stole Jesus' body and
faked His resurrection.
This possibility has been raised by critics ever since Jesus
rose from the dead. But it has never taken root except in some
Jewish circles because the New Testament account does not support a
faked resurrection theory. Nevertheless, in order for the disciples
to have faked the resurrection of Jesus, several conditions must
have been met. Let's take a look at them and analyze them.
disciples would need to concoct an elaborate plan.
The disciples would have to have
a plan. You can't just walk to a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers
and ask for Jesus' body. So, in order to fake Jesus'
resurrection the disciples would have to obtain and dispose of
the body of Jesus without any hostile witnesses seeing them do
this. This would mean that the guards in front of Jesus' tomb
would need to be bribed (discussed later). It would further
mean that several people would have to be involved in carrying
the body of Jesus to an area where it could be disposed of. A
single person would not be able to carry another human body a
long distance. Therefore, these several people would have to
agree to steal the body of Jesus and risk arrest by the guards
and the Jewish leaders.
Furthermore, this plan would also have to include other
people outside the circle of the disciples since such an
"impossible" occurrence as a resurrection would be more
convincing if others who were not biased followers of Jesus said
that they saw Jesus after the crucifixion. This means that the
disciples would have to convince a lot of people to go against
the Jewish religious leaders, thereby risking their own economic
and social security, as well as risk bringing conflict into the
region since the Jews who sent Jesus to the cross, could easily
persecute these new apparent converts. Additionally, this would
bring further attention of the Romans to the issue thereby
escalating tension which was not something the Jewish people
One more thing, it would be very obvious to the disciples
that to continue claiming Jesus rose from the dead, would bring
the harsh attention of the religious leaders upon them.
Remember, the Jewish leaders knew who Jesus' disciples were.
Therefore, easy attention could be focused on them in the form
of persecution. Unlike others, the disciples would be easy
targets. Since the Jewish leaders had just sentenced Jesus to
die a horrible death on the cross, what would stop them from
continuing with the disciples who would then start proclaiming
Jesus had risen from the dead? The disciples had to know what
they were getting into. They were risking their families and
their own lives.
In all, concocting an elaborate plan to deceive many people
has too many difficult variables in it to overcome. It would
simply make more sense to assert that the reason the disciples
proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus is because they actually
saw the resurrected Jesus.
sufficient motive would have to be offered to account for the
disciples' intended deception?
Remember, we have many people in
the Bible who said that Jesus rose from the dead. Did these
people all agree to lie? If so, why would they do that? What
would motivate various people, who have differences of opinions,
differences in needs and desires, to all agree to testify to
something false? Could it be that they were dissatisfied with
the Roman Empire ruling over the Jewish nation? But what would
they accomplish by proclaiming Jesus' resurrection? Did they
think that the Roman Empire would suddenly leave Israel because
of that? Not a chance.
Or perhaps the people were tired of the hypocrisy of the
Jewish religious leaders and it motivated them to claim Jesus
rose from the dead in order to undermine their authority. But
if this is the case then we have an inconsistency between motive
and behavior because people who would be upset with someone
else's hypocrisy are not likely to proclaim such an incredible
lie as a resurrection -- thereby being even bigger hypocrites
than the leaders. Does this make sense? Also, since Jesus
taught love, truth, and self sacrifice, such deceptive actions
would be in direct contradiction with the teachings of the One
they were following.
At best all anyone can do is guess about what the disciples
may have been thinking or what might have
motivated them to devise an elaborate deception. Guessing is all
that can be done. But we would need to ask if any proposed
motives of the disciples could be harmonized with the facts of
their preaching and teaching about truth, long-suffering,
patience, kindness, and love. No one can read their hearts or
their minds and insert into a scenario 2000 years old the
motivations of people long gone. It is best to simply let the
facts speak for themselves. They lived, suffered, proclaimed,
and died for the truth of the resurrection.
guards at the tomb would need to be bribed.
says, "Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the
guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all
that had happened. 12And when they had assembled with
the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of
money to the soldiers, 13and said, "You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were
asleep.’ 14"And if this should come to the governor’s
ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." 15And
they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and
this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this
The problem of bribing works both
ways. The disciples could have bribed the guards to not say
anything about them taking the body of Jesus. But, the Jews
could also have bribed the guards into saying that the disciples
stole the body of Jesus. In fact, the only bribing we see in
the gospel accounts of the guards is done by the Jewish
The bribe would be very necessary since the guards were at
risk of their lives if they had failed at their duty. It was
the custom of the Roman military that if a prisoner escaped,
then the guard(s) who was in charge of guarding the prisoner
would take the prisoner's place. This is a very strong
motivation to make sure that they carried out their duty, bribe
or not. In
when Paul was in prison, there was an earthquake that opened the
cell doors which would have allowed the prisoners to escape.
