Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 14: The Guards at the Tomb

Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 14: The Guards at the Tomb October 20, 2019

WHERE WE ARE

Peter Kreeft believes that he can prove that Jesus rose from the dead by refuting four skeptical theories that provide alternative explanations to the standard Christian view that Jesus rose from the dead.  One of those skeptical theories is The Swoon Theory.

However, refuting The Swoon Theory (and three other skeptical theories) will NOT work to establish the resurrection, because The Swoon Theory is only one particular version of a more general theory that Kreeft must refute: The Survival Theory (hereafter: TST), the view that Jesus SURVIVED his crucifixion and so was able to appear to some of his followers after the crucifixion, which led to the mistaken belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.

In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Kreeft raised nine objections against The Swoon Theory, and I am critically examining those objections to determine whether they are sufficient to refute The Survival Theory (TST), the more general theory that Kreeft must refute in order for his case for the resurrection to succeed.

In previous posts in this series, I have shown that at least six out of Kreeft’s nine objections against The Swoon Theory FAIL to refute The Survival Theory (TST): Objection #1, Objection #2, Objection #3, Objection #4, Objection #5, and Objection #8. So, at least 2/3 of Kreeft’s objections FAIL.  Given the consistency of FAILURE so far, it seems likely that Kreeft’s remaining three objections will also FAIL. We shall see.

 

OBJECTION #6: THE GUARDS AT THE TOMB 

Objection #6 focuses on the presence of guards at the tomb of Jesus:

How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse?  Or by unarmed disciples?  And if the disciples did it, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, and we are into the conspiracy theory, which we will refute shortly.  (HCA, p.183)

The three sentences in this objection can be broken down into four main points:

The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) – Benjamin West

 

P1. The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself).

P2.  The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by the disciples of Jesus. 

P3. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels.

P4. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, that implies the conspiracy theory, which Kreeft refutes.

There are significant problems with each of these four points, so I am just going to present an outline of some significant problems with these points for now.  I plan to provide further support for my various objections in later posts.

 

PROBLEMS WITH POINT 1

P1. The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself).

A. The guards-at-the-tomb story is probably fictional.
B. It is unclear whether the guards were Roman soldiers. The guards may have been Jewish temple guards rather than Roman soldiers. William Craig argues that it is more likely that they were Jewish temple guards.
C. It is unclear how many guards were protecting the tomb. There might have been only two or three guards, and there could have been just one guard placed right next to the tomb (for a shift), while the other guards slept a short distance away.
D. Overpowering is NOT the only way for Jesus to get past the guards.
E. Kreeft’s wording of this point refers to Jesus as a “swooning corpse” implying that Jesus would have been weak and hardly able to move because of a number of serious wounds and injuries.  This is a questionable assumption, as we saw in my critique of Kreeft’s Objection #5, the Sickly Jesus Objection.

 

PROBLEMS WITH POINT 2

P2. The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by the disciples of Jesus. 

A. The guards-at-the-tomb story is probably fictional.
B. It is unclear whether the guards were Roman soldiers. The guards may have been Jewish temple guards rather than Roman soldiers. William Craig argues that it is more likely that they were Jewish temple guards.
C. It is unclear how many guards were protecting the tomb. There might have been only two or three guards, and there could have been just one guard placed right next to the tomb (for a shift), while the other guards slept a short distance away.
D. Overpowering is NOT the only way for the disciples to get Jesus past the guards (distraction, sexual favors, bribery, threats, deception, drugs, alcohol, and the guards might have fallen asleep).
E. There were at least eleven male disciples in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, and there were other men who followed Jesus but were not part of the inner circle, and there were women who followed Jesus.
F. It is NOT clear that Jesus’ disciples would have been “unarmed”. Jesus told them to purchase swords (Luke 22:35); they had at least two swords that they were carrying around (Luke 22:38), and one of Jesus’ followers had a sword and used it when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:43-47, Matthew 26:47-51, and Luke 22:47-50).
G. Jesus and his inner circle of disciples are NOT the only people who might have helped Jesus to leave the tomb (there were also male disciples outside the inner circle, and there were women who followed Jesus, and there were anti-Roman Jewish rebels who might have been happy to help beat up or kill some Roman soldiers).

 

PROBLEMS WITH POINT 3

P3. If the disciples removed Jesus from the tomb, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels.

A. Lying about how Jesus got out of the tomb does NOT imply lying about Jesus rising from the dead. The disciples could have removed Jesus from the tomb AND also believed that God had miraculously raised Jesus from the dead.
B. No Gospel was written by one of the twelve disciples who made up the inner circle of Jesus’ followers.
C. Even if the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of John was written by a disciple of Jesus, that does NOT mean that either Matthew or John LIED about how Jesus got out of the tomb; it is quite possible that OTHER disciples removed Jesus from the tomb, and that Matthew and/or John was not told by those disciples that they had removed Jesus from the tomb.
D. Knowingly lying about how Jesus got out of the tomb would have been a fairly minor deception compared with knowingly lying that Jesus had risen from the dead, if they knew that Jesus actually died and stayed dead.

 

PROBLEMS WITH POINT 4

P4. If the disciples removed Jesus from the tomb, that implies the conspiracy theory, which Kreeft refutes.

A. I have already shown that Kreeft’s objections to the conspiracy theory FAIL to refute that theory. So, if the hypothesis that the disciples removed Jesus from the tomb does imply the conspiracy theory, that still would not lead us to a refutation of The Survival Theory.
B. Furthermore, removing Jesus from the tomb does NOT imply any deception on the part of any one of Jesus’ disciples, and does NOT imply the conspiracy theory. The Gospel stories about the empty tomb might well NOT be based on claims made by Jesus’ disciples. Jesus disciples could have BOTH removed Jesus from the tomb alive AND sincerely believed that God had miraculously raised Jesus from the dead.

 

PRELIMINARY CONCLUSION

Based on the above significant problems with each of the four points made in Objection #6, it looks to me like Objection #6 is going to fail, just like all of the previous objections we have critically examined.  In future posts, I plan to provide additional support and explanation for some of the above problems that I have pointed out about Objection #6, in order to make it clear that this objection FAILS.

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