Paul has a vision on his way to Damascus in which Jesus appears to him and calls him to be his apostle to the Gentiles. A short time later, Paul meets with Peter and James in Jerusalem. He tells them of his vision of Jesus…and they tell him of theirs: a talking, bright light.
There never was an empty tomb. There never were women arriving on Sunday morning. No earthquakes. No angels. No dead saints roaming the streets. No appearance on the Emmaus Road. No appearance in the Upper Room. No appearances on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius. No Great Commission. No Ascension into the clouds. These are fictional, theological embellishments by the anonymous authors of the Gospels writing many decades after the death of Jesus.
The first gospel was written in the early 70’s, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. All witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus are dead or scattered to the four corners of the globe. The author of this gospel adds the Empty Tomb story to the oral legends circulating about Jesus. Paul nor Peter nor James had ever heard of a tomb, let alone an empty tomb. Jesus’ body had been tossed into an unmarked, common grave. None of the disciples knew where it was. The belief in the Resurrection began due to some of the disciples having visions shortly after Jesus’ death, as they fondly remembered Jesus’ prophecy that he would rise from the dead three days after his death. Every fiber in their bodies so much wanted that to happen…so it did…in their minds!
Fast forward to the 80’s or 90’s: A decade or two after the first gospel was written, another anonymous gospel author writes his version of the story of Jesus, borrowing heavily from the author of the first gospel. He adds new theological embellishments. And the third anonymous gospel author does the same. The fourth gospel is written near the close of the first century. The author of this gospel had heard the oral stories circulating about Jesus and it is possible that he had read the first three gospels. His story of Jesus is in a completely different style and with a completely different Christology, but he keeps to the same basic boiler plate story of the other three.
As each gospel story is written, the Resurrection Story grows with more and more elaborate details. The original “Mark” has no appearances and the women tell no one. By the time of the last gospel, there are multiple appearances, in multiple locations, to multiple people, with multiple angels, and multiple earthquakes.
The Resurrection Stories themselves indicate that this story is most probably a theological embellishment. The original resurrection belief was based on visions and dreams, not on empty tombs and a literal walking/talking dead body.