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I have a naturalistic hypothesis for the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances.

Perhaps Zealots stole Jesus' body and spread rumours that he was alive in Galilee in order to start an insurrection against the Romans.

Has this hypothesis been mentioned in the literature before?

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    The Jewish leaders of the time feared this themselves, who is why they placed guards on his body and at the tomb. – Jon the Architect Feb 13 '16 at 14:30
  • The guards aren't mentioned in the earliest gospel Mark. – anon Feb 13 '16 at 14:46
  • @anon, the gospels are not exclusionary, and are all provided as a collective testimony. If you are arguing otherwise, it sounds like you are arguing the synoptic problem: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/5298/… – Jon the Architect Feb 13 '16 at 15:22
  • But why would guards be posted at the tomb? Nobody at the time was expecting his body to go missing - including followers who had believed he was the Jewish Messiah. Reports that Jesus said he would rise again were probably added to the gospels in the light of later Christian theology. – anon Feb 13 '16 at 15:35
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    Pretty much every hypothesis has. – fгedsbend Feb 13 '16 at 16:11
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As I see it, this is the core of your question:

Has this hypothesis been mentioned in the literature before?

The answer is "Yes, it's been thought of". It's such a common proposal, and such an old one that it's mentioned in nearly all apologetic literature/arguments about whether or not He was truly resurrected. A comprehensive list of such content would be far too overwhelming for this forum, but here is a smattering:

And of course, it was mentioned in the Gospels, as Kris noted already. The people at the time thought of it. However, they were silenced because of the fact that Jesus appeared to so many witnesses after the fact. A stolen body just doesn't appear to people alive like that.

From about.com:

A large crowd of more than 500 eyewitnesses saw the risen Jesus Christ at the same time. The Apostle Paul records this event in 1 Corinthians 15:6. He states that most of these men and women were still alive when he wrote this letter, about 55 A.D. Undoubtedly they told others about this miracle. Today, psychologists say it would be impossible for a large crowd of people to have had the same hallucination at once. Smaller groups also saw the risen Christ, such as the apostles, and Cleopas and his companion. They all saw the same thing, and in the case of the apostles, they touched Jesus and watched him eat food. The hallucination theory is further debunked because after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, sightings of him stopped.

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That was exactly what those who convinced Pontus Pilate to have Jesus executed were afraid of as we read in Matthew 27:62-66 New World Translation

62 The next day, which was after the Preparation,+ the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together before Pilate, 63 saying: “Sir, we recall what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I am to be raised up.’+ 64 Therefore, command that the grave be made secure until the third day, so that his disciples may not come and steal him+ and say to the people, ‘He was raised up from the dead!’ Then this last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them: “You may have a guard. Go make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the grave secure by sealing the stone and posting a guard.

The opportunity for a zealot to make off with the body was thus prevented by the very instigators who would have loved to prove that our Lord was not resurrected! They took extra measures and had it on record that gaurds that they themselves requested were on watch at the tomb and yet the body was miraculously vanished and the stone rolled way with out human hands .

If the haters of Christ had not been so diligent they would have been in a better position to claim the "zealot hypothesis for empty tomb" but as the bible shows that claim would have been quashed since all knew the tomb was guarded .

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Let us also read on till Matthew 28:11-15 (NIV)

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The very fact that the Chief Priest and elders bribed the soldiers, is proof that they themselves believed that Jesus had resurrected from the dead. Or else, they would have searched for the 'missing body'.

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