Answer: The evangelists, writing between forty and seventy years after the crucifixion, name Joseph of Arimathaea (John adds Nicodemus) as the person who buries Jesus. The disciples must have considered him with deep suspicion. Their attitude toward Joseph and those who assisted him is reflected in an antagonistic passage directed against the population of Jerusalem and its rulers sometime after the crucifixion: “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. And though they found no ground for putting him to death, they asked Pilate that he be executed. And when they had carried out all that was written concerning him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb” (Acts 13:27-29).
This passage, attributed to Paul, includes among those guilty for the execution anyone (that is, Joseph and Nicodemus) who took part in the recovery of the body. Thus, Paul emphasizes that Jesus was buried not by his followers but by his enemies, the very group who Paul accuses of arranging for his death: “And when they had carried out all that was written concerning him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.”
There was no contact between the burial party and the followers of Jesus. The Gospel of John written many years after the accusation attributed to Paul was first made explains this lack of communication by claiming that Joseph of Arimathaea was “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). Nevertheless, Paul’s statement shows that the disciples did not consider Joseph and Nicodemus as fellow followers of Jesus, but as enemies, no different than the rest of the “rulers,” comprising the Sanhedrin. It is only later that the burial party was turned from enemies into supporters.It may be that neither Joseph nor Nicodemus spoke up concerning the whereabouts of the body because they were non-existent legendary additions to the crucifixion story. They may never have existed beyond the assertion that some of the “rulers” removed and buried the body of Jesus.
With time the negative role associated with their involvement in the execution was reversed and personal names and positive motivation were added to the story. If the actual burial party had spoken up concerning the location of Jesus’ remains those who still remained faithful to Jesus’ memory apparently refused to believe them.According to John’s account, the tomb in the garden was used because it was so close to the execution site and time before the Sabbath was growing short (John 19:42).
Luke’s account also gives a sense of urgency (Luke 23:54).There is no suggestion that the burial party intended the tomb to be the permanent resting-place of Jesus’ corpse. However, there is the implication that the tomb was used out of temporary necessity on account of the need for quick burial and the proximity of this particular tomb to the crucifixion site. On the basis of the hurried nature of the burial as found in the Gospel accounts, there is a strong possibility that Joseph’s intent was to remove the corpse to a permanent resting place as soon as possible. This is so even if the tomb belonged to him. If Jesus’ corpse were to be transferred to a different tomb, it would be done as soon as possible (that is, Saturday night), due to the quick onset of decomposition. One thing is certain, it suited Gospel tradition never to hear from Joseph or Nicodemus again.