When the jailor saw this he intended to kill himself.
Undoubtedly, this is because he knew he would have to take their
place should they escape. But Paul called out and said in verse
28, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!"
This shows that the guard did not want to take the place of the
prisoners. In fact, in
we read of how Herod ordered guards to be executed who had
allowed Peter to escape.
Therefore, for the guards to risk their lives, a large
bribe would be necessary. Who was more likely to have enough
money to bribe the guards, the religious leaders or the
disciples? Also, who had a greater motive, the disciples who
wanted to have Jesus rise from the dead (risking further
persecution), or the Jews who wanted to complete their attempt
to be rid of Jesus?
of Christ would need to be disposed of to prevent disproof of his
If the scenario of an elaborate
plan with bribed guards and collusion on the part of many non
followers of Jesus were to be effective, the body of Jesus would
need to be disposed of. If the disciples could get a hold of His
body and get away from the population, it would not be difficult
at all to bury it someplace. It would then be necessary that the
disciples promised that they would never disclose the location.
This is a possibility but it would mean that the disciples were
liars and thieves. Is this basis for their faith consistent
with their writings about truth, honesty, etc., combined with
their dedication to their assertion of Jesus' resurrection that
cost them their lives?
witnesses would need to be arranged
I have already stated above, many people would be to be coached
into lying about seeing the risen Lord. Is this probable for so
many Jews who grew up under the idea that lying was a sin?
Perhaps. But, is it easy to convince people to lie about an
event that they know would bring them economic, familial,
social, and religious difficulties? The answer, of course, is no
it is not. The Jewish people were living under Roman rule. The
Romans served both as oppressors and protectors. They were
oppressors and that they forced many of their own rules upon the
Jewish people. On the other hand, they protected the land of
Israel from hostile nations surrounding them. Friction in the
region is not something people would want to have, especially if
they have families with children and parents to take care of and
to love. Does it really makes sense that so many people would
agree to such a great lie for such a great consequence?
The Apostle Paul
But what about
Paul the Apostle? Did the disciples plan on converting one of their
greatest enemies into a Christian? How did they get Paul to agree
to the conversion and in so doing convince Paul to give up
everything he had stood for and worked for his entire life in order
to be ostracized, condemned, persecuted, shipwrecked, beaten, and
finally martyred by both the Romans and the Jewish leadership? Does
a faked resurrection account for such a bold and profound conversion
of someone who had been seeking to destroy the very Christians that
he later proclaimed? Remember, Paul claimed to have seen the Lord on
the road to Damascus (Acts
What would motivate him to give up everything and to proclaim
Christ's resurrection? What would he have to gain? Power? Money?
If Paul wanted power, then perhaps it could be said he achieved
it since he wrote much of the New Testament and had great influence
in the Christian Church. But, power is not what he demonstrated
over anyone. The New Testament does not demonstrate any wielding of
power. Some of Paul's writings are the greatest testimonies to
truth, love and wisdom that have ever been written. Are the words of
and the entire book of Romans the words of one man who knew that
everything he was writing and teaching was based on a lie just so he
could get power? It just doesn't make sense to say so.
If it was money Paul was after, then why did he preach without
Why did he often go without food (2
Why did he have odd jobs in order to make a living (Acts
It does not make sense to say that he was in it for the money.
If it was fame that he was after, then he certainly attained
it. Paul the apostle is still a famous person throughout all of
Western civilization. But we cannot know if this was a motive or
not since we cannot ask him. What we can do is read what he wrote
and do our best to discern his motives there. It would be up to the
reader to read his epistles and see if the quest for fame is woven
into his words. Personally, I see no such thing when I read his
works. I see a man who preached Jesus and Him crucified and risen
from the dead.
It is very
unlikely that the disciples faked the resurrection of Christ. In
summation, this is why:
need an elaborate plan involving many unpredictable elements:
guards, other witnesses, etc.
There is a
large problem in developing a motive to deceive that would be
greater than the consequences of that deception. Remember, the
disciples would be risking their security, safety, families, and
their lives for their beliefs.
at the tomb would have to be bribed, but the only bribing we see
is from the Jewish leaders (Matt.
who had a very strong motivation to finish what they had started
witnesses not involved with the disciples would have to be
obtained in order to validate the story. But this means that a
strong incentive would have to be offered to the additional
witnesses since their story would likely get them in deep trouble
with the Jewish leadership.
Paul. He is a wild card. What illegitimate thing would motivate
him to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus when it didn't happen?
Remember, he was a heavy persecutor of the church. Something
happened to change him. According to him, it was the appearance
of the risen Lord Jesus.
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