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Where Did Jesus' Body Go

Whenever I get the chance, I love watching Judge Judy.  I love the way she catches people in a lie, that “gotcha” moment, when she gets them to unwittingly admit the truth.  One of my favorite episodes was the case of a biker who hit a car.  The driver claimed that the biker ran into her as she was pulling out of an intersection.  She said she didn’t notice the biker because he was in the travel lane; he wasn’t in the bike lane like he was supposed to be.  Judge Judy pounced all over that: “Ma’am, the only way you could know he was in the travel lane is if you saw him coming!”  The woman finally had to admit that she did see him.  Accordingly, she had to completely change her defense, arguing instead that he was going too fast for her to avoid him.

The opponents of the early church never deny the empty tomb.  Instead, they claim that Jesus’ tomb was empty because His disciples stole the body.  They admit it’s empty; they just offer an alternative explanation as to why. 

Of course, the disciples stealing the body doesn’t make any sense: Why would they then suffer persecution and die for what they knew to be a lie?  Virtually no scholar today thinks the disciples tried to pull off some kind of hoax by stealing Jesus’ body. 

However, a number of scholars do challenge the empty tomb story.  They claim that it is a later legend, created a generation or two after those first disciples and their opponents had all died off.  That way, the later second- and third-Christian generation opponents couldn’t challenge the empty tomb.  It would be too late to identify the right tomb; or any (decomposed) body in it as Jesus’s; or to set the record straight by producing eyewitnesses who knew Jesus’ body was never buried in a tomb in the first place—back then, victims of crucifixion were often buried in a common or shallow grave reserved for criminals.

So, in other words, some scholars argue that these later opponents never challenged the empty tomb because the story was first told at a time when it would be too late for them to prove there was no empty tomb.

But here’s the thing: If the claim the tomb was empty was made later, long after the first opponents of the church could check it out for themselves, it would be POINTLESS.  It wouldn’t prove a thing because all those second- or third-Christian generation opponents would have to say is: “This is the first we ever heard of an empty tomb.  How convenient: Now no one can verify if it’s true or not!  It’s too late for us to be able to produce Jesus’ dead body.”  That would instantly render the empty tomb claim meaningless.  Everyone would know that the claim was being made too late for the opponents to be able to disprove it.

But the opponents never say this.  They never say the empty tomb is a later claim they had no chance to verify. 

The easiest thing for the opponents of the early church to do is deny that the tomb was empty, which they never do.  The second easiest thing for them to do is to point out that the church didn’t start claiming the tomb was empty until it was too late for them to be able to dispute it.  They don’t do this either.

Instead, in all the sources we have from that period, they consistently admit that the tomb is empty; they just explain why it is differently.  Like a defendant on Judge Judy, they tacitly admit that the bare fact of the empty tomb is an early claim they couldn’t challenge.  They unwittingly provide solid evidence that the tomb was empty.

And an empty tomb provides objective verification that the disciples weren’t suffering some kind of mental delusion when they claim to have seen Jesus appearing to them.

The tomb is empty because He’s risen from the dead.  The tomb is empty because He’s alive.  The tomb is empty because He’s conquered death.

Do you think Jesus’ tomb was actually empty?  Do you think this means He rose from the dead?  I’d love to hear what you think!  Go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave your comments there.  Please “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t had a chance to already.  Thank you all so much for all your continued support!    

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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