Friday, 13 November 2015

Rock solid evidence for the empty tomb

I was listening to a debate a couple of weeks ago on the subject of the resurrection. Quite a lot of time was given to a discussion of the evidence for an empty tomb. There are a few issues that were not raised that are very important in relation to this subject.
The atheist in the debate said he took the creed of 1 Cor. 15 very seriously, accepting that it is very early, but there is nothing in the creed about an empty tomb, just burial and appearances. The Christian contributor, Tony Costa, pointed out that there must have been some physical / tangible evidence otherwise the disciples would not have concluded resurrection, so there must have been an empty tomb and / or physical contact with the risen Christ. There is another point that the creed implies and the atheist missed - the mention of the third day. If there was no known burial place and an empty tomb then why does the creed say that He was raised on the third day? If they did not actually know where He was buried then they wouldn't have known whether He had been raised on the third, second or first day. The only explanation that makes sense is that it was on the third day the tomb was discovered to be empty. This agrees with the accounts in the Gospels and the preaching in the Acts.

Another point is in relation to the account in Matthew 27 about the guard at the tomb. The atheist guest said this was very likely an invention by Matthew, but, even if that were the case, why would Matthew have invented the story? It was as an answer to the accusation that the disciples stole the body, so the only reason the story would have been invented is because there actually was an empty tomb, and the story of the guard is given as an attempt to answer or head off any accusation of theft.

But if Matthew did invent the story then he was a bit silly because he has the guard placed at the tomb some time after the burial took place! According to Matthew's account there is a window of opportunity for the body to have been stolen before the guard was placed at the tomb. There's no way Matthew would have made a story up with that obvious weakness, the reason Matthew recorded this is because that's the way it actually happened.

The issue of Joseph of Arimathea was briefly discussed. The atheist contributor said that he was a strange character. Well, he certainly would be a strange Christian invention. The disciples don't shine too well in the burial accounts - not one of them was present to give their Master an honourable burial, instead it is a member of the hated Sanhedrin (witnessed by women) who performed the task. This is not the kind of story you would invent if you want to get a hearing and give yourself credibility. It meets the criterion of embarrassment, as well as multiple attestation, and is thus very credible.

For these, and other reasons discussed in the show, the evidence for the empty tomb is rock solid.