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The Disciples Stole The Body & Claimed Jesus Had Risen
This actually was one of the first suggestions made by the authorities in Jerusalem, when they discovered the body had disappeared.
The Guard At The Tomb
The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. MATTHEW 27:62-66
The Report of the Guard
As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today. MATTHEW 28:11-15
According to this claim Jesus did not die at all. He was taken down from the cross by his followers, who later claimed he had risen from the grave.
There are two problems with this theory
• Why not just produce the body if it really was stolen?
Why did the enemies of Jesus not just produce the body/any body?
• Why would ten out of the eleven disciples be willing to die for a lie?
If the disciples or somebody else stole Jesus' body and then made up a story about his rising from the dead, why were they so terrified of being arrested by the authorities that they hid in an upper room? And why would all but one of the eleven disciples die a martyr's death for what they knew to be a lie?