A Christian Examines my Alternative Explanation for the Resurrection Belief, Part 1

A few posts ago, I gave what I believe to be a much more probable, naturalistic explanation for the early Christian Resurrection belief.  As I explained in that post, I was not trying to prove WHAT happened, but only what MAY have happened, based on what little evidence we do have surrounding the death of Jesus.  I explained that my hypothetical scenario explains all the non-contested evidence (Habermas’ Minimal Facts) and is much more plausible than a never heard of before or since resurrection of a dead body.  In addition, in the discussion below you will see that I can even go so far as to accept the Empty Tomb and “Matthew’s” Roman Guards at the Tomb as facts just to keep the Christians happy.  You can read the original post here.

Christians still assert that my naturalistic explanation is “implausible”.  How is this possible?

Here is one Christian’s explanation:


I appreciate the incorporation of the minimal broadly (though of course not universally) accepted facts. (A different strategy worth trying would be to challenge the minimal fact set, as you’ve also done occasionally. I’m not against the attempt in principle, but I appreciate precision about what different strategies involve.)

Without presumption of exotic factors, allow me to consider points of problematic plausibility — not apparently that you find them problematic, of course (I’ll take you seriously when you say you think these are plausible), but I personally would still find them implausible as an atheist.  [This Christian is a former atheist]

Gary’s scenario, Part 1:  Someone moves the body.

This is presented as being sufficiently plausible, simply as a statement in itself. But even without consideration of the second half of the tomb guard story (and I would conclude the body of Jesus went missing this early based on that polemic artifact, as in my Curious Key series several years ago — I’ll be providing a link set for convenience Wed morning), I don’t find this historically plausible as a normal operation. The body wouldn’t normally be moved for a year; there is no reason given to plausibly move it before then; no plausible explanation is given why an otherwise unexplained normal movement of the body wouldn’t be quickly explained by whoever moved it; no plausible explanation is given for an abnormal movement of the body which would be kept secret afterward.


Thank you for your extensive review of my scenario. First, however, I must remind you that I am not trying to prove what happened. I am only suggesting a possible explanation of what MIGHT have happened. This is analogous to a police detective gathering all the evidence in a case and then considering all possible scenarios that incorporate the evidence. He or she would then begin eliminating each possible scenario, starting with the most plausible scenario.

In this “crime” the police detective has a missing dead body and an empty tomb. He is aware of the burial customs of the culture and he is aware that guards were posted at some time period after the body was placed in the tomb. However, he is also aware of these known facts: 1. Some people do violate cultural customs in some situations. 2. The guards were not stationed at the tomb for the entire period of time. 3. Even the best of soldiers can sleep on the job or go AWOL. 4. Weird things happen. 5. People rob graves. 6. People steal dead bodies for weird purposes.

Bottom line: It is plausible that someone moved the body. If it were not plausible, Matthew would not have the Sanhedrin spreading the story that the disciples moved the body.

I certainly understand if you believe that it is “unlikely” that someone moved the body, but to say that it is “implausible” that someone moved the body means that it is “not a reasonable explanation”. In order for you to say this I believe you would need to prove that no graves in first century Palestine were ever robbed and bodies stolen. Even if there was ONE instance of a grave being robbed and the body stolen, “someone moving/stealing” the body would then be a reasonable explanation (although, I agree, unlikely explanation, since it is so rare). And I would contend that probability suggests that more than one grave was robbed in first century Palestine.

Do you see my point? That someone moved the body of Jesus may be very, very unlikely, but it is still a plausible (reasonable) explanation regardless of how unlikely it might be. What do you think?

And here are some interesting statistics to look at:

It is estimated that 108 billion people have existed on planet earth.  There are approximately 7 billion people alive today.  If we subtract the number of living people today from the total number who have ever existed, we arrive at the number of people who have ever died:  101 billion people.

Allowing, as we should, for the existence of the supernatural and for the existence of a Creator God, even Christians will admit that there has only been ONE resurrected dead body in all of human history (if at all).  Therefore the maximum probability of a resurrection is 1 in 101,000,000,000.

We must then ask these questions:  Did the Sanhedrin ever move dead bodies, for whatever reason, shortly after burying them in the first century?  Even if they did so only TWICE, then the moving of a dead body by the Sanhedrin is more probable than a resurrection.  What about the Romans?  Did Pilate or any other Roman governor, for whatever reason, ever order the removal of a Jewish body shortly after it had been buried during the first century?  Even if they did so only twice, then the moving of a dead body is more probable than a resurrection.  What about grave robbers?  Did grave robbers ever rob first century graves and steal bodies in and around Jerusalem in the first century?  Even if they did so only twice, then the moving of the body by grave robbers is more probable than a resurrection.  And we can repeat the same logic by substituting in the following people:  a minority faction of the disciples; the wealthy Mary Magdalene and her servants; family members of Jesus; collectors of holy relics (the bones of holy men); etc., etc..

I realize that Christians can present numerous reasons why these groups of people would not have AS A GENERAL RULE moved the body, but the point is:  Christians cannot rule out that SOMEONE, for whatever reason, DID move the body, and the moving of the body by any one of these groups is much more probable than a never heard of before or since resurrection even allowing for the existence of the supernatural and a Creator God.

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