Bombshell! Majority of New Testament Scholars now doubt that Jesus’ Tomb was guarded by Roman Soldiers

Christian:  You’re bringing things up, Gary, that critical scholarship knew about 50 years (or more!) ago and claiming it somehow represents a defeat for the Resurrection and Christianity in general. It’s a very fundamentalist way of reading things, and one I’m not particularly interested in. The guards (at Jesus tomb) are an apologetic legend. Peter’s sermons in Acts, while having a Petrine core, are highly stylized.

In the scholarly world (i.e. the world I’m in 95%+ of the time), this (Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb) isn’t even a question. The guards at the tomb are attested in only two sources, one of which is the Gospel of Peter (written about 150 CE).


After reading your comment that most New Testament scholars now believe that the “guards at the tomb” is a literary device, not to be taken literally, I went to bed last night stunned. I did a google search and found a post by Christian blogger, “Wintery Knight”, who states that even William Lane Craig holds this view. (Read the article.) 

I couldn’t believe it! I have watched numerous of Craig’s debates and have assumed that his repeated use of the empty tomb as the best evidence for the resurrection included the Roman guards at the tomb. I wonder how many of his debate opponents are aware of this.

Again, I am truly stunned.

It seems to me that this dramatically changes the debate between skeptics and Christians. If the majority of New Testament scholars now hold the view that Jesus tomb was not guarded by Roman guards, I fail to see how Christians can claim that the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for the accumulated evidence, or, how Christians can claim that the evidence to support their supernatural explanation is “strong”.  On the contrary, it appears their evidence has just gotten much weaker.  Here is the evidence as it now stands:

1. An unguarded empty tomb.
2. The early belief by Christians in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
3. The dramatic change in the behavior of the disciples.
4. The acceptance and belief of a shameful belief system that invited persecution and even death.

Has anyone heard an evangelical or other conservative Christian pastor mention from the pulpit that the majority of NT scholars now believe that Matthew’s guards at the tomb is not historical? I would bet that the majority of Christians in the pews of evangelical, LCMS and other conservative churches would find this news absolutely shocking.


11 thoughts on “Bombshell! Majority of New Testament Scholars now doubt that Jesus’ Tomb was guarded by Roman Soldiers

  1. I know, I promised to leave but you're my only friend Gary and I found this post to be interesting and I wanted to reply. I will behave. This will be my only post unless you reply and I have a reason to reply. Otherwise I post this and shut up again.

    Ok, let us assume this is correct and Matt made this entire thing up. The reason you would assume he made it up would be to strengthen the case for the empty tomb of the risen Christ. So if the story is true you say why is Matt the only one of the 4 to mention it? Well if the story is true then have to also assume Matt 28: 11-15 is true as well since it has to do with the same guards. If this is the case then the story of the guards does nothing to enhance or strengthen the empty tomb story since the guards were paid off thus showing their questionable reliability to begin with. The Jews spread their story about the body being stolen and the guards had their money. So what? If anything Matts inclusion of the guards harms or allows more questions than it answers.

    This then may be why the other 3 don't mention it since what “good” difference would it make? The guards were paid off and the Jews say the body was stolen. Seems more of a bad thing to mention than a good thing. I'd leave it out too if writing space was at a premium and the story had nothing to offer. If Matt was making it up to defend the empty tomb then why did he allow a time for the tomb to be unguarded? If I were making it up I'd have the guards posted immediately to allow no time for an unguarded tomb. If anything it has only something completely ambiguous to offer because these guards could have:

    A. Been paid to steal the body.
    B. Stolen it on their own and used that to bribe either the Jews or the Christians.
    C. Could have been paid off by Pilate to steal the body to play with the Jews who he didn't like to begin with.
    D. All sorts of other possibilities can be imagined.

    There are so many options available for such an unimportant detail. In the end the guards detail if true could cause more problems than it solves or it could solve some problems while creating new ones. It all depends on how you interpret it, you are seeing the possible lack of guards as a problem because it leaves the tomb unguarded. You assume these guards (Roman or Jewish) to be kosher good peoples from down the road a-piece. Who is to say these guards weren't related to the Clinton's, Bush or Obama families and were easily bribed bad peoples? Matthew says they were bribed so there goes the whole idea of it being a “good” reason of including a fake story of bad guards. These guards were bad, they were paid off so I see it more of a problem that Matt even mentioned it. What does it offer the reader other than another way to question the resurrection?

    As for Billy C. He is not ready to fight and die on either battlefield, He thinks there are good reasons to believe and deny the story. For that reason he simply does not rely upon it when defending the resurrection.


  2. I should mention, let us assume the story is 100% true and the guards were posted. So what? There was still a time period where the tomb had no guards. So in the end the guards story has absolutely nothing good or bad to offer. You're making a BOMBSHELL out of a sparkler.

    Ok, I'm done. You're my frind Gary. Bestest friend EVER!


  3. We can only guess as to why Matthew included a story of the guards and the Sanhedrin's attempt to bribe them in order to hush up the true reason for the empty tomb.

    The fact is that no other author in the Bible mentions this detail. We must each come to our own conclusions of why Matthew would do this. My opinion is that he did it to counter Jewish claims that they took the body and to implicate the Jews even more in the conspiracy against the Christian Savior. Matthew is seen by Jews as a very anti-Semitic book.


  4. Well what about the Romans? Who is to say Pilate didn't want to play with the Jews? He shows his willingness to do this by placing the King of the Jews placard above Christ. Maybe he (Pilate) was so p'od at the Jews for forcing his hand in crucifying Jesus that he wanted to pay them back by raising Christ from the dead himself… If you wanted to get even with the Jews that would have been a very good way to do it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s