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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Even More on the Burial of Jesus and the Empty Tomb

In the last two posts, I have outlined a completely naturalistic explanation for the empty tomb. William Craig in his debates has said that its not enough to deny the resurrection but that one needs to offer an alternative explanation which will explain all the phenomena as well or better than the resurrection hypothesis does. I think he is right.

In addition to the scenario I have already outlined, there are also other possibilities to explain the phenomena before one has to resort to a supernatural explanation.

For example,

1) Jesus' body was taken straight from the cross to the criminal graveyard by a devout Jew. We know that the Jews did not want to leave a person hanging on a tree or a piece of wood overnight. Deuteronomy 21:23 says: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged [is] accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance.

2) Jesus' body was taken straight from the cross and thrown into Gehenna. Perhaps a Roman soldier did this. Louis Feldman has argued that it was the Romans who put Jesus to death and that the Jews had nothing to do with it. See Who Really Killed Jesus? A Critical Response to "The Passion" , 2004. Feldman maintains that the gospel accounts, which place the blame on the Jewish leaders, are so full of mistakes that it obviously did not happen the way they describe it.

3) Jesus' body was taken by Joseph of Arimathea and placed into a different tomb. We know that the first tomb where Jesus is said to have been placed was a new family tomb and maybe Joseph had another tomb somewhere else to which he moved the body. The Bible says he was a rich man, so it is reasonable to assume, he may have had another tomb.

4) The empty tomb story was a later embellishment of the gospel narrative. In other words, the story as we have it in the gospels did not happen at all. This is certainly possible. We know that the earliest account of the resurrection in I Cor. 15 contains no mention of the empty tomb nor of the women visiting it. The earliest gospel record, Mark, ends abruptly with the women leaving the tomb scared and silent. As Robert Price remarks: Isn't it obvious that the claim that the women "said nothing to anyone for they were afraid" functions to explain to the reader why nothing of this had been heard before. By This Time He Stinketh, 1997.

So, there are a number of different ways to explain the empty tomb without opting for a supernatural one.

Next, I will deal with the "appearances" of the resurrected Jesus and offer a naturalistic explanation for them.


  1. All those and the previous explanation seem MUCH more likely than a resurrection from the dead.

    I'm still trying to figure out how 500 people rose from the dead when Jesus was crucified, but no one reported that. Wouldn't that be something pretty terrifying to experience??!!

  2. No, sorry, I'm confused. 500 is how many saw him after the resurrection. I don't know how many came out of their graves at the crucifiction.

  3. How do you kill God? If you could kill Jesus, then he's not a god. If Jesus did not die then he's not a sacrifice. God, being God, had to know that Jesus wasn't going to die. (Or he wouldn't be a god). Jesus, being God, had to know he was not going to die. (same reason)