Is This the Real Reason for the Empty Tomb?

Image result for image of the potter's field in jerusalem
The Potter’s Field, Jerusalem


Joseph of Arimathea was no friend or secret admirer of Jesus—according to the first gospel written, the Gospel of Mark.  The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph had voted with the entire Sanhedrin to execute Jesus.  After taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, Joseph did not bother to wash it or anoint it with spices—according to the author of Mark.  The only respect given to the body of Jesus was to wrap it in a cloth and bury it.

Joseph was a devout Jew.  He was a devout observer of the Law.  He buried Jesus for only one reason:  to prevent a violation of that Law.  He did not want a Jewish corpse above ground on the Sabbath.  It is quite probable that Joseph represented the Sanhedrin, not just himself, when he asked Pilate for the body.

But why not give the body to the family?

The Sanhedrin had assumed that the body would be taken by the family or friends of Jesus.  But there was no one present to take responsibility for the body.  All of the followers of Jesus had fled according to the author of Mark.  Jesus was alone on the cross.  There is no mention in Mark of any family or friends of Jesus present at his crucifixion.

The body had to be buried and buried quickly.  It was late Friday afternoon.  The sun would soon set and the Sabbath would begin.  With no family present to accept the body, the Sanhedrin took responsibility for the body.

Where would the Sanhedrin bury the body of the man they so detested; the man they had so much wanted dead; the man who had claimed to be the Son of God; the blasphemer; that irritating, insolent, trouble-making Galilean peasant?

There was no time to dig a dirt trench, the typical manner in which the lower classes in first century Palestine were buried.  The Sanhedrin had to get the body under ground quickly.  Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who was responsible for the burial of “foreigners” and criminals in Jerusalem, found a tomb nearby the crucifixion site.  It was not his tomb.  It was the property of a friend.  Joseph suggested to the high priests that they bury Jesus in this tomb temporarily until they were able to dig a dirt trench grave.

“Let’s make sure that the grave of this blasphemer does not become a shrine for his followers,”  responded the high priest.  “After the Sabbath is over, let’s bury him in an unmarked, dirt grave.  Let’s use the silver we had given to his disciple, Judas Iscariot, which he has just returned, to buy that plot of land outside the city walls owned by the potter.  Let’s bury the Galilean in the potter’s field in an unmarked grave.”

So, Saturday night, after the Sabbath had ended, in the dark of night, the servants of the high priest moved Jesus’ body from the rock tomb at the base of Golgotha to a dirt trench grave in the potter’s field…where the remains of Jesus of Nazareth lie buried to this day!

On Sunday morning, female disciples of Jesus come to the rock tomb and find it empty.  “Why is it empty?” they ask themselves.  Terrified, they flee.  Weeks later, in Galilee, the story of the empty tomb in Galilee begins to circulate among the Eleven.  “Could Jesus have risen from the dead???”  This thought stirs the emotions and imagination of the disciples so drastically that they begin to “see” Jesus in dreams, “visions”, and false sightings.

And the Resurrection Belief was born!





End of post.

27 thoughts on “Is This the Real Reason for the Empty Tomb?

  1. re: “So, Saturday night, after the Sabbath had ended, in the dark of night, the servants of the high priest moved Jesus’ body from the rock tomb at the base of Golgotha to a dirt trench grave in the potter’s field”

    Granted, the Friday (sundown) to Saturday (sundown) Sabbath had ended, but, according to the “Temple reckoning”, Saturday at sundown would begin “the night of the Passover”.

    Yeh, I know, it’s strange. But, it’s well-documented. The original Passover was like this: 13th Nisan was “day of preparation”; the lamb was slaughtered in the twilight between the 13th and the 14th. The 14th was “the night of the Passover”, when the lamb was eaten.

    With the Temple, this was changed. They could not expect to slaughter 10k lambs “in the twilight” between the 13th and the 14th, so, they simply re-interpreted the scripture that says “between the two evenings” (which had been understood as “twilight”), and took it to mean “between sundown (beginning the 14th) and sundown (beginning the 15th)”. This meant they had all the daylight hours of the 14th to slaughter lambs at the Temple. And, it then means that the Passover meal itself, and “the night of the Passover”, were now the same day as “The First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”.

    What I’m getting at is this: That Saturday, at night, would have been a “High Sabbath”.

    I’m not sure you’ have people sent out by the Temple to go digging graves and hauling bodies around….


    1. Depends which Gospel you read.

      In the Gospel of John, Jesus is crucified (and dies) on the day of the slaughter of the lambs (the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath). In the Synoptics, the lambs had been slaughtered the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, that is why Jesus and his disciples celebrate a Passover meal the night before his crucifixion (they do NOT celebrate a Passover meal in John). In the Synoptics, Jesus was crucified on Passover day, which was a Friday, followed by a Saturday Sabbath (which began Friday at sunset). So the issue was not getting Jesus’ body into the ground before Passover began because it already WAS Passover, but to get his body into the ground before the SABBATH began.

