"Story of the Empty Tomb, Dated Mid First Century," My Article Published in Defending The Resurrection


Holding's new book. Defending the Resurrection.   It's an excellent compilation of articles from different independent scholars and laymen, in answer to the Secular Web's Anthology The Empty Tomb. See the Article "Story of Empty Tomb Dated Mid First Century," by Joe Hinman.

J.P. Holding (Tekton Apologetics) is despised by atheists. They hate him, they go out of their way to heap abuse on him. They say that he is an arch-fundamentalist. Since 90% of the atheists have no idea what a fundamentalist is and don't know the difference, and since atheists slandered me constantly and many have called me a fundie, I figured Holding might not be such a bad guy. Actually I began contacting him and exchanging views year ago, way back in the 90s when I first discovered internet apologetics. I still don't know him very well, but he accepted my article. I was kind of hurt the he didn't ask me to contribute to his anthology on the Jesus Myth since I have so many article about that on Doxa. I voiced my disgruntlement to him one day and he told me about his Resurrection project, so I sent an article and he put it in. Now the book is out. True to form it's being slandered by atheists on Amazon.

What I see happening on Amazon is exactly what's going to happen to my book. My book has already been slandered and libeled and treated like a pile of crap on CARM by ignorant cretins who refuse to even click on a link and read a page from a text book. They complain because I don't make the evidence available to them. These are the geniuses who think it's a methodological attack on a study, to attack a study because it turns up in a bibliography with other sources of which they disapprove. I know my book will be panned by people who have never read it.

The comments on Amazon about Holding’s book are all from atheists who haven't read it, and they are all about why Holding is a bad buy on a message board. One in particular from a certain G. Palazzo is by a guy who posts on Tweb called "Little Monkey." Monkey man is a coward, who refuses to argue. When one disproves the things he says, he asserts victory without even bothering to deal with any kind of issue or demonstrate any support for his opinions.

Holding is nothing but a balls-to-the-walls, obnoxious egocentric who thinks the world of himself and exalts his views to the level of the bible which he tries to defend. The heavy sarcasm, the open derision, the sophomoric recourse to insult, the sneering tone: these are readily recognizable as the all-too-common reaction of those whose cherished beliefs are being threatened or even questioned. Holding systematically mischaracterizes the views and arguments of his "opponents", and his argumentation is characterized by strings of ad hominems, non-sequiturs and other sorts of fallacious reasoning.

Everything in this review is about Holding as a man and not the book, which is an anthology and not all by Holding. Everything that guy says about Holding I can easily say about him, Little Monkey, G. Palazzo. The things he is saying about Holding are lies. Holding is a fine researcher, his views are not fundamentalist. I've been discussing things with him; he's fairly open minded. He can be harsh and he will drive you nuts with puns but he's a fine researcher, has a steel trap mind, and can be extremely penetrating in his insights. We really need people to read this book and rate it highly, it deserves to be so rated!

More importantly this book is great because my article is in it! This book deserves to be rated highly.

My article argues that the story of the empty tomb was circulating in writing by around AD50. That in itself is extremely invaluable because it puts into place all the McDowell arguments about the guards on the tomb. It pins down the event to something circulated during the life time of eye witnesses.

Here is an excerpt form my article: "The Story of the Empty Tomb Dated Mid First Century"

