The Religious A priori
Have Guards, Will Argue
I. Guards on the Tomb corroborated by a second source.
A. Skeptic's Argument that Only Matthew Mentions Guards.
The assumption is that since Mark was written first and it does not mention the guards, than Matthew added the point about the guards for apologetical purses, to answer the argument of the Jews that the disciples stole the body.
B. Matt is only Canonical Gospel to mention Guards, but Gospel of Peter also mentions them.
The Gospel of Peter was discovered in Egypt at Oxryranchus in the 19th century. It was probably written around 200 AD and contains some Gnostic elements, but is basically Orthodox. There are certain basic differences between Gospel of Peter (GPet) and the canonically, but mainly the two are in agreement.
C. GPet follows OT for Passion Narrative and Res.
1) Use of OT passages for Passion narrative.
Gospel of Peter (GPet) follows the OT as a means of describing the passion narrative, rather following Matthew. Jurgden Denker uses this observation to argue that GPet is independent is based upon an independent source. In addition to Denker, Koester, Borwn, and the very popular Charles Dominik Corssan also agree (Koster, 218).
It is upon this basis that Crossan constructs his "cross Gospel" which he dates in the middle of the first century, meaning, an independent source upon which all the canonical and GPet draw. But the independence of GPet from all of these sources is also guaranteed by it's failure to follow any one of them.
2) GPet does not follow any of the canonical, but is in general agreement with them.
Brown, who built his early reputation on study of GPet, follows the sequence of narrative in GPet and compares it in very close reading with that of the canonical Gospels. He finds that GPet is not dependent upon the canonical, although it is closer in the order of events to Matt/Mark rather than to Luke and John.
GPet follow the classical flow from trail through crucifixion to burial to tomb presumably with post resurrectional appearances to follow. The GPet sequence of individual episodes, however, is not the same as that of any can canonical Gospel...When one looks at the overall sequence in the 23 items I listed in table 10, it would take very great imagination to picture the author of GPet studying Matthew carefully, deliberately shifting episodes around and copying in episodes form Luke and John to produce the present sequence. [Brown, Death of the Messiah, 1322]
As documented on the Jesus Puzzle II page, and on Res part I. GPet is neither a copy of the canonical, nor are they a copy of GPet, but both use a common source in the Passion narrative which dates to AD 50 according to Crosson and Koester. Brown follows the flow of the narrative closely and presents a 23 point list in a huge table wich illustrates the point just made above. I cannot reproduce the enire table, but just to give a few examples:
"IN the Canonical Gospel's Passion Narrative we have an example of Matt. working conservatively and Luke working more freely with the Marcan outline and of each adding material: but neither produced an end product so radically diverse from Mark as GPet is from Matt." [Brown, 1325]
D. Why would the other Gospels omitt the Guards?
The question then arises, why did Mark, Luke and John no mention the guards? First, the assumption that because Mark was written first his information is older than Matthew's information, or is the same as Matt's is a false assumption. Matt. uses another source in creation small sayings that is neither form Mark nor used by Luke. This source is called M. So M could be older material than that found in Mark, so just because Matthew was written latter than Mark, it does not necessarily follow that his information is not older. M could contain a different tradition which Mark and Luke and John just chose not to use.
So why would they not mention the guards? Probably because the Jews had stopped making the argument because it didn't fly; the movement had grown and survived anyway. But the Matthew community, or Matthew School as some scholars have it, may have been confronted with a resurgence of that Jewish argument, or it may just be as simple as wanting to include all of the facts.
II. Resurrection without guarded tomb?
A. No Guards Mean no Resurrection?
The Guarded tomb was made the central Focus of the argument for the Resurrection by the classic fundamentalist apologist Josh McDowell in his much Maligned and much overrated Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
Yet, just because McDowell centers the argument on the logic of "how did they get the body past the guards," does this mean that there is no argument without the Guards?
B. The argument without the Guards.
I argue that the Guards are an historical probability, and their presence at the tomb makes the skeptic's task all the more difficult. But they are not an absolute necessity to an argument for the Resurrection.
1) The Historical Setting.
The idea that people would actually believe the story with no historical basis is absurd. To think that anyone in the actual early days, within the first couple of years, would believe the events of the story with absolutely no one around them who ever heard of it, and with no factual basis is absurd. The Apostles were proclaiming the risen Christ in the same city where the events allegedly took place within a few weeks of the events (Pentecost). This would be a total impossibility had there been no tomb. To say "Jesus rose from the dead, his tomb was found empty" invites one to ask "where was this tomb?" If no one could be found aside from the 12 and a handful of women who ever heard of the events described, of a tomb or of Jesus' crucifixion and of the sittings of his resurrected presence, the whole story would crumble in a tissue of lies. As time went on making good on this story would be harder, not easier, since time removed from the original events would allow for variations in the story and public knowledge of it would become even more faded.
