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Attempts to Explain the Empty Tomb (2)

Stolen Body Theory

Since the swoon theory is not possible, some have suggested that the disciples stole the body. This theory supposes that the disciples formed a conspiracy to steal the body and fabricate a story that Jesus rose from the dead. Is this theory viable?

As the disciples would come to the tomb to pull off this conspiracy, they would have encountered the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. Some how, some way, these fairly uneducated and untrained fishermen would have subdued trained Roman soldiers who had the strength and power to fight in Caesars army. Yet we are asked to believe that these disciples were able to defeat armed Roman solders.

Second, the disciples would have to roll the stone back without anyone else in Jerusalem noticing. Again, the tomb is not in some far away place near a major road where people would have passed by. We not only must believe that 11 men subdued trained, armed Roman soldiers, but that no one in all the city of Jerusalem noticed a dozen men stealing a dead body.

Next, rather than simply steal the body as a grave robber would do, they unwrap the linens from the body, fold the linens up, and leave them in the tomb (John 20:6-7). This process would have taken hours because the linens were not merely wrapped on the body, but we know historically that spices and ointments were used that acted as a glue that attached to the skin of the body. To unwrap the linens from the body would have been a long process to neatly unwrap the linens that have been, in effect, glued to the skin and then neatly wrap the linens back up and leave them in the tomb. No one who is trying to quickly get in and out would steal a body by unwrapping it and folding the linens. The risk of being noticed by other Roman soldiers and people passing by was too great. Someone would have seen them. There would have been no reason for a bunch of disciples trying to pull off a conspiracy to unwrap the linens and leave them behind.

Further, the disciples would have had to carry the naked body out of the tomb without being noticed, through the streets of Jerusalem without being noticed, and get rid of the body without being noticed. I would defy anyone to believe that eleven men walking around with a dead body (not wrapped in linens) in a bustling city like Jerusalem would go unnoticed.

Finally, liars make bad martyrs. People who truly did believe that Jesus was the Christ suffered and died for their beliefs. Many of those who truly believed renounced their faith in Christ in order to preserve their lives. All of the apostles except John died horrible deaths from persecutors. If you had fabricated a story about a risen Lord, would you have allowed yourself to be tortured and killed for a lie? I believe every person would have quickly declared that it was simply a lie rather than die. If the disciples made it all up by stealing the body, they would have never gone to their deaths to maintain the conspiracy. They would have admitted their deception. We must believe that the apostles believed Jesus had risen from the dead and seen it with their own eyes to go to the death for preaching the risen Jesus.

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