Thursday, December 17, 2015

The guards at the tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard (Mt 27:62-66).

This is discounted by "skeptics" due to its patently apologetic thrust. But a basic problem with that reaction is that the anecdote is inherently plausible. If Jesus predicted that he was going rise from the dead, both Pilate and the Jewish establishment would be motivated to nip that legend in the bud. Surely they didn't need an aggressive new religious sect, headquartered in Jerusalem, to contend with.

Moreover, even if you lack prior belief in Jesus, there's nothing implausible about messianic claimants forecasting their return from the dead. To my knowledge, that's not uncommon. Making good on the prediction is the tough part. To take a modern example, some devotees are still waiting for Rebbe Manachem Schneerson to rise from the grave. So there's no reason to doubt that Jesus made that prediction. 


  1. Some skeptics will say that since the guards weren't posted until the next day that Jesus's body could have been stolen in the mean time. On the one hand, this fact could be used as an argument that Matthew was not making the story up. if he was making it up he would have had the guards there immediately. On the other hand, the guards would presumably check the tomb before sealing it.

  2. Good points, and always good to hear from you.