Is This the Real Reason for the Empty Tomb?

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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!





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Was Jesus Buried in the Potter’s Field?

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When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”  Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.   But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”  After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.  For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

-Matthew 27


I was reading a post today on the blog of Classics scholar Matthew Ferguson regarding the historicity of the burial of Jesus in the rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  Ferguson points out that the Bible itself indicates that not all Jews in Jesus’ day were buried in rock tombs.  The Gospel of Matthew states that the Jewish authorities used the “blood money” returned by Judas Iscariot to purchase the Potter’s field for the purpose of burying “foreigners”.  If the burial plot is a “field”, the graves will be in dirt, not rock caves.  And Bible scholars believe that the meaning of the Greek word translated as “foreigners” in this passage is not restricted to foreign Gentiles.  It could also refer to Jews from outside the area who happened to die (or be executed) in Jerusalem.

Jesus was a Jew from outside the area (Galilee).

Why did the Sanhedrin need to purchase a field in which to bury “foreigners” right at that moment in time?  Even though they could not put the money back into the Treasury, they surely could have done something else with it.  Why did they need a burial plot?  Was the present “foreigner plot” full??  Or…was the Potter’s field purchased (with ‘blood money’) to bury the person for whom the ‘blood money’ had been spent???

Was Jesus buried, on purpose, in a location that would earn the reputation as the burial grounds of the poor and of criminals?  Did the Sanhedrin bury Jesus in this location as a last insult to the man they so hated?  If so, the excavation team of Emperor Constantine, who in the fourth century excavated beneath a Roman temple and claimed to have dug up and found the empty tomb of Jesus…were…to quote a famous line from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”digging in the wrong place”!

Is it possible, that out of embarrassment, anonymous Christians writing gospels in foreign lands, decades later, attempted to conceal the humiliating burial of their “Savior” and “King of Kings” by inventing, out of thin air, a burial fit for a Jewish king…in the expensive rock tomb of a wealthy member of the Jewish upper class…and the story of the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was born!

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The Potter’s field in Jerusalem:  the final resting place of Jesus of Nazareth?


Why do Protestants Observe the Greatest of All Catholic Traditions: the Canon of the New Testament?

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Jesus wrote no sacred texts.  We have no evidence that Jesus authorized any of his disciples to write texts which would be given equal status to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures.  We have no evidence that the Twelve disciples of Jesus took it upon themselves to authorize a list of books which they believed should be given equal authority to the Hebrew Scriptures.

Just because the majority or even all Christian churches, very early, accepted the texts which we now call “the New Testament” does not in any way prove that they are the divinely inspired words of the God of the Old Testament.  Saying that the books of the New Testament are inspired; that they are the Word of God; that they have equal authority to the Torah and the books of the Jewish prophets is a tradition!  It is a Catholic tradition!

Protestants reject all Catholic traditions except the greatest of all Catholic traditions:  that 27 books written many decades after the death of Jesus are somehow the holy, inspired Word of God, the Word of the God of the Old Testament, the Word of the God of the Jewish people, Yahweh.

Sola Scriptura???

The foundation of Protestant Christianity is a Catholic tradition.

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Gary, How Many Christians have Deconverted Due to your Efforts?

Answer:  None that I know of.

Why would I want to deconvert Christians?

I see myself as an evangelist.  An evangelist of truth.  An evangelist of truth no matter what it is; no matter how ugly and unpleasant it is.  I am not looking for a comfortable, cheery reality.  I am looking for reality as it is.

I believe that the evidence is overwhelming that the natural world view is the truth.  The natural world view is reality.  What is the natural world view?  The natural world view is that everything in our universe follows the laws of physics, without exception.  If a supernatural world exists, it exists outside of our universe and does not intrude into our universe.  Therefore its existence, if real, is irrelevant to our reality.

I am passionate in my desire to share this truth with others.  I am passionate to share the truth that capricious invisible beings with supernatural powers do not operate in our universe, and very likely do not exist.  I am passionate in my desire to rid the world of superstitions.

