Let us consider the ultimate miracle?the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
Now, wait a minute.? Did Jesus do this miracle?? Did he raise himself from the
dead, or did the Father raise his son from the dead?? We will let the theologians
work out this question because it really does not matter who did it.? No matter
who ?did? it, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is truly the greatest
and most important miracle recorded in the Bible.
One purpose of this chapter is to show why this particular event is so central
both to the message of the Bible and to its reliability and inspiration.? More
importantly, the purpose is to very carefully consider whether the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead, as recorded in the New Testament, really happened.?
We will see that there is a lot riding on this question.
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
Before attempting to accomplish these goals, we need to consider how difficult
a task is before us.? The case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ requires
the absolute highest standard of proof.
By way of illustration, consider four scenarios.??? First, imagine you are at
home and your roommate/spouse or whatever comes in all excited and proclaims
that he/she received a bill in the mail today.? Hmm?.? You would probably wonder
why all the excitement.? You certainly would not be demanding proof of the claim.
The second scenario involves yourself and the same person.? This time, your
excited friend is announcing that he/she has found a two pound bag of chips
for only $1.19.? Wow!? Let?s tell the neighbors right away.? Would this claim
stop you in you tracks?? What standard of proof would you require?
The third scenario is just a bit more interesting.? This time imagine your partner
excitedly proclaims that she has won $100,000 in the lottery.? This time, your
head perks up a bit.? It perks up quite a bit, in fact.? You would check her
face for sincerity, and probably ask to see the winning ticket?not necessarily because
you do not trust her, but because you don?t want to make too great a fool of
yourself if you admit you believe her.? You would want some proof. Within a
few seconds or perhaps a few minutes, you would be jumping up and down, or perhaps
just giving some high fives, depending on your personality.
The fourth scenario is the one to focus in on.? This time, your loved one pronounces
that he has seen a cow with six legs.? In this scenario you would give a deeply
incredulous look and immediately demand proof.? If you were to not demand proof,
it would reveal more about you than about your friend.? Not demanding evidence
would imply that you are a very gullible person.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the resurrection of Jesus is most like
the fourth scenario.? Only a fool would simply believe someone has been raised
from the dead without some very strong evidence to support the claim.? The first
scenario represents a claim about something which is so mundane and expected that absolutely
no proof is required.? Bills come in more days than not.
?The second scenario?the one with the chips?requires just a bit more proof.?
One does not see a two pound bag of chips for $1.19 every day.? It is amazing
(using the word very loosely) to find chips that cheap.? You might not exactly
demand proof, but it is so surprising to find chips this cheap, you just might
sneak a peak at the receipt to make sure your friend is not mistaken.? If you
were to become convinced, you probably would not dance up and down the street,
declaring the amazing discovery to all within earshot, but you would be sure to
tell a few friends about the great price on chips at the store.
The lottery scenario is quite different.? The chances of claiming such a big
payoff in the lottery is less than one in a million for sure.? This would be
a very unexpected result, especially if your friend had the good sense not to
play the lottery.? But assuming that she did buy a few lotto tickets occasionally,
the claim about the lottery is still so unexpected that you would definitely
want proof before believing it.? Cruel practical jokesters have been know to
pull off elaborate schemes to convince their friends that they won the lottery,
only to say they were joking.? The point is this.? Winning the lottery is a
very unlikely event, but no matter how unlikely it is, it still is definitely
possible.? A possible but very unlikely event requires a good deal of evidence
in order? to be believed.
However, the scenario with the six-legged cow is a different animal altogether.?
Cows simply do not have six legs?period.? In this case, your assumption would
be that your friend either made a mistake or has been deceived by some sort
of quirk.? It is impossible for cows to have six legs.? Well, maybe it is not
impossible, but it certainly is unheard of.? You would require some pretty convincing
proof.? A picture might help, but with modern technology, pictures can be faked.?
A few other eye witnesses would certainly help, especially if their descriptions
all corroborated one another.? However, there is only one completely convincing
form of evidence.? If you could see the cow for yourself, you would be completely
convinced that your friend had actually seen a cow with six legs.
Such is the case with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.? According
to common experience and even common sense, it is simply unbelievable that Jesus
Christ was raised from the dead on the third day.? The chances of winning the
lottery may be one in ten million.? The odds against a person being raised from
the dead are certainly much greater than that.? One might even say it is impossible?a
miracle.? In order to convince the skeptic, very strong evidence is required
indeed.? To quote a well-known skeptical scientist, ?If you hear hooves clip-clopping
down a street, it could be a zebra or even a unicorn?but before you assume anything
other than a horse, you should demand a minimal standard of evidence.?? The
more unlikely the claim, the stronger the evidence which is required.
