Historic Fact #4: The Tomb was Sealed and Guarded  

The Tomb was Sealed and Guarded

The seal was probably a cord stretched between the golel and the dopheg, then sealed at both ends with clay and marked with one or more signet rings. The guard, probably Roman guards but possibly Temple guards, stood outside to prevent any tampering. Both Roman and Temple guards were formidable and would have prevented anyone from breaking in.

The placing of the guard (either Roman or Temple) is only mentioned in Matthew. I mention this because an extremely skeptical position might say that Matthew was trying to exaggerate his own avowal that the tomb was impenetrable to body thieves etc. I considered this position, but decided to reject  it for a few reasons:


1. the placing of the guard makes perfect sense, both logically and psychologically. The Jewish trial is a complex study that I haven't gone into in depth here, but fascinating if you're interested! Anyway, one of the points is that the phrase "in 3 days" was probably accurate. The High Priest and the other Jewish authorities might very well have suspected a fraud of this nature where the apostles might steal the body, and would have wished to guard against it.  

2. The gospel of Matthew, as with all of the New Testament documents, was written within one generation of the life of Jesus and distributed throughout the ancient world to an unprecedented degree. I briefly discussed the date of authorship HERE and the number of copies HERE, and there are of course many resources to further explore this issue in depth. This means, then, that there were a lot of people around who were not particularly friendly to the idea of Jesus' resurrection, and could have called Matthew's document into question if they had spotted something inaccurate.

3. Whether or not the guard was placed, the tomb was certainly sealed with the stone, as consistent with contemporary burial customs and all accounts. If the tomb hadn't been sealed, the fact that it was found to be empty a day and a half later wouldn't have caused such a stir. I'll discuss alternative naturalistic theories to explain the data in a few pages.

Matthew 27: 62-66

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 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 till 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 made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard. (NIV)


© 2011 Amy Deardon | www.amydeardon.com