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Peter Kirby Tomb Rebuttal2

The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus

The essay quoted is by William Lane Craig, originally published “The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus.” New Testament Studies 31 (1985): 39-67. It was accessed December 14, 2000 (URL:http://www.origins.org/offices/billcraig/docs/tomb2.html).

Until recently the empty tomb has been widely regarded as both an offense to modern intelligence and an embarrassment for Christian faith; an offense because it implies a nature miracle akin to the resuscitation of a corpse and an embarrassment because it is nevertheless almost inextricably bound up with Jesus’ resurrection, which lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. But in the last several years, a remarkable change seems to have taken place, and the scepticism that so characterized earlier treatments of this problem appears to be fast receding.{2} Though some theologians still insist with Bultmann that the resurrection is not a historical event,{3} this incident is certainly presented in the gospels as a historical event, one of the manifestations of which was that the tomb of Jesus was reputedly found empty on the first day of the week by several of his women followers; this fact, at least, is therefore in principle historically verifiable. But how credible is the evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb?

This is the question to which William Lane Craig applies his energies in the essay, “The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus.” While Craig writes as an apologist, I write as a skeptic. Craig invites his reader to go along with the flow of opinion, and I invite my reader to stand on firmer ground. If the tide is beginning to change now, the tide may change the other way again. I hope that I am not criticized simply for refusing to go along with a trend.

In order to answer this question, we need to look first at one of the oldest traditions contained in the New Testament concerning the resurrection. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (AD 56-57) he cites what is apparently an old Christian formula (1 Cor 15. 3b-5), as is evident from the non-Pauline and Semitic characteristics it contains.{4} The fact that the formula recounts, according to Paul, the content of the earliest apostolic preaching (I Cor 15. 11), a fact confirmed by its concordance with the sermons reproduced by Luke in Acts,{5} strongly suggests that the formula originated in the Jerusalem church. We know from Paul’s own hand that three years after his conversion (AD 33-35) at Damascus, he visited Jerusalem, where he met personally Peter and James (Gal 1. 18-19). He probably received the formula in Damascus, perhaps in Christian catechesis; it is doubtful that he received it later than his Jerusalem visit, for it is improbable that he should have replaced with a formula personal information from the lips of Peter and James themselves.{6} The formula is therefore probably quite old, reaching back to within the first five years after Jesus’ crucifixion. It reads:

. . . hoti Christos apethanen huper ton hamartion hemon kata tas graphas,

kai hoti etaphe,

kai hoti egegertai te hemera te trite kata tas graphas,

kai hoti ophthe Kepha, eita tois dodeka.

Does this formula bear witness to the fact of Jesus’ empty tomb? Several questions here need to be kept carefully distinct. First we must decide: (1) does Paul accept the empty tomb, and (2) does Paul mention the empty tomb? It is clear that (1) does not imply (2), but (2) would imply (1). Or in other words, just because Paul may not mention the empty tomb, that does not mean he does not accept the empty tomb. Too many New Testament scholars have fallen prey to Bultmann’s fallacy: ‘Legenden sind die Geschichten vom leeren Grab, von dem Paulus noch nicht weiss.'{7} Paul’s citation of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper ( I Cor 11: 23-26) shows that he knew the context of the traditions he delivered; but had the Corinthians not been abusing the eucharist this knowledge would have remained lost to us. So one must not too rashly conclude from silence that Paul ‘knows nothing’ of the empty tomb. Next, if Paul does imply the empty tomb, then we must ask: (1) does Paul believe Jesus’ tomb was empty, and (2) does Paul know Jesus’ tomb was empty? Again, as Grass is quick to point out, (1) does not imply (2);{8} but (2) would imply (1). In other words, does Paul simply assume the empty tomb as a matter of course or does he have actual historical knowledge that the tomb of Jesus was empty? Thus, even if it could be proved that Paul believed in a physical resurrection of the body, that does not necessarily imply that he knew the empty tomb for a fact.

Does Craig show it to be likely that Paul believed that the tomb of Jesus was found empty on Easter Sunday? The conclusion that Craig states is that, “There can be little doubt, therefore, that Paul accepted the idea of an empty tomb as a matter of course.” On the contrary, I shall show that there can be a most reasonable amount of doubt.

Some exegetes have maintained that the statement of the formula ‘he was buried’ implies, standing as it does between the death and the resurrection, that the tomb was empty.{9} But many critics deny this, holding that the burial does not stand in relation to the resurrection, but to the death, and as such serves to underline and confirm the reality of the death.{10} The close Zusammenhang of the death and burial is said to be evident in Rom 6, where to be baptized into Christ’s death is to be baptized into his burial. Grass maintains that for the burial to imply a physical resurrection the sentence would have to read apethanen … kai hoti egegertai ek tou taphou. As it is the burial does not therefore imply that the grave was empty. Grass also points out that Paul fails to mention the empty tomb in the second half of I Cor 15, an instructive omission since the empty tomb would have been a knock-down argument against those who denied the bodily resurrection.{11} It is also often urged that the empty tomb was no part of the early kerygma and is therefore not implied in the burial.

Although these arguments can be defeated, it is instructive to note that they are here at all. Once again, I would ask, what court would accept as a witness someone whose very substance of testimony is a matter of legitimate debate? What jury would convict based on a witness who might have been saying the defendant is guilty but then again might have been saying the exact opposite? What judge would not throw out such ambiguous testimony at once?

Now while I should not want to assert that the ‘he was buried’ was included in the formula in order to prove the empty tomb, it seems to me that the empty tomb is implied in the sequence of events related in the formula. For in saying that Jesus died — was buried — was raised — appeared, one automatically implies that the empty grave has been left behind. The four-fold hoti and the chronological series of events weighs against subordinating the burial to the death. {12} In baptism the burial looks forward with confidence to the rising again (Rom 6. 4; Col. 2. 13).{13} And even if one denied the evidence of the four-fold hoti and the chronological sequence, the very fact that a dead-and-buried man was raised itself implies an empty grave.

The “evidence of the four-fold hoti and the chronological sequence” is not explained very clearly. What does a four-fold hoti and chronological sequence establish? Well, what does the Greek word mean? It is usually translated “that,” as in “that he was buried.” And what is a chronological sequence? It means nothing but that one thing happened after another. How might this be taken to mean anything more than this? Does Craig suppose that, if Paul did not believe in the empty tomb, that Paul would have thought that Christ was buried after he was raised? Or that he made the resurrection appearances before he had died? What is “the evidence of the four-fold hoti and the chronological sequence”? Craig offers us one clue, that this is evidence against “subordinating the burial to the death,” as many critics would see it. All the four things are on equal footing, as it were, each with their own hoti and none subordinate to the other. Craig provides clarification in a footnote, saying that, “The fourfold hoti serves to emphasize equally each of the chronologically successive events, thus prohibiting the subordination of one event to another.” However, the very fact that there are four statements prefaced by hoti in a chronological sequence does not imply that they are all on the same order of importance. That is one way to see it, but one can see it another way. For example, one could consider the four to be grouped as a pair of pairs in the matter of importance. The burial serves to show the reality of the death, while the appearances serve to show the reality of the resurrection. In this view, the death and the resurrection are primary and the essence of faith, the burial and the appearances are secondary and the confirmation of faith. This view would tend to explain why the more important parts, the death and the resurrection, are described as “according to the scriptures.” No, I am not arguing that this view is necessarily true, but I am offering the possibility. Another possibility, an obvious one, is that nothing is being implied about the relative importance of these events. Another possibility is indeed that Paul is emphasizing their equal importance. However, this is nothing more than a possibility, and a mere possibility cannot be used to make an argument.

Now, let us assume that Paul intends all four clauses to be taken as of equal importance. How should this be taken to imply that Paul believed in the historicity of the empty tomb? Craig implies that “the four-fold hoti and the chronological sequence” provides evidence that Paul accepted the empty tomb and that “the very fact that a dead-and-buried man was raised” provides a separate line of evidence that Paul accepted the empty tomb. But I should like to know the distinction between the two arguments. What evidence is present in the first argument that that is not also present in the second? In the first argument, in the aspect of importance, it is held that death is as important as the burial, which is as important as the resurrection, which is as important as the appearances. How should this be taken as evidence that Paul believed in the empty tomb? This is not explained. In the first argument, in the aspect of chronological order, it is held that the death happens before the burial, which happens before the resurrection, which happens before the appearances. How is this not present in the second argument about the “very fact that a dead-and-buried man was raised”? Does the second argument allow for a different chronological sequence, in which the man dies after he is buried or is raised before he dies? I would not agree that “the four-fold hoti and the chronological sequence” provides an independent line of evidence that Paul believed in the empty tomb. There is only one argument, and that is the argument that a dead-and-buried man who is raised implies an empty tomb. Craig relies on obfuscation to pretend that two separate arguments have been presented.

Grass’s assertion that the formula should read egegertai ek tou taphou is not so obvious when we reflect on the fact that in I Cor 15. 12 Paul does write ek nekron egegertai (cf. I Thess 1. 10; Rom 10. 9; Gal 1. 1; Mt. 27. 64; 28. 7).{14} In being raised from the dead, Christ is raised from the grave. In fact the very verbs egegertai and anistanai imply that the grave is left empty.{15} The notion of resurrection is unintelligible with regard to the spirit or soul alone. The very words imply resurrection of the body. It is the dead man in the tomb who awakens and is physically raised up to live anew. Thus the grave must be empty.{16} And really, even today were we to be told that a man who died and was buried rose from the dead and appeared to his friends, only a theologian would think to ask, ‘But was his body still in the grave?’ How much more is this true of first century Jews, who shared a much more physical conception of resurrection than we do! {17 }

Here Craig indicates that Paul could not have believed in a resurrection of Christ that left the body of flesh unstirred, that Paul would not have been able to look upon the body of Jesus wrapped up in his tomb and yet still proclaim that Jesus had been raised from the dead. I tend to agree that such a scenario is unlikely.

Grass’s argument that had Paul believed in the empty tomb, then he would have mentioned it in the second half of I Cor 15 turns back upon Grass; for if Paul did not believe in the empty tomb, as Grass contends, then why did he not mention the purely spiritual appearance of Christ to him alluded to I Cor 15. 8 as a knock-down argument for the immateriality of Christ’s resurrection body? Grass can only reply that Paul did not appeal to his vision of Jesus to prove that the resurrection body would be heavenly and glorious because the meeting ‘eluded all description’. {18} Not at all; Paul could have said he saw a heavenly light and heard a voice (Acts 22. 6-7; 26. 13-14). In fact the very ineffability of the experience would be a positive argument for immateriality, since a physical body is not beyond all description. Grass misunderstands Paul’s intention in discussing the resurrection body in I Cor 15. 35-56. Paul does not want to prove that it is physical, for that was presupposed by everyone and was perhaps what the Corinthians protested at. He wants to prove that the body is in some sense spiritual, and thus the Corinthians ought not to dissent. Hence, the mention of the empty tomb is wholly beside the point. There is thus no reason to mention the empty tomb, but good reason to appeal to Paul’s vision, which he does not do. Could it be that in the appearance to him Paul did not see a determinative answer to the nature of the resurrection body?

Yes. It is dangerous to leave one’s own rhetorical questions unanswered! I agree that this could imply that Paul did not see a determinative answer to the nature of the resurrection body in the appearance of Christ to him. Yet this is less likely under the idea that Paul had a physical encounter with Christ, as Craig would suggest, and more likely under the idea that Paul’s vision wasn’t obviously physical. This would be more explicable if Paul held to the view of Hans Grass or Wolfhart Pannenburg, the views (1) or (2) of the resurrection deliniated in my “Spiritual Resurrection” discussion. The argument that Paul would have appealed to the ineffability of the experience to disprove the materiality of the resurrection body is overly subtle. If Paul’s objectors did not hold to a material doctrine of the resurrection but rather objected to the idea of a resurrection because of its physicalistic implications, then Paul would not need to disprove the physicalism of a resurrection, which is common ground, but rather to show the philosophical plausibility of a resurrection of the physical body into a transformed spiritual, heavenly body. This is, indeed, what Paul sets out to do.

