The thought of stealing Jesus's corpse would strike any contemporary as very costly, both in general terms of effort required and chances of failure, as well as in terms of the very intimidating risks involved in such a heist. [Full article].
• …a theft attempt would require a quickly assembled team
• …the team would need to be super immoral
• …the team would need to be willing to super-risk their life
• …as one works through the potential candidates, they each have additional unique reasons they would not steal the body.1
Few if any contemporaries existed who would, in choosing to steal Jesus's corpse, would decide to first remove the graveclothes from it and leave them behind.
• Movers would worry about the time-cost of removing the clothes.1
• The stench of the putrefying corpse would be needlessly exacerbated.
• Touching a corpse was very taboo (and generally repulsive).
• Removing the clothing would be especially dishonorable.2
“Especially when it was myrrh, a drug that adheres so to the body, and cleaves to the clothes, whence it was not easy to take the clothes off the body…” [Homily 90 on Matthew 28; 11-14.] He elsewhere noted that myrrh “…glues linen to the body, not less firmly than lead.”[Homily 85 on St. John]Similarly,
• Merrill Tenney (NT professor at Gordon College [d. 1985]): “In preparing a body for burial according to Jewish custom, it was usually… bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served… as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering…” [The Reality of the Resurrection (Moody, 1963), 117.]
Few/none who were stealing Jesus's corpse would choose to do it such that it gratuitously amplifies their chances of getting caught. This is relevant because, if Jesus's corpse was stolen, it was done in a way that was overtly1 and gratuitously2 risky.
William Lane Craig: “Given the tumultuous confusion at Jesus' public trial and execution--and during Passover time no less--this sort of derring-do strains credulity.” [In Defense of Miracles, ed. by Geivett & Habermas (1997, IVP), 260.]
By the day after Jesus's corpse was buried, guards had been stationed at the tomb.
But, so what? Couldn't it simply be that…
• …the body was stolen before the guards arrived?1
• …the body was stolen while the guards were sleeping?2
Raymond Brown (NT professor at New York): “[The authorities] would have taken the elementary caution to have the sepulcher checked to see that the body was still there before they sealed it on Saturday. That would have been part of their securing it as they 'know how' (27:65). …they were scarcely so naive as to guard an empty tomb.” [Death of the Messiah (Doubleday, 1994), 1309.]• …more than one day would be needed for the would-be corpse-thieves to covertly do two necessary things: First, to learn the location of Jesus's corpse, which likely required a series of inquiries (and answering why they are asking), followed by the inevitable verifying/scoping-out the area beforehand. Second, to assemble a team of men who are extremely motivated to steal Jesus's corpse (which was required.
Few/none who would steal Jesus's corpse would be able to steal it within 40 hours (“Mission Impossible”).1 This is relevant because Jesus's corpse was gone within 40 hours of its entombment (i.e. by Sunday morning).2
The bundle of graveclothes left on the tomb's bench were not emptied by human hands. [Full article.]
• …the wrappings (feet-to-chest) were clustered
• …the grave spices were still tucked in wrappings
• …the clothes looked supernaturally removed
But wait, plausibly…
• …there were no emptied graveclothes in the tomb