Talk:Stolen body hypothesis

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Article Abuse[edit]

The Resurrection of Jesus can be controversial to some non-Christians. Therefore, this article has suffered several revisions of abuse. I want to remind the Wiki Community to reference your material. Opinions need to be sourced by recognized material (Scripture or otherwise). —Preceding unsigned comment added by HBCALI (talkcontribs) 13:17, 2 April 2010 (UTC)


If the resurrection was a lie, somebody knew - but yet EVERYONE associated with the event was willingly executed for their beliefs? Does that honestly sound realistic?

  • Look, it’s one thing to die for a belief – Terrorists prove that reality every day. However, it’s another thing to die for something you KNOW is a complete, flat-out lie. People started to be killed for being Christian within years of the "resurrection". That includes The original Apostles and thousands of others. They all reportedly died without regret – for the same "lie"? A lie they KNEW about? Why? For what gain? Somebody would have squeeled about the "resurrection plot" to save thier skin(assuming a plot even exsisted).
  • Assume I wasn’t a “believer” during the first century but remained a good Roman citizen. In fact, pretend I knew the "Jesus story" was totally fake. Would I then let my wife and kids (who wanted to be Christians) get killed in the most gruesome manner for something made of Bull? No way! You can’t convince me countless people would allow such atrocity if it could have been easily stopped by producing evidence. let's give ancient humanity some moral credit. Not everyone in history was a barbarian. HBCALI (talk) 16:50, 31 March 2010 (UTC)


All Good points about the article. However, I have one issue about the "Scriptural Sources" comment. Many manuscripts of the Gospels (in existence) have been historically dated within the lifetime of the original authors. The oldest date to 40-70 C.E. (portions of John & Luke). While most others date to around 200 - 300 years after the Apostles. That's about the same distance in time between Present Day and the Revolutionary War. We don't doubt the major events that took place during the war, even though we record them in modern history books almost 300 years later. What's my point? A span of 200+ years (of itself) has not proven to pose a problem with "factual integrity" or reliable record keeping.

Let's be open and honest. The "Integrity of Scripture" aurgument is based largely on personal opinion. There is no concrete evidence that the Biblical text has been "degraded" or "altered" from it's original form. We simply have no proof of that. In contrast, an honest, academic and unbiased investigation will show that the Biblical text has been very well preserved throughout the centuries. Even many non-Christians can agree on this point.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:41, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:50, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

POV check and unreferenced tags[edit]

I've added the above tag due to a general lack of neutrality, despite the edit that someone used to try and remove some of the bias. This article could also be classified as being very controversial, however I lack the specialist knowledge to update and resolve the potential issues in this entry. -- 16:20, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

As I understand it from other articles the exact dating of the earliest gospel texts is subject to a fair degree of dispute. Meanwhile the idea that facts don't get mythologised within a couple of hundred years is clearly untrue - in US history for example much popular history is quite often wholly or mainly untrue: Plymouth Rock, Lincoln's cherry tree, Paul Revere's ride, the invention of baseball, 'All men are Created equal' (except black men), the confusion of 'the Patriots' a political party with actual patriotism, and that the supposed 'patriots' were in fact all Britsh citizens and therfore in reality all traitors... the list of modern confusion is endless. How much faster would such mytholgising have happened two thousand years ago? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:14, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

Cleanup Section[edit]

The last paragraph is totally unnecessary and irrelevant, and the one before that needs to be better written and more clear, descriptive, and detailed. I'm sure there are more things wrong with this section. I may try to clean it up in the near future. -EdGl 04:09, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

Christian Soldiers[edit]

This is almost certainly un-put-in-able, but there is the notion (unsourced) that at least some of the Roman soldiers were Christians, a theory which very neatly circumvents both of the criticisms listed here. 12:57, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Observance of religious guidelines[edit]

The disciples, as practicing Jews, could not and would not come at or near a dead body. So they could not have stolen His body in the night. - heh, to those of you who practice some religion or other: haven't you ever broken the rules of your faith? To claim that A could not commit B only because B is prohibited by his religion is totally ahistorical (as there are numerous accounts of virtualy EVERY religious and ideological rules o be bended or broken 'for a higher good' or some other cause (eg. profiteering on the believers). To claim that religious rules were never broken could also assume that HUMANS ARE INFALLIBLE, which is (2) simply not true from historical, factual, archeological, psychological and all other points of view and (2) against most theologies, especially Judaic, Christian and Muslim ones. It's obvious that they *could* break the rules of their religion in order to honor their Master and Teacher in some way. Critto