Finally as to the absence of the empty tomb in the kerygma, the statement ‘he was buried’ followed by the proclamation of the resurrection indicates that the empty tomb was implied in the kerygma. The formula is a summary statement,{19} and it could very well be that Paul was familiar with the historical context of the simple statement in the formula, which would imply that he not only accepted the empty tomb, but knew of it as well. The tomb is certainly alluded to in the preaching in Acts 2. 24-32.{20} The empty tomb is also implicit in Paul’s speech in Antioch of Pisisidia, which follows point for point the outline of the formula in 1 Cor. 15. 3-5: ‘. . . they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.’ (Acts 13. 29-31). No first century Jew or pagan would be so cerebral as to wonder if the tomb was empty or not. That the empty tomb is not more explicitly mentioned may be simply because it was regarded as selbstverständlich, given the resurrection and appearances of Jesus. Or again, it may be that the evidence of the appearances so overwhelmed the testimony of legally unqualified women to the empty grave that the latter was not used as evidence. But the gospel of Mark shows that the empty tomb was important to the early church, even if it was not appealed to as evidence in evangelistic preaching. So I think it quite apparent that the formula and Paul at least accept the empty tomb, even if it is not explicitly mentioned. {21}

And it is here that Craig goes beyond the evidence of what Paul has said. Earlier Craig expressed the conclusion that one could draw from the fact of a resurrection in the words, “Thus the grave must be empty.” But now the grave has been exchanged for a tomb without even an acknowledgment of the difference.

The words that Paul used neither exclude nor imply that Jesus was buried in a tomb. I will be the first to acknowledge that the words do not exclude tomb burial. But the idea of a tomb is only possibly in the mind of Paul. And one cannot argue to a solid conclusion on the basis of mere possibility. This is because the words of Paul in his letters do not imply tomb burial. While the concept of a tomb is not denied and it may or may not be there in the mind of Paul, it is not there in his words. The word used by Paul indicates burial in a general sense and does not have the specific meaning of “entombed.” Paul’s words cannot be taken as a testimony in favor of a tomb burial. Nor, for the same reason, should they be taken as a testimony against a tomb burial. In short, Paul’s words are ambiguous.

However, if it cannot be argued that a tomb burial is found in Paul’s words, perhaps it can be argued that Paul accepted a tomb burial because a tomb burial is, in fact, what happened. For this reason, I have already examined the arguments for the historicity of the tomb burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea and found them to be insufficient.

A second possible reference to the empty tomb is the phrase ‘on the third day.’ Since no one actually saw the resurrection of Jesus, how could it be dated on the third day? Some critics argue that it was on this day that the women found the tomb empty, so the resurrection came to be dated on that day. {22} Thus, the phrase ‘on the third day’ not only presupposes that a resurrection leaves an empty grave behind, but is a definite reference to the historical fact of Jesus’ empty tomb. But of course there are many other ways to interpret this phrase: (1) The third day dates the first appearance of Jesus. (2) Because Christians assembled for worship on the first day of the week, the resurrection was assigned to this day. (3) Parallels in the history of religions influenced the dating of the resurrections on the third day. (4) The dating of the third day is lifted from Old Testament scriptures. (5) The third day is a theological interpretation indicating God’s salvation, deliverance, and manifestation. Each of these needs to be examined in turn.

Craig has taken on the burden of disproving all other possible explanations for the origin of the phrase “on the third day” in order to champion his own explanation that the phrase gets its origin from the discovery of the empty tomb on the third day after the death of Jesus. However, I would maintain that at least one of these remain a possible explanation. So I will criticize the arguments made by Craig to disprove them.

I will note here that the phrase “on the third day,” outside of the Gospels and Acts, occurs only in the section of 1Cor 15:3-11 in the New Testament. As noted before, if this is considered an interpolation, then this argument cannot get off the ground.

1. The third day dates the first appearance of Jesus. {23} In favor of this view is the proximity of the statement ‘raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures’ with ‘he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve’. Because Jesus appeared on the third day, the resurrection itself was naturally dated on that day. The phrase ‘according to the scriptures’ could indicate that the Christians, having believed Christ rose on the third day, sought out appropriate proof texts. This understanding has certain plausibility, for whether the disciples remained in Jerusalem or fled to Galilee, they could have seen Jesus on the third day after his death. If it can be proved, however, that the disciples returned slowly to Galilee and saw Christ only some time later, then this view would have to be rejected. A discussion of this question must be deferred until later. Against this understanding of the third day it is sometimes urged that the Easter reports do not use the expression ‘on the third day’ but prefer to speak of ‘the first day of the week’ (Mk 16. 2; Mt. 28. 1; Lk 24. 1; Jn 20. 1, 19).{24} All the ‘third day’ references are in the Easter kerygma, not the Easter reports. This is said to show not only the independence of the Easter reports from the kerygma, but also that neither the empty tomb nor the appearances of Christ can be the direct cause of the ‘third day’ motif.{25}

Craig has correctly noted that the theory that the origin of the phrase “on the third day” is due to an appearance on the third day would be disproved if the first appearance were not on the third day but instead a while later while the disciples were in Galilee.

But why could they not be the root cause? All that has been proved by the above is that the Easter reports and the Easter preaching are literarily distinct, but that cannot prove that they are not twin offshoots of an original event. The event could produce the report on the one hand; on the other hand it would set the believers a-searching in the Old Testament for fulfilled scriptures. In this search they could find and adopt the language of the third day because, according to Jewish reckoning, the first day of the week was in fact the third day after Jesus’ death.{26} Scriptures in hand, they could thus proclaim ‘he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’. This language could then be used by the evangelists outside the Easter reports or actually interwoven with them, as by Luke. Thus the same root event could produce two different descriptions of the day of the resurrection. But was that event the first appearance of Jesus? Here one cannot exclude the empty tomb from playing a role, for the time reference ‘the first day of the week’ (= ‘on the third day’) refers primarily to it. If the appearances first occurred on the same day as the discovery of the empty tomb, then these two events together would naturally date the resurrection, and the ‘third day’ language could reflect the LXX formulation, which is found in I Cor 15. 4 and was worked into the traditions underlying the gospels. So I think it unlikely that the date ‘on the third day’ refers to the day of the first appearance alone.

Craig has only shown that it is possible that both the discovery of the empty tomb and the first appearance on “the first day of the week” or “the third day” could both play a role in the origin of the kerygmatic proclamation that Christ was raised “on the third day.” However, Craig has not in any way shown that it is unlikely that the date “on the third day” refers to the day of the first appearance alone. Certainly one cannot exclude the role of an empty tomb, but just as certainly one cannot assume it. It remains a possible theory that the first appearance, for example to Peter, occured on the third day after the death of Jesus and that this is what led to the dating of the resurrection “on the third day.”

2. Because Christians assembled on the first day of the week, the resurrection was assigned to this day. {27} Although this hypothesis once enjoyed adherents, it is now completely abandoned. Rordorf’s study Der Sonntag has demonstrated to the satisfaction of New Testament critics that the expression ‘raised on the third day’ has nothing to do with Christian Sunday worship.{28} More likely would be that because the resurrection was on the third day, Christians worshipped on that day. But even though the question of how Sunday came to be the Christian special day of worship is still debated, no theory is today propounded which would date the resurrection as a result of Sunday as a worship day.

I would agree that this explanation, if not impossible, seems unlikely.

3. Parallels in the history of religions influenced the dating of the resurrection on the third day.{29} In the hey-day of the history of religions school, all sorts of parallels in the history of other religions were adduced in order to explain the resurrection on the third day; but today critics are more sceptical concerning such alleged parallels. The myths of dying and rising gods in pagan religions are merely symbols for processes of nature and have no connection with a real historical individual like Jesus of Nazareth. {30} The three-day motif is found only in the Osiris and perhaps Adonis cults, and, in Grass’s words, it is ‘completely unthinkable’ that the early Christian community from which the formula stems could be influenced by such myths.{31} In fact there is hardly any trace of cults of dying and rising gods at all in first century Palestine.

I am not as sure as Craig that there could be no influence from pagan religions on early Christianity. How can we rationally denounce this as “completely unthinkable”? We do not know that Peter and the others had never come into contact with such cults because we do not know much at all about Peter and the others. The most that can be said, rationally, is that this is unlikely. It should certainly be considered thinkable that they had heard of some of the myths of these cults. Nevertheless, I do not consider it to be necessary to rely on this explanation, and I would also tend to prefer ones that do stay within the matrix of Judaism. If nothing else, however, the myths of Osiris and Adonis should teach us that no historical basis need be presumed for the belief to develop that an event occurred “on the third day” in some sense.

It has also been suggested that the three day motif reflects the Jewish belief that the soul did not depart decisively from the body until after three days.{32} But the belief was actually that the soul departed irrevocably on the fourth day, not the third; in which case the analogy with the resurrection is weaker. But the decisive count against this view is that the resurrection would not then be God’s act of power and deliverance from death, for the soul had not yet decisively left the body, but merely re-entered and resuscitated it. This would thus discredit the resurrection of Jesus. If this Jewish notion were in mind, the expression would have been ‘raised on the fourth day’ after the soul had forever abandoned the body and all hope was gone (cf. the raising of Lazarus).

I believe that Craig’s argument here is fair.

Some critics have thought that the third day reference is meant only to indicate, in Hebrew reckoning, ‘a short time’ or ‘a while’.{33} But when one considers the emphasis laid on this motif not only in the formula but especially in the gospels, then so indefinite a reference would not have the obvious significance which the early Christians assigned to this phrase.

I do not consider this refutation to be sound. What if the earliest Christians had no real bearings for saying when the resurrection had occurred? If this were the case, because they would not have anything definite but would know that some time had passed, the single most likely candidate would be the phrase “on the third day” to indicate a short time or a while. The significance in the phrase would not be immediate but would be drawn from repeated use of the phrase in kerygma. This explanation may be supplemented with the compatible explanations in numbers (4) and (5). Or it is indeed possible that this explanation stands on its own as the genesis of the phrase.

4. The dating of the third day is lifted from Old Testament scriptures. {34} Because the formula reads ‘on the third day in accordance with the scriptures’ many authors believe that the third day motif is drawn from the Old Testament, especially Hos 6. 2, which in the LXX reads te hemera te trite. {35} Although Metzger has asserted, with appeal to I Maccabees 7. 16-17 that the ‘according to the scriptures’ may refer to the resurrection, not the third day,{36} this view is difficult to maintain in light, not only of the parallel in I Cor 15. 3, but especially of Lk 24. 45 where the third day seems definitely in mind. Against taking the ‘on the third day’ to refer to Hos 6. 2 it has been urged that no explicit quotation of the text is found in the New Testament, or indeed anywhere until Tertullian (Adversus Judaeos 13).{37} New Testament quotations of the Old Testament usually mention the prophet’s name and are of the nature of promise-fulfillment. But nowhere do we find this for Hos 6. 2.

Craig does recognize below that Hosea 6:2 is the most likely source for “the language” used in the expression te hemera te trite. Thus, I consider the protestations conerning explicit quotation and the naming of prophets to be only so much hot air. The earliest Christians probably had Hosea 6:2 in mind, if not for the substance, at least for the language of the third day motif as expressed by Paul. With this recognized, arguments that the phrase have nothing to do with Hosea 6:2 should be seen as false by Craig himself.

And these arguments are false on their own account as well. No explicit quotation of the text needs to be made in order to make use of a text in the Jewish scriptures. No explicit mention of the prophet needs to be made in the use of Jewish scriptures. This is especially true for what Craig would stress to be a summary kerygma tradition in 1Cor 15. The expression in the formula used by Paul does say that this is found in the scriptures, without quoting or naming names, which in itself belies the premise of both arguments. Of course, it is possible that more than one part of the scriptures was thought by Christians to refer to the resurrection on the third day. But Hosea 6:2 is most likely one of them, since it is on all accounts the most clear example of one.

Grass retorts that there is indirect evidence for Christian use of Hos 6. 2 in the Targum Hosea’s dropping the reference to the number of days; the passage had to be altered because Christians had preempted the verse. Moreover, Jesus’ own ‘predictions’, written back into the gospel story by believers after the event, obviated the need to cite a scripture reference. {38} But Grass’s first point is not only speculative, but actually contradicted by the fact that later Rabbis saw no difficulty in retaining the third day reference in Hosea.{39} No conclusion can be drawn from Targum Hosea’s change in wording, for the distinctive characteristic of this Targum is its free haggadic handling of the text. And this still says nothing about New Testament practice of citing the prophet’s name. As for the second point, Matthew’s citation of Jonah (Mt. 12. 40) makes this rather dubious. According to Bode, Matthew’s citation is the decisive argument against Hos 6. 2, since it shows the latter was not the passage which Christians had in mind with regard to the three day motif.{40}

The arguments of both Grass and Bode are suspect here. The argument about the Targum Hosea certainly does not provide a proof that Christians were using this text; it only provides an explanation for why this particular change could have been made. The fact of its free handling would have allowed the change to be made while later rabbis would retain it for respect of the text. I think that this argument can be used only in a defensive manner by Grass, not to prove that the text was used but to cast doubt on Craig’s claim that the text wasn’t used by early Christians (which he seems to conclude because it is first explicitly cited by Tertullian). Bode’s argument actually shows that Christians more than likely had found, eventually, more than one scriptural precedent for associating three days with the date of the resurrection. The passage cannot be the primary cause of on the third day as found in Paul because, by inclusive reckoning, the passage of time of three days and three nights in Jonah would logically lead to the expression “on the fourth day.”