Skeptical machinations are endless, anytime the tide turns toward the apologist the skeptic will take a further step back and seek to change the ground rules in a fundamental way. So it is with the perennial resurrection debate since the tide was shifted by McDowell and then by Craig, years ago. One of the major tactics used by skeptics to change the ground rules has been to uproot all points of the compass so the apologist can’t get his/her bearings as to what events are actually historical and thus defensible. To accomplish this, the skeptic has partly pulled off a resurrection of his own, by resurrecting old ninetieth century clap trap that was dismissed ages ago. One of the major examples is the historical nature of the empty tomb. McDowell then Craig both did fine jobs of demonstrating that if the facts about the tomb are in place the debate goes to the apologist. But then the atheists used the Jesus myth idea, long disproved and discarded, to set up a new round of doubt about the historicity of the tomb. For skeptics today the four Gospels are not even factors, they are totally ignored as though they offer no evidence at all, and all that they proclaim is regarded as pure fiction. It is of paramount importance, therefore, to establish some historical facts about the case and to nail down some of the points of reference. In this department of points of reference pertaining to the narrative there can be no more important point of reference than the issue of when the story of the empty tomb began to circulate. This is a crucial issue for several reasons: (1) it’s the lynch pin upon which is hung all the empty tomb logic arguments of the major apolitical moves of the last fifty years. That means two things: (a) it would mean the writing is too early for the events to allow for development of elaborate myth; (b) it would mean that a large number of eye witnesses were still around, depending of course on how close to the events the writing could be placed. (2) The earlier the date the more it would undermine the Earl Doherty’s Jesus myth theories by distorting their time table. Thus in this article I will be focusing upon the one issue: when did the empty tomb story begin to circulate in writing?
         There are a few assumptions that must be discussed up front. Why focus on writing if we can assume it was told orally first? Obviously whatever point at which the writing started, we can assume the material was orally transmitted before that point. Writing gives us a concrete means of pinning down a time frame. There’s no way to trace oral tradition as to when it began except in the most general of terms. But dating a text, however, we can be much more precise as to when the circulation began. The other major assumption that must be understood is that no one single individual wrote the Gospels. There were redactors and they came out of the communities and the communities are regarded as the authors now, not merely individuals. These communities of which I speak are those into which the earliest follows of Jesus began to group after the events which ultimately come to be represented in the Gospels. Each of the Gospels is taken by scholars today as representative of its own community.[1] So there was a Matthew community, a Mark community, a John community, and perhaps a Luke community, although I tend to attribute Luke to the Pauline circle as a whole and to the individual Luke himself. The problem this sets up for the Evangelical apologist is that it may open some other areas of conflict depending upon how deeply committed one is to an inerrant view of the Gospels. I have encountered atheists who just assert that redaction itself is proof enough that “it was all made up.” No serious scholar believes this and it’s simply a matter of understanding the more adult and sophisticated view to dismiss that bit of amateurish thinking. Yet accepting the liberal assumptions may create more problems for apologetics than it solves, this is a major issue that must be solved, and it must be solved it in the most decisive way. I will suggest solutions to the problems that are more evangelical friendly, and I assert these positions for the sake of argument, to show that even granting the assumptions of liberal scholarship the resurrection still enjoys the support of the evidence. Be that as it may my one overriding concern in this article is in proving that the resurrection circulated, in writing, by mid first century period. Therefore, I will be using the assumptions of liberal scholarship and the evidence of liberal scholars. My reason for doing this is to demonstrate that the case can be made not merely with materials from writers skeptics expect to take the conservative side, but with fairly liberal scholars who skeptics would expect to be skeptical.
         In order to understand what we need to answer we must first understand the skeptical claim. The major point undermining the historicity of the empty tomb is the argument form silence; the tomb is never mentioned as such in any of the epistles or any other early Christian literature until the middle of the second century. Dale Allison remarks: "Paul did not know about Jesus' grave, and if he did not know about it, then surely no one else before him did either. The story of the empty tomb must, it follows, have originated after Paul."[2] For certain kinds of skeptics that seems like a crushing indictment. It’s actually not as powerful as it seems since it’s only an argument form silence, and argument from silence doesn’t prove anything. The apologist is apt to answer that some of the passages in the Pauline corpus imply the empty tomb, even though they don’t actually speak of it directly. While these are good points, we can do better. There’s some pretty strong evidence that the story of the empty tomb was circulating, in writing, as part of the end to the Passion narrative as early as middle of first century. The great scholar Helmutt Koester argues for a conclusion of textual criticism that can be demonstrated by scholarly methods. The point he’s making is that all four canonical Gospels and the non canonical Gospel of Peter all share mutual connection to an earlier text that included the passion narrative and that ended with the empty tomb. He says:

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb.[3] 

[and again]

"John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century![4]

