Alternative Naturalistic Theories #4: Body Theft  
Alternative Naturalistic Theories to the Resurrection

The Body Theft Theory


This theory states that the disciples came in during the night to steal the body from the tomb. This was the theory put forth by the Jewish authorities (Matt. 28:15). The body might also have been stolen by Joseph of Arimathea or moved by the Jewish or Roman authorities.


If I were arguing this body theft theory, I would strengthen it by saying that the guard and seal on the tomb weren’t placed until Saturday night, so that during that Sabbath (i.e. Friday night, Saturday day) the tomb was unguarded. However, even with all this as given, there are still insurmountable problems.




1. The nature of the disciples was radically changed after the crucifixion, so that they boldly preached Jesus risen despite intense persecution and eventual torture and execution. Psychologically I don't believe they would have been able to bear years of such horrible circumstances if they knew that this was a lie. Remember, also, that the apostles preached a message of profoundly high ethics, and it’s nigh-impossible to believe they could preach this message and yet know it was a lie.


Even if there were just an empty tomb (if Joseph or someone else had moved the body), the disciples would not therefore conclude that Jesus had risen from the dead. Think of it this way: imagine that someone tells you Elvis’ tomb was empty. Would you conclude that therefore Elvis must have risen from the dead? The only explanation for the disciples’ profound and permanent change is that they completely believed that Jesus had actually, physically, bodily, risen from the dead.


If the Jewish or Roman authorities had moved the body, then the moment the resurrection story started to be preached right there in Jerusalem where the empty tomb was also located, they would have refuted the story rather than make vague accusations that the disciples had stolen the body.


2. Someone stealing the body would not have bothered to unwrap it first. If the body had not been wrapped in the first place, the grave clothes would not have appeared as they did in John’s description. I discuss the grave clothes HERE.


3. Even if the body were gone, the tomb entrance still remained covered by the golel until at least Saturday night. How did the tomb become opened, demonstrating that it was empty inside? Matthew 28:2 mentions an earthquake (“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it") but if so, the timing is so exquisite as to be almost beyond belief without a greater cause behind it.


4. This body theft theory doesn’t explain the conversions of two prominent skeptics, James the brother of Jesus, and Paul, nor the multiple eyewitness accounts.




© 2011 Amy Deardon |