Stealing Jesus

Stealing Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from those who don’t embrace the Christian view. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories: the Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples. 

The Romans

After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, they shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65 

So the question is, what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Indeed, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the Good News boldly and without fear. Obviously, this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine, and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. The evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples.((Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.)) The problem was, the Romans could not produce a body.  

The Jews

What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns about someone stealing the body. The Jews were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure with a posted guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The Jewish leaders did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days.  

After the resurrection, many Jews became Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body, possibly so the disciples could not steal it first and claim He rose, they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult. 

In Acts 4:1-3, Peter and John were arrested because they claimed Jesus had been resurrected. The elders and chief priests were amazed at how bold yet uneducated Peter and John were but were unable to persuade them to stop announcing the resurrection of Christ. Acts 4:13 

David Limbaugh, author of Jesus On Trial wrote concerning the stolen body theory, “Also, Matthew 28:11-15 relates that the Jews proposed an alternative theory for the empty tomb (“tell the people the disciples stole the body”), which proves they didn’t dispute that it was, in fact, empty.”1

If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that He was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over the identification of Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the discussion revolved around the disappearance of the body, not its identification. 

The Disciples

Many have claimed and still do, that the disciples stole the body to gain power, influence, and celebrity status. Limbaugh wrote, “The disciples had nothing to gain by staging some elaborate hoax in order to start a new religion; in fact, they all faced ridicule, hardship, persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths.”((Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282)) So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified.

There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? How would he know who took the body if the guard was sleeping? How could the disciples have gotten past him if he was not sleeping? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard. 

We have accounts of Christian martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ over the centuries, but in recent years, we have had evidence of others dying for their faith. For example, the Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true. 

The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced firsthand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23, other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.)) These close followers knew their Lord and were willing to die for him. Not for what they believed to be true, but for what they knew to be true. 

William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”2 

The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently, no one could produce a body because He had risen. Craig continued, “The disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if His corpse still lay in the tomb. It would have been wholly un-Jewish, not to say stupid, to believe that a man was raised from the dead when his body was known to be still in the grave.”2 Even if the disciples had boldly professed the resurrection out of ‘blind-faith’ once someone produced the body, this new religion would have died right then and there.  

Finally, in his book, Know What You Believe, Paul Little points out that people will die for many things they believe to be true. I have already pointed out the 911 attacks and the belief of those terrorists but flip the coin. How many people do you know that will die for something they ‘know’ is false?((Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2003. Print.))

The Roman and Jews could not produce the body, but the disciples would have wanted to, if doing so would have saved them from beatings, stonings, and crucifixions. 

Have you talked about the resurrection with your children beyond Easter eggs, ham, and family gatherings? Or the church activities that go beyond children making little paper tombs that represent the empty tomb? How much more impactful would it be if you sat down with your young children and gave them something beyond what seems to be the annual Easter bedtime story and shared the evidence of the resurrection with them?

Since birth, today’s teens and young adults have been saturated with market media. They recognize, but may not be able to articulate, the world’s sales pitch to purchase everything from cereal to shoes. Religion, specifically Christianity, markets ideas as much as Ford selling the F150 and General Mills selling Lucky Charms. So if you don’t want the Christian ideas to end up in the ‘junk mail’ folder or being ‘unfriended,’ you better give them reasons for the sale beyond what is typically offered. 

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, wrote, “We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch.”3

The apostles were not adverse to giving reasons or evidence for their faith. 1John 1:1-2 With some guidance, our children can move beyond the Walmart end caps full of colorful eggs and white bunnies to explain why they celebrate what we recognize as the truth of the resurrection to their unchurched or unbelieving peers at school. Go beyond the Easter egg hunt and give them reasons for believing. 

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Stealing Jesus by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282 []
  2. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print [] []
  3. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print. []
Are All Thinking Men Atheists?

Are All Thinking Men Atheists?

Reading Time: 8 minutes

I think most of us know what a poster child is. A person who represents a cause, belief, or in some way exemplifies what one would expect concerning an organization or campaign. But in this day and age, what we come across on the Internet can be very deceiving. The above is one of the favorites that I have had hanging in my classroom for years.

Like the one with Abe Lincoln, many of these can bring a smile to our faces. But, after just a moment’s consideration, you realize President Lincoln was not alive when the Internet first sprang into being, so the quote, as wise and truthful as it is, obviously is false and misleading. 

Others are not so clearly false and misleading. For example, click on this poster: 

Who wouldn’t want such powerful, influential, and brilliant men in their corner? Are all these men atheists, as the poster suggests? 

Featured above:

Abraham Lincoln
Carl Sagan
Ben Franklin
Thomas Jefferson
Charles Darwin
Albert Einstein
Mark Twain
Ernest Hemingway

There is no denying that the world has produced brilliant men and women who are atheists. Still, the above poster is an absolute misrepresentation of believers in the ranks of atheism. When I saw this poster, I was more than surprised to see who was on it. So I began to look up quotes from a couple of the gentlemen, who, I was sure, were not atheists. 

Then after confirming my suspicions, I took the time to research everyone on the poster. I selected a few quotes from each one if only to make a point of their being manipulated to make a case for atheism. Some of these men may have been atheists, but most were not. At most, some could be called agnostic. [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agnostic] An agnostic does not know or can’t decide if there is a God or not. 