The assumption that hoards of followers would flock to the movement just because someone said it happened is the basic skeptic's assumption that ancient people were stupid and would believe anything. To read Josephus or any other ancient historian one can see that ancient people were not nearly so stupid. There were gullible people, and they did follow fakers, but fakers could arrange things so that they appeared to be the case, rarely would they ever just invent a lie with no solid basis in fact and try to pass it off as public events when the whole city knew that no one anywhere had ever heard of these things occurring.
2) Facts of the story Set in Stone
What we don't see is a great variation in the story line. Most mythologies develop pluriform texts. There are several versions of most myths and as time goes by they develop more versions. Yet the basic fact's of Jesus death, burial and resurrection are the same in all the texts, both canonical and extra-canonical, and this is so right down to minute details. Some of the details are changed, for example GPet shifts the blame to the Sanhedrin rather than to Pilate, and there are other minute differences, but by and large the basic facts are always the same. No Gospels, not even Gnostic infancy Gospels, record Jesus being killed in some other manner, or in a different city, or the resurrection being on the fourth day, or on the first day. Joseph of Aramethia grows from a loyal Sanhedrinist concerned only with duty, to a staunch supporter who takes the Holy Grail to England, but he is always Joseph of Aramethia, he does not become other people. The woman who go to the tomb on Easter Morning always find the tomb empty and see angles, they don't find other arrangements which don't' fit the pattern, although minute details do differ.
All of this indicates that the basic facts were well known to the community and that they were so well known as to be set in stone and that no one would dare to develop other traditions about them. One of the basic tendencies we see is the desire to fill in the gaps. The Gospels that emerge in the second century and latter try to show what happened in those spaces where the canonical are silent. Thus the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of Nicademous both try to fill in the gap of what happened in the hours while Jesus was dead, and they portray him preaching in hell setting the captive spirits from the old dispensation free. But in so doing they assume the cross, the burial, the resurrection on the third day, the women as the first to find the body, ect. They do not depart form the script they try to merely ill in gaps.
All of this indicates an historical tradition so well known to the whole community as to be a matter of common knowledge from an early period and constitutes facts which could not be denied. Thus we have every reason to assume that it is basic historical fact that Jesus died through being crucified on 14 Nissan 29 BC, and died on the same day and was buried on that day. It further appears to be fairly certain that at least three days latter people were claiming to have seen him alive again.
C. The Disciples Stole the Body.
Of course this is the logical inference of the Skeptic in light of the absence of Guards. But there are certain problems with this assumption even without Guards.
1) who would steal the Body?
The notion of the disciples stealing the body basically assumes that there was a cohort of Jesus' brave enough to break the seal on the tomb, and essential to rob a grave, which was illegal and punishable by harsh penalty. The Apostles ran away when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him three times. There are no contradictory accounts which portray the Apostles as fearlessly remaining with Jesus, even Peter had a momentary urge to attack Roman ears. So who would actually summon the courage and go take the body, essentially becoming a grave robber?
2) Why would anyone believe the Resurrection?
The assumption here is that ancient people were stupid and superstitious and would believe anything. This is of course silly, and anyone who reads very many ancient authors can see how silly it is. Not all ancient people were as sharp as the skeptical Tactics, but that doesn't mean they were all idiots either. Why would anyone believe the story if stealing the body was a real possibility? Surely they would understand that the disciples merely moved the body? This can only be explained by the fact that this wasn't a very realistic possibility and that people did actually claim to have seen the risen Christ.
3)Why would the disciples make the claim?
The notion that the Resurrection was made as a last minute attempt to overcome the defeat of a crucified Messiah, or as a means of explaining what happened, an attempt to make good on one last prediction made by Jesus before his death and thus keep his memory alive, does not hold water. This assumes that the Apostles and disciples understood clearly that Jesus did actually predict his death. It is fairly clear form the synoptic that they did not understand this. They were not looking for a Messiah who would give his life on the cross and be raised from the dead. They only half understood his talk about raising the temple back in three days, and in fact it seems fairly clear that they though he meant the literal temple rather than that of his body. To think that they would think all of this through and come up with a resurrection theology in three days, three days spent in fear and hiding not knowing if the authorities would come for them next (after all they were the followers of a man crucified for insurrection against Rome!) is a stretch of credulity.
D. Historical Probability.
Of course no amount of historical evidence can really prove conclusively that Jesus actually rose form the dead. To prove that we would have to go back in time and observe the events. But all history is a matter of probability and likelihood, since any historical claim could basically be wrong. The likelihood is that Jesus did actually raise form the dead because this is the sneer that explains all the facts and thus makes the sense. Of course the notion that it makes no sense because it requires supernatural events is merely an ideological predilection to doubt the supernatural, and not historical probability or evidence.
The Religious A priori