Besides this, the burden of proof lies with the believer, not the skeptic.?
Reason would tell us that the skeptic does not need to prove his or her case
against the resurrection of Jesus.? Because a claim of resurrection lies so
far outside of normal experience, it is unfair to require the non-believer to prove
that the resurrection story is bogus.? It is not right to charge the skeptic
with being closed minded for not believing in the resurrection.? The skeptic
would reply, ?Open minded is fine, but I do not want to be so open minded, my
brains fall out.? Give me some proof.?
There is an additional factor which makes the burden of proof on the believer
heavy.? This is brought out by the illustration used above.? In the scenario,
when your friend claimed that he had seen a cow with six legs, you had every
reason to expect strong evidence.? A picture would be nice, and eye-witnesses could
be very helpful, but there was one kind of evidence which would be very convincing.?
If one could actually go to see the cow up close and personal, that would be
by far the most convincing proof of this very far-fetched claim.
? Unfortunately, in the case of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we
do not have access to such proof.? Because the event (if it did indeed occur)
happened almost two thousand years ago, it is not possible t
o go back to Israel
to investigate the claim directly.? Besides, all the eyewitnesses are long dead.?
At first glance, this might seem like an overwhelming burden of proof.? In the
end, we will let the evidence speak for itself.
So the job which remains is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus Christ
was in fact raised from the dead on the third day.? Because of the nature of
the claim, the task is not simply to show that this is the most likely explanation
of the facts surrounding his death.? The resurrection of the dead is so far from
normal experience that one must prove beyond a doubt that it is the only reasonable
explanation of the facts.? To quote from the 18th century British philosopher
and skeptic, David Hume, ?One must ask if the present evidence for the alleged
event is so strong that any other explanation of the evidence would be even
A DIFFICULT JOB, BUT AN IMPORTANT JOB
??????????? The burden of proof to support belief in the resurrection of Jesus
is great, but the importance of the assignment is great as well.? On this issue
hangs all of Christianity.? Let it be said again.? All of Christianity rests
on the issue of the resurrection of its founder, Jesus Christ.? This is not an
overstatement.? Consider the radical statement of the apostle Paul.
??????????????????????? And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is
?useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then
?found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified
?about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not
?raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.? For if the dead
?are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if
?Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in
?your sins.? Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ
?are lost.? If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to
?be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).
??????????? According to Paul, if Jesus Christ was in fact not raised from the
dead, then the apostles and the writers of what we now call the New Testament
are liars.? In that case, the entire gospel message as well as the writings
of the New Testament are a scam.? Paul continues by stating that if the resurrection
is a lie, then Christianity is a lie, in which case anyone who has been living
the Christian life has been living a lie.? Given the incredible sacrifice and
commitment required of a true disciple of Jesus, Paul concludes that if the resurrection
is a lie, then the Christian is to be pitied above all men.? If Christ is not
raised, then why not ?eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.?
??????????? Perhaps Paul?s claim that Christians are to be pitied more than
all men if the resurrection claim is a hoax seems a bit far-fetched at first.?
Isn?t Paul overstating his case just a bit? Paul?s statement is certainly diametrically
opposed to the claim of the famous philosopher and mathematician Pascal, who
made what is commonly known as Pascal?s wager.? Pascal made what at first glance
may appear to be a perfectly logical challenge to the unbeliever.? In essence
he claimed that even if one could not decide for sure whether or not a creator
exists, it is better to believe than to not believe.? The argument is that if
the Creator exists and one does not believe then one may be in big trouble.?
The reverse of the argument, according to Pascal, is that even if one believes in
God and it turns out that he does not exist, nothing is lost.? There is nothing
to be lost in believing, whether that belief is based on truth or not, but there
is a lot to be lost in unbelief if God actually does exist.
??????????? Whether or not the logic of Pascal holds up in scholastic circles,
Paul, a claimed eyewitness to the resurrection, states clearly that Pascal?s
wager is wrong, at least in the case of Christianity.? Given the great sacrifice
of time, energy, fortune, emotional energy and the like required of a disciple,
Paul states that if all this is given over to a lie, then we are to be pitied
more than all men.? What a cruel fate it would be to give one?s whole life to
??????????? History would tell us of a number of examples of people giving their
all for something which does not exist.? Coronado and others spent their life?s
energy searching for El Dorado?the City of Gold, when no such city existed.??