But to my mind the greatest difficulty with the Hos 6. 2 understanding of ‘on the third day’ is that it necessitates that the disciples without the instigation of any historically corresponding event would find and adopt such a scripture reference. For this understanding requires that no appearances occurred and no discovery of the empty tomb was made on the third day / first day of the week. Otherwise these events would be the basis for the date of the resurrection, not Hos 6. 2 alone. But if there were no such events, then it is very unlikely that the disciples should land upon Hos 6. 2 and apply it to Jesus’s resurrection. It is much more likely that such events should prompt them to search the scriptures for appropriate texts, which could then be interpreted in light of the resurrection (Jn 2. 22; 12, 16; 20. 8-9).{41}

If the passage in Hosea 6:2 were read by someone who believed that Jesus was prefigured in the words of the scriptures and who believed in the resurrection of Jesus, then the application to Jesus and the resurrection would be obvious enough. Although this may be a great difficulty to the mind of Dr. Craig, this may not be a great difficulty to the mind of Peter, James, or Paul. It should be acknowledged that the earliest Jewish-Christians could have had a great respect for the Jewish scriptures such that they had great expectations of finding information in them that was stated obliquely. Furthermore, as was stated in response to (3), if there were indeed no historical bearings, then it would not require much to settle on the expression that Christ was raised “on the third day.”

And insofar as the empty tomb tradition or appearance traditions prove accurate the understanding in question is undermined. For if the empty tomb was discovered on the first day of the week or Peter saw Jesus on the third day, then the view that ‘the third day’ was derived solely from scripture is untenable. At most one could say that the language of the LXX was applied to these events. The falsity of the gospel traditions concerning both the discovery of the empty tomb and the day of the first appearance is thus a sine qua non for the Hos 6. 2 understanding, and hence should either of these traditions prove accurate, the appeal to Hos 6. 2 as the basis (as opposed to the language) for the date of the resurrection must be rejected.

This argument is correct in itself. However, it is an argument that Craig should not use. This is because it involves a circular argument in the larger context of Craig’s essay. The final conclusion that Craig is trying to establish is that the empty tomb was discovered on the first day of the week after the crucifixion. In order to establish this conclusion, Craig has been arguing that the expression “on the third day” in Paul can only have been used if an empty tomb were discovered on the third day. In order to establish this conclusion, Craig has been arguing that other explanations for the expression cannot be the case. Yet this particular argument that has been put forward in order to disprove this explanation depends on the assumption that the empty tomb was discovered on the first day of the week after the crucifixion. This is arguing in a circle.

If it be objected that Craig also states that this argument could instead use the assumption that the first appearance was on the third day, I maintain that there is still a fallacy. As I argued above, it is plausible in itself that only an appearance and not an empty tomb gave rise to the expression “on the third day.” Thus, if the assumption is granted that the first appearance occurred on the third day, there would still be an explanation for the expression that does not involve the discovery of an empty tomb.

5. The third day is a theological interpretation indicating God’s salvation, deliverance, and manifestation. {42} This understanding is, I think, the only serious alternative to regarding the third day motif as based on the historical events of the resurrection, and it has been eloquently expounded by Lehmann and supported by Bode and McArthur as well. To begin with, there are nearly 30 passages in the LXX that use the phrase te hemera te trite to describe events that happened on the third day.{43} On the third day Abraham offered Isaac (Gen. 22. 4; cf. Gen. 34. 25; 40. 20). On the third day Joseph released his brothers from prison (Gen. 42. 18). After three days God made a covenant with his people and gave the law (Ex 19. 11, 16; cf. Lev 8. 18; Num. 7. 24; 19. 12, 19; Judg 19. 8; 20. 30). On the third day David came to Ziklag to fight the Amalekites (I Sam 30. 1) and on the third day thereafter heard the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death (2 Sam 1, 2). On the third day the kingdom was divided (I Kings 12. 24; cf. 2 Chron 10. 12). On the third day King Hezekiah went to the House of the Lord after which he was miraculously healed (2 Kings 20. 5, 8). On the third day Esther began her plan to save her people (Esther 5. 1; cf. 2 Mace II. 18). The only passage in the prophets mentioning the third day is Hos 6. 2. Thus, the third day is a theologically determined time at which God acts to bring about the new and the better, a time of life, salvation, and victory. On the third day comes resolution of a difficulty through God’s act.

A second step is to consider the interpretation given to such passages in Jewish Midrash (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis [Mikketz] 91. 7; Midrash Rabbah, Esther 9. 2; Midrash Rabbah, Deuteronomy [Ki Thabo] 7. 6; Midrash on Psalms 22. 5).{44} From Jewish Midrash it is evident that the third day was the day when God delivered the righteous from distress or when events reached their climax. It is also evident that Hos 6. 2 was interpreted in terms of resurrection, albeit at the end of history. The mention of the offering of Isaac on the third day is thought to have had a special influence on Christian thought, as we shall see.

A third step in the argument is comparison of other Rabbinical literature concerning the third day with regard to the resurrection (Targum Hosea 6. 2; B. Sanhedrin 97a; B. Rosh Hashanah 3 la; P. Berakoth S. 2; P. Sanhedrin 11. 6; Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer 51. 73b-74a; Tanna de-be Ehyyahu, p. 29).{45} These passages make it evident that the rabbis were interpreting Hos 6. 2 in the sense of an eschatological resurrection.

Now according to Lehmann, when one brings together the testimonies of the Midrash Rabbah, the rabbinic writings, and the passages from the LXX, then it becomes highly probable that I Cor 15. 4 can be illuminated by these texts and their theology. Of particular importance here is the sacrifice of Isaac, which grew to have a great meaning for Jewish theology.{46} In pre-Christian Judaism the sacrifice of Isaac was already brought into connection with the Passover. He became a symbol of submission and self-sacrifice to God. The offering of Isaac was conceived to have salvific worth. In the blood of the sacrifices, God saw and remembered the sacrifice of Isaac and so continued His blessing of Israel. This exegesis of Gen. 22 leaves traces in Rom 4. 17, 25; 8. 32 and Heb 11. 17-19. This last text particularly relates the resurrection of Jesus to the sacrifice of Isaac. When we consider the formula in I Cor 15, with its Semitic background, then it is much more probable that the expression ‘on the third day’ reflects the influence of Jewish traditions that later came to be written in the Talmud and Midrash than that it refers to Hos 6. 2 alone as a proof text. Thus, ‘on the third day’ does not mark the discovery of the empty tomb or the first appearance, nor is it indeed any time indicator at all, but rather it is the day of God’s deliverance and victory. It tells us that God did not leave the Righteous One in distress, but raised him up and so ushered in a new eon.

Although I would consider other explanations to be possible, and although a part of explanations (3) and (4) could be incorporated into the thesis of (5), the basic explanation for the expression “on the third day” is this: It can most easily be seen to have everything to do with scriptural precedent and Jewish tradition. In short, if there were no historical basis for dating the resurrection event, we would almost expect the expression to be formed that it happened “on the third day.” If it were instead the second or the fourth or the fifth, then a reference to that day would tend to support Craig’s position that something historical happened on that particular day after the death of Jesus. This would be true for almost any day other than “the third day.” Indeed, in that we might expect that a historical event could happen on any day but that there is only a limited repertoire of symbolic themes, the fact that the expression is “on the third day” serves as a confirmation of the theory, when it might otherwise have been falsified, that the dating of the resurrection is mythically, figuratively, scripturally, or theologically based instead of based in history.

In any case, the burden is on Craig to demonstrate that the explanation offered by Lehmann is known to be false. After all, Craig has offered no arguments for his theory that “on the third day” derives from the discovery of the empty tomb other than that he believes that the other proposed explanations are false. If the other explanations remain plausible, if not proven, then Craig’s argument is undone.

Lehmann’s case is well-documented and very persuasive; but doubt begins to arise when we consider the dates of the citations from Talmud and Midrash.{47} For all of them are hundreds of years later than the New Testament period. Midrash Rabbah, which forms the backbone of Lehmann’s case, is a collection from the fourth to the sixth centuries. Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer is a collection from the outgoing eighth century. The Midrash on Psalm 22 contains the opinions of the Amoraim, rabbinical teachers of the third to the fifth centuries. The Babylonian Talmud and the so-called Jerusalem Talmud are the fruit of the discussions and elaborations of these Amoraim on the Mishnah, which was redacted, arranged, and revised by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi about the beginning of the third century. The Mishnah itself, despite its length, never once quotes Hos 6. 2; Gen. 22. 4; 42. 17; Jonah 2. 1; or any other of the passages in question which mention the third day. The Targum on Hosea, says McArthur, is associated with Jonathan b. Uzziel of the first century; but this ascription is quite uncertain and in any case tells us nothing concerning Hos 6. 2 in particular, since the Targum as a whole involves a confluence of early and late material. Thus all the citations concerning the significance of the third day and interpreting Hos 6. 2 in terms of an eschatological resurrection may well stem from literature centuries removed from the New Testament period,

Craig askes us to “consider the dates of the citations from Talmud and Midrash.” However, it would be accurate to say that we should consider the dates of the Talmud and Midrash in general. It is recognized that the Talmud and most related Jewish writings that comment on the scriptures did not begin to be compiled at all until the third century. It is also recognized that a great deal of the traditions contained in them do go back for centuries. So while the existence of these traditions in the Talmud does not prove the existence of these traditions in the first century, it certainly does make it plausible that these traditions existed in the first century. For Craig to satisfy the burden undertaken of disproving Lehmann’s thesis, Craig will need to do more than to cast doubt.

Moreover, it should be recognized that the sole value of the citations from the Talmud and the Midrash is not in demonstrating the existence of oral traditions that may go back to the first century. They are also useful simply to demonstrate that there are certain theological ideas that are latent in the Jewish scriptures, that exegesis which associates resurrection with the third day would not be alien to the Jewish scriptures, and thus that we need look no further than the Jewish scriptures for the idea that Christ “was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” It does not matter very much if the connections in the Jewish scriptures were worked out by pre-Christian Jews or by the early Jewish-Christians so long as the connections in the Jewish scriptures are there.

Lehmann believes that these citations embody traditions that go back orally prior to the Christian era. But if that is the case then should not we expect to confront these motifs in Jewish literature contemporaneous with the New Testament times, namely, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha? One would especially expect to confront the third day motif in the apocalyptic works. In fact, it is conspicuously absent. The book of I Enoch, which is quoted in Jude, had more influence on the New Testament writers than any other apocryphal or pseudepigraphic work and is a valuable source of information concerning Judaism from 200 BC to AD 100. In this work the eschatological resurrection is associated with the number seven, not three (91. 15-16; 93). Similarly in 4 Ezra, a first century compilation, the eschatological resurrection takes place after seven days (7. 26-44). A related work from the second half of the first century and a good representative of Jewish thought contemporaneous with the New Testament, 2 Baruch gives no indication of the day of the resurrection at history’s end (50-5 1). Neither does 2 Macc 7. 9- 42; 12. 43-45 or the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (Judah) 25. 1, 4; (Zebulun) 10. 2; (Benjamin) 10. 6-18. All these works, which stem from intertestamental or New Testament times, have a doctrine of eschatological resurrection, but not one of them knows of the third day motif. Evidently the number seven was thought to have greater divine import than the number three (cf. Rev 1. 20; 6. 1; 8. 2; 15. 1, 7). In 2 Macc 5. 14; 11. 18 we find ‘three days’ and ‘third day’ mentioned in another context, but their meaning is wholly non-theological, indicating only ‘a short time’ or ‘the day after tomorrow’. Lehmann’s case would be on firmer ground if he were able to find passages in Jewish literature contemporary with the New Testament which employ the third day motif or associate the resurrection with the third day. It appears that this interpretation is a peculiarity of later rabbinical exegesis of the Talmudic period.

It is true that Lehmann’s case would be on firmer ground if he had such passages establishing a first century association of the third day and eschatological resurrection. However, I do not believe that the absence of such passages is effective disproof. Indeed, it might be objected that what is now called the New Testament has been excluded from examination, although a three day motif is present in some of the Jewish writings there (if Judaism is taken in a broad sense to include early Christianity). While it would be wrong to argue from the presence of the motif in the NT to the presence of the motif in pre-Christian circles, this fact might be used defensively against Craig’s argument that it is not found anywhere in the first century, along with the fact that we do not have anything near comprehensive material on contemporary Judaism.

