Matthew reports a guard being stationed outside of Jesus’ tomb (Mt 27:62-66; 28:4,11-15).  While it is often assumed that the guard was a Roman guard, the text does not say this.  While it may have been a Roman guard, it is also possible that it was a Jewish guard seeing that the temple in Jerusalem employed its own guards.  Which was it?

Reasons to think the guard was a Jewish temple guard:

  • The guards return to the chief priests rather than to Pilate or a Roman officer
  • It is unlikely that Roman guards would agree to spread a story for which they could be executed (execution was the punishment for Roman soldiers who fell asleep on watch).
  • While the mention of the governor in Mt 28:14 may indicate this is a Roman guard, if it was a Roman guard then it is difficult to see how the Jewish leadership could have done anything to keep the governor for killing his own soldiers.  What influence would they have in Roman military affairs?

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