I am an evangelist for non-supernaturalism.

So I am not ashamed to say that I desire to deconvert Christians (and any other theist).  But have my efforts paid off?

I see no direct evidence.

Should I be discouraged?  No.  And here is why:  The chances of deconverting an indoctrinated theist is very low, in my experience.  Indoctrinated theists are too emotionally attached to their superstitions to give them up due to cold, objective evidence.  If one believes that an invisible being lives within his body, communicates with him, and gives him secret knowledge and insight, it is going to be very difficult to convince that person that his invisible friend does not exist.

But I take encouragement from the headlines found even on Christian blogs and websites:  Young Christians are leaving Christianity by the hundreds of thousands.

Millenials Leaving the Church in Droves

Quote from this linked article:

…our millennials, unlike previous twenty-something’s, are growing up in a world much different than previous generations. They are growing up in the age of the internet, which has produced unparalleled shifts in how people live and think. Many sociologists have compared these shifts to those that took place with the printing press back in the 15th century. Just as information and literacy spread at the speed of sound in the wake of the printing press, now information and power has spread at the speed of light with the invention of the internet. And we have little clue about the socialmentalspiritual, and civil impact this will bring. We stand right smack dab in the eye of the storm.  There’s little evidence that our millennials who once sat at the feet of godly men and women in Sunday School will ever darken the doors of the church again.”

I believe that it is information on the Internet that is driving this mass exodus from the Christian superstition.  I am proud to be a part of that information campaign.  As in any major struggle, every person’s contribution to the fight is important, no matter how big or small.  We are involved in one of the greatest movements, greatest struggles in the history of humanity:  the debunking of religious superstitions!

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The Absurdity of Conservative Christian Logic is Jaw-Dropping

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Whether one finds the virginal conception and birth of Jesus to be plausible depends largely on one’s view of the existence of God.  If there is a God who created the universe and also created life on this earth, he certainly would have no trouble at all making a new human life begin within the womb of a young woman without her coming into sexual contact with a man.

–evangelical apologists Josh and Sean McDowell in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 319



Good grief.  If an all-powerful, all-knowing, magic-wielding Creator exists then of course a virginal conception is possible!  Anything is possible!  Peter Pan and Never, Never Land are possible.  Leprechauns and unicorns are possible.

What a stupid statement.

This is why debates between theists (supernaturalists) and non-theists (non-supernaturalists) are almost always unproductive.  In order to have a productive conversation with someone there must be at least a minimal agreement on what constitutes reality.  My reality as a non-theist has nothing in common with someone who believes that invisible beings with magical powers (gods, angels, devils, and demons) are swirling around us at this very moment…trying to take control of our “souls”!

Christians really need to stop using this line.

If Christians want to have a productive discussion with non-theists, tell us that you can provide evidence which demonstrates that a resurrection is a more probable explanation for the early Christian resurrection belief than any natural explanation or combination of natural explanations…without appealing to the existence of an all-powerful, magic-wielding God!

Good luck with that!





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The Maddening Circular Arguments of Christians

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I believe that evidence plays a significant part in my faith but I find that experience is important too.



Evangelical Christian apologist William Lane Craig wrote in his book, “The Son Rises” (paraphrase):  Even if there were zero objective evidence for the Resurrection, the simplest Christian can know for certain that the Resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact simply by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in his or her heart.

In other words, no matter how much evidence skeptics present demonstrating that the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts, that legends/rumors can develop within very short periods of time, that the Gospel authors were writing in a literary genre that allowed for extensive embellishment of the stories, etc., etc., it will not change the mind of someone who is absolutely certain that an invisible supernatural being lives inside his body and gives him secret wisdom and insight.

I ask you to consider this: Can you be certain that the person you communicate with inside “your heart” is Jesus and not just…YOU?



