It will take me a few comments to respond to your comment here: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/conversation-a-note-from-jim/#comment-29404 . In this first comment, I would like to address the supposed proofs that the religious leaders had. Peter escaping from prison and Paul remaining in prison are not proofs of the resurrection, and I see no purpose in your mentioning them. So I will only write about the priests that believed in Acts 6 and the events in Matthew.
Regarding the priests, they disprove your argument not support it. If they had believed in Jesus from seeing him at the resurrection, they would not only be coming to belief in him in chapter 6 of Acts when some time has passed. They did not believe because they had “first hand evidence”. According to Acts 6:7: “The word of God continued to spread; the numbers of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” These priests believed due to preaching, not because they saw Jesus. They had no “first hand evidence.”
But it is Matthew I would like to spend the most time on. First, we must acknowledge that Matthew is an untrustworthy author. He has no regard for the truth. His distortions of Tanach are well-documented. Consider what he does to Isaiah 7:14. He alters it. And I do not mean just with the substitution of the word ‘virgin’ for ‘young woman’. He also changes the naming of the child. Isaiah says that the young woman to whom he is referring will name her child ‘Immanuel’. Matthew changes even this to ‘they’ rather than she. This way the name sounds like an appellative, that people will be hailing this child in some special manner. If he left the verse alone, even just that change of pronoun, it would be obvious to the reader that it did not have anything to do with Jesus. His mother did not name him Immanuel. Even those unfamiliar with the actual context of the verse would be able to quickly identify that it had nothing to do with Jesus. The unethical Matthew found a solution in altering the verse.
He likes to omit the parts that do not suit his purpose, showing no regard for Tanach. When he quotes Hosea 11:1, he omits the beginning, that which tells the reader the topic. The topic is, of course, not Jesus. It is Israel. And the verse is not predictive but descriptive of the past. But I will not run through the whole list of dishonest uses of scripture by Matthew. The point is that he is not trustworthy in the first place.
But even if we did not know that, Matthew accidentally reveals to the reader that his story about the Jewish leadership trying to hush up the resurrection is a lie. The bribe itself shows that the story is a fabrication, because the leadership acts on knowledge that they did not and could not have. At Matthew 28:13, the priests and elders wish the guards to say that the disciples came and stole the body. In writing this, Matthew has just shown us that the story is a lie.
The leadership cannot at that point know what is going to happen. For all they know, Jesus is going to begin walking around the streets of Jerusalem healing people, preaching, and attracting an even larger following than before. He could show up at any moment and demand that they acknowledge him as a prophet, now that he has fulfilled his predicted resurrection. So, how is it that they bribed the guards to say that the disciples took the body? No, they did not do such a thing, because they could not know that Jesus would never show himself. This story is an invention.
Moreover, the story shows that Jesus did not show himself publicly. If he had, no such story could have been circulated. The story is built on the premise that Jesus came only to a few here and a few there, privately.
Matthew’s fabrication has two purposes. First, he wants to draft the Jewish leadership into his argument. He wants to support belief in Jesus from the opposition. To do this, he invents testimony on their behalf. And it is shocking how much Christians and general lovers of Jesus believe whatever the NT tells them about the Jews and the Pharisees. They accept the writings of the NT as if it were the direct testimony of the Pharisees, when it obviously is not. Second, he wants to vilify the Jews, especially the leadership. The Jewish people were not on board with the message of Jesus and his followers, generally speaking. This had to be explained, inasmuch as Jesus is supposed to be their Messiah. So, the Jews become the villains. And how dastardly they are, according to Matthew. He wants us to believe that the Jewish leadership knew the truth but rejected Jesus anyway. Matthew’s lies would be one of the causes of 2,000 years of Jewish persecution.
But the story was not true. It could not be, because as I pointed out, the Jewish leaders are acting as if they know Jesus will not show himself. Obviously this story was fabricated much later, after Christians started teaching that Jesus came back from the dead. And Matthew did not account for what would have been the Jewish leadership’s perspective and knowledge. That Matthew lied at the end of the book should have surprised nobody who had read the beginning. But the book, given to the Torah-ignorant gentiles was believed by them, and it caused great damage to the Jewish people. Two thousand years of suffering ensued.
Clearly, Jesus did not show himself to the Jewish leadership.