Christian: “While inconsequential differences could conceivably have crept in (to the “Jesus Story”), this was at a time when people took great pains to memorize what was said and repeat it exactly.”
This is one of the biggest assumptions made by many Christians.
We know from collective human history that oral stories (rumors) can change very rapidly. The idea that somehow people in the first century were different cannot be proven. While it may be true that Jewish authorities/the religious elite are considered very good at maintaining the accuracy of oral traditions, can the same be said of a group of “unlearned” first century Galilean peasants??? We have zero proof that mostly uneducated first century peasants maintained strict accuracy with their oral traditions. The idea that they did, is nothing but an assumption.
Christian: “Moreover, there still were some of the original eyewitnesses around who could immediately recognize if a significant alteration crept in and would call it out.”
This is another major assumption.
We have no direct evidence that even one person who witnessed the crucifixion and the alleged events immediately after Jesus’ death were still alive in circa 70 AD when the first gospel was written. And how many eyewitnesses were there? Thousands? Hundreds? Twenty?
Did five hundred people at the same time and in the same place see a physical, resurrected body, talk to a physical, resurrected body, touch a physical, resurrected body or did five hundred people BELIEVE that they had seen Jesus when they saw a bright light…as Paul did…or as tens of thousands of Roman Catholics, in one place, at one time, have claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary?
Christians assume that Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent events were national headlines, but this too may be an embellishment of the gospel writers. No contemporary of Jesus wrote about the day the sky went dark for three hours, accompanied by earthquakes, sightings of celestial beings, dead people roaming the streets, and the capital city of a rebellious Roman province, simmering with near revolt as throngs of thousands hailed the “son of David, the messiah, the King of Israel and liberator from the Romans” celebrated his triumphal entry, with palm fronds and a parade, as he entered the city.
Christian: “The rapid, universal acceptance of the Synoptics reveals that this was not the case.”
The majority of NT scholars believe that embellishments (fiction) do exist in the Gospels, such as Matthew’s “street-roaming dead saints story”. Yet…the early Church “rapidly and universally” accepted the Gospels as the Word of God. The rapid (not until the mid-second century at the earliest, actually) and universal acceptance of the Gospels is obviously, then, NOT proof that every detail within them is historical fact.
Therefore, it is PLAUSIBLE/CREDIBLE that the Empty Tomb story is an embellishment (fiction) that no first century Christian had ever heard of until the author of Mark invented it in circa 70 AD. And, it is therefore plausible that the early Christian Resurrection belief was based solely on alleged appearances, of a recently departed loved one, to grieving family and friends, not on the physical evidence of an empty tomb.