He is talking in both cases about the original passion Narrative of “Ur Gospel” that he sees standing behind these five works. Here he tells us that this original work, this “Ur gospel” was circulating at the mid century point and that it contained the story of the empty tomb. Thus, the empty Tomb was part of the Gospel narrative as early as mid century. If we take the conventional accepted dates it was within 20 years after the original events. How does he prove this?
         The argument Koester is making comes from another scholar named Jurgen Denker, a textual critic. The basic proof of the argument is the result of textual criticism. Textual criticism is a science. Though many on both sides of the fence, skeptics and apologists find textual criticism assailable, they both assume and use it when it suits them. The atheists who argue for Q as a proof that “it’s all made up” have to accept the validity of textual criticism in order to support the idea of Q. Evangelicals, who quote Josh McDowell talking about how the NT text is 98% reliable, are actually accepted whole sale the validity of textual criticism, because that is how such a figure is arrived at.  The evidence of an Ur Gospel in the passion narrative comes from readings in several manuscripts which seem to date from periods much latter than the canonical Gospels. This is deceptive, however, because even though the texts are latter than the canonical gospels, the readings in the texts are much earlier. That sounds contradictory but it is not because the manuscripts (MS) are copied from earlier readings. The earlier readings leave traces of their original sources in the way they read. In other words if we had a book written in 1950 it would probably read like a 1950’s book. The speech, the form of the language, the slang would all be like the 50s. But suppose parts of that book were copied from a book written in Shakespeare’s time. In addition to the fifties slang you would have some parts that would read like Elizabethan English. Those parts would be easy to pick out and we would know that the author was either copying something old or trying to sound old. The situation with these MS is similar. For example one of them called “The Diatessaron” is an attempt by Tatian at making a harmony of the four Gospels. This attempt dates to about 170 AD. But some readings in the Diatessaron seem to from a much earlier time. So we know by this that they are copied form very early copies that were written in a more Jewish style.
         There are a couple of other aspects of this copying phenomenon that need to be understood. First of all, one often hears conservatives saying things like “there is no textual evidence for Q.” The reason for that is that when Q was incorporated into the synoptic people stopped copying it and eventually stopped using it, because it was incorporated into a text that seemed more complete. Overtime the copies of Q rotted away and on one bothered to copy it further. Secondly, as to the assumption that redaction (which simply means “editing”) in and of itself is proof that “It was all made up,” this is manifestly wrong. The assumption is based upon the fallacy that no one could purposely combine two holy books without believing that they were not “inspired.” But the reason this is a fallacy in relation to the New Testament is because at the time the process of redaction on the Gospels started the redactors did not imagine that they were editing “the New Testament!” They were not regarded as holy books. While some might think that’s a green light to make things up, its’ also reason why they would not make things up, because while they did not have a concept that they were writing the Bible (thus no need to conjure up the fabricated essence of a new religion) it does not prove in any way that they had no respect for the truth. They were neither making up the Bible nor creating the rudiments of a new religion; they had no idea of either of those things. They were merely producing a sermonic document for the edification of the community. They intended these works to be read by people they were living with and perhaps to spread into a larger circle of those who worshipped with them. But they did not think of themselves as writing “the Bible.” The process is more analogous to a modern preacher writing a sermon for Sunday; he doesn’t want to fabricates thing that aren’t true, but he’s free to change certain aspects of the order, combine different portions of other “sermons” and place ideas in different contexts and create a document that will hold the audience’s attention and teach them things, but in so doing communicate truth and a story they already knew. No intention of “make things up” need be read into it.
         This is not to say that the redactors did not have great reverence for the sources they used. They saw the prior sources as testimonies of holy men signifying holy truth, even if they did not see them as scripture. As we move up in time to the post apostolic age they have an ever greater reverence for anything that tells them about the origins of the faith and the words of Christ. Yet that doesn’t mean they thought of themselves as writing the Bible. They were free to quote and blend the quotes in with other quotes from other valuable sources, but not free to “make thing up,” not free to lie or fabricate. Thus we have the creation of the works we know as the canonical Gospels as “patch works” put together out of prior sources. They didn’t see themselves as producing the canonical Gospels, they saw themselves as accurately reflecting truth for the edification of their flocks, and pulling together the great sources of truth left to the church into their own little humble sermonic contributions. In so doing they left traces of early versions and as their products were copied some of those traces hung on and they continue to testify to us of the earliest roots of the faith. Several traces of these early documents, these lost “Ur gospels” show up in the latter works of non canonical gospels, some of which are tainted with Gnosticism. The famous Nag Hammadi find The Gospel of Thomas is such a work. While it is clearly set within a heavily Gnostic framework of the third century, some of the passages prove to be an early core some of which are thought to be authentically spoken by Jesus, some of which have been theorized as making up the Q source. While Thomas is Cleary Gnostic some very anti-Gnostic traces are left. The same process of redaction we see at work in the canonicals is also at work in the non canonical gospels. So we find traces of an earlier age. Of more direct bearing on the resurrection story is the non canonical Gospel of Peter.

