The Empty Tomb
It’s Easter again, along with another flurry of people asking about the empty tomb. This is a slightly modified version of a post I made years ago on another blog, but I’m going to repost it now.
The argument goes that Roman and/or Jewish authorities could easily have quashed Christianity’s claims of the resurrection by bringing forward the dead body of Jesus. The fact that they didn’t do so implies that they did not have it. Anyone who did have the body would have great motivation to bring it forward to gain favour from the Roman Empire. If the Christian followers had taken it that would imply that they knew the resurrection was a sham and yet continued to martyr themselves for something they believed to be untrue. So where was the body?
Now, I think there are probably thousands of possible answers to this question, all of which are impossible to verify for an event so far back in history. But the claim is that there isn’t even one. So let’s pick just one to defeat that argument. On top of that, we need to pick one that Christians won’t be able to argue with. So let’s take a possible explanation from the Bible:
- Jesus repeatedly made statements such as “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).
- This upset his audience, who called it a “hard teaching” (John 6:60). “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).This implies that many people took his statement literally. In fact, many believers, including the Catholic Church, have taken those words literally throughout history, right up to today, and thus believe that the bread and wine at communion literally become the body of Jesus.
- Five thousand people were present for these statements. Only twelve of these people were present at the last supper, when Jesus clarified that they were to eat bread and wine. The time between the last supper and the crucifixion was short and eventful. It is likely that at least a few of the 5000 (not to mention all of the people that heard about it secondhand), did not get the news that Jesus actually meant bread and wine representing and/or miraculously transformed into his flesh and blood.
- Upon learning that Jesus is dead, and believing that eating his flesh and blood is necessary for eternal life, these followers would realise that there is not going to be enough flesh and blood to go around. This provides substantial motivation to get into the tomb quickly to obtain eternal life.
- Belief in eternal life is sufficient motivation to risk your life, including bribing, tricking, or even killing any guards that may have been present.
- Under Roman law, the punishment for cannibalism was death. Under Jewish law, the punishment for cannibalism was death. Stealing and eating the body of the Messiah would certainly not make them popular with the Christians, especially once the bread and wine information got around. Therefore the people responsible would have good motivation to keep quiet. Furthermore, there would be no identifiable body left to bring forward after the flesh was eaten.
So maybe Jesus was cannibalized.
I’m not going to pretend I believe it’s the most likely explanation. But it is the explanation that Christians will have the hardest time poking holes in, because doing so would require questioning the Bible. And I only need one example to defeat the claim “there are no other possible explanations”. So there you go.