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The resurrection of Christ is the fulcrum of everything we believe, and a turning point in history, no matter what you believe. If it's real, the implications are immense. If it didn't happen, the implications are immense. Let's talk.

Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby Chunk » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:29 pm

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 what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[t] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[u] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Yes the Pharisees correctly understood Jesus's prophecy. If Judas was the one who told them, it still raises the question of how did Judas/Pharisees understand Jesus better than the other 11 disciples? Pilate allegedly released the body but also ordered the guards.
Chunk
 

Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:54 pm

The trick is finding where Jesus allegedly told them this. That would be the challenge for you to come with that information. Since Jesus only mentioned his resurrection to them hidden in an analogy (Mt. 12.40; Jn. 2.19), what they're talking about isn't clear. The Matthew text doesn't mention resurrection or rising. In John they clearly didn't understand (Jn. 2.20).

So if you think the Pharisees so correctly understood Jesus's prophecy of the resurrection, and since they claim Jesus said to them that after 3 days he would rise again, you need to find that text for me. Your case depends on that text.

That's why I suggested that perhaps Judas told them, because this is a more reasonable prospect, given what we know.

So, if you can find the text, we can discuss this further.

> it still raises the question of how did Judas/Pharisees understand Jesus better than the other 11 disciples?

Well, there's no reason to believe the Pharisees understood Jesus better than the disciples. A possible explanation for the disciples is that they were out of their minds with fear and grief, whereas Judas wasn't fearing for his life or apparently sad about what was happening to Jesus.
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Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby Chunk » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:41 pm

Im not sure what you are asking of me. Didn't my previous reply cite the relevant passage where the Pharisees acknowledge that Jesus said "After three days I will rise again."? My issue here is why did the Pharisees understand Jesus when he said he would rise after three days but Jesus' own disciples did not.

> Well, there's no reason to believe the Pharisees understood Jesus better than the disciples. A possible explanation for the disciples is that they were out of their minds with fear and grief, whereas Judas wasn't fearing for his life or apparently sad about what was happening to Jesus.

So your proposition is that indeed, the disciples understood Jesus about rising three days later but were too grieved to remember?
Chunk
 

Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:24 pm

> Im not sure what you are asking of me. Didn't my previous reply cite the relevant passage where the Pharisees acknowledge that Jesus said "After three days I will rise again."?

No, you quoted Matthew 27.62-66 where the Pharisees claim, "Jesus told us he would rise again after 3 days." What I'm asking of you is, Where did Jesus tell them that? I think they're lying. Jesus never told them that. They must have gotten the information from somewhere else. But if you can find where Jesus told them what the Pharisees claim he told them, I'd like to see it.

> My issue here is why did the Pharisees understand Jesus when he said he would rise after three days but Jesus' own disciples did not.

I know this is your issue. I think the Pharisees are paranoid in the sense of they are very afraid.

> So your proposition is that indeed, the disciples understood Jesus about rising three days later but were too grieved to remember?

There were about a half dozen times when Jesus told his disciples that he would be crucified and then rise again. It's tough to know what they thought of that. Jewish teaching in the 1st century was that all righteous people would rise again to a spirit life in eternity after a period of being dead. That's most likely how they heard his words (understandably, in their own cultural context and according to their worldview). There was no expectation in Jewish teaching of a physical resurrection back to life on this earth, so that's not likely what they understood him to be saying.

The question at hand is where the chief priests and the Pharisees got this understanding to the point where they were afraid it might actually happen (or that someone might steal the body and claim it happened, exciting messianic fervor that could bring the Roman armies down upon them).

There's no record in the Gospels that Jesus ever said any such thing to them.

We know, according to the Gospel accounts, that the disciples were overwhelmed with fear. They had run away in the garden, Peter denied Christ when confronted, only John was at the execution scene, and the disciples were in hiding.

So we're left to make sense of this. Is it conceivable that it's a fabrication to justify the stolen body? Anything is possible, but it seems more likely that it goes back to an actual event. The Jewish leaders were deeply afraid of Jesus, jealous of his influence over the people, and murderous in their disdain of him. Somehow they have a fear of him still creating trouble for them (and the nation) even after his death.