Gospel of Peter and the Empty Tomb

         The Gospel of Peter (aka “GPet”) was discovered in the ninetieth century at Oxryranchus, Egypt. It was probably written around 200 AD and contains some Gnostic elements, but is basically Orthodox. There are certain basic differences between Gospel of Peter (GPet) and the canonical story, but mainly the two are in agreement. Gpet follows the OT as a means of describing the passion narrative, rather than following Matthew. Jurgen Denker uses this observation to argue that GPet is independent and is based upon an independent source. In addition to Denker, Koester, Raymond Brown, and John Dominick Crossan also agree.[5] It is upon this basis that Crossan constructs his "cross Gospel" which he dates in the middle of the first century, meaning, an independent source upon which all the canonical and GPet draw. But the independence of GPet from all of these sources is also guaranteed by its failure to follow any one of them. Raymond Brown, who built his early reputation on study of GPet, follows the sequence of narrative in GPet and compares it in very close reading with that of the canonical Gospels. He finds that GPet is not dependent upon the canonical, although it is closer in the order of events to Matt/Mark rather than to Luke and John. Many Christian apologists think it’s their duty to show that GPet is dependent upon the canonical gospels, but it is basically a proved fact that it’s not. Such apologists are misguided in understanding the true apologetic gold mine in this fact. The fact that GPet is not dependent enables it to prove common ancestry with the canonicals and that establishes the early date of the circulation of the empty tomb as a part of the Jesus narrative. As documented on the Jesus Puzzle II page, and on Res part I. GPet is neither a copy of the canonical, nor are they a copy of GPet, but both use a common source in the Passion narrative which dates to AD 50 according to Crosson and Koester. Brown follows the flow of the narrative closely and presents a 23 point list in a huge table that illustrates the point just made above. I cannot reproduce the entire table, but just to give a few examples:


Sorry, you have to buy the book to see the rest of it. It's fascinating, I go on to prove my point with a close reading and textual analysis of the various sources. It's got everything in it, answer to arguments that Jesus didn't raise bodily, Paul's lack of mention of the empty tomb, the assertion that Jesus was buried in a mass unmarked grave and much more. This is really fine compilation of good apologetic defending the resurrection.

BTW Look for my article under the name Joe Hinman.

[1]Stephen Neil, The Interpritation of the New Testament 1861-1961. London, NY: Oxford University press, 1964, 239.

[2]Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: “The Earliest Christian Tradition and It’s Interpreters,” Journal for the Sutdy of Pseudepigrapha: supplement. T & T Cllark Publishers (September 30, 2005) 305-6.

[3]Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, Their History and Development. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, 208.

[4] Ibid. 220


Edwardtbabinski said…
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Edwardtbabinski said…
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Edwardtbabinski said…
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Edwardtbabinski said…
"J.P. Holding (Tekton Apologetics) is despised by atheists. They hate him, they go out of their way to heap abuse on him."


It takes two to tango.

And J.P. has been in knock down verbal brawls with fellow Christians as well as "atheists." Look up Alpha Omega Ministries, Rev. James White's ministry, and his interactions with J.P. by searching the AO Ministries website, or see the way J.P. and Steve Hays got involved in a debate with each other around that same time. J.P.'s Screwball Awards and Book Snaps also include his feisty language aimed at fellow Christian authors and websites. So basically, anything and anyone whose belief differ from his is a potential target for J.P.'s unimaginative brand of grade school insults coupled with cartoon caricatures.

Second, J.P. has been in the business of verbal non-appeasement for quite some time. His site has a statement or article about "not giving unbelievers the benefit of a doubt," and he defends what he calls the "riposte" method of discourse (even though the scholars whom he reads concerning sociological insights into the Bible disagree with J.P. that they are in any way advocating the riposte method in today's biblical studies or theological debates).

J.P. also brushes off any and all verses that suggest one should love one's enemies. When Thom Stark, author of The Human Faces of God, addressed (in a congenial fashion) J.P.'s insults aimed at himself and his work, J.P.'s response was: "Kum bay yah....baloney."

So I wrote to J.P., “ Kum bay yah baloney like Paul's in Romans 12?” 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In fact, when J.P. was asked about the command to "be as wise as serpents and as harmless/pure as doves," he interpreted it as license to react viciously, pointing out "Doves can be pretty vicious."

