The Matthew Gospel asserts that there were guards at the tomb. If there were guards, were they the Temple Guards who were all Jews or Roman soldiers?  There is big if regarding whether or not guards were really there at all.

The main thing is that it does not matter when you are a sceptic about the resurrection of Jesus.  If guards were there, and if they truly seen an angel open the tomb as Matthew says, they still saw nothing in relation to what happened to the body of Jesus. And they were liars for they took a bribe to lie that Jesus was stolen from the tomb by his disciples.  They were going to say they slept on duty so how would they know?  They would lose their jobs.  None of it makes any sense.  Some think they stole the body in order to get bribed.

When the chief priests and the Pharisees told Pilate they wanted a guard he said, “You have a guard” (Matthew 27:65 AB). Professor Alford said that this can be translated as saying they have got a guard or that they must get a guard (page 211, Evidence that Demands a Verdict). But Mgr. E de Camus says that the word for guards is a Latin word, koustodia. The gospel was written in Greek and Latin was the language of Rome so guards must mean Roman Guards when the Latin word was employed. If Pilate used the present imperative meaning he meant, “Get a guard” this means he meant his own guards (page 73, The Resurrection Factor). He could not just order the Temple guards out for he did not know exactly what they were doing that night and why so it had to be his own guards. He told them to get his own guards.

Frank Morison thinks that if the guards were Roman it would be absurd to think of the Jews saying they were able to save them from the death penalty for sleeping if the Governor got wind of it (page 189, Who Moved the Stone?). That is why he thinks the guard was composed of the Jewish Guard for the Temple and not the Romans. But the gospel says they asked Pilate to set the guard instead of asking him to let them set the guard. Also the gospel never actually mentions the death-penalty – that is just a lie that is sneaked in to bolster up the argument. If Pilate had accepted a Jewish guard and they failed to do their duty they would have been in trouble for it was easy to get on the wrong side of Pilate.
You could say there were no guards for story is inconsistent or that we have no reason to believe there were.

If you are trying to influence a difficult sergeant or a politician you take a number of people with you to increase the chance of getting listened to. The gospel says that the chief priests and the Pharisees came before Pilate to ask him to get the tomb guarded. This suggests that it was not the Jewish Guard for one man could have successfully got Pilate to let the Jews’ own guards be used. Also, the rule was that Roman soldiers guard tombs and graves where theft was feared. The Jewish Guard were not for upholding Roman law for Rome only trusted Gentiles. Rome banned grave-robbery so the Roman soldiers had to take care of it.
Matthew would tell us if it was the Jewish Guard for they were trusted more by his Jewish readers than by the Romans. He wants them to be witnesses to the supernatural at the tomb for us. Jewish soldiers would not have taken on the job in case they would have to take the body from the thieves and become unclean and unfit to work in the Temple through it for a while.

Some surmise that the guards were Jewish for there was no chance that Jewish guards would have been punished for sleeping on duty and only they would be able to say they slept on duty which the Gospel of Matthew says they said for Roman soldiers would have been punished - and if they were not punished nobody would believe they that they were truthful (Evidence that Demands a Verdict Vol 1, page 212). But any guards would have been punished for Pilate commanded that the tomb be made secure. He was not going to let the Jews have a guard that could get away with sleeping. Any guards deciding to tell such a lie is ridiculous and simply would not be done.

The Jewish Temple Guard had to watch the Temple to prevent desecration and people from going to forbidden territory. They had a religious function. The Romans did not care what happened to the Temple as long as it was nothing illegal in their law. The Temple Guards were relieved in the daytime but not at night-time (page 214, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vol 1). This means it was unlikely for the Jewish Guard to be sent to the tomb on Saturday evening. Pilate had desecrated the Temple and they would have been afraid to make do with fewer men.

The Jews would not have needed Pilate’s permission to place their own guards at the tomb. And how could Jewish guards work over the Sabbath? Could it be possible that Pilate had commanded that nobody would know where Jesus was buried and the high confidentiality was the reason guards could not be posted without his consent? The Jews could have asked Pilate to have the tomb guarded without knowing where the tomb was. This would tell us that the apostles and the women lied about knowing where the tomb was in order to create the resurrection hoax.

The Temple Guards were always checked up on by the captain to make sure they were not asleep. They got beaten up and their clothes burnt off if they were caught sleeping. The Jews would have been especially anxious to make sure a Jewish Guard at the tomb did not sleep. And they would have been paranoid about the Romans doing the right things for when Pilate had to be asked to place guards at the tomb it gave the probably inaccurate impression that the Romans could not care less what happened to Jesus.

The Temple had a tremendous influx of visitors because of the feast. It is impossible it believe that any guards would have been sent from the Temple to the tomb of a Jesus who was popular and the Jews feared what the people might do if anything bizarre happened to him like we are told in the Gospel. The priests could have been attacked.

Maybe it is important to establish that the guards were Roman because that helps to reveal the story of what Matthew says they did as deranged rubbish.


Who is GA Wells? Rev Dr Gregory S. Neal

The Silent Jesus

Apollonius the Nazarene, The Historical Apollonius versus the Historical Jesus

Why Did the Apostles Die? Dave Matson,
The “Historical” Jesus by Acharya S

How Did the Apostles Die?

History’s Troubling Silence About Jesus, Lee Salisbury

Steven Carr discusses the Christian and apostolic martyrs

Challenging the Verdict
A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ

The Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, Peter Kirby

The Martyrdoms: A Response, Peter Kirby

A Sacrifice in Heaven,

The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth

The Jesus of History, a Reply to Josh McDowell by Gordon Stein

Josh McDowell’s Evidence for Jesus – Is It Reliable?, by Jeffrey J Lowder

A Reply to JP Holding’s “Shattering” of My Views on Jesus

Robert M Price, Christ a Fiction

Earliest Christianity G A Wells

The Second Century Apologists

Existence of Jesus Controversy, Rae West

Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story by Richard Carrier

Jesus Conference,
Jesus Conference,
The Testament of Levi Concerning the Priesthood and Arrogance

Sherlock Holmes Style Search for the Historical Jesus
The Ascension of Isaiah

Apollonius of Tyana: The Monkey of Christ? The Church Patriarchs, Robertino Solarion

What About the Discovery of Q? Brad Bromling
Wells without Water, Psychological Buffoonry from the Master of the Christ-Myth, James Patrick Holding

Critique: Scott Bidstrp [sic] on The Case for Christ by James Patrick Holding

GA Wells Replies to Criticism of his Books on Jesus

The Ossuary Scam: A Critical Analysis of the “James” Ossuary

The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Acharya S
The Historical Jesus
The Amplified Bible
The King James Version

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