John 19:38-40 - Afterward, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus (but secretly for fear of the Jews), asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and removed His body. Nicodemus, who had previously come to Jesus at night, also brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, a hundred litras. So they took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.

I know there are similar questions on the topic, which I have read through carefully, but I have a specific follow up question: How could Nicodemus go later after Mary etc, left when those accounts say the stone was put in place before they left?

How could anyone have gone back in to anoint the body when the stone had been put in place?

The plausible answer people suggest for the women going back to prepare the oils was that they thought it wasn't done...and that they went back later... Can anyone provide further thoughts on this specific question?

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    – Dottard
    Apr 9, 2023 at 2:24
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    What makes you think this was after Jesus burial when the text says it was before?
    – Dottard
    Apr 9, 2023 at 2:24
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    The gospels show the women watching as the accounts happen and also see the stone put in place before leaving. If it happened before, the women would have seen it, no? Apr 9, 2023 at 2:44
  • @Follower917 Please edit this to quote which verses about the women you're referring to.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 9, 2023 at 5:31
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    Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the Roman soldiers (permission from Pilate) and placed it in the sepulchre and anointed it and then departed after which the stone was placed. I see no problem whatsoever.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 9, 2023 at 9:38

3 Answers 3


Unless we assume the Gospel accounts always list every person who is in attendance at every event (not a great assumption -- imagine the feeding of the 5000!) the Gospel accounts present a simple, consistent picture of this event.

From Matthew:

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:59-61)

From Mark:

45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. (Mark 15:45-47)

From Luke:

53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.

54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.

56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. (Luke 23:53-56)

John's account is quoted in the OP.

From Matthew, Mark, and Luke we know that Joseph and several female disciples were present for the burial. John also tells us that Nicodemus assisted Joseph.

Luke points out that time was running short before the Sabbath, which meant the burial preparations were rushed. It is possible that multiple individuals brought spices, and it is possible that a portion of those spices were wrapped with the body on the day of the crucifixion, but the quantity of spices mentioned by John would have taken some time to manage.

The likely explanation then is this:

  • Joseph secured Jesus' body
  • Nicodemus (and possibly others) provided spices for Jesus' body
  • Joseph & Nicodemus prepared a hurried burial before the Sabbath; several female disciples were present and assisted as appropriate. They were all there at the same time.
  • A stone was rolled in front of the opening of the tomb
  • After the Sabbath Mary, Mary, Joanna, Salome (and possibly others) returned to the tomb to finish what they did not have time to complete on the day of the crucifixion.

But the stone had been moved and there was no body to dress. Happy Easter!

  • I understand it may have been hurried but John's account is the only one who mentions any anointing. The other ones say it was a clean cloth...I just still can't understand the differences of them. I honestly have never had to pose myself these questions and came across this tonight of all nights. Of course, I'm having trouble unseeing it now and it's definitely bothering my spirit. Happy Easter to you as well! Apr 9, 2023 at 2:50
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    @Follower917 if it was customary for a body to be wrapped in cloths with spices, then wouldn't "they wrapped the body in cloths" convey that they wrapped the body in cloths with spices? For an audience that knows this cultural norm, the abbreviated reference was adequate. John does appear to be adding cultural details that he doesn't expect his audience to already know (he does this in other places to, e.g. John 5:2) Apr 9, 2023 at 3:34

Rolling Stone We have several tombs discovered in Judea. They are dug out of solid rock with a small opening for access. In front of the opening is a trough running across it. In this trough placed is a round, disc-like heavy stone, which can be rolled back and forth at will...by strong men. The ladies might have some difficulty, as the Bible indicated.

There would be no hindrance for either Nicodemus or Joseph to come to the tomb (with some servants) and roll back the stone after it had been placed. In fact this was what the Pharisees were worried about: people coming and removing the body of Jesus and claiming a "resurrection." So they had a seal of authority put on the stone...and had a soldier guard stationed there, as well.

Again, the roundness of the stone made it feasible for any disciple to come and add spices, etc...until the guards showed up.

It is interesting that some commentators think the word for the stone being removed at the Resurrection implies a lifting of the Stone out of the trough and shoved away! (There was an earthquake...or was it mighty angels doing their thing?!) See any picture book on Biblical Archaeology for a picture of the round tomb-stones.


What the OP does is what many readers do: it takes the various accounts and attempts to read them as one seamless story with no discrepancies. Another approach is to accept differences between the accounts and appreciate them as distinct, inspired stories from different authors.

According to a footnote in the New American Bible, the anointing of Jesus' body in John's Gospel happens on Friday, while in the synoptic gospels this happens on Sunday:

In the first three gospels there is no anointing on Friday. In Matthew and Luke the women come to the tomb on Sunday morning precisely to anoint Jesus.

Only after the Friday event does John report:

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

Nicodemus is not mentioned in any Gospel except John's. Also, in John, there is no description of when Jesus' tomb was closed, although it does state that it was open and empty when Mary Magdalene visited the tomb.

Logically, in John's version the grave was open when Nicodemus and Joseph prepared Jesus' body (on Friday) but it was closed sometime prior to when Mary (who plays no role in the burial in John's account) found the tomb empty on Sunday.

@Hold To The Rod has provided a scenario that explains how the various accounts can be read as one seamless story. I prefer to accept that the accounts, though all inspired in their own way, do not completely agree.

  • This is a useful perspective, +1 Apr 10, 2023 at 16:36
  • "inspired" should be "uniquely inspired" or personal subjectively inspired, because "inspiration" is usually understood as divinely inspired dictation.
    – Michael16
    Jun 19, 2023 at 2:58

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