Furthermore, I was asked years ago to contribute a chapter to The Jury Is In, a response to the apologetics of Josh McDowell. As each person's chapter appeared online, it was soon followed by criticisms from J.P. Holding, who let the authors know what he was writing, and of course not linking to the articles he was criticizing (does he link today?) including in his criticisms personal insults aimed at each author. (Though he didn't criticize my own chapter since he doesn't deal with the topic of personal testimonies.) And in response to relatively calm responses to some of his early criticisms J.P. simply increased his denunciatory pitch.

John Loftus experienced the same thing when he first joined tweb in 2005. John raised some questions, and J.P. was flowing with insults toward John and his arguments, including the word "shit." At first John even tried complimenting J.P. on some of his insults. It was not long after that that John started indulging in some insults in return. But J.P. and friends went further. After Loftus left tweb they started anti-John blogs. If you read those blogs you'll soon realize that J.P. and company have gone way out of their way to heap abuse on Loftus.
Edwardtbabinski said…
Sometimes my comment shows up on the blog, sometimes it was URL too large, sometimes I post it and nothing shows up after I refresh the blog. I don't know what's going through or not. And I edit my comments each time, so use the last one I submitted and delete the rest please
Gary said…
Jesus' Tomb was not Guarded or Sealed the entire First Night!

Holy Grave Robbers!

I had never heard of this until today: How many Christians are aware that Jesus’ grave was unguarded AND unsecured the entire first night after his crucifixion??? Isn’t that a huge hole in the Christian explanation for the empty tomb?? Notice in this quote from Matthew chapter 27 below that the Pharisees do not ask Pilate for guards to guard the tomb until the next day after Jesus’ crucifixion, and, even though Joseph of Arimethea had rolled a great stone in front of the tomb’s door, he had not SEALED it shut!

Anyone could have stolen the body during those 12 hours!

The empty tomb “evidence” for the supernatural reanimation/resurrection of Jesus by Yahweh has a HUGE hole in it!

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[b] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”

—Matthew 27

So when did the guards show up to the tomb? Early the next morning or late in the afternoon? If late in the afternoon, the tomb of Jesus had been unguarded and unsealed for almost TWENTY FOUR hours!

The empty tomb is NOT good evidence for the resurrection claim. The most plausible explanation, based on the Bible itself, is that someone stole or moved the body!
BK said…
Sorry, maybe I missed something. Where does it say that they did not make certain that the body was in the tomb prior to sealing the tomb and positioning the guard? Was that stated in the text or are you just assuming?
Gary said…
Where did I say they did?

The passage only says that the guards came to the tomb and sealed the stone. It doesn't say that they rolled the stone away, checked the body, rolled the stone back into place again, and THEN sealed the tomb.

Bottom line: your "empty tomb" evidence is hanging by a thread, my friend. The most likely explanation for ANY empty tomb that was left unguarded and unsealed for even an HOUR is that someone took the body.

The idea that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated/resurrected the decomposing, bloated three-day-dead corpse of a man in first century Palestine is the last of all probable explanations. Now that there is proof that the tomb was not guarded and sealed the entire three days, the empty tomb evidence for the Christian claim of a Resurrection crashes and burns.
Gary said…
Sorry, I misstated my first sentence. The passage doesn't say the guards did not roll back the tomb but neither does it say they did.
BK said…
So, let's review: you are saying that the Matthew account says that Jesus was lain in the tomb on the night of his crucifixion and the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. The account than adds that the next morning, some who were concerned that the body of Jesus might be stolen went to Pilate and asked to have the tomb guarded. That same day the tomb was "sealed" and a guard placed in front of the tomb. And you expect that because the text does not specifically say that they checked the tomb to make certain that the body was still in the tomb before sealing the tomb that we are to believe that the entire resurrection narrative is "hanging by a thread"?

Let's look at a couple of other bits of information. When Pilate heard the request, he gave permission to those requesting that the tomb be guarded to prevent the body from being stolen to "go, make it as secure as you know how.” (verse 65) And the chief priests and the Pharisees who were most interested in making certain that the body of Jesus wasn't stolen, did go "and made the grave secure". (Verse 66) And you expect people to believe that because it does not specifically say that they looked in the tomb to make certain that Jesus' body was still present that these people, who are there specifically to make certain that the body is not stolen, didn't have the wherewithal to look in the tomb before sealing it and putting a guard in place?

