...so I think that’s why Matthew and Matthew alone tells you about the guard at the tomb. It’s an apologetic device to defend the faith against those who were saying that Jesus’ body was stolen.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Guard at the Tomb - "Apologetic Device" or Historical Fact?
A few months ago I attended a debate at Duke Univeristy between Joel Marcus (Duke) and Gary Habermas (Liberty) on the Resurrection. I've transcribed it if anyone wants a copy (just email me at Joshua [dot] McManaway [at] sebts [dot] edu). At any rate, Dr. Marcus said something that has intrigued me ever since. He said:
I really want to look into this more. However, I always approach any kind of historical doubt in the New Testament writings with the fact that I'm 2000 years removed from the event. I take it for granted that the author of Matthew knew far more about the events and culture about which he was writing than I do. I'm reminded of a story I heard about Luke 3:1. Luke states that Lysanias was a Tetrarch (τετρααρχουντος in Greek) about 27AD. Scholarship doubted Luke on this, knowing that Lysanias had actually been the ruler of Chalcis a half of a century earlier. Later Archaeological digs uncovered an inscription in Abila near Damascus showing that indeed, someone named Lysanias had been a Tetrarch about the time about which Luke had written.
Back to the guard: I find it really interesting that the Gospel of Peter (early to mid-second century) not only says that there was a guard at the tomb, but links him with the guard at the cross and gives him the name Petronius. Whether this Gospel was familiar with Matthew or not, I'm unaware, but the thought occurs to me: if there wasn't some historical possibility to there being a guard at the tomb, would these authors record it? In other words, nobody would write that Abraham Lincoln descended upon the South with UFO's and that's how he won the American Civil War (although I'm not entirely through Downing's book...). Why? Because this is historically implausible. Likewise, if it were completely out of the question that Roman guards sometimes guarded tombs, would we imagine that Matthew (and later Gospel of Peter's author) would record something like this?
So, if anyone has any suggestions for reading material on the subject, I'd be very appreciative.