“They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” (John 20:13–16)
Yesterday we considered the theory that the disciples stole Jesus’s body from the tomb, and saw that it doesn’t really hold water. Today we look at a variation of that theory: the disciples went to the wrong tomb. There are variations of the theory, but the heart of them all is the same. Jesus did not rise, but his body was a different tomb. It was a simple mistake.
Here we run into problems, since the burial of Jesus was not without witnesses. In Matthew 27:61 we read: “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb”. There is also the issue of the Temple Guard. This body of soldiers was placed at the tomb on Good Friday with the express commandments to guard Jesus’s body. For the misplaced body theory to be credible, we have to believe that the two Marys both forgot where their beloved Jesus was buried, and that the Temple Guard managed to guard the wrong tomb. Unlikely.
We also have the same issue surrounding what happened to the disciples after the empty tomb was discovered. Why did they not simply believe that the body had been taken? Why did they endanger themselves by travelling around Jerusalem and then the Roman empire proclaiming Jesus had been raised from the dead? How did Jesus’s skeptical family come to believe in the resurrection? How do we account for the passage quoted above?
No, the misplaced body theory does not work.