As per the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus breathed his last at 3.00 p.m.on Friday (27: 46-50)

We read again in Mtt 27: 57-58 :

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

There was, therefore a gap of at least 3 hours between the death of Jesus and the bringing down of his body from the cross.

It was customary for the Jews to bury their dead before sunset, especially on the day preceding Sabbath (Jn 19:31). The trial of Jesus during the early hours of the day was perhaps intended to ensure that he was crucified and buried by the end of the day.

Now, the question is: was there a delay in the burial of Jesus who died at 3:00 pm? One reason could be that there was no close relative to claim his body, on account of which Joseph of Arimathea took up the responsibility. Mother Mary, being a woman, could not be expected to run around completing the necessary formalities for getting the body released. And John, whom Jesus had entrusted to Mary as her son, was not his near relative in the eyes of the law.

My question therefore is: Does the delayed burial of Jesus attest to the fact that he had no close relatives other than his mother? Does the Catholic Church say anything on the subject?

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    I don't think anyone expected Jesus to die so quickly. It is more likely that he was expected to hang on the cross and suffer through the Passover. Sep 9, 2021 at 12:54
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    All three men who were crucified that day would never have received a burial because Rome deemed them to be criminals. Had not Joseph of Arimathea had the courage to approach Pilate to ask for Christ's body, it would have been flung into the pit outside of Jerusalem, along with the other two bodies. None of them would have been buried. No relatives of Jesus would have been given a hearing by Pilate, but because of Joseph's position and courage, and the fact that he had a new tomb hewn out, Pilate gave permission. His wife's dream might have troubled him. The Bible enlightens us about this.
    – Anne
    Sep 9, 2021 at 18:42
  • Don't you think Mary's being a woman would be overlooked if there were no male relatives? If John was entrusted to Mary as her son - doubly or more so, if by Jesus - don't the personal and familial relationships, desires and duties outweigh any question of being relatives in the eyes of the law? Sep 9, 2021 at 20:44
  • The body of your question challenges the premise that your title asks about. “Was there a delay?” That question needs an answer in the affirmative before asking the cause of such a delay if there was one.
    – Kris
    Sep 9, 2021 at 20:59

3 Answers 3


Jesus of Nazareth had been (supposedly) 'executed'. Actually he had yielded up his own life and 'expired', see all four gospels.

As such, he was still 'in custody' and his body would, ordinarily, have been disposed of as an executed criminal.

But Joseph of Arimathea 'begged', Mark 15:43, the body of Jesus from Pilate who gave permission to release the body from custody, no doubt after a further check to be absolutely certain the 'criminal' was deceased and the certified corpse was handed over.

Comments below draw attention to the fact that the authorities were not aware that Jesus had yielded up his life, until they sent a soldier to break the legs of all three crucified to hasten their death before the sabbath began that evening. Only then was it realised that Jesus had died and the soldier made certain with the thrust of a lance. Thus there was no 'delay' at all in the process of lawfully obtaining Jesus' body for decent burial before sundown.

No supposition can be made from any 'delay' as there was no 'delay'. This was all quite proper and understandable procedure.

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    Given the Gospels also mention that the other crucified men had their legs broken so that they wouldn't be left on the cross on a Sabbath also rules against their being any unusual delay
    – eques
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:00
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    Mark 15:44-45 indeed clearly states that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead and summoned the centurion to confirm that it was really the case. Only then did he allow Joseph to have the body.
    – Herohtar
    Sep 9, 2021 at 22:17

Does the delayed burial of Jesus attest to the fact that he had no close relatives other than his mother?

Before going into this question let us first see what St. John states in his Gospel. St. John was the only Apostle to witness the Crucifix of Jesus. The others had abandoned Jesus through fear of the Roman and Jewish authorities.

30 Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

31 Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

32 The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him.

33 But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water.

35 And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.

36 For these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him.

37 And again another scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced.

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid.

42 There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand. - John 19: 30-42

St. John seems clearly to imply that the burial of Jesus was hastily done and that Our Lord was buried in a tomb that was close at hand because of convenience.

In order to prepare the body of Jesus before sundown, those who remained present at his Crucifixion had a mere three hours tops, to place his sacred body into the tomb. That includes taking his body down from the Cross, transporting it to the burial site, preparing to body for burial and then sealing the tomb with the heavy rock.