_____________________________________________________________________ Not sure any of the above is terribly helpful or enlightened. Back to the subject, Re: The Jews and dead body-thing, touching a dead body makes you ceremonially unclean (see Leviticus) hence priests in certain situations cannot bury their own dead. However, as long as you don't mind being unclean (as nicodemus and Joseph weren't) you can bury who you like- the disciples were therefore free to steal his body. Given that they were about to break the commandments, (false testimony?) being unclean would hardly be an issue. The disciples didn't steal the body for a whole bunch of other reasons. Rev Dr Jason Ward

Probability matters[edit]

In fact, it’s almost harder to believe that the apostles could have accomplished such a heist than to submit to the probability (given the circumstances) that Christ could have indeed been raised from the grave.

WHAT?!? Since when is any 'miraculous' like ressurection solution more probable than a real-world act? If we admit that it's true, we should also submit to the 'accuracy' of numerous accounts about ghosts, 'domestic' and other demons, UFOs, werewolves and vampires (people have really been afraid of them), levitation, etc, whenever other way out seems improbable (eg. how have he won such a huge sum in casino? He must have been a clairvoyant or the spirits helped him). Also, we would have to admit that Intelligent Design idea is correct: and its essence tells, that whenever an 'impossible' thing happens in the course of evolution (which the supporters of ID don't totally deny), it certainly should be attributed to a 'higher power' (God, Gods, space alien civilization, etc). Do you REALLY want this? Critto PS. I hold no pretense against Jesus or Christians, though I'm not one of them, I only WILL NOT accept 'miracles' in the scientific discourse. On the other hand, I don't want to make editions about Christianity on my own, because I know they COULD be biased.

Not NPOV[edit]

This article fails NPOV horribly; all of the evidence supposedly levelled against this hypothesis relies on using the Bible as fact. Titanium Dragon 00:53, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

I agree, it's terribly biased; I have put forth my reasoning above. Most of all, it is UNACCEPTABLE to claim that any kinds of 'miracles' or other supernatural events are more plausible than real ones, which could be solved (proven or disproven) by scientific means. No pretense against ANY faith, but in ENCYCLOPEDIA we're either on the side of FACTS or the one of magic, miracles and supernatural acts. Regards, Critto

Indeed, total failure of NPOV. The entry makes no attempt to set out the stolen body hypothesis before listing criticisms: the first section is "Critique of the stolen body hypothesis" and the second "Rebuttal of the stolen body hypothesis". Surely it should start by setting out the history and/or central principles of the theory. Who proposed it? How old is it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:30, 5 February 2008 (UTC)

I've added a POV-warning for the reasons you already described. The article is terribly biased and needs balancing. (talk) 01:37, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
The hypothesis itself assumes that the Bible is fact. If it were not, then there is no need to have an hypothesis. Since the Bible is our only record of what happened, without it you can make up anything you like, - Jesus never died, was never crucified, whatever. DJ Clayworth (talk) 18
54, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Why should we refute the Bible as a reliable source of information purely because it's a religious work? It's one of the most-- if not THE most-- scrutinized literary work(s) in the history of humanity, and the writers took extreme care to make sure that the quality of the copies were impeccable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:43, 30 December 2010 (UTC)

Anointing the body and some chronological questions of death and "resurrection"[edit]

The first question arising here is: until when were the guards told to deny entry to the tomb to anybody? Till the Sabbath ends? If so, anybody (or some people who were authorized to enter the tomb, eg. Joseph of Arimathea, Disciples of Jesus, women as Mary Magdalene, etc) could come after it's finished and legally take a body. Therefore there was no need to "steal the body", neither for the "swoon hypothesis", etc. The body could have just been legally and/or openly (or not) moved to another tomb after the guards were called off their duty (as it simply finished).