Sorry, I think you are raising an interesting point, but it hardly rises to the level of destroying the resurrection narrative. You are making an unproven assumption, i.e., that before sealing the tomb no one thought to check to make certain Jesus was still in there. Now, I don't have a text to prove that they did check the tomb either, but since it is more than reasonable to believe that they did check for the body, your argument from silence is interesting but unconvincing.
Gary said…
Let's say that you are correct and that the guards did check the tomb when they showed up to the tomb sometime on the second day. And when they roll back the stone... the body was gone. Someone had moved or stolen the body the previous night when it was not guarded and not sealed.

What would have happened then?

Answer: the Jews would say that the disciples stole the body and disciples would say...HE IS RISEN!

I'm not saying that this is what happened. What I am saying is that this explanation has a much higher probability of being true than that a dead man was resurrected.

I'm sure you will then say, "But that isn't what the Gospels say happened next."

The Gospels were written decades after Jesus' death by anonymous authors. How much of what they said is historical fact and how much is legend or pure embellishment?

The bottom line is this: there was a period of time, maybe as long as 12 hours, that the tomb was unguarded and unsealed in the dark of night. Therefore, Christians cannot say that there is no other explanation for their being an empty tomb since guards were posted from the moment the body was placed inside to the moment the angel rolled the stone away. There are other possible explanations for why the tomb was empty and plenty therefore plenty of explanations for why the anonymous authors of the Bible may have invented a story to cover up this hole in their "air tight" story.

The Resurrection must be believed by faith alone. The "evidence" for it is slim to none.
Gary said…
Why doesn't Luke mention any Guards at Jesus' Tomb?

Matthew is the only Gospel writer who mentions guards being stationed at Jesus' tomb to prevent the robbery of the body by Jesus' disciples. Many Christian apologists use Matthew's claim to say that with guards at the tomb, the only good explanation for the tomb being empty on Sunday morning is that a resurrection had occurred.

But why didn't any other Gospel writer mention this detail, in particular, Luke, who states he thoroughly researched the accounts about Jesus?

Ex-Christian, John Loftus:

One of the things I say in my revised WIBA book is that since the gospel of Luke does not mention the guards at the tomb, and since he said in the opening that he had investigated everything and swears that his account is accurate, that therefore the author of that gospel disputes the whole story, probably for the same reasons you shared. That's one gospel denying the claims of an earlier one.

...we already know Luke had access to Matthew's gospel because he repeats it almost word for word in the Greek in a few pericopes. The dependency of later gospels upon previous ones is accepted by a majority of Christian scholars. Luke knew the story of the guards at the tomb and rejected it!

...Interesting how the centurion at Jesus' crucifiction (Matt 27:54 - Truly this was the Son of God) could figure out who Jesus was, but the soliders at the tomb who saw angels coming down from the sky etc just take a bribe and are on their way.

I guess you never send a common solider to do a centurion's job!
Gary said…
"Now, I don't have a text to prove that they did check the tomb either, but since it is more than reasonable to believe that they did check for the body, your argument from silence is interesting but unconvincing."

But if we are going to base our beliefs on what is reasonable (which I believe is a good idea), which is more reasonable?

1. The tomb was empty because the Sanhedrin was sloppy and did not check the tomb before sealing it?

2. A decomposing, bloated corpse walked out of his grave to eat a broiled fish lunch with his friends and later to levitate into outer space?

You may not believe that my scenario is plausible, but you can't say that it is impossible, can you? If you choose to believe that the tomb was empty because of a supernatural event, that is your choice, but you can't trumpet the empty tomb as absolute proof of the Resurrection. It is POSSIBLE that someone stole the body.
BK said…
When I first read your latest comments, and especially when I saw your reference to John Loftus, I began to see where you are coming from. I have no desire to engage in endless discussions about the entire resurrection account, the accuracy of the Bible, etc. in a comment to a post that is several years old that few will read. Still, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts.

First, your initial objection was that you had shown Christianity to be "hanging by a thread" based upon a single claim: The Gospel of Matthew says that there the tomb was unsealed and unguarded overnight, and that the body could have been stolen out of the tomb during that time. I countered from the Gospel of Matthew that the people who were most interested in seeing that the body was, in fact, in the tomb were the people who secured the tomb and posted the guard. I made the point that it is reasonable that they would make certain that the body was there before sealing the tomb. As such, your claim that this one fact showed that the Gospel was hanging by a thread was not particularly compelling.

Now, you have branched out claiming all sorts of objections. First, you claim that if the Pharisees had inspected the tomb and the body was gone prior to sealing the tomb it would have made no difference. Totally disagree, but that is not the facts that we have before us so there appears no reason to respond to your speculation.

