The Tomb is Empty

The Tomb is Empty
Leading apologist Gary Habermas uses a “Minimal Facts” approach to proving the resurrection of Christ by citing sources that are non-Christian as evidence of such an event occurring. It is a very compelling approach because he uses the very skeptics’ words and documentation to prove the resurrection as a historical fact. However, he does not include an argument for the empty tomb, because his strong argument for the post-mortem appearances of Jesus presuppose an empty tomb. I’ll look at the evidence of the resurrection tomorrow, but did want to focus on the evidences surrounding the empty tomb. The majority of this information comes from the research conducted by William Lane Craig:
Facts Surrounding the Support of the Empty Tomb:
All four gospels mention that women were the first eyewitnesses. This fact is significant because the testimony of women was usually dismissed in ancient trials. So, no first-century author would have ever made the story up.
The early creed that Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:4 says, “He was buried.” If He was buried, then the tomb would have been a geographical, as well as historical, marker. All that the Roman and Jewish authorities would have had to do was produce the dead body of Jesus and the Christian story would have come to a screeching halt. Scholars, including leading skeptics, have placed this early creed that Paul speaks of in Corinthians, as early as AD 34-35.
Skeptics attempt to work around this evidence by asserting that Jesus would not have received a proper burial. Rather, the Romans would have thrown His body to the wild animals. First of all, such an act would have violated the Roman laws, which stated that the customs of those nations they occupied should be respected as much as possible.  Such laws were enacted in order to keep the peace. In addition, Jewish law expressly commanded bodies of the condemned be buried so that the land would not be defiled (Deuteronomy 21:22–23).
As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. Joseph is described as member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a sort of Jewish high court, made up of seventy of the leading men of Judaism, which presided in Jerusalem. There was an understandable hostility in the early church toward the Jewish Sanhedrists. In Christian eyes, they had engineered a judicial murder of Jesus. Thus, Jesus’ burial by Joseph is very probable, since it would be almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right by Jesus, especially since it would have been easily refuted.
Matthew is clearly working with an independent source, for he includes the story of the guard at the tomb, which is unique to his gospel. Moreover, his comment about how the rumor that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body “is still told among Jews to this day” (Matt. 28:15) shows that Matthew is responding to prior tradition. Luke also has an independent source, for he tells the story, not found in Mark, of two disciples visiting the tomb to verify the women’s report that the tomb was vacant. The story can’t be regarded as Luke’s creation, since the incident is independently reported in John. And, again, given John’s independence of the other three gospels, we have yet another independent report of the empty tomb. Finally, in the sermons in the book of Acts, we again have indirect references to the empty tomb. For example, Peter draws the sharp contrast, David “died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day,” but “this Jesus God raised up” (Acts 2: 29– 32; compare 13: 36– 37).
Again, remember that the writing we now call the New Testament were not considered as part of any Bible at that time – these were treated like any other historical writing. In fact, Luke is considered to be a preeminent historian by many non-Christian scholars.
Having heard convincing evidence that Jesus had been in the tomb, it seemed important to know how secure his grave was from outside influences. The tighter the security, the less likely the body could have been tampered with. There was a slanted groove that led down to a low entrance, and a large disk-shaped stone was rolled down this groove and lodged into place across the door. A smaller stone was then used to secure the disk. Although it would be easy to roll this big disk down the groove, it would take several men to roll the stone back up in order to reopen the tomb. In that sense, it was quite secure.
WERE ANY GUARDS PRESENT? Think about the claims and counterclaims about the resurrection that went back and forth between the Jews and Christians in the first century. “The initial Christian proclamation was, ‘Jesus is risen.’ The Jews responded, ‘The disciples stole his body.’ To this Christians said, ‘Ah, but the guards at the tomb would have prevented such a theft.’ The Jews responded, ‘Oh, but the guards at the tomb fell asleep.’

Case Closed. 


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