In addition to the motives of followers of Christ and secular corrborating evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection, we have a third proof, indeed the most compelling and irrefutable – the empty tomb! As in the last two posts, we present only a small amount of the available historical data to support the proof presented.
Justyn Martyr, 165 AD, cites a letter circulated by Jews in Jerusalem that were antagonistic to Jesus.
“A godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, Chapter 108 –Apologetic Press)
Here we have a record of Jewish unbelievers, unwittingly affirming what was written in Matthew 28:13 (Chief priests to the soldiers): “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’”
Toledoth Yeshua, a derogatory account of the life of Jesus, written around 600 A.D, records:
“Diligent search was made and he (Jesus) was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden. (Apologetic Press.org)”
Jesus enemies didn’t even refute the resurrection empty tomb!
Additional food for thought:
1. If the disciples stole the body, and grave robbing was a crime under roman law, why no arrests?
2. If, on resurrection morning, the women went to wrong tomb, why didn’t the Jews produce the body?
4. If a gardner stole body, why did the Jews initially claim that disciples stole the body?
5. If Jesus didn’t really die, what about the blood and water pouring from the spear wound?
Peter preaches in Jerusalem during Pentecost
If the above questions don’t arouse your curiosity, consider Peter’s sermon (Acts 2) in the streets of Jerusalem to a large crowd of what had to be nearly all Jews:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (vv 22-24)
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (29-36)
The response of the crowd accused of sending Christ to his death:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v 37)
A final question:
If the death and bodily resurrection of Christ was not true, why would even a single person in the listening crowd be cut to the heart and cry “…what shall we do?”
It is our hope that in reading these last few posts, you have been encouraged to conduct your own research into proofs for the resurrection of our Savior, both for personal edification and to become better equipped to defend your faith in the ‘marketplace’.