During Holy Week, I posted a comment about the significance and veracity of the resurrection of Jesus - the central claim defining Christianity. A couple of my friends - wonderful people, both - challenged my post with the same counter claim that the body of Jesus was most likely stolen by his disciples, and by implication, there was no physical resurrection at all.
This is not news to anyone who has studied the resurrection, even in a cursory way. Scripture even acknowledges this counter claim (Mt 28:12-15). So does this rumor of body snatching mean the resurrection is less likely to have occurred? Not at all. The folks of Jesus' day were not stupid. They knew people did not rise from the dead. So of course there would have been such rumors when the story of the resurrection began circulating. If there were no rumors of this kind, I would think it more likely that the resurrection was a fairy tale. But the truth is, such rumors would have arisen whether the resurrection was true or a fabricated myth. So the existence of the rumors adds nothing to the conversation other than to tell us that these stories actually did begin circulating after Jesus' death.
I also find it odd that the body snatcher theory is still in use. If Jesus had not been raised, most scholars argue it is more likely that he was buried in a mass grave with other executed criminals than in a private tomb.
My intent is not to argue the truth of the resurrection. The evidence for it is substantial enough to stand on its own, even if those desiring more left-brain satisfaction are not willing or able to make that leap of faith. You believe what you believe. My intent is to give those of us who trust in the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as an historical event a reason not to be concerned about the challenge of the rumors of a stolen body. Rumors could mean the body was stolen, or they could mean that people responded exactly as you would expect had Jesus actually risen as the Scriptures attest. Given the witness of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, our faith in the orthodox view is still on very solid ground.