Henry Hudson and many others gave their lives searching for a Northwest Passage
which did not exist.? Hundreds of similar stories could be quoted.? However,
there is a key difference between these examples and the Christian life.? With
both the search for El Dorado and for the Northwest Passage, even in seeking a
non-existent goal, Coronado and Hudson gave some sort of meaning to their lives.?
Both opened up large areas to exploration.? In the end, their accomplishment
was as significant as that for which they were searching.
??????????? One might argue similarly for Christianity.? Even if it is not really
true, then at least the Christian life is better than the alternative.? Even
if one does not go to heaven, at least life down here was better for having
believed.? Paul is saying that if the resurrection is a lie, then the Christian
claim is the cruelest of hoaxes.
??????????? There are some other New Testament passages which back up this claim.?
In 1 Peter 1:3,4 one finds the statement, ?In his great mercy, he has given
us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade?kept in
heaven for you??? Hope certainly is at the heart of Christianity.? The resurrection
of Jesus Christ provides that hope.? However, if Jesus Christ was not raised,
then that hope is a false hope.? In fact, it is a cruel hope.? The greater the
sacrifice to obtain some sort of a hope, the more cruel if it is false.? Christianity
is the ultimate illustration of this principle.
Another supporting example is found in Acts 17:31, ?For he [God] has set a day
when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.? He has
given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.?? This is clearly
a reference to Jesus Christ.? The Christian life is lived in the assumption that
our every action will be brought into a final judgment before God.? According
to the passage just referred to, the resurrection is the ultimate proof of this.?
In fact, if Jesus was not raised, then neither will there be a judgment day, so
?eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.?
To sum up, in this chapter, we will be looking at the validity of the claim
that Jesus was raised from the dead.? Bear in mind what is at stake here.? If
the claim is true, then without question, only the worst of fools would not
accept the gospel message, with all that is implied therein.?? If it is a false claim,
then Christianity is not left as a nice religion.? It is not ?one of many paths
to the same end,? as some religious persons might claim.? If Jesus Christ was
not indeed raised from the dead, then Christianity is a lie and a cruel hoax.?
Its followers are cruelly deceived and are to be pitied above all men.
JUST THE FACTS, MA?AM, JUST THE FACTS.
??????????? The above subtitle is a reference to one of the author?s favorite
old time TV shows.? H
owever, the reference may date me just a bit.? It comes
from the show Dragnet, a 60?s and 70?s police docudrama in which its leading
character, the dead pan police detective Officer Gannon would often ask emotional
crime victims for ?just the facts.?
??????????? It is time to consider the question, but first let us look at a
few undisputed historical facts which relate to the validity of the resurrection.??
What do we know about the resurrection that even the most die-hard of skeptics
would have to admit is true, unless they were simply not aware of what is known
from historical records?
??????????? First of all, one can be sure without a doubt that Jesus is in fact
an historical figure.? Some would actually want to paint the entire person of
Jesus as a myth.? As recently as the twentieth century, no less a figure than
the philosopher Bertrand Russel (a strident atheist, by the way) was able to so
boldly claim that, ?Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed
at all, and if He did, we do not know anything about him.?? In reality, all
this quote does is prove the extreme bias of Bertrand Russel.? This bias is so
off the charts that it should cause the intelligent reader to question the validity
of anything else Russel might say.
?For an uneducated person to claim that the historicity of Jesus as a person
is a myth would be forgivable, but for someone as educated as Bertrand Russel
to make such a claim is extremely irresponsible.? Russel was certainly well
aware than no reputable historian would doubt the existence of Jesus any more
than they would question the reality of Julius Caesar.? Arguably, there is as
much material evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ as any other ancient
historical figure.? Quoting to the reader the number of words about Jesus in the
Encyclopedia Britannica or a few of the dozens of historians from the first
two centuries AD who refer to his life and what he did is really not necessary
here.? It is no exaggeration to state that anyone who claims to not believe
that Jesus existed is either extremely ignorant of history or so biased that
the wise listener would do well to turn her ear in another direction.
??????????? Another fact of history which would be accepted by even the deepest
skeptic (assuming they do not have the kind of extreme bias exhibited by Bertrand
Russel) is that Jesus Christ was in fact crucified outside Jerusalem by the
Roman authorities under Pontius Pilate.? If Jesus was not crucified, then he also was not
raised from the dead, so this is an important point.
