The resurrection of the dead is one of the principle doctrines of Christianity — in particular the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Seeking to refute Christianity, infidels and modernists have fabricated numerous stories in attempts to explain away the empty tomb and deny the resurrection of Christ. Their attempts are totally unbelievable and would be humorous if not attached to so serious a subject. Their ludicrous concoctions take more faith than simply believing that a miraculous event took place. The empty tomb cannot satisfactorily be explained except on the basis of a resurrection. Let us look at the four most common theories used to “explain” the empty tomb.
THE DISCIPLES STOLE THE BODY
This is the oldest explanation, invented by the priests and elders. The appearance of alternate explanations provide sufficient proof that it was never quite satisfactory.
The disciples were not the sort of people who would do such a thing. This would have been deliberate fraud on their part and cannot be reconciled to their character, doctrine, and behavior in later life. It unreasonable to suppose that not one of them, even under torture and threat of death, ever admitted to any deception.
The account of the soldiers is completely contradictory. Can we believe that all of the professional guards sent to secure the tomb would be asleep at one time? And if they were asleep, how would they know what happened to the body? The story actually incriminated the soldiers, and if it had been true, the priests would have been the first to seek their punishment!
The condition of the grave-clothes testify against this theory. If the disciples had stolen the body, they would have not taken the time to unwrap Jesus and leave them. They would have been in a hurry — they would have just snatched the body, grave-clothes and all. It is not probable that a cowardly group of men who fled the crucifixion would have come back to steal a body. And if they did, why was not a diligent search made of their houses?
Those who want to believe a lie don’t mind believing a poor one. This story would not hold up in the first century, and will not hold up today.
JEWISH OR ROMAN AUTHORITIES REMOVED THE BODY
At first glimpse this might sound like a possible explanation, but it will not withstand close scrutiny. Why on earth would they want to move the body? What possible motive could they have? None whatsoever! But if they did remove the body, why did they not say so? They could have stopped the preaching of the resurrection (which they so despised) by the revelation of the fact that they moved Jesus’ body. They could have called those whose task it was to remove the body for witnesses, and if necessary they could have produced the mouldering remains. They did not because they could not.
THE WOMEN WENT TO THE WRONG TOMB
Others try to explain away the empty tomb by charging that the women went to the wrong tomb. Using parts of the biblical account in Mark 16:1-8, they come up with a story something like this:
The women were unfamiliar with Jerusalem and come in the dim light of early morning, which caused them to arrive at the wrong tomb — an empty tomb. A young man, recognizing their dilemma, said, “Ye seek Jesus. He is not here (pointing to the empty tomb).” Then pointing to another tomb he said, “Behold the place where they laid him.” But instead of going to the other tomb, the terrified women ran away. Later they decided that the young man was an angel announcing that Jesus had risen from the dead.This clever story omits the fact that the young man was an angel, as well as the phrase “He is risen” from his statement to the women. They also ‘forget’ that the young man tells them to meet Jesus in Galilee. If this could be true, why did the disciples not double- check the facts presented by the women to see whether or not it was so? If the women had merely went to the wrong tomb, the priests could have pointed out the true tomb and completely silenced forever the preaching of the resurrection.
HE WAS NOT DEAD
This theory asserts that Jesus did not really die, but only swooned from exhaustion from the pain and the loss of blood. When placed in the cool tomb, he revived and went out and shewed himself to his disciples and they ignorantly believed he had risen from the grave.
The fact that no such story was ever conceived till near the end of the 18th Century should be enough to expose it as phony. But let us go further. Romans, Jews, and his disciples were ALL convinced that he was dead. The soldiers were experts at execution and the priests were obsessed with killing him — it is inconceivable that they would be so careless. Besides, would three days in a cold, stuffy tomb without food, water, or medical attention tend to revive a man who had been through the extreme cruelties that Jesus had suffered? NO! It would have blown out any flickering life that might be left. But, even if he had revived, could he have freed himself from the grave clothes that bound him? Lazarus had to be loosed. Could he in this weak condition have rolled away a stone that three women would not attempt; then frightened the Roman guards and walked miles to Galilee on pierced feet?? And finally, CHRIST WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PARTY TO SUCH A DECEPTION!
It is clear that these theories are unacceptable when exposed to common sense. Only those deliberately set on denying the resurrection could be so foolish to espouse any one of these ideas. The Bible in its purity and simplicity is always easier to believe than such hair-brained tales as these!
Reprint from The Baptist Waymark, May-April 1987, Vol. 1, No. 11