An Empty Tomb Proves Nothing

How many Christians are aware that the story of guards at the tomb only appears in one gospel. And the story of the guards at the tomb is not the only unique detail that appears in this one gospel. Dead saints walking out of their tombs to roam the streets, Roman guards guarding a Jewish peasant, messiah-pretender’s grave, and other wild claims only appear in the gospel of… Matthew.

Christian apologists use the alleged “fact” of an empty tomb as their trump card for evidence for the Resurrection. Let’s assume that the entire account in Matthew regarding Aramathea burying Jesus in his private tomb, the great stone in front of the door, and the Roman guards are all fact. Let’s assume that on Sunday morning the women really did find an empty tomb. How strong of evidence is this “fact”? I assert that the empty tomb is only strong evidence IF Christians can prove that the body was guarded 24/7 from the very moment that Aramathea placed Jesus’ body in the tomb to the moment the women found the tomb empty.

If there is even a ten minute window when the tomb was unguarded, that is enough time for a group of men to roll back the stone, grab the body, and make off with it. Christians will assert that NO ONE would do this for a long list of reasons, including breaking the Sabbath. I assert that Jews breaking the Sabbath is much more probable than that an invisible middle-eastern deity reanimated the dead body of a Jewish prophet and sent angels to move back the stone. Yes, in a world where anything is possible, the latter is possible, but it just is not probable. It is much more probable that devout Jews would break the Sabbath. We have evidence of the disciples breaking the Sabbath in the Gospels, so why not do it again? Also, maybe it wasn’t the disciples. Maybe it was some of Jesus’ family who wanted the body buried in Galilee. Or maybe it was just grave robbers who thought they could make a profit selling the remains of a messiah pretender. Maybe a small group of the Sanhedrin didn’t like the idea of a blasphemer being buried in a respectable tomb, so they stole the body and tossed it into a hole, and did not tell the high priest and the other members. Or, maybe Aramethea only put the body in his tomb until Sabbath was over. After sunset Saturday night, with Pilate’s permission, he removed the body and threw it into an unmarked grave.

A grave robber at work

Again, all of these scenarios are much more probable than the Christian supernatural explanation. Bottom line: We do NOT have evidence that the tomb was guarded 24/7 from the moment that Aramethea placed the body in the tomb and rolled the stone in front until the women found the tomb empty on Sunday morning. Below is the passage from Matthew:

Matthew 27

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night[m] and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.


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