Also, what would happen to the guards -- considering the threat of death penalty that threatened them would the break their orders -- if Jesus really resurrected, moved the boulder away and quit the tomb? Would anybody among their commanders believe in such an explanation? Would it excuse their incompetence on they duty? Also, how on the Earth could women ever plan to go to ANOINT THE BODY of Jesus Christ (dead body, as no one plans to anoint a living person, as I am aware), if the tomb was guarded AND SEALED by the 2-tonne boulder? Could they have any plan to trick/bribe/etc the guards to help them to open the tomb (it seems unlikely that two fragile women could move a 2-tonne boulder; a strong group of men could cope with this task). Also, does it matter what happened to the guards? Would their fate be recorded anywhere, or were soldiers in such cases (of disobedience) just executed "at the spot", without any "paperwork"?

No side of the debate -- either apologist or critical -- seems to try to resolve this question.

Critto (talk) 16:44, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

I want to read more about the reasons why the theory is considered likely by some people[edit]

There is not enough on this. Also, has anyone considered that the gospel writers might just have (writing many decades after the events) made up the claim soldiers were on guard so as to counter the long-standing rumour that Christians stole the body?

Also , I looked at the death of Jesus article and did not see any link to this topic, which is supposedly a sub-page of it?Orlando098 (talk) 01:38, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Good point. However, many manuscripts of the Gospels (in existence) have been historically dated within the lifetime of the original authors. The oldest date to 40-70 C.E. (portions of John & Luke). While most others date to around 200 - 300 years after the Apostles. That's about the same distance in time between Present Day and the Revolutionary War. We don't doubt the major events that took place during the war, even though we record them in modern history books almost 300 years later. What's my point? A span of 200+ years (of itself) has not proven to pose a problem with "factual integrity" or reliable record keeping. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:41, 12 January 2010 (UTC)


A stolen body? Really? So maybe the guards were asleep. But why would all of the guards sleep at the same time? That right there should break the theory. Okay, so somehow all of the guards are asleep at the same time. How do you expect for a ragtag team of Apostles to swoop in, roll back a freakin huge stone, tippy-toe into the tomb, steal a full human body, and get away safely without the guards noticing? It simply does not make sense! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:38, 30 December 2010 (UTC)

WP:NOTAFORUM. Basically, the talk page is for improving the article, not talking about the article subject.
That said, and to be clear I am not exactly a proponent of the hypothesis myself, the response would be that the theory already denies parts of the Bible account (like, say, the resurrection). It's not a stretch to also simply deny that there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb - such an action would be nearly unprecedented for the time, as there are more valuable things for soldiers to do than guard tombs. Similarly, a stone so huge as to be totally immobile would also have been weird. Ultimately, there's actually consistency here between a "Christian" account and a "historian's" account: the historian would say that the guard / stone / resurrection sound weird, unlikely, and unusual for the time period. The Christian would *agree* that the situation was weird, but such is to be expected when you're really talking about the Messiah who might well merit such graveyard guards and a miraculous resurrection.
As for the historicity comments you made above, the Bible isn't discounted "simply because it's a religious book." However, weird events in the Bible are given a more skeptical eye from a non-Christian perspective, the same as any other source. I believe that according to some of the official Roman sources in Inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Emperor possessed magic powers to command the animals in the Games. Most historians - including Christian historians - agree that the Games definitely happened, but that it's unlikely the Emperor had magic. Same with, say, Romance of the Three Kingdoms where the war described definitely happened, but Zhuge Liang being actually able to change the direction of the wind through Taoist magic is unlikely. Basically, look at "mixed" works from other religions and ask if you believe 100% the religious flavored stuff in them. It's no shock if non-Christians don't entirely believe the religious parts of the New Testament (but fine for Christians to do so, from a Christian perspective!). SnowFire (talk) 08:51, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

Bribery and ritual cleanliness[edit]

This article is somewhat dismissive of the idea that the disciples could have afforded to bribe the guards, but later on, under the linen clothes, it states that Joseph of Arimathea was a man of means. I think that it should be revised to show that it's not entirely unlikely that the followers of jesus had the means to do so.

Also, I would like to point out this, which I would usually just keep to myself, but since the last section on ritual cleanliness is entirely unsourced, I think it's worth mentioning in the discussion that I doubt that, assuming that there are conspirators, they probably wouldn't think touching the dead body of the son of god is unclean. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:31, 24 February 2011 (UTC)

The Guards and Pilate as Suspects[edit]

Two other obvious suspects are (i) the guards and (ii) Pilate. The Bible says or implies that the guards worked for the Jewish authorities, but they may well have been Romans working for Pilate, who had perhaps himself decided that the body should be made to disappear - as per Bin Laden's remains. As for what Mary Magdelene did or did not see - doesn't the Bible say that Jesus had earlier removed seven demons from her, which rather suggests she had some serious psychiatric problems. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:51, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

Joseph of Arimathea[edit]

This article fails to consider that the body was stolen by Joseph of Arimathea.

