“Have you ever wondered who stole the body of Jesus? Seriously, you don’t believe that someone actually rose from the dead, do you?”
That is a normal train of thought for a lot of people. It’s their theory, their narrative that explains away the resurrection of Jesus. It goes like this…
“There were a bunch of guys who followed this great teacher, Jesus. He got in some trouble because the stuff he was teaching made the religious and political leaders pretty mad. They had him killed. The people who had been his followers didn’t want to look like fools so they stole his body and made up a story about him rising from the dead. They claimed to see him, eat with him, and watched him go magically up to heaven (where no one else could see him).”
This is not necessarily a scholarly theory, but it is a common explanation of the events written in the New Testament. Let’s test it.
There were a bunch of guys who followed Jesus. They were his apostles and disciples. There were at least twelve apostles, most of them wrote or had written accounts of their experiences. They’re loyalty to Jesus of Nazareth is attested to by extra-biblical sources, as well.
Jesus did get into some trouble with the religious and political authorities. Written in the historical documents known as the gospels, several extra-biblical writings, and some of the other New Testament letters is the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. His teachings which caused him trouble were not “love your neighbor”, or “judge not”. He claimed to be God, YHWH. This upset the people who claimed to worship YHWH. That is why they had the Romans crucify him. The Romans, more than likely, didn’t fear Jesus. They feared more religious unrest in their province of Judea. His life was a small price for peace.
More than likely, a group of fishermen and tax collectors (Jesus’ followers) could not steal Jesus’ body. Roman soldiers, probably several, guarded the tomb (he was buried) at the request of the Jewish leaders. They, the Jews, knew the prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection and were afraid the disciples might steal the body. They had a vested interest in keeping Jesus dead. They claimed later that the disciples stole the body. This is good evidence that the body was no longer in the tomb and could not be found.
The Romans also had a vested interest in keeping Jesus (or any other crucified victim) dead. Romans used crucifixion as a tool to suppress their captive peoples. Crucifixion was humiliating, public, and effective torture. NO ONE escaped the nails of a Roman cross. There are no known survivors of crucifixion (other than Jesus). The people in the ancient world who were under Roman rule were superstitious and could easily be moved to rebellion by an event such as the defeat of a Roman cross. Their guards and executioners were professionals and took pride in their work. Furthermore, the punishment to Roman soldiers for allowing a prisoner to escape included death. It’s not likely that they slept as some fishermen and tax collectors rolled a heavy stone from the opening of the tomb, sneaked inside, and stole the body of a famous prisoner.
The disciples of Jesus of Nazareth did claim to see him, eat with him, and watch him ascend into the clouds. This is their testimony. In fact, it is what caused their death. Each one of them was tortured, and all but one died claiming that they had seen him raised after he had died. That’s important. They didn’t claim to be followers of a religion or even the teachings of Christ, although those things were true. They claimed to have seen him, ate with him, touch him, talk to him, AFTER HE DIED! This claim is the very claim each of them would refuse to deny to the detriment of their own lives. All they had to do if they had made up the story is tell the truth. All they had to do to save their own lives is say “it ain’t so”. They never did.
- Jesus had several disciples-True
- Jesus was crucified by the religious and political authorities-True
- Jesus was buried (inferred)-True
- His disciples claimed to see him risen-True
- His disciples died for their claim without recanting-True
- His disciples (or anyone else) stole the body-NOT LIKELY