Did necromancers steal Jesus's corpse?

  • Clarifying the question

    Necromancers were a particular kind of occultist practitioner, and there are stray reports that they existed and made use of corpses like Jesus's in their withcraft.1 Was Jesus's body stolen by necromancers with motivations to use Jesus's body or parts of it in their dark arts?

    1. See Lucan C. W 6.538-68, 626; Ovid Her. 6.90; Apul. Metam. 2.30. See also:

      Apollonius Rhodius (Greek poet, 3rd century BCE) -- “[The witch Medea]... having often aforetime wandered there [the temple] in quest of corpses... as a sorceress is want to do; ... Titan-goddess of the Moon [Selene spoke to her,] ‘How many times . . . have you disorbed me with your incantations, making the night moonless so that you might practise your beloved witchcraft undisturbed.’” [The Argonautica 4.51f, Loeb Classical Library, trans. by Seaton (Macmillian, 1912), 297-299.]
      Pliny the Elder: “Osthanes,... first devised these practices;... Who was it that first thought of devouring [corpse parts]? ...the memoirs of Democritus, still extant, [say] that for some diseases, the skull of a malefactor is most efficacious, [and for others] one who has been a friend or guest is required. Apollonius [wrote] the most effectual remedy for tooth-ache is to scarify the gums with the tooth of a man who has died a violent death; ...Miletus [says] human gall is a cure for cataract. For epilepsy, Artemon has prescribed [drinking] from the skull of a man who has been slain,... [or] hanged, Antæus made pills [for] mad dog [bite]. ...similar remedies for ...tympanitis in oxen, for instance, [using] human bones inserted;...” [The Natural History 28.2]

“Yes, after all…
  • Necromancy wasn't practiced in Judea

    While necromancy was practiced, rarely, in parts of the Roman empire, there is no evidence of it being practiced in Jewish regions, and it is several times more unlikely still that it was practiced in Jerusalem.

    After all…

    • Jews in AD 30 Jerusalem were rigidly pious.1
    • There is no trace of corpse theft in general in the area.2
    1. In AD 30, Jerusalem largely consisted of fiercely devout Jews. (This is relevant because of how obviously sacrilegious Jews found necromancy to be [e.g. Lev 20:27; Dt 18:10]. Even the rare misguided magic-practicing Jews like Simon Magus would recoil at the thought.) The overswelling in Jerusalem of devout Jews pilgrimmaging there for Passover would have been especially unpleasant company for them.
    2. Consider:

      Craig Keener: “…our evidence for the theft of corpses appears in Gentile regions, never around Jerusalem.” [The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009), 341.]

  • Necromancers wouldn't choose to

    A man in a cloak and hood is walking out of a door with an exit sign above it.

    Even if Necromancers had some desire to use Jesus's body for their witchraft, they would not choose to steal it.

    After all,…

    But wait,…

    • Jesus's crucified body would have been deemed valuable by Necromancers.2
    1. Necromancers would perform their ritual on site because…
      • …it was far safer in Jesus's case.
      …it is what necromancers normally chose to do.

      J.P. Holding (Apologist, researcher [specializes in New Testament studies]): “…all the evidence suggests that when necromancers had need of a body for their arts, they did not steal the whole body from the tomb. Instead, they would either conduct their rituals in the tomb itself, leaving the body where it was when they were finished; or, they would slice off whatever they needed mutilating the body and taking the selected parts with them, leaving the rest behind. It does not help critics to argue that Jesus' nose and ears may have been missing, while the rest of the body was still in the tomb!” [Defending the Resurrection (Xulon, 2010), 391.]

    2. Why would Necromancers want Jesus's corpse? The primary motivation traditionally ascribed to them comes from Papyri Graecae Magicae 1.248–49; 2.49–50; 4.342–43. The idea is that bodies which had died violent deaths (e.g. crucifixion) were especially sought after by Necromancers for their magical properties. However, even then it was normally for parts. For example, Pliny writes, “Apollonius, again, informs us in his writings, that the most effectual remedy for tooth-ache is to scarify the gums with the tooth of a man who has died a violent death”