      My story is based on the Synoptics, not on John’s (invented for theological purposes) “Jesus is the Saughtered Passover Lamb” story.

      (I had to revise this answer several times. It does get a little complicated but my hypothetical scenario is based on the Synoptic timeline not the timeline in John.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gary –

        I guess I failed to mention this: They were celebrating Passover in both fashions in the first century. “Home celebrations” often followed the “original plan” – slaughter the lamb at twilight going into the 14th, put the blood on the doorposts, have the Passover meal that night. But, at the Temple, they slaughtered lambs during the daylight hours of the 14th.

        As such, Jesus & crew did the traditional “home celebration” going into “the night of the Passover” (14th) while at the Temple, they slaughtered lambs during the daylight hours of the 14th, and had the Passover meal on the First Day of Unleavened Bread (which is the way the Jews still do it today, although there is a big debate going on about switching it back, since they don’t have the Temple anymore).

        So, Jesus was crucified on the Passover – the 14th – after he had shared a traditional meal with his disciples, and, yes, John is also right – Jesus was crucified when they were slaughtering lambs at the Temple.

        BTW – you’ll notice in the synoptics, they all say “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”” (this version is from Matt, but they all indicate this same thing).

        This “first day of Unleavened Bread” is NOT “the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”, an really, “Unleavened Bread” shouldn’t be captialized. This day is the “first of the unleaveneds”, the day when all leavened bread was to be gotten rid of, and, on that night (the night of the Passover), they would eat only unleavened bread.

        Under the “original” (home) celebration, the Feast of Unleavened Bread *began* on the 15th.

        Under “Temple rules”, that Passover meal and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread” became the same day. Thus, the “original” version was a full Feast day for Passover, followed by 7 Feast Days of Unleavened Bread – for a total of 8 days. Under Temple rules, that total Feast time was reduced by a day, to only 7 days.


        1. I don’t really care on which day Passover was observed as long as you are not trying to imply that the first Easter Sunday was a sabbath day (regular or high). Sunday would have started at sunset the evening before (our Saturday evening). My original argument was that the servants of the Sanhedrin moved the body after sunset (our Saturday evening), which would be “early” Sunday on the Jewish “clock”. If you are trying to say that the Synoptic authors considered Sunday a sabbath day, then what were the female disciples of Jesus doing walking to the tomb to anoint the body on a Sabbath??? What were the two disciples of Jesus doing on the Emmaus Road, walking from Emmaus to Jerusalem on a Sabbath (more than a mile)???

          Your argument does not hold water.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Raymond Brown is full of crap, Gary. I can provide you with every bit of info you need in order to figure this one out. It’s all there, in historic sources.

            You’ve got a good point about the Sunday not being on a Sabbath, though.

            But, as far as the thing about “it depends on which gospel you read”, that’s horse dung. Brown dropped the ball on that one.


              1. sure – it works great!

                but, then, it does what all “stolen ./ moved” theories does, and next, becomes “hallucination” theory. That’s the part that still doesn’t work for me.


                1. No. Not at all.

                  I have given a very plausible scenario for the empty tomb. So what about the alleged appearances?

                  Easy: One disciple saw a bright light appear on his bedroom wall late one night and believed it was the risen Jesus. Soon other disciples were seeing bright lights. It is Jesus! Jesus is risen! It must be the End Times! The rest of the righteous dead will rise at any second! Sell all your property and belongings and come and live with us in the commune in Jerusalem. We share everything. The End is Near!

                  And forty years later, an anonymous author in Rome (or Antioch) wrote a Greco-Roman biography in which he embellished these “Jesus appearances”. Instead of seeing just a bright light, the new stories included sightings of a walking/talking/glowing corpse that teleports, levitates, and even eats fish.

                  No need for an hallucination.


                  1. right – bright lights on the wall…

                    and, I find that one even *less* plausible than a good ol’, garden-variety hallucination theory.

                    I believe the disciples simply *lying* about the whole thing more plausible than your idea, or than hallucination theories. And, them lying about it is not even plausible itself.


                    1. If modern, educated, western, Roman Catholic Christians can look up at the sun and “see” the Virgin Mary, as in the video below, then it should be very easy to imagine ignorant first century peasants seeing a bright light on the wall of their bedroom in the middle of the night and believing that they are “seeing” Jesus.

                      Hyper-religious, superstitious people claim to see (and hear) all kinds of bizarre things.