Next, you drop the line about anonymous authors despite the abundance of scholarship that gives us good reason to believe that the authors are exactly who tradition has taught: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This, however, is another red herring to your initial objection.

Keep in mind, the claim of Jesus' resurrection is not based solely on the fact of the empty tomb. It is based on multiple data points. The fact that Jesus died by crucifixion is undisputed (people like Loftus excepted). The fact that he was buried and his tomb was found empty is not disputed. The fact that the disciples claimed that he rose again from the dead and were willing to go to death for that claim (which would be a pretty bizarre thing to do if they knew that the body had been stolen) is undisputed.

Now, I suspect you will come back and dispute each of these things, but your objections will be completely off topic to your original objection. As such, I don't see any reason to respond (especially not to a person who cites John Loftus as an authority for anything).

I would challenge you to stop acting like a shill for the New Atheist-types. I would ask you to stop and really think through what you are saying because your approach is leaving anyone who is honestly wanting to consider the questions about the truth of Christianity with a bad taste in their mouth towards your viewpoint. I challenge you to look for the Christian answers to these objections and consider them before you post them. I will tell you, there is nothing you have said that I have not seen and answered before.

And please, save the "Walking Dead" comparisons. They are not convincing to anyone.
Gary said…
You have been brainwashed by an ancient middle-eastern cult, my friend. It is a superstition, nothing more. I am trying to help you see that.

Contact me on my blog if you would like to converse more:

Escaping Christian Fundamentalism
Gary said…
Alternative Explanation for the Empty Tomb, #4:

Martians done it!

Late Saturday night, a Martian mothership hovers over the tomb of Jesus. The commander, a sinister fellow with one eye, commands five of his Martian soldiers to teleport down to the ground, enter the bodies of the Roman soldiers, roll back the stone, and take the body. The body is levitated into the mothership using a tractor beam.

The Martian-possessed Roman soldiers go to the Sanhedrin and report that an angel has stolen the body. The members of the Sanhedrin all soil their undergarments and tell the soldiers to tell the people, “The disciples did it.”

The soldiers leave the Sanhedrin and are immediately teleported up to the mothership which returns to Mars, where a slave class is created from the Roman soldiers…who continue to live on red planet…to this very day.

“Preposterous!” complain Christians.

“Just as preposterous as your supernatural tall tale!” I retort.
Gary said…
Christian apologists use the alleged "fact" of an empty tomb as their trump card for evidence for the Resurrection.

Let's assume that the entire account in Matthew regarding Aramathea burying Jesus in his private tomb, the great stone in front of the door, and the Roman guards are all fact. Let's assume that on Sunday morning the women really did find an empty tomb. How strong of evidence is this "fact"? I assert that the empty tomb is only strong evidence IF Christians can prove that the body was guarded 24/7 from the very moment that Aramathea placed Jesus' body in the tomb to the moment the women found the tomb empty.

If there is even a ten minute window when the tomb was unguarded, that is enough time for a group of men to roll back the stone, grab the body, and make off with it. Christians will assert that NO ONE would do this for a long list of reasons, including breaking the Sabbath. I assert that Jews breaking the Sabbath is much more probable than that an invisible middle-eastern deity reanimated the dead body of a Jewish prophet and sent angels to move back the stone. Yes, in a world where anything is possible, the latter is possible, but it just is not probable. It is much more probable that devout Jews would break the Sabbath. We have evidence of the disciples breaking the Sabbath in the Gospels, so why not do it again? Also, maybe it wasn't the disciples. Maybe it was some of Jesus' family who wanted the body buried in Galilee. Or maybe it was just grave robbers who thought they could make a profit selling the remains of a messiah pretender. Maybe a small group of the Sanhedrin didn't like the idea of a blasphemer being buried in a respectable tomb, so they stole the body and tossed it into a hole, and did not tell the high priest and the other members. Or, maybe Aramethea only put the body in his tomb until Sabbath was over. After sunset Saturday night, with Pilate's permission, he removed the body and threw it into an unmarked grave.

Again, all of these scenarios are much more probable than the Christian supernatural explanation. Bottom line: We do NOT have evidence that the tomb was guarded 24/7 from the moment that Aramethea placed the body in the tomb and rolled the stone in front until the women found the tomb empty on Sunday morning. Below is the passage from Matthew:

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night[m] and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

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