We don't know where they got this understanding. There's no record Jesus ever told them this, and the disciples (including Judas) most likely didn't understand it either, even though they had been clearly told. The Pharisees hadn't been in communication with the disciples, except for Judas. Judas had the possibility of hearing more than the Pharisees did. My guess? Judas mentioned it to them, they recalled Jesus's oblique statements, they were steeped in fear, and they decided to pursue all options to stop the Jesus movement.

What do you think?
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Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby Chunk » Wed Feb 28, 2018 2:13 pm

> No, you quoted Matthew 27.62-66 where the Pharisees claim, "Jesus told us he would rise again after 3 days." What I'm asking of you is, Where did Jesus tell them that? I think they're lying. Jesus never told them that. They must have gotten the information from somewhere else. But if you can find where Jesus told them what the Pharisees claim he told them, I'd like to see it.

I see. From what I read in Matthew, the Pharisees do not claim that Jesus told them directly, but simply that they heard about it. The passage says "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’". They didn't specifically claim that they heard it straight from Jesus' mouth, but I fail to see how any of this is relevant, whether they heard it directly or indirectly.

> We don't know where they got this understanding. There's no record Jesus ever told them this, and the disciples (including Judas) most likely didn't understand it either, even though they had been clearly told. The Pharisees hadn't been in communication with the disciples, except for Judas. Judas had the possibility of hearing more than the Pharisees did. My guess? Judas mentioned it to them, they recalled Jesus's oblique statements, they were steeped in fear, and they decided to pursue all options to stop the Jesus movement.

That is kind of the point of the issue being raised. If the other disciples (let's leave Judas out for a while) did not fully understand Jesus that he would be raised after three days and were not expecting it, as seen by their grief and fear, then how did the Pharisees come to this understanding. I don't see the relevance of the vehicle of which this information came to the Pharisees, whether directly from Jesus or from Judas.

Let's grant that indeed it was Judas who told the Pharisees about Jesus being raised three days later. The question still stands, how did the Pharisees/Judas understand it better than the other disciples? It seems more likely that the passage in Matthew was a literary invention to emphasize that Jesus was really resurrected, instead of the body being stolen by placing guards there.
Chunk
 

Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby jimwalton » Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:43 pm

Thanks. Now we're having a good discussion.

> From what I read in Matthew, the Pharisees do not claim that Jesus told them directly, but simply that they heard about it.

We can look at the Greek terms, but they'll only help a little, if at all. Matthew uses the term ἐμνήσθημεν (emnesthemen), "To remember." But it can also easily be translated colloquially as "It occurred to us." It sounds like they are dredging up some knowledge, possibly faint or even indeterminate, of such a prediction. Even so, the thought, as hazy as it might have been, must have come from somewhere.

Let's look at it from the standpoint of historical logic.

The story in Matthew, obviously, is part of an apologetic for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. It is Matthew's case given to ward off any suggestion that the disciples had in fact stolen the body, which would seem the most natural explanation for the emptiness of the tomb, as you are suggesting (or that someone stole the body). But if we look at the whole case, it's a very unlikely invention.

1. It is implausible to suppose that the whole story would have been invented in the first place, let alone told and finally written down, unless there were already a rumor going around that the disciples had indeed stolen the body. If no one had suggested such a thing, it is difficult to imagine the disciples putting the idea into people's heads by making up tales that said they had stolen the corpse.

2. A charge like this would never have arisen unless it were already well known, or at least widely supposed, that there was truly an empty tomb, and/or a missing body, requiring an explanation. If the empty tomb were mere legend, it is unlikely that people would have spread stories about body stealing, and also therefore that Christians themselves would report such stories, which would only undermine their claim, and then they'd have to refute their own fabricated accusation!