All four gospels in the New Testament refer to Joseph of Arimathea. The mentions of Joseph in the gospels indicate that Joseph had the motive, the means, and the opportunity to steal the body of Jesus. MOTIVE = Joseph was a believer in Jesus, but he was also on the Sanhedrin, which condemned Jesus to death. Joseph would have felt guilty at being part of the group that condemned Jesus and angry at the Sanhedrin for condemning a good man. This guilt and anger provide the motivation for seeking retribution against the Sanhedrin. Stealing the body so that Jesus' followers could claim resurrection would be one way to make the Sanhedrin pay for what they had done. MEANS = Joseph was a rich person. He could buy things he needed and pay people to do things he wanted. He could also offer favors because of his influence sitting on the Sanhedrin. OPPORTUNITY = Joseph took possession of Jesus' body soon after Jesus died on the cross. Remember, the gospels themselves say the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death, that Joseph was on the Sanhedrin, that Joseph was a rich man, and that Joseph took control of Jesus' body. You can only say these claims are legend, my personal research, or my personal POV if you say the contents of the gospels are legend, my personal research, or my personal POV.

Joseph may have had the motive, means, and opportunity, but how did he actually steal the body? If Joseph did steal Jesus' body, he would not have gone around telling people how he did it. But here is one possibility: Joseph takes control of the body of Jesus as soon as it is removed from the cross. He wraps the body of Jesus in fine linen. On the way to the tomb, he makes a stop at his house (any excuse will do). Inside the house, out of everyone else's view, the linens are removed from Jesus' body and wrapped around a paid conspirator or a servant, who is instructed to not move (i.e., to play dead). The linen-wrapped body of the conspirator or servant is placed in the tomb. Everyone who witnesses this thinks the body of Jesus has been placed in the tomb. Later, Joseph quietly buries the body of Jesus in a secret grave elsewhere.

This would explain two other things in the gospel accounts. 1. The Roman guards at the door of the tomb, assuming there actually were any, would have been posted there after the switch had been made. The guards would not have known about the switch. So the guards were not able to prevent the theft, and, in fact, were probably just as perplexed about the missing body as anyone else. 2. The gospels say some female followers of Jesus returned to the tomb the next day. An angel (Matthew) or a young man (Mark) or two men (Luke) were in or near the tomb and told told these followers Jesus had risen. This could have been the conspirator or servant, who unwrapped himself in the tomb, and then put on a clean robe. Joseph might have told him to say Jesus had risen, then flee the area. A second conspirator might have have shown up (in Luke's account there are two men) to help the conspirator inside the tomb roll back the door blocking the tomb's entrance.

So, other than Joseph and perhaps one or two conspirators, the followers of Jesus did not know about the body being stolen. From their perspective, the body really was missing, and they genuinely believed Jesus had risen from the dead. Subsequent reports of "sightings" of Jesus, not unlike the "sightings" of Elvis after Elvis died, only reaffirmed the follower's belief Jesus had risen. The fact that these followers were willing to be martyred for their beliefs is understandable. They truly believed Jesus had risen.

This possibility ought to be considered when discussing the idea that Jesus' body was stolen from the tomb. But this is Wikipedia. As soon as I add this to the article, someone will claim it's original research, or that it's just my personal POV, and delete it.

Source improvement:[edit]

The sources in this article are a mixed bag and should be improved. I'm thinking that articles relating to Jesus and religion might have to move towards using acadaemic only books published by university presses and journal articles. There's too much apologetics and counter-apologetics. Strictly speaking, why should I or anyone else care what they have to say?

William Lane Craig is a theologian and philsopher, not a historian. Him posting on reasonable faith is not a reliable source. That's just random apologetics. Now, William Lane Craig writing in a book published by an academic press or journal might matter. Josh McDowell's book More than a Carptenter is just pure apologetics and not remotely a scholarly or academic source.

Bart D. Ehrman is a reliable source, and his books are published by an Academic press. However, a debate between him and William Lane Craig probably isn't a reliable source. He could have made any claim in that debate. He could have argued that Jesus was a space alien from Mars. There's no peer review or oversight in a debate.

