geoffroi de Charney who was, according to some sources, the nephew of a Templar who had exactly the same name.  He was head of the preceptory in Normandy and burnt with de Molay.