It is of the vast consensus that Jesus’ tomb somehow became empty. One thus needs to explain how Jesus’ tomb became empty, and then why the disciples, and the skeptics James, and the enemy Paul claimed that Jesus had appeared to them in his resurrected body. Paul informs us in his early creed that Jesus also appeared to 500 others. This is a belief that several early followers were martyred for and never, as far as our historical data tells us, recanted their faith that Jesus’ had in fact appeared to them. Whatever the case, they certainly believed it. The Austrian scholar Jacob Kremer informs us that “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb” (1). Likewise van Daalen argues that “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions” (2).
William Lane Craig explains, albeit briefly, why he thinks the empty tomb is likely given the context of women being the first discoverers: “In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law. Now in light of this fact, how remarkable it is that it is women who are the discoverers of Jesus’ empty tomb” (3). N.T. Wright believes that it is very difficult to explain the rise of early Christianity apart from the resurrection: “That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him” (4).
Craig concludes that there is “powerful evidence that the tomb of Jesus was actually found empty on Sunday morning by a small group of his women followers. As a plain historical fact this seems to be amply attested” (5).
1. Kremer, J. 1977. Die Osterevangelien—Geschichten um Geschichte. p. 49-50.
2. Van Daalen quoted by William Lane Craig in Jesus’ Crucifixion. Available.
3. Craig, W. The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus. Available.
4. Wright, N. 1993. “The New Unimproved Jesus” in Christianity Today. p. 26.
5. Craig, W. The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus. Available.