We have Zero Evidence that the earliest Christians believed in an Empty Tomb

Evangelical Christian:

(Gary said): We have no evidence of what the earliest Christians believed during the time period between Jesus’ crucifixion and the first epistle of Paul.

Reply: Yeah we do. Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and others have pointed to Aramaic sayings that would be part of the earliest Jesus tradition. These sayings show Jesus was seen as deity early on. That the epistles continue this would mean that Jesus was seen as deity at the start, then in the time in the middle we don’t know, and then when Paul shows up and starts speaking he’s seen as deity again. Seriously? 

Gary:  You have not presented the evidence, you have only named some Christian apologists purporting that such evidence exists.  Are you expecting me to just take their word for it?  Present the evidence, please, in a concise presentation.   And even if there were some early Christians who believed that Jesus was a deity this is no way provides evidence for the veracity of the Resurrection stories as presented in the Gospels.  And, you are assuming that the only reason early Christians would believe that Jesus was a deity is if they had seen and touched his resurrected, superhero-like body.  This is nothing more than a guess; an assumption.

(Gary said): You have not provided any evidence that the Creed Paul recites in First Corinthians was formulated within a short period of time after Jesus death. You are assuming it did, and that is it.

Reply: No. I’m not. I made an argument based on the chronology of 1 Cor. Paul received the creed three years after his conversion when he visited Jerusalem. If Paul was converted about a year after the Easter event, then that means a distance of four years at the most. The language of passed on and received is the language of oral tradition. Paul also shows that it was something that he taught them already at Corinth and was reminding them of it. They had heard this before.

Gary:  Many, many assumptions, my friend.  How do you know that Paul really did visit Jerusalem?  Just because he says so?  Just because the author of Acts, a probable Pauline disciple, says so?  You have no proof that Paul was converted a year after the Easter event, but even if he was, so what?  That doesn’t prove he received the Creed at that time.

Again, you’re going against the scholarly consensus on this. Let’s name some scholars who place it early.

How about Barclay, Barnett, Burridge, Gould, Dunn, Engelbrecht, Funk and the Jesus Seminar, Goulder, Grant, Hays, Koester, Ludemann, Shanks and Witherington, Wedderburn. You can find the citations in Licona’s book on the resurrection of Jesus.

Now if you think all the NT scholars out there are wrong about when this creed was formulated, then they eagerly await your thesis statement on this backed with scholarly sources that shows otherwise.

Gary:  How many non-Christian NT scholars believe that the Creed in I Corinthians was written within three years of Jesus death?  Please give me their names so I can verify your claim. 

Even if the creed is early, your original claim was that Paul received this creed during his first trip to Jerusalem.  You have no evidence for this other than assumptions.  This early creed gives a list of supposed witnesses that are out of order, incorrect, and omits the first witnesses.  Who cares if it was written one week after Jesus’ death!  It does not give us any details of an empty tomb, or specifics of the appearances.  This list of names is worthless in attempting to validate the Resurrection stories as described in the Gospels.

Non: No matter what your evangelical Christian Bible scholars might present as evidence for your assertion on this issue, you will be forced to admit that the best your scholars can do is guess as to the date of this Creed.

Reply: No. I am not forced at all. Look at that list above. Are some evangelical? Yep. But last I checked, the Jesus Seminar is not evangelical nor is Robert Funk or Gerd Ludemann. You see, unlike you, I don’t remain in a bubble with what I read. I regularly read non-Christian and liberal scholarship. You don’t.

That’s because you’re a fundamentalist.

(Gary said): Bottom line: we have no concrete evidence what the earliest Christians in the first circa twenty years after the crucifixion believed.

Reply: Bottom line. You don’t have a clue about NT scholarship. You don’t read it and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Gary:  Again, as I originally asserted, I don’t need to be a NT scholar or have a PhD to know that virgins do not birth babies, that men walk on water, or that dead bodies walk out of their tombs to eat broiled fish.  It is all supernatural nonsense.  We wouldn’t believe such silly, superstitious claims from five hundred people today, so it is preposterous and ridiculous to ask us to believe these claims from the writings of one first century man who says that someone told him that five hundred people had seen a walking, talking zombie.