                      Virgin Mary video:


                    2. yeh, I watched that video, and in it, you’re seeing what psychologists talk about, when they talk about the nature of “mass halluciations”: You see a bunch of people who showed up with an *expectation* of seeing *something* (although, nobody knew what it would be), and then when the sun comes out unexpectedly from behind the clouds (note: this is Ireland, where “sunny days”, especially at certain times of the year, is not a common occurance), then, the people in the crowd see *something unusual* has happened, and the “take it as a sign” that (in this case), the Virgin had come. *She* was responsible for the sun coming out unexpectedly. And, here’s the deal: It could have been *anything* unexpected. If a meteor had been seen, then *that* would have been the sign. “The Virgin was there, and she made the sun appear!”

                      That’s what so-called “mass hallucinations” are about. And, anybody that had not shown up with any sense of expectation would simply say “guys, the sun just came out. It happens”, and would walk off shaking his head.

                      As far as your “light on the wall” idea goes, I don’t find it unbelievable that someone might see a light on the wall and “take it as a sign” that “Jesus was there”. What I find infinitely unbelievable is that such a “sign” would be taken by anyone else to be some kind of “proof of a resurrection”. That kind of thing has happened billions of times in human history: grieving Moms, who lost sons in war (who’s bodies were never found) have had such imaginings. And, you find these kinds of imaginings in literature going back to who-knows-when. And the very common reaction to such things is always the same: “yes, dear – I know what you mean. I had the same thing happen when my husband died, may he rest in peace”. It doesn’t turn into a convincing tale that the “deceased and lost” have been *resurrected* (of all things). Those kinds of things *might* turn into a family folklore about “crazy Aunt Alice”, but, that’s about all. And, human history is chock full of such tales.

                      But, about the “moved body” theory: Dr James Tabor certainly holds to the view that Joe of A came at night and moved the body elsewhere. He asserts that Joe of A didn’t even *own* the tomb that Jesus was initially buried in, but rather, on purely “emergency basis”, he just picked an empty one that was nearby. Hence, as soon as there was any opportunity at all, he got some guys to go get the body out of that “borrowed” tomb (since they may not really even have had permission to use it), and go bury it elsewhere. And this, of course, would have meant moving the body on Sat night sometime.

                      And, that’s all well and good.

                      I just don’t see how this turns into a “creed” within one to three years after the event. Tabor notes that Mark doesn’t mention appearances. But, he also doesn’t note that “appearances” were part of that creed, long, long before Mark ever wrote his gospel. But then, Tabor also believes that not only had Jesus been reburied on Sat night, but, he also believes that Jesus’ bones were eventually put into a sepulchre – (Talpiot “Jesus” tomb) – indicating that *somebody* clearly knew where Jesus was buried, and, it didn’t matter one bit, because according to Tabor, the earliest believers just believed in a “spiritual” resurrection. Thing is, such a “spiritual” resurrection would have been totally acceptable in Judaism: it just means that some sub-group believes that when you die, you “go to Heaven”, and not to “the big sleep” in Hades. And, that belief would have been as acceptable as the belief in “the big sleep”, or reincarnation, or, no afterlife at all. So, I think Tabor is just a tad nutzo.

                      What we *know* is this: Jesus was crucified, the body was unaccounted for, and somehow this turned into a belief in his resurrection. And, the only way we can account for that is by lights on the wall or hallucinations. Or, lies. OR – hey, a resurrection.

                      I’m still convinced that, if we can’t consider resurrection, then lies are the best option of all.


                    3. There is no such thing as a “mass hallucination”. Trust me. I’m a physician. Two (or more) people cannot have the exact same hallucination. Impossible.

                      However, groups of people can all experience an illusion (a misperception of a real phenomenon in the environment).

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. I just hear the term “mass hallucination” used so much that I just go ahead and use it myself. But, you are right: nobody can have the same hallucination as someone else.

                      I don’t care if you’re a physician. My own doctor is an idiot.


                    5. “And, the only way we can account for that is by illusions, mental illness, or lies…or a completely unheard of before or since outrageous violation of the laws of physics.”

                      Do you not see the lack of logic and reason in your statement?


        2. FYI: Highly respected Bible scholar, Raymond Brown, states in his masterpiece “The Death of the Messiah” that there is no way to reconcile John’s timeline and the Synoptic timeline regarding which day of the week Jesus died. So I would suggest to readers that they take your complicated harmonization above with a grain of salt.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. BTW – re “So I would suggest to readers that they take your complicated harmonization above with a grain of salt.”