Also, it would hardly be fatal to the total explanation if it were granted that pre-Christian Jews did not associate the third day and eschatological resurrection. This is only the “third step” in Lehmann’s argument as outlined by Craig. There remains the strong association in the first two steps between the third day and the day of God’s deliverance.

Moreover, there is no indication that the New Testament writers were aware of such exegesis. Lehmann states that the conception of the offering of Isaac as a salvific event is characteristic of the New Testament. But this is not the question; the issue is whether the interpretation of the offering of Isaac on the third day plays a role in the New Testament. Here the evidence is precisely to the contrary: Rom 4. 17, 25 not only have nothing to do with the offering of Isaac (it is to Gen. 15, not 22 that Paul turns for his doctrine of justification by faith), but refer to Jesus’s resurrection without mentioning the third day; Rom 8. 32 makes no explicit mention of Isaac and no mention, implicit or explicit, of the resurrection, not to speak of the third day; Heb 11. 17-19 does not in fact explicitly use Isaac as a type of Christ, but more importantly does not in any way mention the third day. This latter passage seems to be crucial, for in this passage, of all places, one would expect the mention of the third day theme in connection with the resurrection. But it does not appear. This suggests that the connection of the sacrifice of Isaac with a third day motif was not yet known. In the other passage in which the offering of Isaac is employed (Jas 2. 21-23), there is also no mention of the third day motif. (And James even goes on to use the illustration of Rahab the harlot and the spies, again without mentioning the three day theme, as did later Rabbinic exegesis.) Hence, the appeal to the offering of Isaac as evidence that the New Testament knows of the rabbinic exegesis concerning the theological significance of the third day is counter- productive.

As I said before, the phrase “on the third day” is indeed only found in the passage in 1Cor 15 outside of the Gospels and Acts in the New Testament. Thus, Craig’s arguments here will apply to almost any proposed explanation for the third day motif because the Pauline epistles do not provide the key to understanding the third day motif (other than the somewhat cryptic “according to the scriptures”). Given its scarcity of appearnce, it does not necessarily seem to be all-pervasive in early Christian thought, and this may be the reason that no explicit connection is made with the third day in the passages concerning Isaac. The association of Isaac as a type of Christ in itself may have been stronger than any third day motif in early Christianity, so it is sensible to mention Isaac but not the little emphasized “third day” association. This does not imply, when the third day is mentioned in a formula as according to the scriptures, that the offering of Isaac played no role in the origin of the third day formula. Moreover, the general theme of God’s deliverance on the third day may be the source of the phrase without any particular emphasis on Isaac as the source of this association.

Finally, Lehmann’s interpretation labors under the same difficulty as did the appeal to Hos 6. 2 alone; namely, in order for this interpretation to be true, the traditions of the discovery of the empty tomb and of the time of the first appearances must be false. For if these events did occur on the third day/first day of the week, this would undoubtedly have affected the early believers’ dating of those events. But then the dating cannot be wholly ascribed to theological motifs.

Craig has made the same circular argument again.

If we say that the traditions are false, the question then becomes whether the disciples would have adopted the language of the third day. For suppose the first appearance of Christ was to Peter, say, a week later as he was fishing in Galilee. Would the believers then say that Jesus was raised on the third day rather than the seventh? Lehmann says yes; for the ‘third day’ is not meant in any sense as a time indicator, but is a purely theological concept. But were the disciples so speculative?

Craig has offered an ingenious example, for the number seven also has theological significance. In such a case, we might expect that the disciples would proclaim that Jesus had risen on the seventh day. But suppose instead that the first appearance of Christ was to Peter, say, nineteen days later as he was fishing in Galilee. Would the disciples see that appearance as determinative of the day that Christ was raised or simply as an indication that Christ was raised? It would be quite plausible that they did not attach any particular significance to the nineteenth day. Now with the belief in the resurrection and without any firm historical basis for dating it, I would say that it is quite plausible that at some point the kerygma would include the expression that Christ was raised “on the third day according to the scriptures.” I don’t think the disciples would have believed themselves to be “speculative” for doing so. In my opinion, they would think that what they preached had the approval of God.

Certainly Luke understands the third day as a time indicator, for he writes ‘But on the first day of the week … That very day … it is now the third day … the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead’ (Lk 24. 1, 13, 21, 46). Lehmann and Bode’s response is that Luke as a Gentile did not understand the theological significance of the third day, which would have been clear to his Jewish contemporaries, and so mistook it as a time indicator.{48} This cannot but make one feel rather uneasy about Lehmann’s hypothesis, for it involves isolating Luke from all his Jewish contemporaries. And I suspect that this dichotomy between historical understanding and theological significance is an import from the twentieth century. The Rabbis cited in the Talmud and Midrash no doubt believed both that the events in question really happened on the third day and that they were theologically significant, for they include in their lists of events that occurred on the third day not only events in which the third day was important theologically (as in the giving of the law) but also events in which the third day was not charged with theological significance (as in Rahab and the spies). There is no reason to think that the New Testament writers did not think Jesus actually rose on the third day; John, for example, certainly seems to take the three day figure as a time indicator by contrasting it with the 46 years it took to build the temple (Jn 2. 20). But in this case, it is doubtful that they would have adopted the language of the third day unless the Easter events really did take place on the third day.

I would not adopt the same response here as the one made by Lehmann and Bode. I would answer that, under this explanation, the expression “on the third day” began because of its theological significance. Although the cause is theological, it is not necessarily the case that the theological meaning was ever divorced from a literal meaning. Yet even if it were, there is no general prohibition on the evolution of ideas, especially such a relatively subtle one, so it is plausible that this phrase came to take on both theological and literal meaning within the Christian community at large, whether of Jewish or Gentile background. There is reason to think that the gospel writers thought Jesus rose on the third day in some literal sense that may have been connected to the discovery of the empty tomb. But this literal sense need not imply the belief in the empty tomb in Christians earlier than the gospel writers, so long as the origin of the phrase was not a historical happening. There is no reason to assume that the understanding of the evangelists applied to Paul and the early Christians. That is, indeed, the very point that has been under contention this whole time.

This suggests that while the LXX may have provided the language for the dating of the resurrection, the historical events of Easter provided the basis for dating the resurrection. The events of Easter happened on ‘the first day of the week’, but the language of ‘the third day’ was adopted because (1) the first day of the week was in fact the third day subsequent to the crucifixion, and (2) the third day in the LXX was a day of climax and of God’s deliverance.

I think this is the most likely account of the matter. This means that the phrase ‘on the third day’ in the formula of I Cor 15 is a time indicator for the events of Easter, including the empty tomb, employing the language of the Old Testament concerning God’s acts of deliverance and victory on the third day, perhaps with texts like Jonah 2. 11 and Hos 6. 2 especially in mind. The phrase is, in Liechtenstein’s words, a fusion of historical facts plus theological tradition.{49}

As Craig has mentioned, Edward Lynn Bode is among those who do not accept the argument that Paul must have believed in the empty tomb because of the formula that Christ was raised on the third day. It is important to note that Bode does adduce a number of the arguments to affirm the historicity of the empty tomb, yet he does not see fit to use this one. It is for this reason that I will quote his statement on the matter:

Rather the source of the resurrection on the third day according to the scriptures is to be explained through the general Old Testamant motif, which is enforced by midrash and targum, that the third day is the day of divine salvation, deliverance and manifestation. This motif is well illustrated in such events as: Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac, the appearance of Yahweh on Mount Sinai, the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua and his companions, Ezra’s departure with the exiles in Babylon, the delierance of the exiled Jews at the time of Esther. The notion is summed up in Genesis Rabba: God does not leave the just man in distress longer than three days. It would be natural for the earliest Christians, embued as they were with a sense of the fulfillment of scipture, to see in the resurrection the salvation, deliverance and manifestation of Jesus as the Lord and thus to designate it in accordance with the recognized scriptural motif as taking place on the third day after the apparent defeat of death and burial. Thus, one cannot appeal to the third day as implying the empty tomb.[101]

Craig’s criticism of such an interpretation has been limited to arguing that (1) rabbinic oral traditions may not go back to the first century, (2) pre-Christian Jews did not associate three days with the eschatological resurrection, and (3) early Christians did not associate Isaac particularly with the resurrection on the third day. However, there remains the plausible general explanation that the source of the formula that Christ “was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” is the scriptural motif of God’s deliverance on the third day.

It is a little sad if Paul did actually believe in the empty tomb but just failed to mention it in his letters. What could have been decisively settled in a few words from Paul must be doubtfully argued in over 5000 words from Craig in his essay. The great bulk of that argumentation does not really point directly to the conclusion that Paul believed in the empty tomb. Most is dedicated to discrediting different ideas which other scholars have proposed, particularly when Craig discusses the nuances of the five enumerated explanations for the origin of the simple phrase “on the third day.” Yet the point has not been made more certain through these efforts, and all this speculation does not add up to plain historical fact. There remains reasonable doubt, and based on the testimony of Paul himself, it remains plausible that Paul did not believe in the empty tomb story.

There can be little doubt, therefore, that Paul accepted the idea of an empty tomb as a matter of course. But did he know the empty tomb of Jesus? Here we must go outside the confines of I Cor 15 and take a larger view of the historical context in which Paul moved. We know from Paul’s own letters that Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion, and that he stayed with Peter two weeks and also spoke with James (Gal 1. 18-19). We know that fourteen years later he was again in Jerusalem and that he ministered with Barnabas in Antioch (Gal 2. 1, I 1). We know that he again was later traveling to Jerusalem with financial relief for the brethren there (Rom 15. 25; 1 Cor 16. 3; 2 Cor 8-9). Furthermore, his letters testify to his correspondence with his various churches, and his personal references make it clear that he had a team of fellow workers like Titus, Timothy, Silas, Aristarchus, Justus, and others who kept him well-informed on the situation in the churches; he also received personal reports from other believers, such as Chloe’s people (I Cor 1. 11). Paul knew well not only the aberrations of the churches (Gal; I Cor 15. 29), but also the context of the traditions he delivered (I Cor 11. 23-26). Therefore, if the gospel accounts of the empty tomb embody old traditions concerning its discovery, it is unthinkable that Paul would not know of it. If Mark’s narrative contains an old tradition coming out of the Jerusalem community, then Paul would have had to be a recluse not to know of it. This point seems so elementary, but it is somehow usually overlooked by even those who hold that Mark embodies old traditions. If the tradition of the empty tomb is old then somebody would have told Paul about it. But even apart from the Markan tradition, Paul must have known the empty tomb. Paul certainly believed that the grave was empty. Therefore Peter, with whom Paul spoke during those two weeks in Jerusalem, must also have believed the tomb was empty. A Jew could not think otherwise. Therefore, the Christian community also, of which Peter was the leader, must have believed in the empty tomb. But that can only mean that the tomb was empty. For not only would the disciples not believe in a resurrection if the corpse were still in the grave, but they could never have proclaimed the resurrection either under such circumstances. But if the tomb was empty, then it is unthinkable that Paul, being in the city for two weeks six years later and after that often in contact with the Christian community there, should never hear a thing about the empty tomb. Indeed, is it too much to imagine that during his two week stay Paul would want to visit the place where the Lord lay? Ordinary human feelings would suggest such a thing.{50} So I think that it is highly probable that Paul not only accepted the empty tomb, but that he also knew that the actual grave of Jesus was empty.

With his essay on “The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus” and his comments above, I think the most that Craig may have demonstrated is that Paul most likely did believe that the physical body of Jesus would have been transformed in the resurrection of Jesus. I do not think that we can infer from Paul’s testimony that he was aware of any traditions to the effect that the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty on Easter Sunday. The ignorance of Paul and other early Christians of any empty tomb story would be plausible if the gravesite of Jesus were unknown to early Christians. If the tomb burial by Joseph of Arimathea in a well-known location is not a reliable tradition, then this argument fails. For this reason, I have already discussed the arguments for the tomb burial by Joseph of Arimathea and found them to be inadequate.

With this conclusion in hand, we may now proceed to the gospel accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb to see if they supply us with any additional reliable information. Found in all four gospels, the empty tomb narrative shows sure evidence of traditional material in the agreement between the Synoptics and John. It is certain that traditions included that on the first day of the week women, at least Mary Magdalene, came to the tomb early and found the stone taken away; that they saw an angelic appearance; that they informed the disciples, at least Peter, who went, found the tomb empty with the grave clothes lying still in the grave, and returned home puzzled; that the women saw a physical appearance of Jesus shortly thereafter; and that Jesus gave them certain instructions for the disciples. Not all the Synoptics record all these traditions; but John does, and at least one Synoptic confirms each incident; thus, given John’s independence from the Synoptics, these incidents are traditional. That is not to say they are historical.

