Did Grave Robbers Remove Jesus’ Body?

The empty tomb requires an explanation. It is clear that neither Jesus’ friends nor his enemies removed his body. Is it possible that someone who was neither his friend, nor his enemy stole his body? Is it possible that in the two nights that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb someone came along and stole his body – carried it to a distant location and dumped it for it to rot or be eaten by animals?

Even nowadays this is a view held by some. However, it fails to come to terms with a number of facts.

1) The tomb was under official guard for the two nights that Jesus’ body lay there.

2) The stone covering the tombs entrance was extremely large and would have been difficult to remove.

3) The tomb was sealed under Roman authority. Breaking the seal would have meant certain death for any grave robber. Why risk this when there was nothing of any value to steal?

4) In Israel touching a body was banned by their law. Under Levitical law contact with a human corpse, human bones, or a grave (Num 19:11, 13, 16), constituted a person to be ceremonially unclean. A ceremonially unclean person was barred from the sanctuary or Temple (cf. Lev 12:4; Num 19:13, 20), and might not touch any sacred object for the duration of his uncleanness (cf. Num 19:22). The only way to make purification was through the sacrifice of a red heifer. (Num 19).

5) Why try and steal Jesus’ body? It was not worth anything. Jesus was not wealthy and was not buried with any riches. Who would have wanted his body? It is perhaps conceivable that loyal supporters (such as the disciples) may have wanted the body – but why would strangers want it? There would have been no financial reward and much danger in stealing a corpse. It just doesn’t make any sense.

6) Grave robbery is extremely uncommon even now. What is the likelihood that in the two nights that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb it would have been taken? Very long odds indeed.

So if Jesus’ friends didn’t remove His body, His enemies didn’t remove His body and graverobbers didn’t remove His body – what am I supposed to believe? It just got up and walked out?

“We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), “The Adventure of Bruce-Partington Plans”