Did Jesus's body go missing?

  • About this question

    detective with magnifying glass examining body outline

    Was Jesus's body missing from wherever it was put after crucifixion? (c. AD 30)

    Notice that this does not require that Jesus was placed in a tomb. There are reasons to believe that Jesus's body was missing which do not require that Jesus was ever buried, much less buried in a tomb.

    This helps answer:

    Around 75% of historians say “YES”
    Among historians who are engaged in this debate at the peer-review level, about 75% say the historical case for the empty tomb is convincing, so at least 75% find convincing the case for the missing body.

“Yes, after all…
  • Critics never displayed the corpse

    A weary and winded man stands in the background. A man holding a poster depicting a missing body stands in front.

    Jerusalem critics of Christianity never displayed the unresurrected body of Jesus.

    This page analyzes 3 arguments:

    This suggests the body was missing, because if it were not missing, critics of Christianity would have displayed the corpse.

    But so what, plausibly…

    1. By contrast:
      • Craig Blomberg (NT professor at Denver Seminary): “…the Jewish authorities, who had every reason to want to refute Christianity, could never produce the body of Jesus inside or outside a tomb.” [The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. (IVP, 2007), 144.]
      • C. E. B. Cranfield (NT professor at Durham): “The fact that with the will and the powers and resources they surely had, they never produced the body must count as a significant consideration in favour of the truth of [the empty grave]”. ["The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” in The Historical Jesus vol 3., ed. Evans (Routledge, 2004), 401.]
    2. Examples of scholars propounding this explanation:
      • Alfred Loisy (Theologian; 1857-1940): “The soldiers removed the body from the cross before dark and threw it in some common grave, where they cast the bodies of the criminals… The conditions of the burial were such that at the end of a few days it would have been impossible to recognize the mortal remains of the saviour, had anyone been looking for them… Nobody would contest that Jesus had died on the cross. Nobody could prove that he had not been resurrected.” [Les ēνangiles synoptiques (Loisy, 1907), 1:223-24. (As cited by Allison, Resurrecting Jesus, 307.)]
      • Gerd Lüdemann (Professor at Göttingen) “Well, we don't know when the Christians became an important movement. According to the Acts of the Apostles, they started to preach fifty days after the death of Jesus. And after fifty days, you wouldn't see much left of the body.” [Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment? (IVP, 2000), 61.]
      • Peter Carnley (NT scholar): “[This argument assumes] that the proclamation of the Easter message in Jerusalem… [was] soon enough to allow for the positive identification of a body as certainly that of the dead Jesus.” [The Structure of Resurrection Belief (Oxford, 1987), 55.]
      • Robert Price (NT scholar): “But this is absurd: the only estimate the New Testament gives as to how long after Jesus' death the disciples went public with their preaching is a full fifty days later on Pentecost! After seven weeks, I submit, it would have been moot to produce the remains of Jesus.” [“By This Time He Stinketh,” in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, eds. Price & Lowder (Prometheus, 2005), 423.]
  • The original “It's gone” report wasn't a lie

    It was an original honest report that “Jesus's body is gone/missing,” which culminated in the gospels etc. reporting that it went missing.

    This page debates 3 arguments:

    This suggests the body was missing because, if there is no plausible liar-type to spin a missing-body lie, then it lends credibility to the hypothesis that it the belief and claim were formed in more natural and warranted ways, like visual confirmations that the body was not in the universally expected location.

    But so what? Couldn't it simply be that…

    • Mary Magdalene and the other women originated the report by honestly mistaking an empty tomb for Jesus's, and infecting their church etc. with their blunder?
    • Apostles inferred it from the mistaken belief that Jesus visited them in the flesh. [Forthcoming]
  • The Jerusalem church was saying “He resurrected!”

    The Apostles, Paul, Mary, and other Christians in Jerusalem were loudly proclaiming that “Jesus has been raised from the dead!”

    • “He's resurrected,” says Peter.
    • “He's resurrected,” says Paul. [Forthcoming]
    • “He's resurrected,” says Mary. [Forthcoming]
    • “He's resurrected,” says James. [Forthcoming]

    This is relevant because they would not believe that Jesus resurrected if his body was not considered missing, or if this was not an intellectually feasible option given the presence of the entombed body.1

    But, so what? Couldn't it simply be that…

    • They were lying. [Forthcoming]
    • They inferred it from the mistaken belief that Jesus visited them in the flesh. [Forthcoming]
      • Wolfhart Pannenberg: “How could Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem have proclaimed his resurrection if they could be constantly refuted merely by viewing the grave in which the body was interred?” [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1983), 100.]