It is important to note that many scholars would disagree with the assumption that the Gospel of John is literarily independent of the Synoptics.[102] Moreover, the oral traditions that are found in John may have had their origin in the stories found in the Synoptics. In other words, the story may still have been invented by Mark even if it was found in oral tradition by John because oral tradition can surely be affected by the gospels that are read liturgically. Thus, the question of the historicity of the empty tomb narrative can be reduced to the question of the historicity of the empty tomb narrative in the Gospel of Mark. As Peter Carnley states, “the empty tomb story has a single toehold in the tradition.”[103]

The story of the discovery of the empty tomb was in all likelihood the conclusion or at least part of the pre-Markan passion story.{51} About the only argument against this is the juxtaposition of the lists in Mk 15. 47 and 16. 1, which really affords no grounds for such a conclusion at all.{52} At the very most, this could only force one to explain one or the other as an editorial addition; it would not serve to break off the empty tomb story from the passion narrative.{53} The most telling argument in favor of 16. 1-8’s belonging to the passion story is that it is unthinkable that the passion story could end in defeat and death with no mention of the empty tomb or resurrection. As Wilckens has urged, the passion story is incomplete without victory at the end.{54}

I am doubtful about the existence of a pre-Markan passion story. The assumption of a pre-Markan passion narrative has been undermined by studies that show the final three chapters of Mark to contain themes developed throughout the Gospel. In The Passion in Mark, Donahue, Robbins, Kelber, Perrin, Dewey, Weeden, and Crossan interpret the passion narrative with the use of “hermeneutical clues” provided in the first thirteen chapters.[104] Kelber states the conclusion to be drawn: “The understanding of Mk 14-16 as a theologically integral part of the Mkan Gospel calls into question the classic form critical thesis concerning an independent and coherent Passion Narrative prior to Mk. Thematically, it is difficult to identify a major non-Mkan thrust or theme in Mk 14-16, let alone extrapolate a coherent pre-Mkan source.”[105] For this reason, I do not share Craig’s undefended assumption that there is a pre-Markan passion narrative.

However, let it be granted that there was a pre-Markan passion story. Can we know that its extent included the empty tomb story? The argument that the author would include “the victory at the end” of the empty tomb presupposes that the empty tomb story was in circulation at the time of writing the pre-Markan passion narrative. What if “the victory at the end” was seen in different terms? I will mention two such suggestions. Some suggest that the pre-Markan passion narrative ended at 15:39. The victory then would be seen as achieved on the cross itself. This is not necessarily an un-Christian thought. A different suggestion is made by Reginald Fuller. He suggests that, “Mark had received a passion narrative which concluded not with a story of the discovery of the empty tomb, but with a narrative of the two first appearances to Peter and the disciples.”[106] It is worth noting that, on either of these suggestions, there may not be a mention of the women at all in the pre-Markan passion narrative. Thus, Craig’s arguments in one footnote that the inclusion of 15:40-41 in the passion narrative makes the inclusion of later verses probable is irrelevant to these possible reconstructions of a pre-Markan passion narrative. There are plausible proposals for a pre-Markan passion narrative without the empty tomb story.

Confirmation of the inclusion of 16. 1-8 in the pre-Markan passion story is the remarkable correspondence to the course of events described in I Cor 15: died — was buried — rose — appeared; all these elements appear in the pre-Markan passion story, including Christ’s appearance (v. 7). Thus, there are strong reasons for taking the empty tomb account as part of the pre-Markan passion story.

It is non sequitur to argue from 1Cor 15 to a pre-Markan passion narrative. What if one has nothing to do with another? Besides, perhaps it was only the author of Mark who wrote with the aim of corresponding to the course of events in 1Cor 15. Perhaps the pre-Markan passion narrative followed a different outline. It’s not as though Paul states that his creed is found in detail in a written narrative. There’s no evidence to make a connection.

Like the burial story, the account of the discovery of the empty tomb is remarkably restrained. Bultmann states, ‘. . . Mark’s presentation is extremely reserved, in so far as the resurrection and the appearance of the risen Lord are not recounted.’ {55}

Why should the fictional style employed by Mark or the legend’s originator be required to include flights of fancy? Many of the best stories are stated in simple terms. The historicity of the account cannot be determined merely from the narrative style of the author. It should be noted here that not all legends and certainly not all fictions involve flagrantly extravagant descriptions of completely off-the-wall events. The presence of such elements may be a sufficient condition but are not a necessary condition of classifying a story as non-factual.

With this sentence, Bultmann has endeared himself to several defenders of the historicity of the empty tomb. Yet Bultmann does not believe in the historicity of the empty tomb story. Is it not fair to ask, if Bultmann holds this opinion, why does he not believe it to provide the support that apologists see in it? In order to understand why, one need look little further than the two sentences following the declaration from Bultmann: “Yet Mark’s presentation is extremely reserved, in so far as the Resurrection and the appearance of the risen Lord are not recounted. His construction is impressive: the wondering of the women v. 3, the surprised sight of the rolled-away stone and the appearance of the angel vv. 4f., the masterly formulated angelic message v. 6 and the shattering impression in v. 8. In Matthew and Luke the legend has already developed further.”[107] It seems clear, then, that Bultmann is describing the nature of Mark’s presentation, Mark’s legend, as an impressive if understated fictional construction.

If the account in Mark is judged to be relatively simple, that can be understood on the theory that the story is relatively recent at the time of Mark’s writing. Sometimes the Gospel of Mark is played off the later canonical Gospels or the Gospel of Peter to emphasize the simplicity of the Markan narrative. However, this is fundamentally an error. It is to presume that a legendary story must be born fully grown. If the empty tomb story is a Markan fiction or even a legend that grew up recently in the 60s or 70s, the story may have started simple. Legendary expansion by later writers hardly speaks for the historicity of the narrative.

Nauck observes that many theological motifs that might be expected are lacking in the story: (1) the proof from prophecy, (2) the in-breaking of the new eon, (3) the ascension of Jesus’ Spirit or his descent into hell, (4) the nature of the risen body, and (5) the use of Christological titles.{56} Although kerygmatic speech appears in the mouth of the angel, the fact of the discovery of the empty tomb is not kerygmatically colored. All these factors point to a very old tradition concerning the discovery of the empty tomb.

This argument would have force only if it could be shown that these specific theological motifs are to be expected from a Markan creation or anything other than very ancient tradition. Yet some of the motifs that Nauck mentions might actually be expected not to appear in a Markan fiction because they are not part of Markan theology at all. For example, concerning “the in-breaking of the new eon,” critic Norman Perrin holds that Markan theology has no sense of a period between the resurrection and the parousia as an important age in its own right.[108] The concept of “the ascension of Jesus’ Spirit” likewise may not be a part of Markan theology, which may see any “ascension” as synonymous with the resurrection. The concept of “his descent into hell” is not found in any of the four gospels and thus doesn’t indicate that Mark’s narrative is particularly early. If the author of Mark held the same view of “the nature of the risen body” as his predecessors, if there was not yet the concept of appearances in the flesh to the disciples, then we should likewise expect the author of Mark to be silent on this count. One element of the proof from prophecy is explicit in 16:7, where the man in the tomb states that Jesus is going before the disciples and Peter to Galilee “as he told you” (cf. Mk 14:28). The angelophany at the tomb cannot be artificially separated from the discovery of the empty tomb in order to claim that the whole is not kerygmatically colored. After all, the angelophany takes up three of the eight verses (16:5-7) or even four if the reaction of the women is included. That’s about half of the whole empty tomb story. The proof from prophecy is also implicit in the resurrection itself, which Jesus predicted three times as part of what must happen to the Son of Man (Mk 8:31, Mk 9:31, Mk 10:34). The only element above that is of substance for Markan theology but that isn’t explicit is christological appelation. However, the very ommission of christological titles can be seen as a typically Markan device. The author may have ommitted them to imply a lack of understanding on the part of the women.

Mark begins the story by relating that when the Sabbath was past (Saturday night), the women bought spices to anoint the body. The next morning they went to the tomb. The women’s intention to anoint the body has caused no end of controversy. It is often assumed that the women were coming to finish the rushed job done by Joseph on Friday evening; John, who has a thorough burial, mentions no intention of anointing. It is often said that the ‘Eastern climate’ would make it impossible to anoint a corpse after three days. And it would not have violated Sabbath law to anoint a body on the Sabbath, instead of waiting until Sunday (Mishnah Shabbat 23. 5). Besides, the body had been already anointed in advance (Mk 14. 8). And why do the women think of the stone over the entrance only after they are underway? They should have realized the venture was futile.

But what in fact were the women about? There is no indication that they were going to complete a task poorly done. Mark gives no hint of hurry or incompleteness in the burial. That Luke says the women saw ‘how’ the body was laid (Lk 29. 55) does not imply that the women saw a lack which they wished to remedy; it could mean merely they saw that it was laid in a tomb, not buried, thus making possible a visit to anoint the body. The fact that John does not mention the intention of anointing proves little, since Matthew does not mention it either. So there seems to be no indication that the women were going to complete Jesus’ burial. In fact what the women were probably doing is precisely that described in the Mishnah, namely the use of aromatic oils and perfumes that could be rubbed on or simply poured over the body.{57} Even if the corpse had begun to decay, that would not prevent this simple act of devotion by these women. This same devotion could have induced them to go together to open the tomb, despite the stone. (That Mark only mentions the stone here does not mean they had not thought of it before; it serves a literary purpose here to prepare for v. 4). The opening of tombs to allow late visitors to view the body or to check against apparent death was Jewish practice,{58} so the women’s intention was not extraordinary. It is true that anointing could be done on the Sabbath, but this was only for a person lying on the death bed in his home, not for a body already wrapped and entombed in a sealed grave outside the city. Blinzler points out that, odd as it may seem, it would have been against the Jewish law even to carry the aromata to the grave site, for this was ‘work’ (Jer 17. 21-22; Shabbath 8. 1)!{59} Thus, Luke’s comment that the women rested on the Sabbath would probably be a correct description. Sometimes it is asserted that Matthew leaves out the anointing motif because he realized one could not anoint a corpse after three days in that climate. But Mark himself, who lived in the Mediterranean climate, would surely also realize this fact, if indeed it be true.{60} Actually, Jerusalem, being 700 metres above sea level, can be quite cool in April; interesting is the entirely incidental detail mentioned by John that at night in Jerusalem at that time it was cold, so much so that the servants and officers of the Jews had made a fire and were standing around it wanning themselves (Jn 18. 18). Add to this the facts that the body, interred Friday evening, had been in the tomb only a night, a day, and a night when the women came to anoint it early Sunday morning, that a rock-hewn tomb in a cliff side would stay naturally cool, and that the body may have already been packed around with aromatic spices, and one can see that the intention to anoint the body cannot in any way be ruled out.{61}

I have already stated my stance on these issues. It should be noted that these arguments properly comprise part of the alleged evidence against the empty tomb rather than part of the alleged evidence for the empty tomb.

The argument that it had been anointed in advance is actually a point in favor of the historicity of this intention, for after 14. 8 Mark would never invent such a superfluous and almost contradictory intention for the women.

A good explanation for this almost contradictory intention is that the author of Mark intentionally contrasted the misunderstanding of these women, who go to anoint the body of Jesus after his burial, with the faith of the unnamed woman in 14:8, who knew that the body of Jesus must be anointed before burial.

The gospels all agree that around dawn the women visited the tomb. Which women? Mark says the two Maries and Salome; Matthew mentions only the two Maries; Luke says the two Maries, Joanna, and other women; John mentions only Mary Magdalene. There seems to be no difficulty in imagining a handful of women going to the tomb. Even John records Mary’s words as ‘we do not know where they have laid him'(Jn 20. 2). It is true that Semitic usage could permit the first person plural to mean simply ‘I’ (cf. Jn 3. 11, 32), but not only does this seem rather artificial in this context, but then we would expect the plural as well in v. 13.{62} In any case, this ignores the Synoptic tradition and makes only an isolated grammatical point. When we have independent traditions that women visited the tomb, then the weight of probability falls decisively in favor of Mary’s ‘we’ being the remnant of a tradition of more than one woman. John has perhaps focused on her for dramatic effect.

Unless Craig can provide evidence that Matthew and Luke utilized different traditions for their lists of women, only the Gospel of John might provide an independent tradition. Thus, to argue that independent traditions support the idea that John’s “we” is understood to refer to multiple women seems to beg the question. In any case, Craig’s statements here do not support or undermine the historicity of the empty tomb.

