Saint Peter is sitting at the Pearly Gates when two men wearing hoodies arrive. St. Peter looks out through the Gates and says “Wait here. I will be right back.” St. Peter goes over to God’s chambers and tells him who is waiting at the entrance. God asks Peter: “How many times do I have to tell you, you can’t be judgmental about their attire? This is heaven. All are loved. All are brothers. Go back and let them in!” St. Peter goes back to Heaven’s entrance, looks around, and lets out a heavy sigh. He returns to God’s chambers and says “Well, they’re gone.” The guys wearing hoodies?” asks God. “No. The Pearly Gates.”
The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from skeptics. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories. The Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples.
After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded just so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said he would rise again after three days, then shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65
So the question is what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Certainly, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the good news boldly and without fear. Obviously this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. Once that was done, the evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples. 1
What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns of someone stealing the body. They were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure and that a guard was posted. They did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days. After the resurrection, many Jews were becoming Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult.
If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that he was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over identification Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the debate revolved around the disappearance of the body, not the identification of it.
So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified. There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? If the guard was sleeping, how would he know who took the body? If he was not sleeping, how could the disciples have gotten past him? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard.
We have accounts of Christian martyrs over the centuries who have died for their faith in Christ, but in recent years we have had evidence of others also dying for their faith. The Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true.
The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced first hand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23 other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ. 2 They knew their Lord and were willing to die for him, not for what they believed to be true, but what they knew to be true.
William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.” 3 The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently no one could produce a body, because he had risen. He has risen indeed.
1. Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.
3. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print
Resurrection Fraud by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.knowingforsure.com/.