One facet of the Empty Tomb story that I find very odd is the lack of preparation by the Sanhedrin for the death of Jesus. According to the Gospels: It was the Sanhedrin who initially arrested Jesus; it was the Sanhedrin who convicted Jesus of blasphemy; it was the Sanhedrin who appealed to Pilate to crucify Jesus as a traitor to Caesar; and it was the Sanhedrin who asked that the legs of Jesus and the two thieves be broken to hurry their deaths prior to the impending Passover Sabbath.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[g] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” —Gospel of John, chapter 19
So why in the world didn’t the Sanhedrin have a dirt trench dug, ready, and waiting for the bodies of Jesus and the two thieves? Scholars tell us that the majority of persons who died in first century Palestine were buried in dirt trenches. Why the implied panicked scramble to find a rock tomb into which they could quickly place the body of Jesus (and of the thieves?) prior to the setting of the sun on Friday evening?
If the Sanhedrin had already gone to Pilate to ask that the legs of Jesus and the two thieves be broken so that they would die before sunset, why not ask Pilate then for permission to bury the body, and then quickly bury it in a dirt trench? Why instead send Joseph of Arimathea schlepping back down to Pilate’s residence to ask permission to bury the body in his rock tomb?
If all the details presented by the four authors of the Gospels are historically accurate up to the point of the death of Jesus, it would make much more sense for the well-organized Sanhedrin to have a dirt trench ready and waiting for the body of Jesus. Why would the Sanhedrin put Jesus in a rock tomb among the honored dead of Jerusalem’s aristocracy?? And the idea that Arimathea acted on his own makes no sense either. If he were a “secret” disciple, his act of giving Jesus a noble burial surely would have infuriated the high priest, exposing Joseph as an open follower of Jesus, not a secret one. If Jesus was crucified only because Pilate was afraid of the Jews, as the Gospels tell us, why would the same Pilate then infuriate the Sanhedrin by giving the body of Jesus to someone else who would give him an honorable burial among the nobility of the city??
Here is the remainder of John chapter 19.
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
It certainly sounds to me that Jesus was buried in Arimathea’s rock tomb as a matter of convenience in a time crunch. But why? The Sanhedrin had planned the death of Jesus for at least 24 hours.
How long does it take to dig a dirt trench??
This detail, along with many others, exposes the Empty Tomb story as just too contrived. No wonder the majority of non-Christian NT scholars doubt its historicity.