Arriving at the tomb the women find the stone rolled away. According to the Synoptics the women actually enter the tomb and see an angelic vision. John, however, says Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and the Beloved Disciple, and only after they come and go from the tomb does she see the angels. Mark’s young man is clearly intended to be an angel, as is evident from his white robe and the women’s reaction.{63} Although some critics want to regard the angel as a Markan redaction, the exclusion of the angelophany from the pre-Markan passion story is arbitrary, since the earliest Christians certainly believed in the reality of angels and demons and would not hesitate to relate such an account as embodied in vs. 5- 8.{64} And John confirms that there was a tradition of the women’s seeing angels at the tomb, especially in light of the fact that he keeps the angels in his account even though their role is oddly superfluous. {65}

The idea that the angelophany should not be separated from the earliest narrative seems to undermine Craig’s earlier statement that the narrative is not kerygmatically colored. Earlier Craig stated, “Although kerygmatic speech appears in the mouth of the angel, the fact of the discovery of the empty tomb is not kerygmatically colored.” Yet, according to Craig here, these two elements of the story can be separated only arbitrarily.

Many scholars wish to see v. 7 as a Markan interpolation into the pre-Markan tradition.{66} But the evidence for this seems remarkably weak, in my opinion.{67} The fundamental reason for taking 16. 7 as an insertion is the belief that 14. 28 is an insertion, to which 16. 7 refers. But what is the evidence that 14. 28 is an interpolation? The basic argument is that vs. 27 and 29 read smoothly without it.{68} This, however, is the weakest of reasons for suspecting an insertion (especially since the verses read just as smoothly when v. 28 is left in!), for the fact that a sentence can be dropped out of a context without destroying its flow may be entirely coincidental and no indication that the sentence was not originally part of that context. In fact there are positive reasons for believing 14. 28 is not an insertion.{69} It is futile to object that in 14. 29 Peter only takes offense at v. 27, not v. 28, for of course he objects only to Jesus’ telling him they will all fall away, and not to Jesus’ promise to go before them (cf. the same pattern in 8. 31-32). On this logic one would have to leave out not only the prediction of the resurrection, but also the striking of the shepherd, since Peter jumps over that as well. There thus seem to be no good reasons to regard 14. 28 as a redactional insertion and positive reasons to see it as firmly welded in place.{70} This means that 16. 7 is also in place in the pre- Markan tradition of the passion story. The content of the verse reveals the knowledge of a resurrection appearance of Christ to the disciples and Peter in Galilee.

Craig does provide references but does not actually discuss here the positive evidence for believing that 14:28 and 16:7 are not insertions. In any case, I would allow that 16:7 is not an insertion if it is allowed that the surrounding verses are also Markan creation. In other words, 16:7 would not be an insertion if the entire empty tomb narrative were seen as a Markan creation. Since the specific inclusion or exclusion of 16:7 from the surrounding narrative does not seem to affect the historicity of the empty tomb, these arguments do not seem to have much relevance to the main point under consideration.

Mk 16. 8 has caused a great deal of consternation, not only because it seems to be a very odd note on which to end a book, but also because all the other gospels agree that the women did report to the disciples. But the reaction of fear and awe in the presence of the divine is a typical Markan characteristic.{71} The silence of the women was surely meant just to be temporary,{72} otherwise the account itself could not be part of the pre-Markan passion story.

I have provided my own analysis of this issue.

According to Luke the disciples do not believe the women’s report (Lk 24. 11). But Luke and John agree that Peter and at least one other disciple rise and run to the tomb to check it out (Lk 24. 12, 24; Jn 20. 2-10). Although Lk 24. 12 was regarded by Westcott and Hort as a Western noninterpolation, its presence in the later discovered P75 has convinced an increasing number of scholars of its authenticity. That Luke and John share the same tradition is evident not only from the close similarity of Lk 24. 12 to John’s account, but also from the fact that Jn 20. 1 most nearly resembles Luke in the number, selection, and order of the elements narrated than any other gospel.{73}

Craig is building a foundation on sand if he needs the premise that Lk 24:12 is authentic. It is often regarded as an interpolation for several reasons.[109] Even if these arguments can be overcome, it is not wise to base an argument on the authenticity of this verse.

Lk 24. 24 makes it clear that Peter did not go to the tomb alone; John names his companion as the Beloved Disciple. This would suggest that John intends this disciple to be a historical person, and his identification could be correct.{74} The authority of the Beloved Disciple stands behind the gospel as the witness to the accuracy of what is written therein (Jn 21. 24; the verse certainly applies to the gospel as a whole, not just the epilogue, for the whole gospel enjoys the authentication of this revered disciple, not merely a single chapter{75} ), and the identification of his role in the disciples’ visit to the empty tomb could be the reminiscence of an eyewitness.

Even if it is granted that the writer knew of the beloved disciple and that this person knew Jesus, Craig does not offer any particular argument here for believing that the beloved disciple approved of this particular story. Simply stating that this “could be the reminiscence of an eyewitness” does not provide evidence. It could just as easily be the creation of the author.

Reginald H. Fuller seems to regard it as pretty secure that this is not the reminiscence of an eyewitness: “The resurrection narratives in John 20 are the product of a long process of transmission, not an eye-witness testimony.”[110] Now while Fuller may be wrong in this assessment, a good argument should be presented to establish Craig’s opinion that this story was written with the benefit of eyewitness testimony.

So although only Peter was named in the tradition, accompanied by an anonymous disciple, the author of the fourth gospel claimed to know who this unnamed disciple was and identifies him. The Beloved Disciple is portrayed as a real historical person who went with Peter to the empty tomb and whose memories stand behind the fourth gospel as their authentication. If the Beloved Disciple in chap. 20 is then conceived as a historical person, is his presence an unhistorical, redactional addition? Schnackenburg thinks that few words need to be said to prove that he is an unhistorical addition: in vs. 2, 3 he is easily set aside, the competitive race to the tomb is redactional, v. 9 is in style and content from the evangelist, and v. 9 refers in reality to Mary and Peter.{76} But these considerations do not prove that the Beloved Disciple was not historically present, but only that he was not mentioned in the particular tradition. That could have been proved from Lk 24. 12 alone. What I am suggesting is that the reminiscences of the Beloved Disciple are employed by the evangelist to supplement and fill out his tradition.

It is somewhat curious that the writer makes reference to hearsay traditions when he has the testimony of the beloved disciple himself available to him. Either the writer did not feel constrained to write only what was authenticated by the beloved disciple or the writer did not know an eyewitness.

The mention of the beloved disciple does not have to be the result of textual redaction in order to be unhistorical.

Thus the first three considerations ought not to surprise us. Indeed, the third consideration supports the fact that the Beloved Disciple’s role here was not added later to the gospel by any supposed editor who tacked on chap. 21. That hon ephilei instead of hon egapa is used in v. 2 also indicates that the evangelist himself wrote these words and not a later redactor. In fact the unity and continuity of vs. 2-10 preclude that the evangelist wrote only of Peter and Mary’s visit and that the Beloved Disciple was artfully inserted by a later editor. Lk 24. 24 reveals that Peter did not go to the tomb alone, so one cannot exclude that the Beloved Disciple went with him. As for v. 9, it plainly refers to the disciples in v. 10 (Mary is not even mentioned after v. 2) and is not part of the pre- Johannine tradition, being typical for John (cf. 2. 22; 12. 16). Thus, the evangelist, who knew the Beloved Disciple and wrote on the basis of his memories, includes his part in these events.

Craig has defended the possibility that the beloved disciple provided testimony to this event: against the objection that the beloved disciple was not a historical witness to anything at all, against the objection that the part of the beloved disciple here was added to the text by a later redactor, and against the objection that the use of traditional material tells against the use of an eyewitness. I will agree that Craig is successful in overcoming these objections, which would otherwise render Craig’s opinion false. However, I do not believe this to be sufficient to establish Craig’s opinion to be true that this actually is based on the testimony of the beloved disciple.

If it be said that the evangelist simply invented the figure of the Beloved Disciple, 21. 24 becomes a deliberate falsehood, the close affinities between chaps. 1-20 and 21 are ignored, it becomes difficult to explain how then the person of the Beloved Disciple should come to exist and why he is inserted in the narratives, and the widespread concern over his death becomes unintelligible. The evangelist and the gospel certainly stem out of the same circle that appended chap. 21 and adds its signature in 21. 24c. Therefore, it seems to me, the role of the Beloved Disciple in 20. 2-10 can only be that of a historical participant whose memories fill out the tradition received. There seems to be no plausible way of denying the historicity of the Beloved Disciple’s role in the visit to the empty tomb.{77}

I will accept the evidence of the concern over the death of the beloved disciple to make it likely that there was some kind of historical person here.

One possible explanation is that there may have been a “beloved disciple” in the community that produced this gospel, indeed possibly the very writer of most of the first twenty chapters, yet that the author was writing himself into the gospel stories as an entirely fictional device, without actually being present at any of them.

Although it seems possible to me that the beloved disciple was not historically present in the ministry of Jesus at all, it is most definitely plausible that the evangelist was a separate person from the beloved disciple and wrote the beloved disciple into this particular narrative without depending on his testimony.

It might be urged against the historicity of the disciples’ visit to the tomb that the disciples had fled Friday night to Galilee and so were not present in Jerusalem. But not only does Mk 14. 50 not contemplate this, but it seems unreasonable to think that the disciples, fleeing from the garden, would return to where they were staying, grab their things, and keep on going all the way back to Galilee. And scholars who support such a flight must prove that the denial of Peter is unhistorical, since it presupposes the presence of the disciples in Jerusalem. But there is no reason to regard this tradition, attested in all four gospels, as unhistorical.{78} In its favor is the fact that it is improbable that the early Christians should invent a tale concerning the apostasy of the man who was their leader.

Sometimes it is said that the disciples could not have been in Jerusalem, since they are not mentioned in the trial, execution, or burial stories. But could it not be that the disciples were hiding for fear of the Jews, just as the gospels indicate? There is no reason why the passion story would want to portray the church’s leaders as cowering in seclusion while only the women dared to venture about openly, were this not historical; the disciples could have been made to flee to Galilee while the women stayed behind. This would even have had the advantage of making the appearances unexpected by keeping the empty tomb unknown to the disciples. But, no, the pre-Markan passion story says, ‘But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him . . .'(Mk 16. 7). So the disciples were probably in Jerusalem, but lying low. Besides this, it is not true that the disciples are missing entirely from the scene. All the gospels record the denial of Peter while the trial of Jesus was proceeding; John adds that there was another disciple with him, perhaps the Beloved Disciple (Jn 18. 15). According to Luke, at the execution of Jesus, ‘all his acquaintances … stood at a distance and saw these things’ (Lk 23. 49). John says that the Beloved Disciple was at the cross with Jesus’ mother and bore witness to what happened there (Jn 19. 26-27, 35). Attempts to interpret the Beloved Disciple as a symbol here or to lend a purely theological meaning to the passage are less than convincing. So it is not true that the disciples are completely absent during the low point in the course of events prior to the resurrection. There are therefore a good number of traditions that the disciples were in Jerusalem during the weekend; that at least two of them visited the tomb cannot therefore be excluded.

I do not make this objection to the historicity of the empty tomb because I think it is plausible that the disciples remained in Jerusalem during Passover. Of course, this neither supports nor undermines the empty tomb story.

It is often asserted that the story of the disciples’ visit to the tomb is an apologetic development designed to shore up the weak witness of the women. Not only does there seem to be no proof for this, but against it stand the traditions that the disciples were in Jerusalem. For if the women did find the tomb empty on Sunday morning, and reported this to the disciples, then it is implausible that the disciples would sit idly by not caring to check out the women’s news. That one or two of them should run back to the tomb with the women, even if only to satisfy their doubts that the women were mistaken, is very likely. Hence, attempts to dismiss the empty tomb narratives as unhistorical legends are not only insufficiently supported by the evidence, but contain positive implausibilities.

This argument is effective only if it is assumed that the women discovered the empty tomb. This argument shows absolutely no implausibility in the idea that the empty tomb narratives were unhistorical.

Having examined the testimony of Paul and the gospels concerning the empty tomb of Jesus, what is the evidence in favor of its historicity?