Richard Carrier is massively over represented on Wikipedia in general. He has a PHD sure. But his views are a minority. It's just that he's an atheist and does counter-apologetics. But if he's just writing in, it's just as bad as apologetics sources. I'm not sure if Prometheus books is a good publisher either. They are a small time publisher.

So I'm saying raise the bar, remove both the apologetics and counter-apologetic and focus on high quality sources. Harizotoh9 (talk) 20:03, 6 March 2017 (UTC)

@Harizotoh9: I'm at "fault" for some of these references - I rewrote a bunch of the article after it was nominated for deletion to, you know, actually have sources at all rather than be just unsourced blather. I do agree that more/better sources would be nice, although I don't think most of those are quite as bad as you make them out. I also think that if you focus heavily on the "historical" side - i.e. Jesus Seminar type sources - you're going to get NPOV complaints that the "Christian" perspective isn't included. So some apologetics is going to be par for the course when 99% of the "Christian" perspective on a resurrection-denying narrative is going to be apologetics.
Craig is among the best of actually-academically-scholarly apologetics side. I'm not the one who added the reasonablefaith blog citation, for what it's worth, and would be happy to see it replaced by a journal article or the like - but it happens to be precisely on the topic of discussion, and is a way better refutation than Habermas, who is basically doing an argument from incredulity. I'd can Habermas before Craig here.
Citing a debate isn't perfect, but Ehrman is a good source, as you noted, so I feel it's okay. If Ehrman has said something similar in a published article somewhere, it'd be an easy swap over, but I didn't find it.
I would *normally* agree that Carrier is not a great source. Notably he became a Jesus-was-a-myth loon at some point. However... he has published an article on this very topic explicitly, "The Plausibility of Theft", that even made it into a published book on academic takes on the resurrection. It is among the very best sources the article has, and covers a lot of the same ground. So even if Carrier is normally a bit of a suspect source, on this particular topic, he is something of a (biased?) expert.
You didn't bring up J.N.D. Anderson and "his work", whatever that is. Those sections pre-date me so I have no idea if he's a good source, or which exact work was being cited - early Wikipedia played it a bit faster and looser on citations. If someone can dig up which book / article of his that was being referenced and check that the article does justice to it, that'd be cool.
Basically, if you want to find some better sources than Carrier's "Plausibility of Theft", please do, and add them to the article! As better sources are added, perhaps we can slowly weed out the weaker ones. That said, I looked into this ~5 years ago, and there was less good stuff than I was hoping that didn't delve into WP:OR territory. Maybe you'll have more luck than I. SnowFire (talk) 21:07, 6 March 2017 (UTC)
Potentially, this argument is too niche to have its own article. It may work better as a few lines in another article. That is something to keep in mind. Ideally, Wikipedia should be above the apologist vs. counter-apologist back and forth, and focus on high quality scholarship. Now, we can discuss apologetics, and social movements, and so forth, but we do it through the lens of such high quality sources. What do historians say that people believed at such a time, what do scholars say people believe now, what conclusions have historians made about ancient sources, etc. Now, presumably historians have discussed the concept of the Empty tomb and the implications of it? Has Bart Erhman discussed it any of his works, such as ''Did Jesus Exist?'' (Ehrman)? Harizotoh9 (talk) 00:40, 8 March 2017 (UTC)
This article is way too big to merge into another article. It credibly stands alone IMO.
If I could cite nothing but Ehrman, I would, he's one of the best sources available. Sadly he doesn't talk much about this particular theory in his popular books, just in his occasional debates. (It is *possible* he maybe discusses it in, say, those "The Great Courses" lectures you can buy, but I dunno.) I've read and own a copy of "Did Jesus Exist?" and it doesn't really cover this angle - it's aimed at much more a "did Jesus exist at all" debate, and the Resurrection isn't super-important to that.
As for what you're asking for, uh, that's "The Plausibility of Theft." Like I said above, Carrier, occasional loony personal opinions aside, is still a historian, and he discusses social movements, what historians think actually happened in the days of Early Christianity, etc. He throws on plenty of dollops of his own opinion, as his right, but it's still a scholarly overview of the topic. I'll go take another look into this, sure, maybe new sources have cropped up in the past 5 years, but this article is not just sourced to bloggers arguing on the Internet. SnowFire (talk) 14:27, 8 March 2017 (UTC)