The Missing Body
Even when critics accept that Jesus actually lived and was sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate and died on the cross, they will fall back on fraud theories, that Jesus was not resurrected, but that someone stole the body, and the resurrection is a fiction of the church. When looking at who stole the body, the most logical conclusion is that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. They were the ones with the most to gain. This theory misses two important points. First, the disciples were in no condition to steal the body. They were disillusioned. In the Gospel of Luke, after the women return from the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, Luke writes, “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Luke 24:11 (1). Second, if the disciples had stolen the body to start a new religion, they would most likely not have kept to their story once the Jewish and Roman persecutions started. The church fathers write that all but one of the disciples were executed for their beliefs. While many people will die for a lie, they will not die for something they know to be a lie. Any one of the disciples could have prevented their death by recanting their story.
Other variations on the stolen body have the Romans or the Jews stealing Jesus’ body. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would have had a motive to steal the body, and once Christianity began to spread, they could have easily stopped it by producing Jesus’ body.
Perhaps one of the most unusual takes on the stolen body theory is presented in resurrection, by Hank Hanegraaff (7). He writes about philosopher Robert Craig Cavin’s twin theory. In this theory, Jesus had an identical twin that was separated from Jesus at birth. During Passover, the twin is in Jerusalem and saw Jesus being crucified. Seeing an opportunity, the twin steals the body and impersonates Jesus, fooling the disciples into believing that Jesus had risen. Later Cavin’s research caused him to acknowledge that this theory was wrong.
Other variations on the missing body theory are, that the body was buried in a shallow grave or tossed into a pit and was consumed by wild dogs, or that the women and disciples just went to the wrong tomb. The body being consumed by dogs would go against all Jewish customs regarding the handling of a corpse. The very fact that Jesus’ body was taken down before sundown of the Sabbath, shows the Romans were cognizant of the Jewish customs. The belief that the disciples went to the wrong grave and never discovered their error, strains belief.
The missing body theories fail to explain the change in the disciples from fearful to courageous, and fail to explain how they were willing to die for a lie. Additionally, they fail to explain the appearances of Jesus after His death.

All Bible verses quoted in this paper are from the International Bible Society, ed., The Holy Bible, New International Version (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1973, 1978, 1984), 1.

Hank Hanegraaff, resurrection (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2000), 7.



About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
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  1. Allallt says:

    Joseph Atwill is a historian who believes Jesus was a myth created by the Romans. His lead evidence (I’m afraid I haven’t read the book) is the similarity between Jesus as described in the Bible and the military action of Titus according to Josephus.
    This doesn’t account for whythe Romans would have stolen Jesus’ body (because it says they made him up entirely). However, it does allude to a motive for why the Romans might steal Jesus’ body.
    Romans believed their emperors should be included in the pantheons of their conquered people’s gods. Many polytheistic cultures did this. But the overtly monotheistic Jews would not.
    If Jesus were a real person the Romans could have stolen his body on order to fabricate the story of his Resurrection so that his narrative looks like a prophecy of Titus.

    • dwwork says:

      There was no reason for the Romans to steal Jesus’ body. One reason would be that the Romans were meticulous about not offending local religious customs as long as they did not conflict with Roman rule. The Jewish religion had very strict rules on how a human corps was to be handled and when it could be handles. Also, as far as the Romans were concerned Jesus was just another common criminal so nothing was to be gained by taking the body.
      As to Atwill’s premise that it was the Romans who had Josephus and others concoct Christianity in order to control the Jews in rebellion we have to ask why? By the time Josephus was writing his histories the Jews had been defeated. Jerusalem had been destroyed and the temple was not more. There was no longer a Jewish threat to Roman rule. Josephus could not have written the gospels before 70 AD because up until that time he was a Jewish general fighting the Romans.
      The real reason Atwill’s theory is garbage is that he posits that Christianity was invented circa 73 AD and not only was Paul’s writings which contain all core Christian doctrines completed before 70 AD, most likely by the early 60’s or late 50’s, but Tacitus says that Nero was persecuting Christians in Rome in 64 AD. This persecution of Christians was also mentioned by Suetonius. By the time Josephus was writing his histories Christianity had spread from Jerusalem to Rome.
      Atwill has a great theory meant to sell books and videos, similar to the Passover Plot, but lacks both scholarly attention to detail and is of the genre of writing that the author is somehow so much smarter than everyone else in the he alone is able to see connections all the others somehow missed. You can find a much more expansive rebuttal of Atwill at http://www.caesarsmessiahdebunked.com . Maybe I will but his book when I have extra time on my hands but it seems to me a waste of money.

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