1. Paul’s testimony implies the historicity of the empty tomb. Few facts could be more certain than that Paul at least believed in the empty tomb. But the question now presses, how is it historically possible for the apostle Paul to have presupposed so confidently the empty tomb of Jesus if in fact the tomb were not empty? Paul was in Jerusalem six years after the events themselves. The tomb must have been empty by then. But more than that, Peter, James, and the other Christians in Jerusalem with whom Paul spoke must have also accepted that the tomb was found empty at the resurrection. It would have been impossible for the resurrection faith to survive in face of a tomb containing the corpse of Jesus. The disciples could not have adhered to the resurrection; even if they had, scarcely any one would have believed them; and their Jewish opponents could have exposed the whole affair as a poor joke by displaying the body of Jesus. Moreover, all this aside, had the tomb not been empty, then Christian theology would have taken an entirely different route than it did, trying to explain how resurrection could still be possible, though the body remained in the grave. But neither Christian theology nor apologetics ever had to face such a problem. It seems inconceivable that Pauline theology concerning the bodily resurrection could have taken the direction that it did had the tomb not been empty from the start. But furthermore, we have observed that the ‘he was raised’ in the formula corresponds to the empty tomb periocope in the gospels, the egegertai mirroring the egerthe. This makes it likely that the empty tomb tradition stands behind the third element of the formula, just as the burial tradition stands behind the second. Two conclusions follow. First, the tradition that the tomb was found empty must be reliable. For time was insufficient for legend to accrue, and the presence of the women witnesses in the Urgemeinde would prevent it. Second, Paul no doubt knew the tradition of the empty tomb and thus lends his testimony to its reliability. If the discovery of the empty tomb is not historical then it seems virtually inexplicable how both Paul and the early formula could accept it.

These arguments have been addressed.

2. The presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity. The empty tomb story was part of, perhaps the close of, the pre-Markan passion story. According to Pesch,{79} geographical references, personal names, and the use of Galilee as a horizon all point to Jerusalem as the fount of the pre-Markan passion story. As to its age, Paul’s Last Supper tradition (I Cor 11. 23-25) presupposes the pre-Markan passion account; therefore, the latter must have originated in the first years of existence of the Jerusalem Urgemeinde. Confirmation of this is found in the fact that the pre-Markan passion story speaks of the ‘high priest’ without using his name (14. 53, 54, 60, 61, 63). This implies (nearly necessitates, according to Pesch) that Caiaphas was still the high priest when the pre-Markan passion story was being told, since then there would be no need to mention his name. Since Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18-37, the terminus ante quem for the origin of the tradition is A.D. 37.

Against these arguments, it could be held that, even if 1Cor 11:23-25 is a tradition, it does not necessitate the existence of a written document such as a pre-Markan passion narrative. This is a non sequiter. Against the second argument, it has been suggested by Robert Price that the author could have been unaware of who the high priest was at the time.[111] Price has been criticized on the grounds that it would be impossible for anyone not to know that Caiaphas was high priest, given his high stature.[112] If this is the case, I would suggest that, perhaps, it is not necessary to mention the high priest’s name because the author would have assumed it was known as common knowledge. That the account was written when Caiaphas was high priest is only one possible explanation for the vague reference. I consider the arguments for an ancient pre-Markan passion narrative to be unpersuasive.

Now if this is the case, then any attempt to construe the empty tomb account as an unhistorical legend is doomed to failure. It is astounding that Pesch himself can try to convince us that the pre-Markan empty tomb story is a fusion of three Gattungen from the history of religions: door-opening miracles, epiphany stories, and stories of seeking but not finding persons who have been raised from the dead!{80} On the contrary: given the age (even if not as old as Pesch argues) and the vicinity of origin of the pre-Markan passion story, it seems more plausible to regard the empty tomb story as substantially accurate historically.

However, unlike Pesch, I do not believe that there was a pre-Markan passion story with the empty tomb narrative in the 30s. So this argument does not concern me.

3. The use of ‘the first day of the week’ instead of ‘on the third day’ points to the primitiveness of the tradition. The tradition of the discovery of the empty tomb must be very old and very primitive because it lacks altogether the third day motif prominent in the kerygma, which is itself extremely old, as evident by its appearance in I Cor 15. 4. If the empty tomb narrative were a late and legendary account, then it could hardly have avoided being cast in the prominent, ancient, and accepted third day motif.{81} This can only mean that the empty tomb tradition ante-dates the third day motif itself. Again, the proximity of the tradition to the events themselves makes it idle to regard the empty tomb as a legend. It makes it highly probable that on the first day of the week the tomb was indeed found empty.

This is a specious argument indeed. It is argued that the third day motif is prominent, ancient, and accepted. It is noted that a different phrase occurs in the Gospel of Mark. On this basis, it is argued that the phrase in Mark must have existed before the ancient motif. But why should it not provide the opposite conclusion? Normally, when a certain belief or phrase is common at one time and when a different belief or phrase finds its first attestation later, it is assumed that the latter developed out of the former. Craig would like to have the cart before the horse in arguing that the relationship is indeed the opposite, that the latter must have existed before the former or else it wouldn’t ever have been able to overcome the overwhelming force that the former exerted. At the very least, such an argument is not sound, for it presupposes that ideas do not evolve and that expressions do not change.

Furthermore, this argument seems to confuse two different types of references, as Farrell Till has observed.[113] The third day or three day motif is consistently used in the gospels whenever referring to the resurrection itself (Mt 16:21, 20:19; Mk 9:31; Lk 9:22). The references to “the first day of the week” refer to the day of the visitation to the tomb (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:2, Lk 24:1, Jn 20:1). The introduction of this new phrase may very well parallel the introduction of the new idea that women visited an empty tomb. In Mark, the phrase may serve to provide an implicit explanation of why the women went when they did, an implication that Luke states explicitly, namely that the women rested on the Sabbath (Lk 23:56). Mark may be alluding to the practice of worship on the first day of the week (1Cor 16:2, Acts 20:7), especially if such worship occurred in the early morning. In any case, the phrase is not tied to the resurrection but to the visitation of the tomb. Indeed, the only verse in the present New Testament that ties the resurrection to the first day of the week is Mark 16:9. When it is admitted that this is a second century addition, it would seem most likely that the connection is indeed a later evolution and that the third day motif is primary.

Craig mentions in a footnote “that te mia ton sabbaton is probably a Semitism.” However, this cannot be taken as evidence that the empty tomb narrative is ancient. Richard Carrier comments as follows:

What Craig forgets to mention here is that this is the exact same language spoken by Paul and by numerous Christian converts throughout the first century, thus it does not entail an origin with the first disciples. Moreover, Craig’s contention that “on the first day of the week” is “very awkward in the Greek” is not relevant–it is a Hebraic form commonly used by Greek-speaking Jews in Hellenistic times. It was not awkward to them. Indeed, the exact same phrase, sometimes a very similar one, appears in Luke 18:12, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2, none of which pertain to the resurrection. In fact, the last passage is advice Paul is giving to the Corinthians, which shows this phrase to be perfectly ordinary in written Greek among Paul’s correspondents, having no connection with some sort of “early tradition.”[114]

There are other reasons that the author might have used this turn of the phrase for Sunday. Richard Carrier explains that the phrase may be a Septuagintalism.

I suspect that “first day” is a literary cue for Mark. The phrase is identical to that which begins the Sept. version of Psalm 24, just as Jesus’ cry on the cross is identical to that which begins Psalm 22. When we look at these three Psalms (22-24) we see a very logical three-day liturgy: on Friday would be read Psalm 22 (note how many parallels there are there with the crucifixion scene in Mark), on Saturday would be read the funeral Psalm 23 (Saturday corresponds to the Last Day of Creation, and thus the death of the old world; as a funeral liturgy, it also fits Jesus’s day of rest in the tomb), and on Sunday would be read Psalm 24, which is about the coming of God’s kingdom (it refers to the new age of salvation, and Sunday is the First Day of the New Creation in Jewish lore, and also in other Christian texts like Barnabas, which was in the NT canon until the 4th century, and the first defenses of Christianity (e.g. Justin).[115]

Another possibility is that the author of Mark is alluding to the commonly used “Semitism” for the Christian day of worship, seeing that 1Cor 16:2 has the same expression as Mark 16:2. The assumption that any “Semitism” implies an ancient source is an error.

4. The nature of the narrative itself is theologically unadorned and nonapologetic. The resurrection is not described, and we have noted the lack of later theological motifs that a late legend might be expected to contain. This suggests the account is primitive and factual, even if dramatization occurs in the role of the angel. Very often contemporary theologians urge that the empty tomb is not a historical proof for the resurrection because for the disciples it was in itself ambiguous and not a proof. But that is precisely why the empty tomb story is today so credible: because it was not an apologetic device of early Christians; it was, as Wilckens nicely puts it, ‘a trophy of God’s victory’. {82} The very fact that they saw in it no proof ensures that the narrative is substantially uncolored by apologetic motifs and in its primitive form.

This assumes that a fiction or a legend must be apologetic. On the contrary, it is plausible to see the empty tomb narrative as a nonapologetic fiction. The argument concerning the absence of “later theological motifs” has also been addressed.

5. The discovery of the tomb by women is highly probable. Given the low status of women in Jewish society and their lack of qualification to serve as legal witnesses,{83} the most plausible explanation, in light of the gospels’ conviction that the disciples were in Jerusalem over the weekend, why women and not the male disciples were made discoverers of the empty tomb is that the women were in fact the ones who made this discovery. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that there is no reason why the later Christian church should wish to humiliate its leaders by having them hiding in cowardice in Jerusalem, while the women boldly carry out their last devotions to Jesus’ body, unless this were in fact the truth. Their motive of anointing the body by pouring oils over it is entirely plausible; indeed, its apparent conflict with Mk 14. 8 makes it historically probable that this was the reason why the women went to the tomb. Furthermore, the listing of the women’s names again precludes unhistorical legend at the story’s core, for these persons were known in the Urgemeinde and so could not be associated with a false account.

These arguments have been addressed.

Ben Witherington III presents a more nuanced argument of this kind.

One issue in particular I would want to press with Crossan on the ‘Easter never happened’ front is the substance of the stories of the women’s visit to the tomb and the subsequent appearances of Jesus to them. Crossan’s dismissal of the essential historical substance of these narratives located at the tomb is especially surprising in view of how the testimony of women was evaluated in patriarchal cultures in the first century A.D. C.H. Dodd once suggested that the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb is one of the most self-authenticating stories in all the Gospels. In his view, it has all the elements of the personal testimony of an eyewitness. First of all, given what the tradition said about Mary Magdalene’s past (Luke 8:2), it is hardly credible that the earliest Christians would have made up a story about Jesus’ appearing first to her. Second, it is not credible that a later Christian hagiographer would have had her suggest that perhaps Jesus’ body had been stolen from the tomb. Third, it is not believable that later reverential Christians would have suggested that the first eyewitness mistook Jesus for a gardener! The portrait of Mary and her spiritual perceptiveness is hardly flattering here. Fourth, it is not believable that the early Christians would have created the idea that Jesus comissioned Mary to go proclaim the Easter message to the Eleven. On this last point we have the clear support of 1 Corinthians 15, where we see that the testimony of women to the risen Lord, if not totally eliminated in the official witness list (they might be alluded to in the reference to the appearance to the five hundred), is clearly sublimated.[116]

Witherington’s argument also fails. On the first point, the tradition about Mary’s past (that she was possessed by demons) is found in Luke and may not have been known to the author of John, which is the only one of the four gospels to narrate an appearance specifically to Mary Magdelene. For the remaining points, it is not explained why the author of John should not have written the story the way he did on the assumption that it is fiction. On the second point, it is credible that the author would have placed this suggestion on the lips of Mary Magdalene if it were a rumor that was circulating among the Jews (as the author of Matthew tells us). On the third, the suggestion that Mary mistook Jesus for a gardener is a literary device, not necessarily historical reminiscence. It creates suspense in the narrative. On the last point, it is a natural conclusion of Mary’s encounter with Jesus that Jesus comission her to tell the disciples. The author of John may have belonged to an element of early Christianity that did not suppress the role of women. In the same tradition stands the Epistula Apostolorum, in which the legend is related that two times women were commissioned to tell the apostles of the resurrection and two times they were not believed.[117]

6. The investigation of the empty tomb by the disciples is historically probable. Behind the fourth gospel stands the Beloved Disciple, whose reminiscences fill out the traditions employed. The visit of the disciples to the empty tomb is therefore attested not only in tradition but by this disciple. His testimony has therefore the same first hand character as Paul’s and ought to be accepted as equally reliable.

This argument loses force if we do not believe that the beloved disciple attested to this particular account given in the Gospel of John. The testimony does not have the same first hand character as Paul’s unless a disciple of Jesus literally wrote the passage, or, at the very least, the evangelist noted that the disciple testified to this particular incident.

The historicity of the disciples’ visit is also made likely by the plausibility of the denial of Peter tradition, for if he was in Jerusalem, then having heard the women’s report he would quite likely check it out. The inherent implausibility of and absence of any evidence for the disciples’ flight to Galilee render it highly likely that they were in Jerusalem, which fact makes the visit to the tomb also likely.

This argument assumes that the women went to the empty tomb and reported back to the men. If we reject the arguments for the visit of the women of the tomb, as most who doubt the historicity of the empty tomb are likely to do, this argument cannot get off the ground. The mere presence of the disciples in Jerusalem during the Passover festival does not make a visit to the tomb likely unless it is first assumed that there was a known tomb. Peter could have made the denials, the disciples could have remained in Jerusalem during Passover, and perhaps only then might they have returned home to Galilee along with the rest of the Passover crowd. Thus, it is not necessary to assume that the disciples left Jerusalem in a hurry between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in order to doubt the empty tomb story.

