In the past few blogs I have encouraged readers to channel their inner detective (specifically their inner Sherlock Holmes) in order to scrutinize all the explanations for the empty tomb.
Heres what we know thus far:
1. The tomb was empty - https://www.thesolidfaith.com/post/the-resurrection-a-giant-conspiracy
And the following naturalistic explanations fail to satisfy the historical evidence for the empty tomb:
2. The Conspiracy Hypothesis - https://www.thesolidfaith.com/post/sherlock-takes-on-the-resurrection-story
3. The Apparent Death Hypothesis - https://www.thesolidfaith.com/post/sherlock-takes-on-the-resurrection-story
4. The Hallucination Hypothesis - https://www.thesolidfaith.com/post/sherlock-takes-on-the-resurrection-again
Let’s try one more naturalistic explanation on for size: The Displaced Body Hypothesis
Joseph Klausner put forth this theory in 1922.
He postulated that Joseph of Arimathea may have placed the body of Jesus in his tomb temporarily because well… it was late and Joseph was tired. Plus, Joseph had a personal family burial plot near to the crucifixion which he could borrow for Jesus that night. Since no one briefed the disciples, they came to find Jesus’ tomb empty once Joseph had relocated the body and mistakenly assumed that he had resurrected.
Sound fishy? That’s probably just your inner Sherlock Holmes kicking in.
We know some historical facts that contradict with this theory.
For one thing, following the empty tomb Christianity burst on the scene in the very place where Christ was crucified. Had Joseph moved the body, he would just have spoken up because the empty tomb led to great debate among Jewish authorities as to how it was emptied.
According to Matthew 28 the authorities decided to explain the tomb with alternative, naturalistic explanations aside from an actual resurrection.
Why not just produce the body? That would have stopped the rise of Christianity immediately.
According to William Lane Craig, another thing to consider is that the graveyard where Jesus should have been buried (the criminals graveyard) “was only 50-600 yards from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jewish practice, furthermore was to bury executed criminals on the day of their execution… Joseph could and would have placed the body directly into the criminals graveyard, thereby obviating any need to move it later or defile his own family tomb.”1
The problem with this theory is it assumes Joseph would have contradicted Jewish burial customs and laws, defiled his own family burial plot, and stayed silent as authorities scrambled to explain the empty tomb and Jesus’ disciples went to their deaths claiming He rose again.
Why would Joseph do all of that instead of just following protocol? The answer is he wouldn’t.
We can ignore the elephant in the room by giving faulty naturalistic explanations for the empty tomb. Historical facts point to an actual resurrection.
Why wouldn’t we want to postulate the resurrection hypothesis? Because it would have been miraculous. And moderns/post-moderns are “enlightened” past the point of miracles.
But all the historical evidence points toward a bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Are there good reasons to believe that miracles could happen? By reasons for miracles I don’t just mean personal stories or wishful thinking. I mean is there good rationale or reasonable evidence for miracles? Maybe that would make the resurrection account more convincing.
Stay tuned as we address the resurrection account for the empty tomb and how the case for miracles makes it plausible!
1. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (3rd ed.) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 376.