"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord...

Isaiah 1:18a NASB



Was Jesus resurrected from the dead?
7) stolen by enemies?

"God is a gross answer, an indelicacy against us thinkers - at bottom merely a gross prohibition for us: you shall not think!"

- Friedrich Nietzsche

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

- Romans 12:3 NASB

5.7 Did enemies remove the body?


Did the Jewish authorities steal the body? The Jews had expressed concern that Jesus' disciples might try to steal his body and then falsely claim his resurrection. This is why Jewish authorities secured a guard unit from Pilate. It is conceivable that those same authorities took the body in order to prevent it from being stolen by anyone else. This would have eclipsed any similar action on the part of those interested in faking a resurrection. Yet there is one obvious fault to this explanation. If the Jews had stolen the body, then they both could have and would have produced it. The fact that the Jews did not do this indicates that they most likely could not.


The only reason why Jewish authorities would not have produced the body if they had it, antithetical to everything they publicly claimed, is suggested by the old adage "follow the money". Perhaps the Jews stole the body in order to extort money from the disciples. This would have been along the lines of the Pharisees demanding, "Give us money or we'll produce the body and end your resurrection hoax."

Although there exists no evidence of this scenario, is this a workable explanation of the missing body given the fact that the disciples had some kind of treasury?

First, the love of money is certainly a root of all kinds of evil, but it does not explain the facts as we know them. Just as greed could have been a motivation for the Jews, it definitely was a motivation for Judas. So it's highly likely that when Judas, the disciple's treasurer, ran off and betrayed Jesus, whatever treasury that existed also ran off with him:

Now he [Judas] said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. (John 12:6 NASB)

Jesus therefore said to him, "What you do, do quickly." For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, "Buy the things we have need of for the feast"; or else, that he should give something to the poor. (John 13:27b,29 NASB)

Second, because the disciples likely had little or no money, any fortune the Pharisees hoped to cash in on would have to be in the form of the disciples' future revenues. If this was the case, then the Pharisees were hurting themselves by the beating, ostracizing, and stoning the disciples and their converts.

Last, if the Jewish authorities had been extorting money from the disciples over Jesus' dead body, then the disciples would not have chosen to die in order to maintain that Christ had bodily arose. Incontrovertibly, the Jewish authorities were out to discredit the resurrection, and the best way for them to have done that would have been to produce the body if they had it, which they did not.


Did the Romans steal the body? The Roman guard unit present at the tomb had perhaps the single greatest opportunity to steal the body. At the same time, they would have had the least motive. The guard unit made two mistakes for which one or all of them were in danger of execution. They allowed the body to be removed from the tomb and they left their post. Josh McDowell writes of Roman justice in such a case: "If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in duty, then lots were drawn to see who would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure." 1


As doubtful as the guards appear of body snatching, we might once again follow the money and explore the possibility that the Roman guard was using the stolen body for financial gain. The disciples were not being extorted by the guards for the same reason they were not being extorted by the Jews: too little to gain, and the disciples were utterly convinced of Jesus' return to life.

Perhaps the guards took the body, but were instead extorting the Jewish authorities. The Jews did have money, and the disciples would only find a vacant tomb and missing guards. But what seems to be shaping up as the best explanation so far still falls apart for at least five reasons.

1.) The Jewish authorities could have informed the Roman authorities and the guards would have been executed. Remember that the Jews were the ones who assured the guards they would protect them.

2.) The Jews claimed, and still claim, that it was not the guards who stole the body, but the disciples.

3.) In AD 70 Rome utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. Rome could have hurt them even further by exposing the Jews' role in the resurrection scheme if the Jews truly had such involvement.

4.) Rome eventually sought to destroy the church and could have best done so by making public the extortion scheme with all details and producing the body.

5.) The secret of the stolen body by whomever would have eventually leaked out and the body been produced. But again, neither Rome nor anyone else ever produced a body.

All the explanations reviewed so far disregard a great deal of the scriptural accounts and assume many facts not in evidence. They each fail to explain the provable facts of history as we know them. This leaves only two alternatives; both of which fit more facts than any other belief. By divine power or dumb luck, Jesus had to have removed himself from that tomb.



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NEXT: Was Jesus resurrected from the dead? - part eight

See also:

What do we know about Jesus from non-biblical sources?

Do miracles really happen?

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If the correct tomb was identified and Jesus' friends did not take his body, the natural alternative to explain the empty tomb is to look among Jesus' enemies.

This section identifies whom that might have been, why, and the likelihood of that to be the correct explanation.