QUESTION: Did the disciples steal the body of Jesus from the tomb?
ANSWER: No, the disciples did not steal the body of Jesus from the tomb. This was the most popular and common alleged explanation by non-believers when discussing the empty tomb during that time. They simply claimed that the tomb was empty because the disciples stole the body of Jesus; thus denying the resurrection of Jesus (Mt. 28:15).
Before we begin to delve into the evidence that discredits this theory, let’s first be reminded of a couple of things. The tomb was sealed with a very large stone affixed with a Roman seal (Mk. 16:3-4; McDowell, 1981, p. 59). Roman soldiers were also guarding the tomb (Matthew 27:62-65). This alone leads to several questions. For example, how could the disciples have slipped by the guards? How could the disciples have moved the stone? How could the disciples keep from waking the guards (if they were sleeping) while moving the stone? Why would the disciples have left Jesus’ linen cloth neatly folded in a place by itself in the tomb if they were in a hurry? These types of questions could be endless.
Some argue that the guards were bribed by the disciples. However, the guard’s duty was to make sure no one stole the body – which means their life was also on the line. So, if you were bribed, you certainly wouldn’t have stayed to face the consequences. You would have fled!
However, assuming that somehow the disciples were able to get past the guards and roll the stone away to steal the body of Jesus (or assuming they bribed the guards and were able to take the body), this theory still doesn’t stand. There are many facts that discredit this theory.
First, this theory doesn’t account for the multiple eyewitness accounts of others who claimed to have seen Jesus resurrected. Remember, the disciples were only a few out of hundreds who claimed eyewitness testimony to the resurrection.
Second, this theory doesn’t account for Paul’s conversion.
Third, this theory would mean that the disciples dedicated their whole life to a lie. There would have been nothing for the disciples to gain in doing this. Why would the disciples steal the body of Jesus only to start a religion they knew to be false and then be persecuted for it? What would have been the point and the motivation?
Fourth, nobody is willing to be persecuted for something they know is false. While many people may die, or be persecuted for what they think is true, nobody dies for what they know is false. J.P. Moreland said:
“The disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion. They faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyrs’ deaths. In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they knew what they were preaching was a lie” (Moreland, 1987, pp. 171-172).
If Jesus was never resurrected, then the disciples were dying and being persecuted for something they knew was false. This makes absolutely no sense in logic and psychology. Based upon the evidence, there is absolutely no rational way one could argue that the disciples stole the body of Jesus.
– Kevin Pendergrass
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