It’s silly and ignorant nonsense.  The Emperor’s tailors spin a better tale than this one.

(Gary said): We must settle this issue first before we can move on. Please provide evidence that proves that the earliest Christians believed that the Resurrection of Jesus occurred in the manner as described in the four Gospels, and not merely that they believed Jesus had been resurrected in some form or manner. I do not doubt that early on, Christians believed in a resurrection, and they most certainly did so by Paul’s time. The big question is: Why?

Reply: Yeah. I did provide the evidence. It’s the 1 Cor. 15 creed. Your inability to deal with it doesn’t change the facts. 

Gary:  Your creed proves that some Christians in the time of Paul, maybe earlier, believed in a resurrection.  It does not give us the details, however, other than an incorrect list of witnesses.

Seriously. Before debating further, go to the library and get some books on NT scholarship. You stated earlier you don’t need to read scholars, and it’s clear that you haven’t. You’re not even making me blink with these silly scenarios and when i point out what’s wrong with them, you have nothing to say. 

Gary:  And I still assert that all you need to deny the historicity of your supernatural tall tale is a high school education and a functioning brain.  The internet is blowing your ancient tall tale out of the water, friend.  Check your denomination’s latest membership and baptism totals if you don’t believe me.

If you don’t want to believe in Jesus, that’s your choice, but at least be informed in your decision. Like I said, you’re still a fundamentalist. You have changed your mind, but you have not changed your mindset. 

Gary:  And you, friend, are following the teachings of ancient, scientifically ignorant, superstitious middle-eastern gurus belonging to one of the oldest, and deadliest superstition-based cults in history.


11 thoughts on “We have Zero Evidence that the earliest Christians believed in an Empty Tomb

  1. Well, you backpedalled pretty quickly from “we have no evidence the first Xians believed” to “evidence of the veracity of the resurrection.” Those are two different issues. Then you backpedal to “no proof of the resurrection” and “no proof” that Paul visited Jerusalem, and blah blah blah. This is all pretty poor thinking.

    My suspicion is your fundamentalist (which is not necessarily orthodox by the way) church trained you to think the Bible is all literally true from beginning to end, and when you found out parts were not (because they weren't intended as such) you lost faith. This is something I've seen elsewhere, and it's a real shame. Many Christians understand the Bible very differently than that. You should explore that, instead of hopping on the bandwagon you've apparently hopped on.


  2. If we have zero to no evidence for Christianity and if it is so insanely idiotic and silly then how on earth has it survived this long and why do so many highly intelligent people believe it? You make it sound as if it's just absolutely asinine and completely feeble.


  3. Hinduism is much older than Christianity. There are millions of very intelligent, educated Hindus, with many brilliant Hindu doctors, scientists, and researchers, but I'm sure you believe that their belief system is silly. And the same goes for the Muslims. Everyone's superstitions are ridiculous and silly…except your own.


  4. What I should have stated in the beginning is this: We have no contemporary evidence for the beliefs of the earliest Christians during those first twenty or so years, but the probability that they came to believe that Jesus had been resurrected in some fashion seems pretty high.

    Just because the majority of experts believe that the I Corinthians 15 creed was written early is not strong evidence, it is soft evidence by definition.


  5. Except that we do in fact have contemporary evidence if Bauckham is, as I think he is, correct that the Gospels preserve eyewitness accounts. The contemporary evidence is those accounts; i.e., the person giving the account contemporaneously witnessed what he recounts.


  6. So you find it perfectly reasonable to believe that a water buffalo spoke in a human language for almost an hour, as stated in the Hindu Scriptures? And, you believe it perfectly reasonable to believe that the prophet Mohammad fly to heaven on a winged horse??


  7. Those are specific stories that I don't believe, but your comment was “that their belief system is silly.” Their systems — the overall cosmology and theology — are not silly. Mistaken in some parts, I believe, yes. Profound in other parts. But silly? No.


  8. Superstition-based beliefs are silly. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, talking water buffalo, flying horses, ghost-impregnated-man-god-birthing virgins…all silly.


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