Friday, November 20, 2009

Mark and the guards at the tomb

If the first reaction of the Jewish authorities was to spread lies that the disciples stole the body, why would 'Mark' make no mention of the fact that the tomb was guarded?

Did he not realise that his Gospel left Christians wide open to claims that the disciples stole the body? Just how dumb was 'Mark' not to mention the fact which refuted the main charge that had been (allegedly) thrown at Christians for decades?

Perhaps 'Mark' was embarrassed by Christians lying about their being guards at the tomb and was compelled to tell the truth?

Or perhaps Christians only made up that lie after somebody read 'Mark' and then attacked Christians by saying that the tomb had been unguarded?


Blogger mikespeir said...

Well, at least Mark had better sense than to make up the kind of crap Matthew did. Bribing Pilate's guards to say the disciples had stolen the body from them while they were asleep? Like they wouldn't have known that kind of dereliction of duty would get them executed, pretty much on the spot?

10:01 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Steven, you can flip your argument on its head and argue for the implied authenticity in a historical account that doesn't try to argue arguments that it would have been unaware of when it was written.

mikespeir, you're making all sorts of assumptions about the circumstances in which the guards would have said that. Surely it would depend on their boss? And how much the authorities cared about guarding a tomb? If there is historical data about either - other than Matthew's gospel - I'd be interested to read it.

3:11 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

I'm making the assumption that no Roman soldier would ever have taken a bribe to broadcast that he had been asleep on guard duty and let the object he had been guarding be stolen. I'm assuming that for the very reason that he would have been executed for dereliction of duty. The money would hardly have been very useful once he was dead. Is there something inherently unreasonable about that? Is there something not inherently compelling about that?

3:45 PM  
Blogger pcraig said...

The fact remains: there are all sorts of reasons why the guards might have judged it better to admit they fell asleep, which we don't have access to.

9:58 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

Sure. We can play "what if?" games all day, but there's no profit in it. We're constrained by the evidence before us. And the fact remains that, based on the evidence we have, it doesn't wash. Nobody's going to take money so that he can be put to death. (And the soldiers would have known that would be the outcome, especially insofar as they were supposedly paid to trumpet their dereliction far and wide.) Thus, based on the evidence we have, there's no compelling reason to see the story as anything but a fiction rather stupidly contrived to make the tale seem more plausible, but that, in fact, backfires so as to make it actually seem less so.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

And, of course, the first Gospel responds to these alleged claims that the disciples stole the body by carefully leaving out any references to guards.

I guess Mark just wanted to be honest, and was forced to leave out all mentions of guards, despite the decades long accusations levelled (allegedly) at Christians that they had stolen the body.

4:03 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Sorry mikespeir: before your argument carries any weight, you first need to convince us that what the guards did would have meant their execution. Any historical evidence/analysis out there you can point us to?

But more to the point, even then you will need to explain why Matthew 28:14 doesn't deal with this objection. The priests knew the guards would get into trouble, so they provided assurances that they wouldn't be punished.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Priests could give assurances about what would happen in the Roman army?

How did the author of Matthew get access to this conversation?

The same way people found out about the secret meetings where the Bush adminstration planned their cover up of their involvement in 9/11?

And Mark somehow wanted all Christians to be under suspicion of grave-robbing by leaving out any mention of guards, and explaining that Christians thought the tomb could be accessed easily, if only some big strong men had been there to roll away the stone.

4:09 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

Well, pcraig, would you accept William Lane Craig's word for it? "The fact that Roman guards could be executed for sleeping on watch and taking a bribe would further point to a Jewish guard." (

In fact, that seems to be one of Craig's motivations in his insistence that the guard wasn't Roman at all (although I'm convinced the overwhelming weight of evidence is against him). He'd like to argue that the guard was Jewish, because that would get him out of the pickle of the very implications I've been talking about. But he, himself, refers to the two ancient sources for the guards: Matthew and the Gospel of Peter. Matthew (according to Craig, anyway. I don't agree) is ambiguous. Then he admits the Gospel of Peter explicitly makes the guards Romans. Mathematically, that 0 + 1 = 1: the guard was Roman. (Of course, Craig has a bias against the non-canonical account.)

But, you haven't been arguing for a Jewish guard, anyway, so I don't see much sense in pursuing that here.

8:21 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Steven: The priests had already proven successful in their manipulation of Pilate, so the guards might well believe their assurances. I don't know how Matthew found this out.

mikespeir: I'm not here to argue for William Lane Craig. I'm just pointing out how you have to deal with the text. If the priests could convince the guards they could talk off the authorities, then why not take a big bag of cash? You haven't presented any reason why that story is implausible. Steven's assertion that it sounds like a conspiracy theory is what this thread is coming down to.

6:31 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

"You haven't presented any reason why that story is implausible."

Did you miss where I said that no one would take a bribe to say something he knew would get him killed? That alone is enough to make it implausible.

12:56 PM  
Blogger pcraig said...

mikespeir: Your assertion that it was "something he knew would get him killed" is explicitly dealt with in the text - Matthew 28:14. That's the whole point of my last two responses to you.

4:29 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

But that's just another thing that makes it unbelievable. The Jewish leaders would have had not such influence. The guards were Pilate's men. If they were derelict in their duty, the Jews' defense wouldn't have amounted to squat.

7:07 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

As I said to Steven: the priests had already proven successful in their manipulation of Pilate, so the guards might well believe their assurances.

As long as the guards *believed* the priests, that was all that was necessary. It's really not that outlandish a possibility.

9:32 AM  
Blogger mikespeir said...

Yeah, it's pretty outlandish. (And the Jews' "manipulation" of Pilate that you speak of isn't credible, either.) Ultimately, the guards would have answered to Pilate, not the Jews. If Pilate's men screwed up, the local yokels wouldn't have been able to save them.

3:43 PM  
Blogger archaeopteryx said...

RE: "How did the author of Matthew get access to this conversation?"

As I understand it, a man who identified himself only as "DEEP THROAT," met him in a dark, chariot parking garage -- ;)


4:55 AM  

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