Christians assert that the only believable explanation for the empty tomb is the Resurrection: the supernatural (miracle) act of the Hebrew God, Yahweh, in which he raised the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth out of his tomb to appear in the flesh to his disciples. I say that there are several possible, much more probable, explanations for the empty tomb (if there even was an empty tomb), here is one of them:
Jesus is crucified and buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb by Joseph and Nicodemus. A stone is rolled in front of the tomb. It is late Friday afternoon. The Jews go to Pilate and ask for guards to be placed at the tomb because they fear that the disciples will steal the body and try to claim that Jesus had been resurrected. Pilate agrees and sends soldiers to the tomb. The soldiers seal the tomb and stand guard round-the-clock for the next few days until Sunday morning.
Very early Sunday morning, some of the female followers of Jesus make a trip to the tomb. It is dawn and there is only a hint of light. As they enter the Garden, they can’t yet see Jesus’ tomb and the guards, but in the distance they see a man. It is barely light, so it is hard to see the man clearly, but it looks like Jesus! The man turns to look at them, smiles, and then walks away and is no longer visible. It was Jesus! It looked like Jesus’ face and he smiled at us! The women run back into town telling people along the way that Jesus has been raised from the dead. News of this “miracle” gets back to the Roman soldiers at the tomb. The soldiers break the seal, move away the stone, and look inside. The tomb is empty! In fear for their lives for having failed to guard the body, they flee.
Shortly thereafter, Peter and John come to the tomb and find..the story is true! The stone is rolled back and the tomb is empty. Jesus is risen! They run and tell the other disciples who were still in hiding for fear that they too would be executed. But now they are emboldened! Jesus had said that they would rule with him in the new kingdom! They would sit on thrones! And now Jesus was back, ready to establish that Kingdom. Their fear dissolved, and they boldly preached the coming Kingdom.
Over the next days, weeks, and months Christians began having visions of Jesus and false sightings of Jesus, similar to the false sighting of the women in the garden (men who looked like Jesus, but were not). And within five years, a Creed was formed which included the names of many of the prominent members of the Church as eyewitnesses and even a claim that five hundred at once had seen Jesus.
The Christian message claimed that even the poorest of people would attain riches in heaven after death, and, anyone who became a Christian was allowed to participate in the sharing of food and goods, as the earliest Christians practiced a form of communal living. With a social welfare system in this life and a promise of riches in the next, the new religion was very attractive to the lower classes of the Roman empire, and it spread very rapidly, even in the face of sometimes horrific persecution.
So why was the tomb empty?
Answer: During the brief period of time between Josephus and Nicodemus putting the body in the tomb and the soldiers arriving and sealing the tomb, SOMEONE came and took the body…for reasons we will never know.