I'm going to comment on a statement attributed to William Lane Craig, concerning the guards at the tomb of Jesus. It had been posted on YouTube, but apparently that's no longer available. However, there is a transcript floating around. Assuming the transcript is accurate, that will form the basis of my comments:
Well now this is a question that I think is probably best left out of the program, because the vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew's guard story as unhistorical.
I don't look to NT scholars to tell me what really happened. They don't know something I don't know. They don't have an independent source of knowledge. They weren't there. They don't know anybody who was there. They have the same source of information I have.
Even if we bracket the inspiration of Scripture, who's more likely to know what happened–a scholar writing 2000 years after the fact, or a 1C author of a 1C Gospel? Matthew is in a far better position to know what he's talking about than "scholars" who are 2000 years removed from the events.
I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story.
It's incredible that Craig would say that. Just off the top of my head, scholars who defend the historicity of this account include Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, D. A. Carson, Knox Chamblin, R. T. France, Craig Keener, Leon Morris, John Nolland, Grant Osborne, Robert Stein, David Turner, David Wenham, and N. T. Wright. I can't quite tell what C. A Evans' position is, but he takes the account seriously enough to supply a lot of corroborative material.
And the main reasons for that are two: One is because it's only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a Roman guard or even a Jewish guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn't know about it and that there wouldn't be any mention of it.
i) I find Craig's objection very odd. Our primary evidence for what Mark knew is what Mark recorded. Although Mark may well have known some things he didn't write down, the only hard evidence we have of what he actually knew is what he actually wrote. By definition, whatever else he may have known he kept to himself.
ii) Moreover, why assume that he would have included this incident in his gospel even if he knew about it? The gospels are selective accounts. Maybe it didn't interest him. Maybe it didn't interest his target audience.
iii) Conversely, Matthew, Luke, and John all record things you don't find in Mark. So why would this be exceptional?
The other reason is that nobody seemed to understand Jesus' resurrection predictions. The disciples - who heard them most often - had not an inkling of what he meant and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard of these predictions and understood them so well that they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again, that doesn't seem to make sense.
That fails to distinguish between what the disciples understood and what the disciples believed. Although the disciples sometimes misunderstood Jesus, oftentimes their problem was not a failure to understand him, but a failure to believe him. They found many things he said hard to believe. This is a common theme in the Gospels. Jesus frequently reprimands the disciples for their lack of faith.
So, most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as a legend or a Matthean invention that isn't really historical. Fortunately, this is of little significance for the empty tomb of Jesus, because the guard was mainly employed in Christian apologetics to disprove the conspiracy theory that the disciples stole the body.
It may not be significant to Craig, but it's clearly significant to Matthew. And shouldn't Christians calibrate their faith by Matthew rather than Craig?
But no modern historian or New Testament scholar would defend a conspiracy theory, because it's evident when you read the pages of the New Testament that these people sincerely believed in what they said. So, the conspiracy theory is dead, even in the absence of a guard at the tomb.
Unbelievers regard any naturalistic explanation, however unlikely, as more likely than a miracle.
The true significance of the guard at the tomb story is that it shows that even the opponents of the earliest Christians did not deny the empty tomb, but rather involved themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain it away by saying that the disciples had stolen the body. And that's the real significance of Matthew's guard at the tomb story.
But if the account is unhistorical, then how is that account a historical witness to belief in the empty tomb?
I'd like to close with a few general observations:
i) To some extent, Craig's position is surprising. After all, he used to defend this very account. However, that was about 30 years ago, so maybe he's changed his mind.
ii) But at another level, this is consistent with Craig's apologetic strategy, which stresses scholarly consensus and a minimal facts approach.
iii) However, Craig's reply seems to go beyond apologetic strategy. He doesn't seem to be confining himself to a hypothetical fallback position. He isn't merely saying that even if, for the sake of argument, this account is fictitious, that would still be of "little significance" because it doesn't impinge on the core facts about the Resurrection. Rather, he seems to be openly denying the historicity of the account.