Ever since doctor Gary Habermas presented his minimal facts argument for the resurrection, it has been a hotly debated topic. Recently, Paulogia responded to other Christian’s claims on the topic. In his video he points out that doctor Mike Licona disagrees that the burial of Jesus in a tomb is one of the minimal facts. Here, I won’t be responding to the entire argument. Rather, I will be responding only to the empty tomb. Today we will be asking ourselves the question was Jesus really buried in a tomb.
Before I get into the subject matter, I want to point out that this is not an argument against the resurrection. It is entirely possible that Jesus truly resurrected without having been buried in a tomb. I will be making the argument that he most likely was not actually buried in a tomb.
My argument that Jesus wasn’t buried in a tomb is based largely on the differences between several of the versions of events found in h Bible. In order to understand my point, we will look at those discrepencies. However, we must first point out where the stories agree.
The Facts Agreed Upon in the New Testament.
- Jesus was buried in a tomb. (All 4 Gospels)
- Joseph of Aramathea buried Jesus. (All 4)
- Joseph was a member of the Sanhedran (Mar, L, J)
- Jesus was buried in a tomb. (All 4)
- It was a brand new tomb. (L, Mar, J)
Now we’re going to play cold case detective, like J. Warner Wallace. Since Joseph of Aramathea was the one last seen with the body, we need to investigate him. As mentioned above, all 4 Gospels placce him at the scene, however Matthew has 2 deviations from the script used by the other Gospels.
- He makes no mention that it was a brand new tomb. However, he says that it was a tomb that was cut by Joseph. Hence, it can’t be very old. But the others specify that it had not previously been used, whereas Matthew does not.
- Matthew makes no mention that Joseph is a member of the Sanhedran.
Do these variations offer us a clue?
I believe that there is a reason for Matthew leaving out these details. To find that reason, we need to take a journey to the Book of Acts, also written by Luke. In Acts 1:18-19 we read about the death of Judas. Here he gives us the following information.
- Judas used the money he acquired by betraying Jesus to purchase a field.
- He fell headlong, and splitting open he was disemboweled.
- Because of the way he died, the field was called the “Field of Blood.”
In Matthew we learn that the death of Judas occured after the conveiction of Jesus. However, his story has some marked differences. In Matthew 27:3-6 we learn the following contradictory facts.
- Judas regretted his actions and returned the money to the priests.
- He then left and hung himself.
- The priests met with the Sanhedrin to determine if the money could be used in the Temple, seeing as it was blood money.
- The Sanhedrin ruled that it could not, and thus they used it to buy a field to bury the unfortunate.
- The field was called “Field of Blood” because it was purchased with blood money.
Here, I believe we see why Matthew left out a couple of details. Follow me here. Luke has Judas buying the field. Thus, he has no problem telling us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, and that the burial place was receiving it’s first body. Matthew leaves those details out because he literally can’t give us that information. Why? Because it calls into question the narrative that there ever was a tomb.
His version of Judas’ death literally has Joseph of Aramathea buying a field for burying the indigent hours before he is burying an indigent man in a brand new burial place. Laides and Gentelmen, the tomb is empty because Joseph never filled it. He buried Jesus in the Field of Blood. Think I’m wrong? Consider this.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us that Jesus was buried, but with no mention of a tomb. Furthermore, he muddles the story even further by saying that the body that went into the ground isn’t the one that came out. In Paul’s version, the earliest one on record, there are two bodies. A physical body and a spiritual body. The resurrected body isn’t the physical one that was buried. Rather, it is a spiritual body. Therefore an empty tomb is entirely unnecessary to Paul’s story.
15 to 20 years later, Mark introduces us to the concept of the empty tomb. However, Mark originally ended his Gospel with the women not telling anyone about the empty tomb, and there were no post ressurection appearances of Jesus in his account. Adding them in, it becomes important for Matthew to hide the fact that Joseph of Aramathea had just purchased a cemetary for indigent people, and that Jesus would be buried in a virgin plot. This would blow the cover on Mark’s making up the story about the tomb, which he wants to maintain and further embellish. But why?
We see why in the Gospels. When the disciples hear of the resurrection, they doubt. When they see Jesus, they think it’s a ghost. In Luke, Jesus has to eat a piece of fish to convince them he’s not a ghost. In John, he has to allow Thomas to inspect his wounds. But are these really thee doubts of the disciples? Unlikely. Rather, these are the doubts being expressed by Jewish skeptics.
Mark is written 40 years after the death of Jesus. Joseph of Aramathea is likely dead at this point. He can’t contradict the narrative that he buried Jesus in a tomb. This frees up th Gospels to create a new burial story in a location from which Jesus can extracate himself. A tomb. And it also allows the women to find the tomb empty. Otherwise, had Jesus simply miraculously risen up through the ground, how would the women discover that the grave was empty. What rational excuse would they have to dig up a grave?
My point is strengthened by the fact that to this day, nobody knows where the tomb of Jesus is. There are two alleged tombs, but the one is too old (8th century BCE) and the other too new (4th century CE). How did the early Christians lose track of the location of the tomb of Jesus? Think about this. In America every Easter, Christians of some denominations meet out in a field to watch the sunrise on Easter Sunday, trying to place themselves in the shoes of the women who found the empty tomb at sunrise. Yet you’re telling me the first Christins cared so little that they bver visited the tomb and eventually forgot where it was? Yet Jews know the exact location of the cave where Abraham was buried 1,700 years earlier.
How did they lose the tomb? Because there never was one untill 40 years after the death of Jesus, when Mark concocted the story. By then, it was conveniently too late to investigate the scene. And remember, according to Mark the women didn’t tell anyone, so how would anyone know where it was to investigate?
Theologically, you don’t need an empty tomb for a resurrection. Paul preached it without one. However, this is a historical argument. So I ask you…. which is more plausible as a historical explaination for the empty tomb? A man coming back to life and walking out of it? Or Joseph burying Jesus in the indigent cemetary that he purchased earlier that day? Let me know in the comments below.