3. The story presupposes that for the chief priests, the Pharisees, and presumably anyone else involved, the reported prediction that Jesus would "rise again within 3 days" must refer to something that would happen to his corpse. If anybody had supposed that "rising again" meant that Jesus's soul had gone to heaven while his body remained in the tomb, or anything even vaguely like that, there would have been no need for a guard or a stone, or for stories and counter-stories to be circulated.

4. The telling of the story indicates well enough that the early Christians knew that the charge of stealing the body was one they were always likely to face—that it was preferable to tell the story of how the accusation had arisen, even at the risk of putting ideas into people's head, rather than leave the accusation unanswered.

The point is that a story like this could only have any reason to exist at all in a community where the empty tomb was an absolute and unquestioned datum. If the empty tomb were, say, an apologetic fiction or a legend, both of stories of body-snatching and of counter stories to explain why body snatching is untrue, are simply unbelievable. None of it is every necessary unless there really was an empty tomb.

So what you may be proposing is:

1. Christianity began without any belief in Jesus’s bodily resurrection.

2. Early Christians began (unwisely, it seems) to use resurrection language to speak of Jesus's spiritual or heavenly exaltation.

3. Other early Christians, misunderstanding this to refer to a bodily resurrection, began to tell backup stories about the discovery of an empty tomb (with batty women as the principal witnesses!)

4. Jewish onlookers, anxious about the rise of Christianity, believed these (fictitious) accounts of the empty tomb and began to circulate the story about the disciples stealing the body.

5. Yet other early Christians, discovering that such stories were circulating, made up a convenient tradition tracing them back to the priests, the guard, and the bribe.

6. This tradition found its way into Matthew's Gospel and he carefully wove it into his account.

All this would have to have happened within 60 years at the outside, dating Matthew around AD 90, which is as late as most scholars would go; less if the date is earlier, as it might well be.

The problem is that all of this is far less believable than the story as it's told.

How is it that the Pharisees/Judas understand it better than the disciples? Again, there is no particular reason for a late fictional apologetic account to credit the Pharisees with this knowledge. In the grand scheme of things, there are only problems brewing by making all this up. What is more likely is that it goes back to actual events.
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Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby Chunk » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:05 pm

> It is implausible to suppose that the whole story would have been invented in the first place, let alone told and finally written down, unless there were already a rumor going around that the disciples had indeed stolen the body. If no one had suggested such a thing, it is difficult to imagine the disciples putting the idea into people's heads by making up tales that said they had stolen the corpse.

It's implausible because "If no one had suggested such a thing...", but what if someone did suggest such a thing? A strong case for the implausibility wasn't made here. Consider the facts, the posting of guards is only found in Matthew, where Matthew diverges from his source material (Mark) and adds this small detail in. Also, the author would not have known about the guards reporting the event to the Pharisees and how they bribed them to keep hush. Matthew specifically adds in this detail to address whether the body is stolen or not.

> A charge like this would never have arisen unless it were already well known, or at least widely supposed, that there was truly an empty tomb, and/or a missing body, requiring an explanation. If the empty tomb were mere legend, it is unlikely that people would have spread stories about body stealing, and also therefore that Christians themselves would report such stories, which would only undermine their claim, and then they'd have to refute their own fabricated accusation!

I am not arguing here that the empty tomb was a legendary account (although that is my current position). This thread is about the plausibility of a stolen body, which presupposes the empty tomb already. Christians were not the ones spreading the stolen body hypothesis, according the Matthew :

> And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

I don't understand why you would think Christians would have to refute their own fabrications, a stolen body hypothesis does not require Christians to hold that view.

> The story presupposes that for the chief priests, the Pharisees, and presumably anyone else involved, the reported prediction that Jesus would "rise again within 3 days" must refer to something that would happen to his corpse. If anybody had supposed that "rising again" meant that Jesus's soul had gone to heaven while his body remained in the tomb, or anything even vaguely like that, there would have been no need for a guard or a stone, or for stories and counter-stories to be circulated.

This is similar to your second point, but I'm not arguing against the empty tomb itself here. Yes if they indeed posted guards at the tomb, that would presuppose that they understood rising three days later as something physical rather than spiritual.

