Even William Lane Craig Admits the Overwhelming Majority of Scholars believe that Matthew’s Guards at the Tomb Story is Fictional

In a 2001 interview with John Ankerberg, conservative evangelical Christian apologist and New Testament historian, William Lane Craig, made the following surprising admission regarding the historicity of the “Guards at the Tomb of Jesus” pericope, found only in the Gospel of Matthew.  The interview has subsequently been deleted from Ankerberg’s website.  However, I was able to find a transcript of an excerpt from this interview here.  The excerpt is reposted below:

William Lane Craig:

[T]his is a question that I think is probably best left out of the program because the vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew’s guard story as unhistorical. I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story, and the main reasons for that are two. One is because it’s only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a Roman guard or even a Jewish guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn’t know about it nor would there be any mention of it. The other reason is nobody seemed to understand Jesus’s resurrection predictions. The disciples who heard it most often had not an inkling of what he meant and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard of these predictions and understood them so well but they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again that doesn’t seem to make sense so most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as a legendary Matthean invention that isn’t really historical.



6 thoughts on “Even William Lane Craig Admits the Overwhelming Majority of Scholars believe that Matthew’s Guards at the Tomb Story is Fictional

  1. Wow, this is a dishonest post.

    Nowhere does Craig admit to disbelieving in the guard at the tomb. He just explains why it’s not a subject to focus on, and gives the reasons. Unlike the crucifixion, the disciples’ experiences of Jesus after His death, and the conversion of Paul (which are pretty much unanimously agreed to by scholars – see Habermas), the guard at the tomb isn’t. The reasons being the ones he outlines: comparing Mark to Matthew etc.

    The only way to get “Craig doesn’t believe in the gaurd” is to read your own disbelief into his comments.

    I would follow Craig’s advice: I believe in the guard, since Matthew otherwise proves historically reliable. But I wouldn’t focus on debating about it, and would focus the crucifixion, post-death appearances and conversion of Paul.
    Any explanation of the origin of the church needs to adequately address these three facts – and none of the natural explanations do. They hardly work on their own (ie you need a stolen body AND hallucinations to get them to work) so improbabilities multiply.


    1. Talk about an utter lack of reading comprehension. Nowhere was it said that WLC disbelieved in it. Rather, WLC admits that most scholars disbelieve it. Anyone who has read or watched WLC debate, would know that WLC likes to make arguments from authority, and claims that his views is held by the majority of scholars. The “minimal facts” argument of the “empty tomb” is, as WLC says, nearly undisputed by all relevant authorities.

      Next time, read before you object.


    2. Hi Liam,

      Thank you for your comment, but as Dan points out, I never claimed that Craig does not believe in the Guards at the Tomb Story. I simply point out that Craig admits that the overwhelming, almost unanimous, consensus of NT scholars doubts its historicity.


    3. Liam,
      I think people will agree that the crucifixion happened.

      A missing body from a tomb is not miraculous essentially, unless there is some way like guards to show that the body wasn’t taken out by two sympathizers at night.

      The post death appearances could be compared to Pentecostals and modern Charismatics’ group visions of Jesus and Mary. The modern Charismatics can be quite fanatical and might be willing to undergo repression in some circumstances, but most mainstream Christians are skeptical about charismatics’ vision claims.


  2. Old ”Matt” liked his embellishments, did he not?
    But of course the Raising of the Dead Saints is absolute fact, right? Ask Norman Geisler!
    … or better still, Mike Licona. lol…


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