Did GosMark's Author Possibly Invent the Empty Tomb? (Nope 2 of 9)


In Part 1, I introduced the question, "Is it possible that the author of GosMark invented the empty tomb?" After circling the question to get a bead on it, I said I would be answering with a (sepulchral) "NO!" -- and that I would still answer this, even if I was an atheist or some other relevantly similar non-Christian.

But I didn't start giving any reasons yet for why I myself would answer that way regardless of my religious beliefs or lack of them. So where will I actually start?

Where I said I had already started as a procedural test, several years ago:

1.) After a ridiculously exhaustive multi-part analysis of various hypothetical options, starting from extreme scepticism about the source material (as in, everything is totally being made up by the author), I concluded that the only historically plausible theory explaining the resulting polemic exchange concerning the tomb guards in GosMatt, is that Jewish leaders in contact with the author's audience were referring back to a very early authoritative explanation for the missing body, i.e. the guards of the body said the disciples stole it while they were all asleep.

(I don't regard the earliness of this Jewish counter-apologetic to significantly affect the question of when the received form of GosMatt was written or its relative dating to GosMark; it might weigh a little more toward an earlier than a later GosMatt composition, but not I think enough to challenge any 1st century dating scheme, maybe not even any 2nd century dating.)

This clearly weak explanation was nevertheless deemed authoritatively strong enough by "Matthew" to include for rebuttal -- regardless of whether or not he was just sheerly inventing the rebuttal, i.e. that the Sanhedrin bribed the guards to testify that way.

Both sides are agreeing on accepting facts of a case, each with independent authoritative but oppositional testimony, going back to the days immediately after the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Those facts include a shape of the situation so closely fitting an empty tomb, that even the literary invention of such a tomb would be a trivial addition: a plausible number of guards were guarding a body of Jesus that was in a situation they could identify it as being his body; and could set a feasible guard over it; and wouldn't notice it was missing until after it went missing; and yet the body wasn't solidly under the control of either Jesus' opponents (not in the bowels of the Temple for example or somewhere completely impossible for opponents to try even a weakly silly disappearance explanation, which they evidently tried anyway), or Jesus' allies (because there are guards on the body, and the oppositional charge is that the allies stole the body per se).

At that point I might as well acknowledge that there was either an empty tomb or else an empty something-that-for-all-practical-purposes-might-as-well-have-been-a-tomb! And I don't know of anything culturally in that time and place which would fit might-as-well-a-tomb, except a tomb.

It waddles like a tomb, and quacks like a tomb, and swims like a tomb, and flies like a tomb, and has a bill like a tomb, and lives in a pond where the only things like a tomb are tombs. And, by the way, there's a sign nearby saying "tomb-pond, watch out for the tomb". I would be silly not to accept that they're talking about a tomb, even though in the remnants of that polemic exchange they happen not to be using the word "tomb" (or the Greek equivalent rather).

That by itself decisively puts (at the very least) the idea of the empty tomb (and so also of the tomb at all) long, long before whenever GosMark was written. If it was invented, it was invented back then; and the shape of the polemic indicates the tomb cannot be a literary invention (although, so far as that analysis goes, it might have been 'invented' in another way, by the disciples stealing the body for example.)

But there's a very unquiet unanimity on that topic in the sources already (represented in my duck analogy by the sign nearby). And that makes its own contribution.

Next up: if a flock of tombs is swimming on the pond...


Jason Pratt said…
It would of course be better to read and comment on the prior argument than to comment on an overly-brief summary of it here; but I expect someone will not only do so, and will not only criticize it in a way I already covered in-depth in the previous series (to which this is a sequel as a progressing argument), but will not even understand what I'm arguing and so will mis-criticize it that way, too.

Not that I'm a prophet. I just have long experience in such matters. {wry g}

Also, registering for comment tracking.

Joe Hinman said…
good article Jasopms, very imterestimg

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