Is it possible Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb?
If it was stolen, it’s doubtful any of Jesus’ disciples stole it. More likely, Jewish officials stole the body to prevent the grave from becoming a shrine. However, since grave robbing was illegal, they could not admit to the deed later to quell stories of Jesus’ resurrection. And Jewish officials likely believed the resurrection story would quickly die since the resurrected Jesus couldn’t be produced.
But there are problems with the stolen body hypothesis: namely, several Jews claimed to have proof that Jesus was resurrected, Jesus’ brother James went from being a skeptic to being the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Saul went from being a persecutor of The Way to its most outspoken advocate and promoter.
Although the earliest manuscripts of Mark, the earliest Gospel, don’t mention Jesus appearing to his disciples after his death, they imply that he did meet up with them in Galilee.
Then, Luke tells us in the book of Acts (80–90CE) that James, the son of Zebedee was killed by King Herod who was persecuting members of the church. This shows us that James, one of the original 12 disciples, believed Jesus was resurrected.
In Acts we also read about the martyrdom of Stephen who, while not one of the original 12, claimed to see Jesus in a vision standing at the right hand of God.
Acts also tells us about the vision Paul had of the resurrected Jesus, something Paul alludes to in a few of his epistles.
Finally, we have the account of James the Just’s martyrdom by stoning in the works of Josephus (93 or 94CE). (James the Just is believed to be the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem.) And in I Clement (~96CE), we read of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.
In conclusion, if Jesus’ body was stolen, it’s hard to account for the fact that at least some of Jesus’ followers were so certain he was resurrected that they dedicated their lives to Jesus’ mission even though some paid with their lives.
Some say Jesus’ body could not have been stolen because there were guards posted at the tomb; however, this information only appears in Matthew and was likely added to refute a rumor that Jesus’ disciples stole his body.
Some say all of Jesus’ disciples except John died as martyrs, but nearly all of these martyrdom accounts come from highly legendary Catholic stories written at least a century later.