No Roman guards at the Tomb

Everybody throw out your Sunday School papers with the pictures of Roman guards sleeping at the Tomb. They were Jewish guards, not Roman.

Says who? Says Matt 27:57-66; 28:11-15 - the only Gospel accounts of the Burial and Resurrection mentioning the guard detail.

1. Matt 27:60 - a Jew buries Jesus and rolls the stone in front: Joseph of Arimathea, probably with another Jew, Nicodemus. No Romans present. They didn't even know, except for Pilate.

2. Matt 27:64-66 - the Jews ask Pilate to make the tomb secure. Pilate says, "You have a guard." This was an indicative statement, not an imperative. "You've already got a police department. [Which the priests did.] Go ahead and do it." So THEY go and secure it. It may have been a Roman seal on the Tomb. Not important to my point. The Jewish police were given the authority to put it on.

3. Matt 28:11 - after the Breakout, the guards report to the chief priests. Roman guards would not do this; they would go to Pilate.

4. Matt 28:15 - the conspiracy of the lie is a Jewish one, reported among the JEWS. The only Roman involvement was the seal, which God's power broke, too.

Not a major point of doctrine, and not meant anti-Semitically, of course.


  1. I have a question Steve. If the guards were Jewish guards, why in Matthew 28:14 do we read, "And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."

    I don't think the Roman governor would care if Jewish guards messed up, but if they were Roman guards, not only would he care, but the guards would be in fear of him finding out, because as far as I know, the penalty for sleeping at your post was rather sever.

  2. This is where the Roman seal WOULD be important, to make sense of that verse. Good point. Pilate wouldn't care so much since it was a Jewish matter, except for the Roman execution and seal on the tomb. Why care about that? This was the biggest care Rome had! Knowingly going against Roman law, by attacking Rome's symbols. Pilate crucified lots of people just for defacing Roman eagles, etc.

    So, "IF it comes to Pilate's ears" argues for Jewish guards and a Roman seal, because Pilate's got a stake in it, but he's not being reported to directly. The Jewish guards were under Rome's ultimately authority, so they would be worried. But they could only be assuaged by Jewish leaders if they reported directly to Jews who would cover for them against Pilate. Jewish leaders COULDN'T cover for Roman guards. They would have no authority or case. But if it was a Roman seal and a Jewish guard, the Jewish leaders could appease Pilate by saying it was an accident or whatever, re-affirming their loyalty to Roman authority and thus appeasing Pilate.

    Psalm 2:1-2 and Acts 4:25-28 apply:

    "the rulers were gathered together against Yahweh and against His Messiah.... both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together..."