Search

 

We are told in the Gospel accounts that Jesus was buried in a tomb belonging to a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, and that some of the women who had ministered to him and his disciples noted exactly where the tomb was (Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56; John 19:38–42). The following day was the Sabbath, so they rested that day, and planned on returning to the tomb on the day after the Sabbath to perfume the corpse. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, had already begun this perfuming of Jesus’ body on the day of his death, but because of the lateness of the hour, they had not been able to finish what needed to be done.[1] It is important to realize that due to the Jewish customs outlined above, as well as what we are explicitly told in the Gospel accounts (see Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55), the women would have known exactly the locale of the tomb in which Jesus had been buried. This fact refutes the argument made by some that the women visited the wrong tomb.[2] Moreover, if it had been the wrong tomb to which the women went, it would have been a simple matter for Jewish authorities to have gone to the right tomb and produced the body when Peter and the other Apostles began to preach that Jesus had been raised from the dead.[3]

When the women returned to the very tomb in which they had seen Jesus’ body laid, they found it empty, as the Gospels record (Luke 24:1–3; see also Matthew 28:1–6; Mark 16:1–7; Luke 24:22–24; John 20:1–10). Paul makes no explicit mention of the empty tomb. But he implies it when he says that Jesus “was buried” and “that he was raised on the third day.” If he was buried, and then raised, the tomb would have been empty. To a Jewish mind, resurrection meant but one thing and that was bodily resurrection.[4]

Nor does he mention the witness of the women. The first witness he mentions is Peter, whom he calls Cephas, then “the twelve,” a term used to designate the Apostles as a special group. The reason for not mentioning the witness of the women is again simple: women were not permitted to serve as legal witnesses in Jewish society apart from a few minor areas. In a formal statement of the resurrection, therefore, it is not surprising that they are not mentioned. On the other hand, the very fact that the Gospel records mention the women discovering the empty tomb helps to authenticate those records. No Jewish man of that era would have made up such an account.[5]

But if the tomb was empty, where was the body? Jesus had been well and truly dead when he was placed in the tomb. It could not have been the wrong tomb to which the women went, as we have seen. The Jewish authorities did come up with an explanation, as Matthew tells us in his account (Matthew 28:11–15). The silliness of this story is readily apparent to anyone who examines as objectively as he can the early Christian movement. Why would any of the Apostles have been willing to suffer and die—both which happened to them—for what they manifestly knew to be a lie?

This explanation by the Jewish leaders is also a witness to the empty tomb. If these Jewish leaders could have produced the body, why didn’t they? The fact is they couldn’t because the tomb was empty. When the Apostles in the weeks and months to come preached that Jesus has been raised from the dead, they did it in Jerusalem, the very place where it would have been easy for the authorities to squash the fledgling church by simply producing the body of Jesus (see Acts 2:22–32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30–32). They didn’t because they couldn’t. The invention of the story of the disciples stealing Jesus’ body is, in fact, a tacit admission that they too believed the tomb was empty. And why was the tomb empty? Only one explanation remains plausible: Jesus’ body had been raised from the dead.[6]

 

To be continued

 

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1971), 831.

[2] See also the response to this argument by Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone? A Skeptic Looks at the Death and Resurrection of Christ (1930 ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 97–102.

[3] Richard Swinburne, Was Jesus God? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 122.

[4] Swinburne, Was Jesus God?, 119.

[5] Morison, Who Moved the Stone?, 77; C.E.B. Cranfield, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”, The Expository Times, 101 (1989–1990), 168, 169–170; N.T. Wright, “The Surprise of Resurrection” in Craig A. Evans and his, Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 97.

[6] Cranfield, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”, 170, 171; Swinburne, Was Jesus God?, 119.


View Comments

Comments:


One thought on “The Reality of the Resurrection”

  1. HpO says:

    So.

    “Women were not permitted to serve as legal witnesses in Jewish society apart from a few minor areas” – and that, brother Michael A. G. Haykin, was apostle Paul’s seemingly strategic, if ANTI-women, “reason for not mentioning the witness of the women” to the resurrection of Christ Jesus, but vouching for “Cephas, then ‘the twelve'”, instead? How would you even know that, knowing that Christ Jesus and all His 1st apostles and disciples didn’t make that known to you in the 1st place? O wait; I know, I know. That sacred knowledge has gotten commercially published and the Word is out and out there, according to the scripturally competitive, if not inspired and authoritative, footnote number “[5]”. Ah so. You’ve chosen to believe the Word for it of one Frank “Morison”, one “C.E.B. Cranfield” and one “N.T. Wright” TO THE RESCUE.

    And, then, here it comes, another inspiring revelation which, too bad and such a shame, Christ Jesus and all His 1st apostles and disciples didn’t make known to you in the 1st place either: “The Jewish leaders(‘) … invention of the story of the disciples stealing Jesus’ body is, in fact, a tacit admission that they too believed the tomb was empty.” In which case, as per the scripturally competitive, if not inspired and authoritative, footnote number “[6]”, you’ve chosen to believe the Word for it of one C.E.B. “Cranfield’ and one Richard “Swinburne” TO THE RESCUE.

    I just love that expression – “a tacit admission that they too believed” in the resurrection of Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and savior of the rest of the world. For it begs the question: Isn’t it nowadays possible, then, in the Theory and Praxis of the Organized Religion of Evangelicalism to believe in Jesus’ resurrection but only to make “a tacit admission” of it like these “Jewish leaders” of old did – out of UN-belief?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search this blog


About


Michael A. G. Haykin photo

Michael A. G. Haykin


Born in England of Irish and Kurdish parents, Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, and the Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, which is based on the Southern campus but which also has an office in Ontario. Dr. Haykin is the author of a number of books dealing with Patristic and Baptist studies and is also the general editor of a forthcoming 16-volume edition of the works of Andrew Fuller (Walter de Gruyter). He and his wife Alison have their home in Dundas, Ontario, and are members at West Highland Baptist Church, Hamilton, Ontario. They have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Michael A. G. Haykin's Books


Sponsors