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he is not here - the empty tomb

The empty tomb is an important part of the Resurrection story. It is one solid feature which, if demonstrated, demands an answer. That demand is most easily met by the Gospel / Pauline accounts, i.e. Jesus rose from the dead and walked out of the tomb exit.

At the risk of stating the somewhat obvious, the fact of Jesus' death (see Cruci-Fiction?) rather suggests a tomb of some sort - unless Jesus was left in the street to rot. It has been suggested that most victims of crucifiction were buried in mass graves, but the Gospels record that one of Jesus' rich mates (Joseph of Arimathea) donated his private family tomb for the Saviour's use.

Again, many disregard the Gospels as serious history and so cast doubt on the veracity of empty tomb claims. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Real history very rarely comes written in chapter and verse;
  • Genuine historians don't have to repeat themselves four times in case someone at the back wasn't listening;
  • Historians known only by their first names looks a bit amateur for some; and
  • It all sounds a bit weird doesn't it?

Although it relies principally on an argument from absence, the empty tomb story is actually highly convincing. Basically, the fact that anyone got away with passing it off as fact at all is a strong indicator that it was true.

"And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." Luke 23:2-3

Consider the following:

  • At the latest, the Gospels began with the empty tomb story at around 70 AD. In my opinion, it must have been doing the rounds for some time before that. You cannot credibly bring up something of that importance 40 years after the fact.
  • Christianity had its birthplace in Jerusalem, in the very shadow of the Cross. How could you make claims about an empty tomb while standing a mere stone's throw from the tomb itself, unless it was actually empty?
  • Matthew records the allegation that the disciples stole Jesus' body (28:13-15). He does this to refute it. To bring it up at all harms the credibility of his own version of events. There is no reason to bring it up at all unless the allegation was widespread. It would not have been put forward as an explanation unless there was something (such as an empty tomb) to explain.
Decree of Caesar Claudius c. 50 AD

"It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing on other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honour the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charge of violation of sepulchre."

So, what's all that about, then? This slab, 61cm tall, was found in Nazareth (Pop Quiz: who else do we know from Nazareth?). It seems odd, does it not, that the ruler of the whole Roman Empire saw fit to legislate to outlaw the break of seals on tombs, stealing of dead bodies, and starting cults based on the dead person being a god of some sort? What on earth could have prompted this unusual ordinance?

The final irony is, of course, that the threat of the death penalty is used to discourage this kind of crazy "Empty Tomb" behaviour - when it was the imposition of the death penalty which had led to the problem in the first place.


Enough empty tomb talk - let get to raising the dead.

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Some of the Best Ways to Empty a Tomb

1. Grave-robbers;
2. Exhumation;
3. Forensic Autopsy;
4. Lara Croft;
5. Hydrochloric Acid;
6. Maggots & Worms;
7. The March of Time;
8. A Shovel;