?One can be sure that Jesus was crucified as recorded in the Bible because historians
with no stake in believing this claim have recorded the event.? For example,
one can quote from Cornelius Tacitus, who lived from 55-120 AD.? Tacitus is
generally considered the be one of the greatest and most reliable historians of ancient
Rome.? Besides, in those of his writings which are relevant to early Christianity,
Tacitus was not writing about events of the distant past.? He wrote concerning
events which had occurred in his own lifetime, or at most a couple of generations
before he lived.? Tacitus wrote two extended historical works, Annals, covering
Roman political history from the death of the emperor Augustine in 14 AD to
the end of Nero?s reign in 68 AD, and Histories, which began with the death of
Nero and continued to the death of Domitian in 96 AD.? To quote from Tacitus
?But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the
bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements
?which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero
?from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the
?conflagration, the fire of Rome.? Hence to suppress the rumor,
?he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most
?exquisite tortures,? the persons commonly called Christians,
?who were hated for their enormities.? Christus, the founder of
?the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of
?Judea in the reign of Tiberius:? but the pernicious superstition,
?repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea,
?where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome
??????????? Despite his desire to defame the Christian religion, Tacitus unwittingly
provided strong historical evidence to support the claims of Christianity.?
This pagan enemy of the Christians records the crucifixion of Jesus Christ under
??????????? Another Roman writer who reported a few details regarding the early
church was Lucian of Samosota.? Lucian was a social critic who wrote sarcastically
of Christians.? In one of his commentaries, he said;
??????????? ?The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day?the
distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and
?was crucified on that account?. You see, these misguided
?creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all
time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which
are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original
lawgiver that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the
crucified sage, and live after his laws.?
Obviously, Lucian wrote with malice toward Christians in general, but he unwittingly
recorded for future ages a great commentary on Christian character, as well
as relating as fact his crucifixion.
??????????? Other pagan writers from the first two centuries could be called
as witnesses to the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem.? Another
source of evidence to support the fact of the crucifixion is Jewish writings
of the first two centuries AD.? The most famous of these comes from the Jewish historian,
Josephus who was referred to previously.? In his book Antiquities, Josephus
records, concerning Jesus, ??and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal
men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him a the first did not
forsake him.?? Being a Jew, Josephus had no motive to support the Christian
position, but he does faithfully report that Jesus was crucified under the orders
of Pontius Pilate, supplying the additional information that it was under pressure
from the Jewish leaders.
??????????? Another source of Jewish sentiment is found in the Talmud?a collection
of commentaries to the Hebrew Bible written primarily in the first two centuries
AD.? For example, one can find in what is known as the Babylonian Talmud the
?It has been taught:? On the eve of the Passover they hanged Yeshu.? And an
announcer went out in front of him, for forty days (declaring):? ?He is going
to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray.?
Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.??
But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of the
It is clear in this passage from the Talmud that Yeshu refers to
?Jesus and that hanging refers to crucifixion (see Galatians 3:13).? Besides
this, the Jewish author provides independent confirmation of the biblical claim
that Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Passover.
??????????? In summary, the clear testimony of history is that Jesus Christ
was in fact
crucified in Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover, as recorded in
the New Testament scripture.
??????????? There is a third historical fact which is relevant to the crucifixion.?
This very significant fact is that the claim of Jesus Christ having been raised
from the dead was made publicly in Jerusalem almost immediately after the event.?
The resurrection was declared openly by the apostles and other followers of Jesus
in the same city where the events occurred.? It was proclaimed at the same time
and place where the eyewitnesses to the events, including the Roman officials
and soldiers, as well as the Jews who did not accept Jesus? teaching had every
opportunity to bring forth evidence to the contrary.? This fact will be very
important to establishing the truth of the resurrection.
??????????? The Bible records the first time the resurrection was publicly declared,
in front of thousands of people.? This event, which occurred seven weeks after
the execution of Jesus, is recorded in Acts chapter two.? ?This man was handed
over to you by God?s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked
men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.? But God raised him from
the dead, freeing him from the agony of death for it was impossible for death
to keep its hold on him.? (Acts 2:24,25).? To the skeptic, the simple fact that Peter?s
sermon is recorded in the Bible does not supply sufficient proof that the resurrection
was openly and publicly preached within a very short time of the supposed event.?
In fact, there have even been some critics of Christianity who have argued, despite
what is written in Acts 2, that the resurrection claim was not made for a number
of generations after the death of Jesus.? The arguments of these Bible critics
is that the disciples of Jesus who wanted to build up his reputation to those
they were attempting to convert made up the resurrection story.? Unfortunately
for the Bible critic, this scenario simply cannot be justified with the facts.