So in actuality, there was no delay in the burial of Jesus. The basic assumption that there was is false. And this can not attest in any manner whatsoever to the fact that he had no close relatives other than his mother, whether cousins or other close relatives.

Besides, who could have known the placement of Our Lord Crucifixion other than God himself. Three hours between Jesus’ death and burial is very extremely time limited. On top of that, devout Jews had to be in their dwelling place before sundown on the Sabbath.

Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly mention this fact as do the Gospels (Cf Lk 24:9-10; Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:11-18).

The empty tomb

640 "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."493 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise. Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter. The disciple "whom Jesus loved" affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered "the linen cloths lying there", "he saw and believed". This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb's condition that the absence of Jesus' body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.

The appearances of the Risen One

641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One. Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ's Resurrection for the apostles themselves. They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers, and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"

Keep in mind that Jesus died in Jerusalem. If his family did have a family “plot” so to speak of, it would be more logical to be in either Bethlehem or Nazareth. Time was of the essence and whether or not Jesus did or did not have close relatives in Jerusalem at that moment in time is of no importance here.


In answer to the OP, no, the delay in burial does not attest to the fact of no close relatives. Rather, it attests to two other things. One was the fact that Jesus had been tried as a criminal, found guilty, and hung on the cross by some very powerful people. Who would stand up? Two was the fact that the authorities did not know Jesus had actually died at 3pm.

Who stood up?

Obviously, Jesus had a family.

Is not this [Jesus] the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. Mk 6:3

He also had male and female disciples or followers some of whom were relatives.

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. Mt 10:2-4

But they [Mary and Joseph], supposing him [Jesus] to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. Lk 2:44

And of course there is Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. They are not related by blood, but by hope. They stood up against the authorities of Rome and of the Sanhedrin.

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Jn 19:38-39

Death on the cross

That Jesus died about 3pm is not in question. The ninth hour in Jewish time is 3pm, counting 9 hours from 6am (sunrise).

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. ... And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Mk 15:33, 37

What we find out, however, is the authorities' surprise that Jesus had died so quickly. They would not fail at their duty.

And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Mk 15:42-45

The phrase "when the even was come" tells us that it was past sunset. The new day had begun. The Romans did not care about Sabbaths and Feasts. The Jews did.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Jn 19:31

Should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day.

His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Deut 21:23


Jesus died about 3pm, yet remained on the cross. In the evening, Joseph must have been at the cross. He sees that the prisoners are dead by the breaking of legs, but of Jesus by the piercing that He was already dead. Joseph goes to Pilate who confirms these things. Pilate grants the body to Joseph who carries out the burial with Nicodemus.

The so-called delay was due simply to the fact Jesus gave up the ghost "early". Once Joseph found out Jesus was dead, he immediately did what was necessary to effect the burial.

Lastly, it is important to note that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. He went against their authority.

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Lk 23:50-52

There was no delay when the facts were known.

  • Very relevant point : the authorities were not aware of Jesus' decease until they sent a soldier to break the legs of all three, and found one already dead. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 9, 2021 at 22:10
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    It most certainly wouldn't be a Catholic interpretation of the Bible to imply that the Blessed Virgin Mary had any other children. I know that part seems like it was tacked on at the end, but it's why it's a Christianity.SE question and not a Hermeneutics.SE question.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 9, 2021 at 22:57
  • Yeah I like this answer but question is tagged Catholicism. Yiu could edit to mention that these brothers and sisters were either cousins or step siblings but that kind of makes them not so close.
    – Kris
    Sep 10, 2021 at 0:38
  • Mtt 27: 35-36 says: " And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. ". The soldiers would be more than happy to see the convict dead so they can leave the place. Seeing Jesus dead, they would have immediately informed the authority . The confirmation by piercing of heart , of course may have taken some time . Jn 19 does not mention the time-gap . But it was quite co-incidental that Jesus had already been dead when the `leg-breakers'came. So, the delay in bringing down his body is evident. Sep 10, 2021 at 7:33
  • Joseph of Arimathea would not want to publicly claim the body of Jesus, he having been a Sanhedrin member. That is why he waited till sunset to go to Pilate . John may have tried to get the body released, but must have been asked for his credentials by the authority . A brother or sister by blood relation, would stand on a different footing, and would be able to claim the body in the presence of adequate witnesses. Mind that civilized societies have been showing mercy and respect to dead bodies by not allowing them to stay in public places for an undue period of time. Sep 10, 2021 at 11:41

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