The Skeptics’ Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus – Part II

  • Another alternative proposed by skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “Stolen Body Theory”. This option states that Jesus did not physically rise from the grave, but rather, his disciples stole his body from the tomb, disposed of it elsewhere, and then declared that Jesus had been resurrected.

There are numerous problems with this option, however:

  • First, Jesus’ tomb was protected by armed guards- either a Roman guard unit or a Jewish temple guard unit (Mt. 27:65-66). In either case though, you have to explain how Jesus’ disciples, average men with no military experience, got past trained warriors who had been instructed to make the tomb as secure as possible.
  • Second, you still have the problem we discussed last week, what would be the disciples’ motive for taking such a risk and then making up the story of the resurrection? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose.
  • Third, a stolen body doesn’t account for the eyewitness testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus. Scripture reports that over 500 people saw Jesus physically alive following his crucifixion and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Skeptics may argue that these people were all lying, but to get that many people to agree to the same falsehood, stick to their stories, and many even go to their deaths for it; that is hard to believe. And if Paul was lying about these eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15), why did he state that most of them are still living (v. 6), as if to say, “If you don’t believe me, go ask them!”
  • Fourth, and related to the last point, as was mentioned last week, how do you account for the rapid growth of the early church in a hostile, 1st century context where neither the Jews nor Romans wanted Christianity to succeed? The only thing that can explain this growth is that there were just too many firsthand, eyewitnesses to the resurrection for people to simply dismiss this as a made up story.
  • Lastly, the stolen body theory cannot account for the radical change we see in the life of Saul (Paul). Saul was a zealous persecutor of the early Christian church and a Jew with impeccable credentials (Acts 8:1-3; Philippians 3:4-6); and yet, he ultimately became the most influential evangelist in the history of Christianity. What accounts for this dramatic life change if not the reason Paul himself gives, that he had seen the risen Jesus (1 Cor. 15:8)?

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