    I just pulled this quote out of some book (online) called “The Christian Passover” (Coulter):

    “In later temple-centered observances, the lambs were slain late on the 14th and were not eaten until the night of the 15th. Although the temple sacrifice in the afternoon of the 14th became a widespread tradition, it did not wholly replace the domestic sacrifice of the lambs at the beginning of the 14th. Some Jews continued to observe the domestic Passover as commanded in the Scriptures, and others kept the temple-centered Passover as sanctioned by the religious authorities. The records of Scripture and history show that the two practices existed side by side.”

    Sometimes, history is not as clear-cut as some wish it was.

    I myself would suggest that they take your simplistic and non-studied approach with a grain of salt.

    If you do medicine the way you do historical research, then you might be my HMO doctor…


      1. it would go like this (and, I know you know that days begin at sundown):

        Wednesday 13th Nisan- disciples ask “where’s supper?” (as per synoptics)
        Wednesday twilight – Passover lamb sacrificed (“home” celebration)
        Wednesday darkness 14th Nisan- night of Passover – garden of Gethsemane
        Thursday daylight 14th Nisan- Jesus crucified on “traditional” Passover- dies before sundown.
        Thursday daylight 14th Nisan – lambs sacrificed in Temple (as per John)
        Thursday twilight 14th/15th Nisan – begin High Sabbath for Passover (Temple reckoning)
        Friday 15th daylight – “Temple Passover)
        Friday 15th twilight – begin regular weekly Sabbath
        Saturday 16th Nisan – twilight – end regular weekly Sabbath

        Thus, as per Mark, “after the Sabbaths” (two of them)


        1. If Jesus died and was buried on Thursday, then he was in the grave for (at least part of) four days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Unless you are suggesting that Jesus rose from the dead on Saturday and the tomb was found empty on Sunday? But then why do Christian worship on Sunday??? What is special about Sunday if Jesus rose from the dead on Saturday? I’m sure you will have to agree that Christians have always believed that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday.

          Jesus prophesied he would be in the grave three days and three nights. If Jesus died and was buried on Thursday and rose from the dead on Sunday, Jesus made an incorrect prophesy. Jesus was in the grave longer than he prophesied. If your timeline is correct, Jesus was not all-knowing. Jesus was not perfect. Jesus was not God.


          1. crucified thursday, nisan 14th, as the lambs were sacrificed in Temple, before sundown (leading into the 15th), then put in the grave before that sundown, on the 14th – this is Day 1.

            thursday “post-sundown”: Nisan 15th – it’s DARK – this is Night 1

            friday, daylight hours: Nisan 15th – this is Day 2

            friday, post-sundown – Nisan 16th – it is DARK – this is Night 2

            saturday, Nisan 16th – this is Day 3

            saturday, post-sundown – Nisan 17th – it is DARK – this is Night 3

            we don’t know precisely at what moment in time, nor the precise location of the sun, when Jesus was actually resurrected, but it most certainly would have been a Sunday (by our calendar).

            But, when *anybody* says “3 days and 3 nights” (ie, sign of Jonah), unless that time started *exactly*, 100% precisely, to the n-th degree at specifically the absolute *beginning* of the day, and unless it somehow ended with the same 100% precise, atomic-clock-on-steroids timing, then of course there might be a tad of “the fourth day” in there someplace.

            The thing is, you *can’t* have somebody in a grave for 3 days and 3 nights “exactly”, because you can’t divide time that specifically. There is no exact “splitting” of moments, because each moment is infinitely small. We can measure a time down to the 100th of a second, or, down to the 1000th, or the 10000th, or the millionth, the billionth, the trillionth, and so on, ad-infinitum. There is no way human beings can actually point out when “now” is.

            So, unless you’re an idiot that cannot understand that *some* things *have* to be expressed in uncertain, “colloquial” terms at times, then, the timeline works perfectly.

            On the other hand, if you *are* such an idiot, then it is utterly *impossible* for *any* timeline to work, because of the nature of time itself.


  3. BTW – the synoptics are going by “original Passover reckoning”, while John is going by “Temple reckoning”


    1. Addendum: And, that Saturday (using our day-names) at sundown was the beginning of “The First Day of the Week” (for the Jews), so if Jesus were resurrected at *any* time after that sundown, on The First Day of the Week (which he *must* have been), then that is exactly what the gospels tell us. The empty tomb was *discovered* on “our” Sunday morning, still, though, The First Day of the Week (Jewish calendar). Jesus was raised on the First Day of the Week, and the tomb was discovered empty on that same day, which just happens to correspond with the day that *we* call Sunday. And, my guess – and it’s only a guess (but, duhhhh) – is that this is why Christians celebrate a Sunday as “resurrection day”. Technically, all we can say is it’s the day the tomb was found empty, because nobody was there to see the actual resurrection itself, which, for all we know, happened right after sundown on Saturday.


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