?There has simply never been a time when the Christian church did not have the
resurrection as a central part of the message of the gospel.? In fact, a brief
survey of the book of Acts will prove to the reader that an account of the resurrection
is a significant part of every recorded gospel sermon.? The skeptic will argue that
Acts and the other books of the New Testament were either not written until
well into the second century AD, or that they were changed to reflect the newly
developing resurrection claim.? However, during the twentieth century, this
charge was completely discredited by discoveries of increasingly ancient actual
copies of the New Testament documents.? The oldest known partial manuscript
of the New Testament, known as the Rylands papyrus, has been dated at 130 BC, about
fifty years from the writing of the gospel of John.? More will be said on the
integrity of the New Testament text in a later chapter, but suffice it to say
that with the evidence now in hand, it is inconceivable to the knowledgeable scholar
of the Bible that such a key doctrine as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead could have been added in at a later date.
There are an innumerable number of references to the resurrection from extra-biblical
sources, including pagan and Jewish authors as cited above.? In addition, early
Christian writings, some from as early as the end of the first century provide
proof that the resurrection was preached since the beginning if Christianity.? For
example one could quote Ignatius (50-115 AD), the bishop of Antioch, a prot?g?
of the apostle John, from his epistle to the Trallians, ?He was crucified and
died under Pontius Pilate.? He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified,
and died, in the sight of beings in heaven and on earth, and under the earth.?
He also rose again in three days?.? ?Is anyone willing to support the claim
that Ignatius waited for his teacher, John, to die, and then made up a bogus
account of the resurrection, going against all the other teachers in the early
Besides, this fact, one can take note of the day of Christian worship.? From
the inception of the New Testament church, the disciples began meeting on the
first day of the week?Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.?
There is no credible evidence for the early church ever meeting for their principle
worship of the week on any other day.? If the resurrection was not pronounced
by the eyewitnesses from the very beginning, how can one account for the fact
that the church has met since its very beginnings on Sunday to commemorate this
So there is no reasonable doubt that the resurrection was publicly proclaimed
in Jerusalem in the immediate aftermath of the event.? Claims to the contrary
are not based on careful consideration of the facts.
The last fact of history we will consider which is relevant to the question
of the resurrection of Jesus is the most significant of the four.? The fact
is that the tomb in which Jesus was laid was empty on the third day.? It may
seem a bold move to claim this as historical fact, but given the assumption
that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover, as proven
above, there is no logical alternative.? The tomb where Jesus? body was laid
was empty on the third day.
How can one claim this to be a fact?? That is easy.? If the tomb had not been
empty, then as soon as the disciples began to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus,
the Jews would have simply escorted people over to the tomb to show people the
body.? This did not happen.? The reason this did not happen is simple.? The
tomb was empty.? In fact, the Jews who in later times attempted to explain away
the resurrection never claimed that the tomb was not empty.
How did the tomb get to be empty?? That is the subject of the rest of this chapter,
but the undeniable fact (undeniable to those willing to consider the facts)
is that the tomb where Jesus? body was laid was empty.
To summarize, the facts of history are these:? Jesus did live, he was crucified
in Jerusalem under the authority of Pontius Pilate on the eve of the Passover,
his resurrection was publicly declared in Jerusalem almost immediately after
the event, and the tomb where his body was laid was empty on the third day.
THERE HAS GOT TO BE ANOTHER EXPLANATION
???????????? Now we can proceed to the heart of the question.? What is the most
reasonable explanation of the facts?? Remember that the explanation that Jesus
was resurrected requires an extra strong measure of proof, as such an explanation
is outside the range of normal events.
??????????? We will proceed by considering possible alternative explanations
of the facts.? Historically, there have only been a fairly small number of alternative
explanations which skeptics of Christianity have raised.? Each of these explanations
will be considered in turn, but to summarize, these attempted explanations of
the facts are listed below.
??????????? 1. The stolen body theory.
??????????? 2. The swoon theory.
??????????? 3. The mass hallucination theory.
??????????? Other explanations could be listed, but these are either sub themes
of the three listed above or are so unreasonable as to not deserve separate
??????????? Where should one look for the most carefully considered arguments against the resurrection?? One could look to Jewish writers.? Historically,
the Jews have had the most at stake in disproving the resurrection of Jesus
Christ to their people.? If Jesus was in fact resurrected, then the only reasonable
alternative for a Jew would be to accept him as the Messiah he claimed to be.?
Therefore, it is a good idea to ask what has historically been the Jewish answer
to the resurrection.