As you will see below, some of these historical figures painted as atheists took offense. Some of the quotes I put in to place a smile on your face; Mark Twain’s quote about the monkeys is one. Others quotes are significant because of their clear vision of the future and what we can expect from the world. For example, the letter by Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed is so right on 168 years later; it is chilling.

Most of the quotes below are from America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations. Others from, There Is A God by Anthony Flew, an atheist turned theist in the last years of his life. Most of these men were theists, some agnostic, but only one was truly an atheist.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Our 16th president was nicknamed “Honest Abe.” He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theater five days after the Civil War ended.

  • In 1846 Lincoln wrote this in response to a rumor that he was not a Christian, “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures…”
  • In 1851 he wrote to his brother about their father’s illness, “I sincerely hope father may recover his health; but at all events tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker…”
  • In 1851 he wrote a letter to Joshua F. Speed, “How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ Now we practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.”
  • When General Lee led an army of 76,000 men into Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. was panicking. Later, Lincoln related this to a wounded general in Gettysburg, “When everyone seemed panic-stricken..I went to my room…and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed…Soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into His own hands…”
  • On March 30th, 1863, President Lincoln issued a historic proclamation appointing a National Fast Day.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an astrophysicist, astronomer, author, and popular figure in science. He authored Contact, which was made into a popular movie in 1997, and narrated the television series Cosmos. In addition, he published hundreds of scientific papers and was a supporter of Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

  • He said, “An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I’m agnostic.”
  • In his book, The Demon-Haunted World, he wrote, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
  • In 1980 he wrote, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
  • In 1981 he said, “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.”
  • In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, “I’m agnostic.”

Ben Franklin (1706-1790) was an author, scientist, printer, and one of our nation’s founding statesmen. He had an annual publication titled Poor Richard’s Almanac. In this, you would find the following:

  • God heals, and the doctor takes the fees.
  • God helps those who helps themselves. [commonly misquoted as actual scripture]
  • Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.
  • In 1748 as Pennsylvania’s Governor Franklin proposed that state’s first fast day. “It is the duty of mankind on all suitable occasions to acknowledge their dependence on the Divine Being…”
  • In 1753 he wrote a letter to Joseph Huey, “I can only show my gratitude for these mercies from God, by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren.”
  • Ben Franklin wrote in his autobiography this prayer which he prayed every day. “O powerful goodness! Bountiful Father! Merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) He was an author, scientist, architect and the 3rd President of the United States.

  • In 1781 Jefferson made this statement, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
  • In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, he wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
  • In 1801 he wrote to Moses Robinson, “The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.”
  • In 1805 Jefferson wrote in a National Prayer for Peace, “Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) Author of On the Origin of Species in 1859 and the theory of natural selection. He was one of the most influential scientists in history. He is buried in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton.

  • In 1873 Darwin wrote to a Dutch student, “I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.”
  • His son, Francis Darwin, shared in the book, The Life of Charles Darwin the following quote by his father, “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God.”
  • Reflecting on his work near the end of his life, he wrote, “I was a young man with uniformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion out of them.”
  • A few months before his death, Darwin was bedridden and often found reading. When one visitor asked what he was studying, he replied, “Hebrews, still Hebrews. The Royal Book, I call it.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Was a famous German-born American physicist who developed the Theory of Relativity, which led us into the atomic age. He received the Nobel Prize, and, I found out, he was offered the position of the President of Israel in 1952 but turned it down. Here are a few of his quotes. 

  • There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.
  • Einstein always protested against being regarded as an atheist. In a conversation with Prince Hubertus of Lowenstein, he declared, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”
  • In the book Einstein and Religion, by one of Einstein’s friends Max Jammer, Einstein said, “I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910) His given name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but he came to be known as Mark Twain. Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince, and the Pauper, and Joan of Arc. He was not an atheist, but there is no question he despised organized religion.

  • In 1869 Twain wrote Innocents Abroad, in which you could find the following, “It is hard to make a choice of the most beautiful passage in a book which is so gemmed with beautiful passages as the Bible…”
  • Mark Twain wrote, “I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed with the monkey.”
  • He also wrote, “One of the most astonishing things that has yet fallen under our observation is the exceedingly small portion of the earth from which sprang the new flourishing plant of Christianity. The longest journey our Savior ever performed was from here to Jerusalem, about one hundred to one hundred and twenty miles… Leaving out two or three short journeys, He spent his Life preaching His Gospel, and performing His miracles, within a compass no larger than an ordinary county of the United States…”

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American author of several classic American novels and honestly the only atheist in the above poster. He was seriously wounded as an ambulance driver in WWI and served in the Spanish Civil War. He authored For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He drank heavily and was married four times. 

In 1952 Hemingway was on a safari to Africa and was in two successive plane crashes that almost took his life. In 1961 after a long illness, he loaded his favorite shotgun, placed the barrel in his mouth, and blew his brains out. Hemingway is credited with the famous statement, “All thinking men are atheists.”

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is not God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. – Thomas Nagel, a professor at the New York University

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Are All Thinking Men and Women Atheists? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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