I think that’s what Christianity teaches, that the Holy Spirit confirms to a person that they know God (Romans 8:16) and gives them full assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5). However I don’t think that means that one shouldn’t consider contrary evidence when presented, nor does it make the Christian immune to objections. For example, if it could be shown that Jesus wasn’t a real person then that would make me stop believing that my experience was real. Because I admit that I could be wrong.

Personally, I would say that I am not 100% certain in absolute sense, but I am highly confident in my beliefs. For me, my experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit convinces me of the truth of Christianity, and the evidence for Christianity confirms that experience and also persuades me. They go hand-in-hand.



Could you give some examples of your experiences of the testimony of the Holy Spirit?



Sure. The primary experience was that of conversion. Before, I had no desire to read the Bible, know who Jesus is, pray, etc. When I did read the Bible, it was lifeless and boring to me. One day when I truly heard the Gospel explained, I was greatly convicted that I had sinned against God. I thought that I was a good person my whole life and was never expecting to have this conviction. So I called out to God to save me and immediately felt the burden being lifted off of me. From that moment on I was convinced that God had saved me through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I instantly began to desire to read the Bible and to know God through prayer. From then on the Bible was alive to me, and I began to live my life to follow the teachings of Jesus the best I could. Again, something that I never wanted before. That experience was very powerful for me.

The more day-to-day experiences are that of being assured/convinced that Christianity is true, even in my darkest and hardest moments. A strong hope that God will not forsake me in the future. Neither of these are feelings as much as they are beliefs/convictions. Then there are others of course, like the fruit of the Spirit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” that I didn’t have before either at all or in the same capacity. Those are a few examples.



I’ve read testimonies from Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims expressing the same intense experiences, feelings, and beliefs. Why do you think that is?  Below is a Youtube video in which people of many different faiths explain why their personal experiences, feelings, perceptions, and intuitions caused them to see the truth in…Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, evangelical Christianity, and Heaven’s Gate!  Why are all the non-Christians in this video experiencing FALSE perceptions, feelings, and experiences but you can be certain that your perceptions, feelings, and experiences of Jesus Christ are true?


The simple answer is that it’s because I think that their beliefs behind their experiences are not grounded in truth, which I believe is found in Christianity. Experience must be interpreted and measured by truth. It’s not that my experience is more emotionally powerful than theirs but that it’s grounded in reality, while the others are not. I think many people can have an emotional experience that is very powerful to them and yet it not be grounded in truth. So I would ask them about the truth claims of the their beliefs, and then try to provide reasons why they should doubt the validity of their experiences.

Acts 17:26-28 says “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”

Since God is near to each of us in some sense, it’s possible that people can have a genuine experience of God but misinterpret it to be something different.

Lastly, I don’t think we can say all religious experiences are the same. After all, I don’t know what it feels like to have “an explosion of energy shoot up my spine from behind” as it said in the video. I like WLC’s distinction between knowing and showing that Christianity is true. I can only speak to my experience as the reason why I know Christianity is true, along with the evidence that confirms my experience. But I am not using my personal experience to show others that Christianity is true. I use it to explain why I think it’s true. Then I provide reasons why they should believe in Jesus and may have the same experience that I did.


Gary’s summary of above conversation:  So his feelings and experiences that an invisible being with supernatural powers lives inside his body and performs parlor tricks for him, combined with minority scholarly opinion (ie., that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts), is sufficient evidence for him to believe that a first century corpse came back to life, escaped its sealed tomb, and eventually levitated into outer space.


Modern, educated people should not base their beliefs on such weak, superstition-laden evidence.



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Why is it When Some People Call out to God…Allah or Lord Krishna Answers, not Jesus?

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

–James 1:5


Why is it that millions of people cry out to God asking for wisdom and truth…and it is Allah or Lord Krishna that answers, not the Christian god?

Many Christians, evangelical Christians in particular, are certain of the veracity of Christianity due to their intense feelings, personal experiences, and perceptions.  But is this a reliable method of determining truth?  Watch this video on the reliability of perceptions and personal experiences and then let me know what you think.







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