> The telling of the story indicates well enough that the early Christians knew that the charge of stealing the body was one they were always likely to face—that it was preferable to tell the story of how the accusation had arisen, even at the risk of putting ideas into people's head, rather than leave the accusation unanswered.

As Matthew writes in his gospel, this hypothesis was already in circulation by the time he wrote. It was not something Christians were likely to face, they were already facing it, allegedly, and Matthew is writing a rebuttal.

> So what you may be proposing is: (1) Christianity began without any belief in Jesus’s bodily resurrection. (2) Early Christians began (unwisely, it seems) to use resurrection language to speak of Jesus's spiritual or heavenly exaltation. (3) Other early Christians, misunderstanding this to refer to a bodily resurrection, began to tell backup stories about the discovery of an empty tomb (with batty women as the principal witnesses!) (4) Jewish onlookers, anxious about the rise of Christianity, believed these (fictitious) accounts of the empty tomb and began to circulate the story about the disciples stealing the body. (5) Yet other early Christians, discovering that such stories were circulating, made up a convenient tradition tracing them back to the priests, the guard, and the bribe. (6) This tradition found its way into Matthew's Gospel and he carefully wove it into his account.

> All this would have to have happened within 60 years at the outside, dating Matthew around AD 90, which is as late as most scholars would go; less if the date is earlier, as it might well be.

I would only agree with points (5) and (6), but I don't know why you would need 60 years to accomplish this, and even if it did, so what?

> The problem is that all of this is far less believable than the story as it's told.

This is probably where we would not agree, I see how the author of Matthew could insert some details into Marks account (he does elsewhere as well) to combat the current sentiment that the tomb was empty for other reasons as much more plausible than Jesus' actual resurrection. Would people create a lie to support a "truth"? Absolutely.

"What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them." -Martin Luther
Chunk
 

Re: The stolen body hypothesis is plausible

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:01 pm

> what if someone **did** suggest such a thing?

I think it's normal, expected, and historical that this is actually what happened.

> Consider the facts, the posting of guards is only found in Matthew, where Matthew diverges from his source material (Mark) and adds this small detail in.

Matthew diverges from Mark in SO many places that his book can be largely considered to be an idiosyncratic telling of the story of Jesus. For instance, in the resurrection story (Matt. 28.1-8), Matthew tells his version in 136 words, only 35 of which are common to Mark.

> Also, the author would not have known about the guards reporting the event to the Pharisees and how they bribed them to keep hush.

Matthew could have known this. We know that there were various Roman converts to Christianity in the years following Jesus's life. Matthew stayed in the Jerusalem region for several decades. He could easily have met and conversed with various converts and heard the story. This doesn't even take imagination to assume.

> Christians were not the ones spreading the stolen body hypothesis, according the Matthew

According to the text of Matthew, the story was first circulated by the guards (28.11-15) not by the disciples. After all, dereliction of duty was a capital crime for the guards. The 1st-century Roman writer Petronius (Satyricon 112) tells of soldiers executed for dereliction of duty guarding crucifixion victims.

> And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day

So Matthew wasn't the one to either perpetrate or perpetuate the story, only to explain it.

> I don't understand why you would think Christians would have to refute their own fabrications, a stolen body hypothesis does not require Christians to hold that view.

The Christians were telling a story of resurrection. So you're claiming that someone (unknown) stole the body, Christians assumed it was a resurrection and started preaching that, but when various parties suggested the body was stolen, they came up with a case affirming that it had not been stolen?

I'm not confident that further dialogue is going to break our impasse. I obviously consider that the stolen body hypothesis is implausible, and you obviously continue to think so. To me a stolen body is not a strong case, except if you regard many things Matthew wrote as fictional, which to me is selected and choosing evidence for the sole purpose of fitting your preconceived notions.

> Would people create a lie to support a "truth"?

But what did they gain from such a gargantuan deception? What was in it for them (that they knew at the time of their decision to go forward with this decision)?


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