7. It would have been impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty. The empty tomb is a sine qua non of the resurrection. The notion that Jesus rose from the dead with a new body while his old body lay in the grave is a purely modern conception. Jewish mentality would never have accepted a division of two bodies, one in the tomb and one in the risen life.{84} When therefore the disciples began to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem, and people responded, and the religious authorities stood helplessly by, the tomb must have been empty. The fact that the Christian fellowship, founded on belief in Jesus’ resurrection, could come into existence and flourish in the very city where he was executed and buried seems to be compelling evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb.

Craig argues in a similar manner in one of his books:

The idea that Jesus rose from the dead with a new body while the old body lay in the grave is a purely modern conception. As Bode points out, Jewish mentality would never have accepted the division of two bodies, one in the tomb and one in the risen life. Therefore, the disciples’ belief in Jesus’s resurrection could not have survived in the face of Jesus’s closed tomb. The tomb was therefore probably empty. About the only way to resist this conclusion is to deny the historicity of the burial tradition and maintain that Jesus’s burial place was unknown or lost. This, however, is very difficult to carry through plausibly, since the burial tradition is widely recognized to be one of the most reliable traditions about Jesus.[118]

It is at this point that Craig places a footnote giving arguments for the historicity of the tomb burial by Joseph of Arimathea, which if true would tend to imply that the gravesite were generally known. However, I have found these arguments to be inadequate. Therefore, it remains plausible that Jesus was not buried in a tomb known to all involved and thus that such a tomb need not have been discovered empty.

Peter Carnley maintains a similar response:

Apart from this argument’s reliance on the presupposition that the early proclamation cannot be conceived, except anachronistically, without implicit acceptance of the empty tomb, it relies on the additional pre-supposition that the proclamation of the Easter message ‘not long after Jesus’ death’ was in fact soon enough after his death to allow for the possibility of finding and positively identifying a tomb as one in which Jesus’ body had been placed. It would also have had to be soon enough to allow for the positive identification of a body as certainly that of the dead Jesus. Even if the content of the early proclamation was of such a kind that the production of the body in the tomb would have been an ultimately devastating factor, the success of the early proclamation may possibly have been guaranteed by the fact that, by the time that the Easter message got from Galilee to Jerusalem, the exact location of the tomb could not be traced.[119]

Although I would agree with Craig that such a resurrection of the spirit does seem on the unlikely side, I would agree with Carnley that this argument fails if the burial place of Jesus were not known. If the body of Jesus was disposed in a common plot along with the thieves by unsympathetic hands, there is no reason to suppose that anyone would be able to locate the body as late as half a year later, if that is when the resurrection began to be preached in Jerusalem. For example, it is possible that a Roman guard who was responsible for disposing of the bodies was no longer in Jerusalem. Or perhaps he just did not remember because he did not give it much notice at the time. Also, while it may be supposed that the disciples could not preach the resurrection if it were general knowledge where the body laid, it may not be supposed that there were people in Jerusalem who cared enough to want to engage in active measures to discourage incipient Christianity. Unless it is successfully argued that early Christianity was seen as a truly feared force rather than a slightly annoying gadfly or even less to Jerusalem leaders in the 30s, this argument does not work. Finally, there remains the possibility that the body was buried in a shallow grave and then eaten by dogs or even interred in some tomb but taken by body-snatchers. That is, if the resurrection were not preached in Jerusalem until several months later, there are several possibilities for the apparent disappearance of the body over that great course of time.

8. The Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb. From Matthew’s story of the guard at the tomb (Mt. 27. 62-66; 28. 11-15), which was aimed at refuting the widespread Jewish allegation that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, we know that the disciples’ Jewish opponents did not deny that Jesus’ tomb was empty. When the disciples began to preach that Jesus was risen, the Jews responded with the charge that the disciples had taken away his body, to which the Christians retorted that the guard would have prevented any such theft. The Jews then asserted that the guard had fallen asleep and that the disciples stole the body while the guard slept. The Christian answer was that the Jews had bribed the guard to say this, and so the controversy stood at the time of Matthew’s writing. The whole polemic presupposes the empty tomb. Mahoney’s objection, that the Matthaean narrative presupposes only the preaching of the resurrection, and that the Jews argued as they did only because it would have been ‘colorless’ to say the tomb was unknown or lost, fails to perceive the true force of the argument.{85} The point is that the Jews did not respond to the preaching of the resurrection by pointing to the tomb of Jesus or exhibiting his corpse, but entangled themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain away his empty tomb. The fact that the enemies of Christianity felt obliged to explain away the empty tomb by the theft hypothesis shows not only that the tomb was known (confirmation of the burial story), but that it was empty. (Oddly enough, Mahoney contradicts himself when he later asserts that it was more promising for the Jews to make fools of the disciples through the gardener-misplaced-the-body theory than to make them clever hoaxers through the theft hypothesis.{86} So it was not apparently the fear of being ‘colorless’ that induced the Jewish authorities to resort to the desperate expedient of the theft hypothesis.) The proclamation ‘He is risen from the dead’ (Mt. 27. 64) prompted the Jews to respond, ‘His disciples … stole him away’ (Mt. 28. 13). Why? The most probable answer is that they could not deny that his tomb was empty and had to come up with an alternative explanation. So they said the disciples stole the body, and from there the polemic began. Even the gardener hypothesis is an attempt to explain away the empty tomb. The fact that the Jewish polemic never denied that Jesus’ tomb was empty, but only tried to explain it away is compelling evidence that the tomb was in fact empty.

This argument would have force if two premises were established. First, that the tomb of Jesus was well-known in the 30s. This is because, if the tomb were not well-known, then the Jewish polemic could hardly provide attestation to the emptiness of the tomb. Second, that the Jewish polemic originated in the 30s. This is because, if the Jewish polemic originated later such as in the 70s or 80s, then those who made the polemic could hardly provide attestation to the emptiness of the tomb. I have already noted that I do not accept the first premise. But granting that premise, does Craig provide any evidence for the second?

No, he does not. This is despite the fact that Craig’s objection presupposes that the Jews who created the polemic could have instead pointed to the tomb or exhumed the corpse, which would be true only if the polemic were of early Jerusalem provenance. Mahoney’s suggestion is best understood as an explanation for why Jews in the 70s or 80s in the Matthean community might provide a polemic suggesting that the disciples stole the body. At this time, the Jews who heard of the empty tomb story would have no idea if it were true or not. However, it is a common polemical practice to assume the story presented as basically true but to reject the conclusion drawn. This template for polemic is seen from two other common Jewish polemics. The story of the virgin birth may have been countered with the story of the Roman soldier Panthera,[120] a story that grants that the father of Jesus was not Joseph. The miracle stories were countered with the allegation that the feats were wraught by demons, and Celsus goes so far as to suggest that Jesus learned the magical arts while in Egypt.[121] That this is the template for polemic is seen in the further evolution of the polemic in Matthew. When Christians retort that the guard would not have permitted the body to be stolen, the Jews respond not by disputing the existence of the guard but by charging him with being asleep. I know that Craig believes in the historicity of Matthew’s guard, but that is not the point. The point is that we have no case of polemic where the basic claims of the Christian story were denied (as opposed to the theological interpretation). This does not mean that these claims were true, for even if they were true they could be disputed by later generations of Jews. But this suggests that the polemics may have no basis in fact and may assume the Christian story as basically true as part of the give-and-take of the polemical game staged in the late first century. At the very least, Craig has not shown such an explanation of the polemic to be wrong.

If somehow the second premise is substantiated but the first is rejected, then the argument is subject to this objection made by Carnley:

The absence of any Jewish polemic in which it was held that the grave was found not to be empty but, contrary to alleged early Christian preaching, to contain the corpse of Jesus, could however also be explained if the location of the tomb had long been forgotten or if it was never really known to Jewish authorities, thus preventing the possibility of settling the issue either way. If the precise location of Jesus’ grave could not be determined, or if the body of Jesus could not be identified by the time Christian preaching reached Jerusalem, there would have been no alternative for Jewish polemicists than to concede the possibility of the bare fact of the grave’s emptiness and then go on to point out that, in any event, the emptiness of a grave, even if it could be demonstrated, would not prove anything more than that the body had been stolen or deliberately removed by the followers of Jesus themselves.[122]

Of course, if both premises are false, if the location of the gravesite were not known in Jerusalem in the 30s and if the Jewish polemic originated in the late first century, then this argument fails completely.

Taken together these eight considerations furnish powerful evidence that the tomb of Jesus was actually found empty on Sunday morning by a small group of his women followers. As a plain historical fact this seems to be amply attested. As Van Daalen has remarked, it is extremely difficult to object to the fact of the empty tomb on historical grounds; most objectors do so on the basis of theological or philosophical considerations.{87} But these, of course, cannot change historical fact. And, interestingly, more and more New Testament scholars seem to be realizing this fact; for today, many, if not most, exegetes would defend the historicity of the empty tomb of Jesus, and their number continues to increase.{88}

I have provided reasoning for why someone may consider these considerations to be less than “powerful evidence” for the “plain historical fact” of the empty tomb.

I have also shown that one certainly can object to the empty tomb story on grounds other than “theological or philosophical considerations.” This statement is as true as the statement that one can support the empty tomb story on grounds other than “theological or philosophical considerations.” The historical merit of the grounds is a matter for debate in each case, but they are indeed grounds. Van Daalen only wrote against the argument from the silence of Paul and the argument from Mark 16:8 in his book, when there are indeed other arguments that can be made.[123] Thus, van Daalen’s remark can be dismissed as it is based on insufficient evidence. However, even in this case, van Daalen was aware of historical objections, if inadequate ones, to the empty tomb story. Indeed, perhaps this false statement itself was motivated by “theological or philosophical considerations” opposite to the ones that are impugned to others. Or perhaps we should not engage in rhetoric bordering on ad hominem.

In the final section of this essay, I will turn to a total assessment of the evidence.


[101] Bode, ibid., p. 181.

[102] For an excellent readable survey of the opinions on the problem of the relationship of John and the synoptics, see D. Moody Smith, John Among the Gospels: The Relationship in Twentieth-Century Research (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).

[103] Carnley, ibid., p. 47.

[104] Ed. Werner H. Kelber. The Passion in Mark: Studies on Mark 14-16 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p. 153.

[105] Kelber, ibid., p. 157.

[106] Fuller, ibid., p. 51.

[107] Rudolf Bultmann, translated by John Marsh. The History of the Synoptic Tradition (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963), p. 286.

[108] Perrin, ibid., p. 33.

[109] Steven Carr has indicated some of these reasons in “The Resurrection of Jesus” (<URL:http://www.bowness.demon. co.uk/resr.htm>, n.d.), accessed 14 Dec 00.

[110] Fuller, ibid., p. 131.

[111] Robert M. Price, “By This Time He Stinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus” (<URL:https://infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/stinketh. html>, 1997), accessed 14 Dec 00.

[112] J.P. Holding, “Squalling to Raise the Dead” (<URL:http://www. tektonics.org/tekton_01_05_01.html>, n.d.), accessed 14 Dec 00.

[113] Till, ibid.

[114] Richard C. Carrier, “Craig’s Empty Tomb and Habermas on the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus” (<URL:https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/indef/4e. html>, 1999), accessed 14 Dec 00.

[115] Richard C. Carrier, private correspondence.

[116] Ben Witherington III in ed. Paul Copan, _Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan_ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 141-142.

[117] Epistula Apostolorum 10. Translated by Montague Rhode James in The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924), p. 487. “And as they mourned and wept, the Lord showed himself unto them and said to them: For whom weep ye? weep no more. I am he whom ye seek. But let one of you go to your brethren and say: Come ye, the Master is risen from the dead. Martha (Mary, Eth.) came and told us. We said unto her: What have we to do with thee, woman ? He that is dead and buried, is it possible that he should live? And we believed her not that the Saviour was risen from the dead. Then she returned unto the Lord and said unto him: None of them hath believed me, that thou livest. He said: Let another of you go unto them and tell them again. Mary (Sarrha, Eth.) came and told us again, and we believed her not; and she returned unto the Lord and she also told him.”

[118] William Lane Craig, The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy (Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1989), p. 529.

[119] Carnley, ibid., p. 55.

[120] Origen, Contra Celsus, Book I, Chapter XXXII.

[121] Origen, Contra Celsus, Book I, Chapter XXVIII.

[122] Carnley, ibid., p. 56.

[123] Van Daalen, ibid., pp. 40-41.

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