Q: Why Was Jesus’ Tomb Empty”
A: Because Jesus Was Never In A Tomb
I recently watched a YouTube video by Paulogia, a former Christian now fighting the good fight against the enemies of reason, rationale, and science. In it Paulogia was replying to challenges made by three Christian apologists; Mike Winger, Red Pen Logic, and InspiringPhilosphy to the argument as to whether Jesus’ body ever made it into a tomb. Now I am not a Bible scholar, nor am I a historian per se, but I have been reading and researching Christianity and Christian history for some 30 odd years or so and I do not believe you have to be a Bible scholar to weigh in on such religious claims. This topic in particular lends itself to enough reason as to conclude that Jesus was never in a tomb to begin with not only entirely plausible but highly likely.
Remember that when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival the Romans were already on high alert. The Jews of the 1st century were always hostile to the occupation of the Romans, complete with their standards depicting their Caesars as divinities and, sometimes in an act of pure provocation, even putting them in the Temple. Never were the Romans more ready for riot and disorderliness than during the high festivals such as Passover. And the Galilee, specifically where Jesus came from, was considered nothing less than a hotbed of sedition and rebellion. Pontius Pilate, who under normal circumstances would have resided in Caesarea in the splendor and comfort of his palace, made it a point to be in Jerusalem for the Passover feast in order to quash any potential unruliness or rioting that may have broken out. Keep in mind that when Jesus entered the city it was – supposedly – to an enthralled crowd of thousands of Jews screaming “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 21:9) This would have already aroused the suspicion of the Roman troops in the area as the crowds were essentially pleading with Jesus to save them from their plight under Roman rule. “When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking “Who is this?” The crowds were saying “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Mark 21:10). This could be seen as bad enough however Jesus immediately enters the Temple and proceeds to turn the tables and cause even more commotion, this time violently.
Now Pontius Pilate was already known as a particularly cruel and brutal governor (or procurator, as his Roman title was) and had already been involved with – or the cause of – a number of particularly brutal episodes with Jewish crowds where hundreds or even thousands of Jews were slaughtered by Roman troops. He is referred to as such by Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria as well as other contemporaneous authors however the Gospels gradually turn Pilate from the sole pronouncer of the death sentence on Jesus (Mark) to a milquetoast forced by the Jews to pass sentence on an innocent man or face the wrath of the Emperor, Tiberius. This is where the Gospels writers turn the tables from the Romans to the Jews as the purveyors of deicide and thus begins a two-thousand-year history of antisemitism and violence against Jews. It is much more conceivable – and likely – that having referred to himself as the King of the Jews, a very specific crime of sedition, Pilate sentenced Jesus to death, had him scourged and crucified, without even a morsal of remorse. He wouldn’t have had lost a moment of sleep over sentencing a rebellious Jew, instigator of turbulence and potential rioting, or had given it another thought. It is also highly likely, given his demeanor as described by the contemporaneous authors previously cited, that he would have allowed Jesus’ body to be removed from the cross.
We do know that there were instances where victims of crucifixion were allowed to be taken down and buried according to Jewish law or custom and this was Paulogia’s original comment on his Twitter blog. However, in most instances, this is not the case. One of the principal reasons and desired effects of the sentence of crucifixion was specifically for the public at large to see the effects of defying the Romans or causing mayhem or disorder. The site of a decaying corpse – being eaten by birds, dogs, literally falling off the cross – was the very best illustration that this could be YOU. Jesus, as a seditionist, rebellious instigator of Roman rule, and by declaring himself to be the “King of the Jews”, as inscribed in three languages on the titulus over his head confirms, it is extremely unlikely – and in my opinion, highly improbable – that his body would have ever been taken down. He simply would have decomposed until his bones were on the ground, then tossed into a common grave for such victims.
Now let’s dispel some of the more highly unlikely occurrences at this point in the passion narrative. First let’s dispense with the myth of Pilate releasing a prisoner as a Roman “tradition” (Mark 15:6). Besides the fact that there is absolutely no historical evidence of such a tradition in either Rome or Israel should close this loop once and for all however for the chosen subject for such clemency to be an acknowledged murderer and seditionist carries the story into the realm of fantasy. “Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.” (Mark 15:7) In my hometown of Brooklyn, NY, we have a colloquial saying for such a story: “no f’n way, not in a million years!” I think it serves us well here as the chances of Pilate, in his infinite brutality, releasing a murderer of Roman soldiers or citizens is just beyond what any reasonable mind can absorb. This simply never happened. It is nothing more than a device used to put the blame of Jesus’ death on the Jews and away from the Romans. “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves. Then the people as a whole answered “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt 27:24-25)
Next the idea that “Joseph of Arimathea”, literally synthesized out of thin air sashayes onto the scene as a “friend” of Pilates and walks off with Jesus’ body only hours after his death is simply inconceivable. As previously stated, this is out of the question; Pilate lets one seditionist go (Barabbas) and another to be taken down from the cross after only hours after his death. This can only be the need to get Jesus off of the cross and into a tomb from which he can later be resurrected. It isn’t even necessary to debate the fact that Arimathea is a total and completely mythological place, never having appeared on any map, ancient or modern. The place simply never existed and doesn’t to this day.
As far as the “witnesses to the resurrection”, no one ever saw Jesus “resurrecting”; they simply went to an empty tomb. Additionally, none of the four gospels tell the story the same way. “Matthew” tell us Mary Magdalen was there with the “other” Mary. (Mt 27:59-61) “Mark” says it was Mary Magdalen and “Mary the Mother of Joseph”. (Mk 15:46-47) “Luke” says “The women from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the entombment. (Lk 23:53-56) and, finally, “John” ever the embellisher, says it was “Nicodemus and Joseph” that wrapped the body and placed it in a tomb, “at a garden near where Jesus was crucified”. (Jn 19:39-42)
No one ever witnessed the actual reanimation of his body. The tomb was empty simply because Jesus never actually occupied a tomb.