Some great answers;
I would also second @ClareW, the book by William Lane Craig is very good. The first chapter ‘Cosmic Orphans’ is powerful writing to lay the groundwork for the topic.
The book covers the ‘conspiracy theory’; which is the disciples stole the body and claimed Jesus raised from the dead.
- the apparent death (swoon) theory
- the wrong tomb theory
- the legend theory
- the hallucination / vision theory
and he builds a strong case starting with the historical proof for
- the actual physical death of Jesus (without which you can’t have a burial)
- the physical burial
- the resurrection (you can’t have a resurrection without an actual death and and burial)
- the appearance to witnesses
Some basic points to ponder; Why did the Jewish authorities invent the ‘stolen body’ story; all they had to do was produce a body; How did the soldiers, who were asleep at their post, know what had happened (as was the story invented by the Jewish authorities).
great question; I think you’d really enjoy the book.
Ever since the disciples began to proclaim that Jesus was risen from the dead, some have denied the historical resurrection and have tried to come up with ways of explaining away the evidence through alternative theories. Most of these alternative explanations have proved to be blind alleys and have been unanimously rejected by contemporary scholarship. Nevertheless, a review of some of these theories of the past is useful, primarily for two reasons. First, the average person today, Christian or non-Christian, is largely unaware that they are in fact blind alleys. Many non-Christians still reject or at least claim to reject Jesus’ resurrection because of arguments that have been decisively refuted time and again and which no modern scholar would support. And Christians often produce arguments for the resurrection that are aimed at eighteenth-century opponents and cannot therefore really come to grips with modern skepticism. It is important therefore to discover exactly what these dead ends are so that we need not be unnecessarily sidetracked by them in the future. Second, an examination of now passé theories and the grounds for rejecting them will help to clear the ground for our discussion in the upcoming chapters. We will be able to focus our attention on the evidence for the resurrection and deal with the real issues of modern criticism. Therefore, it is very important indeed to see what issues are now obsolete and what issues are important today.
THE CONSPIRACY THEORY
We find the very first alternative explanation to Jesus’ resurrection in the pages of the New Testament itself: the conspiracy theory. In Matthew’s gospel we discover that the Jews used this theory to explain away the resurrection. The chief priests bribed the guards who were at Jesus’ tomb, instructing them: “You are to say ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ . . . And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day” (Matthew 28:13, 15). This rumor must have been fairly current among the Jews at that time, or Matthew would not have felt obligated to expose it. The conspiracy theory was thus the first alternative to the resurrection of Jesus and held basically that the resurrection was a hoax: the disciples stole the body and then lied about Jesus’ appearances to them afterwards. The conspiracy theory was refuted by the early church historian Eusebius of Caesarea in his Demonstratio evangelica (314-18).1 Eusebius argues that it would be inconsistent to hold that the disciples were on one hand followers of Jesus with His high moral teaching and yet on the other hand such base liars as to invent all these miraculous stories about Jesus. It makes no sense to say that the men who learned and then taught the ethics of Jesus would themselves be deceivers. Not only that, Eusebius continues, but it is inconceivable that such a conspiracy could ever be formed or hold together. Eusebius composes a wonderfully satirical speech, which he imagines to have been delivered when the disciples first joined together in this conspiracy.
“Let us band together,” the speaker proclaims, “to invent all the miracles and resurrection appearances which we never saw and let us carry the sham even to death! Why not die for nothing? Why dislike torture and whipping inflicted for no good reason? Let us go out to all nations and overthrow their institutions and denounce their gods! And even if we don’t convince anybody, at least we’ll have the satisfaction of drawing down on ourselves the punishment for our own deceit.”
Through this satire, Eusebius wants to show how ridiculous it is to imagine that the disciples invented the whole thing.
Craig, William L… The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (pp. 24-25). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.