???????????? The answer is that the Jewish response to the resurrection claim
has been to invoke the stolen body theory.? For example, in Justin Martyr?s
defense of Christianity in the second century AD, he mentions a Jewish opponent
who he quotes as saying ?one Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified; but
his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid, when unfastened
from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the
dead and ascended into heaven.? Jewish medieval literature also repeated the
charge that the disciples stole Jesus? body.? For this reason, we will consider
this alternative first.
ALTERNATIVE #1? THE STOLEN BODY THEORY
??????????? Again, the idea is to explain the facts which most any open minded
person would concede are true.? Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, his body was
interred in a tomb, but three days later, it was no longer there.? Almost immediately
afterward, the disciples of Jesus were openly declaring that he was raised from
the dead.? One obvious approach to an explanation of the facts is that someone
stole Jesus? body from the tomb.? Is this a reasonable explanation of the facts?
???????????? The answer to this question, of course, would depend on who one
would accuse of snatching the body.? Was it the Roman soldiers??? Could it have
been the Jewish opponents to Jesus?? Or might some of Jesus? followers have
stolen the body?? In order to answer this question, some of the details surrounding
the crucifixion and burial are relevant.? These details will be taken from the
gospel accounts of the events in question.
??????????? A number of facts which are recorded in the gospels are relevant
to the stolen body theory.? First, Jesus declared publicly that he would be
killed and raised on the third day.? His opponents were well aware of this fact,
and did all they could to prevent a faked resurrection.? For example, Jesus said
to the crowds in Matthew 12:40, ?For as Jonah was three days and three nights
in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three
nights in the heart of the earth.?? Or one could mention Jesus? discussion with
his disciples in Matthew 16:21, ?From that time on Jesus began to explain to
his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands
of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed
and on the third day be raised to life.? (Also see Matthew 17:22,23, Matthew
20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-33, and John 16:16).
???????????? Because those who conspired to have Jesus killed were well aware
of his prediction that he would be resurrected from the dead, they did everything
humanly possible to prevent Jesus? disciples pulling off some sort of hoax:
??????????? The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests
?and the Pharisees went to Pilate.? ?Sir,? they said, ?we
?remember that while he was still alive that the deceiver said,
??After three days I will rise again.?? So give the order for the
?tomb to be made secure until the third day.? Otherwise, his
?disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that
?he has been raised from the dead.? This last deception will be
?worse than the first.?? ?Take a guard,? Pilate answered.? ?Go
?make the tomb as secure as you know how.?? So they went and
?make the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and
?posting the guard. (Matthew 27:62-66).
Little did they know at the time that they would be helping provide strong support
for the resurrection.? It is ironic that in attempting to assure that the body
could not be stolen, the enemies of Jesus provided? great proof that the body
was in fact not stolen.
??????????? Besides, this was no ordinary guard which was posted in front of
the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where Jesus? body was laid.? This was a cohort
of the most hardened soldiers in the world at that time:? Roman legionnaires!?
A very large stone was rolled in front of the tomb, and a number of heavily armed
Roman soldiers stood a twenty-four hour guard in front of the tomb.
??????????? So who stole the body?? Was it the Jews?? What possible motive would
they have had?? No one has ever proposed a reasonable motive for the Jewish
leaders to steal Jesus? body.? They were the same ones who had Pilate post a
guard.? Even if someone could come up with some sort of convoluted motive for the
Jews to steal the body, as soon as the resurrection was claimed by the followers
of Jesus, surely they would have promptly produced the body and put an immediate
stop to the public preaching of the resurrection.
???????? ???Would the Roman soldiers steal the body?? This idea is just as outlandish.?
What would be the motive?? According to historical accounts of Roman military
discipline, the soldiers themselves were liable to death if they failed in their
charge to guard the tomb, so they certainly had a heavy disincentive to stealing
the body, or to let anyone else steal the body for that matter.? The Romans
certainly would not want to steal Jesus? corpse.? The last thing they wanted
was another Messiah story to stir up the Jews in rebellion against Rome.? It certainly
was not the Jewish opponents of Jesus or the Romans who stole the body, if indeed
the body was stolen.
??????????? The fact is that the only conceivable people with a motive to steal
the body from the tomb would have been the disciples of Jesus.? The stolen body
scenario, then, comes down to this.? Did followers of Jesus steal his body from
the tomb?? We will break this question down into three parts:
??????????? 1. Would they have stolen the body?
??????????? 2. Could they have stolen the body?
??????????? 3. Di