The account in Matt. 27: 62–6 that a guard was posted at the sepulchre of Jesus to prevent the theft of the body derives from the controversy current at the time of the writing of the gospel. Jewish propaganda maintained that Jesus was not risen from the dead; the disciples had stolen the body. Guards stationed there had seen it happen. Christians replied that when the guards reported what had really happened, they were bribed to keep quiet and say they were asleep and so did not see the body being removed (Matt. 28: 11–15), and if Pilate were to reprimand them for sleeping while on duty, the priests would look after them (28: 14). That there was any guard (either Jewish or Roman) at all is unlikely; how could the Pharisees have requested a guard for the purpose of refuting at once any rumour that ‘this deceiver's prophecy about rising again’ had come true? Were the Pharisees of 27: 62 the same Pharisees who heard the conversation about Jonah (Matt. 12: 40)? Not even the disciples knew about any such prediction.

The story is written up by Matthew from apologetic motives to refute objections to the Christian claim about the empty tomb.