The resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of Christian, and world history. E.M. Blaiklock, Professor of classics at Auckland University says that that the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history. So we can safely bet he was a real figure of history and that the gospels are a pretty accurate portrail of his life story, because they are accurate on any other fact of history they talk about. The big issue then becomes what happened after they killed him. Did the body stay put? was it moved? Did the disciples steel the body? Did Jesus resurrect? Everyone has a view.
Here are the seven theories of what happened to the stone in front of the tomb of Jesus:
Theory One: The disciples stole the body
What motive was there for the disciples to steal the body and live a lie in the face of terrible suffering, torture and agonising death? This doesn’t agree with an otherwise very accurate historical narrative. All cultural and historical aspects of the writings has been proved authentic. This also doesn’t agree with the personality of the disciples. Only two were brave enough to enter the city on the night of the arrest, the rest are unheard of for some time. They were terrified. If the body was stolen then why did ten of the eleven men die a horrible death for a deliberate fabrication? People don’t die for lies. This action would have been contrary to all the moral and ethical teachings their teacher tried to instil in them.
Theory Two: Joseph moved the body to a more permanent tomb.
This theory has two possible motives; to satisfy Jewish law and to finish spicing the body. To do the job of shifting the stone, spicing the body and moving it, would have taken a team of men. This team never came public with a body or any evidence to squash the rumours. Playing around with tombs after dark was illegal. To do so legally would have required the blessing of the Sanhedrin. If he did this then why didn’t the Sanhedrin blow the resurrection rumour? If Joseph altered anything on Saturday morning he was violating Sabbath law. If he did anything after the guards had arrived on Saturday then the Sanhedrin would have known all about it. If he did move the body then why didn’t he tell the disciples? There is no known venerated tomb of Jesus.
Theory Three: The Jewish authorities moved the body.
The Sanhedrin sought to prevent the moving of the body by setting guards, possibly Roman guards, for whom sleeping on duty was rewarded with the death penalty! Why didn’t they simply produce the body once rumours started spreading? The official line was “the disciples stole the body”, therefore the Sanhedrin didn’t have the body.
Theory Four: Jesus didn’t really die, he “fainted”
This theory ignores the nature of the wounds. They were enough to kill: 39 lashes with a cat-o-nine tails, nailing of body to a wooden pole, spear thrust into the heart, exhaustion, blood loss and partial suffocation from the cross. How could a badly wounded man free himself from the bondage of 30kg of herbs and wrappings and then roll away a 1-2 tonne stone. The cold of the night would have killed a badly wounded man at that time of year (early spring). His condition upon exiting the tomb would hardly have impressed the disciples, or convince them that he had conquered death. Such an appearance would have killed off any belief in the resurrected Christ. The position of the linen wrappings, especially the head linen, suggested he exited straight through them. The produced instant belief in the idea he had resurrected in both Peter and John.
Theory Five: The women made a mistake, visiting the wrong tomb.
Two of the women had already visited the tomb on Friday afternoon to spice the body, so they knew where it was. If they were at the wrong tomb because of lack of daylight, then why was the “gardener” already at work? Gardeners don’t work in the dark. If it was late enough for the “gardener” to be at work then it was late enough to find the right tomb. The priests never directed people to the right tomb. They knew it was empty.
Theory Six: The grave was never visited by the women
Then why did they declare it empty. Within 10 minutes they would be declared liars? Again, the Sanhedrin didn’t direct people to the right tomb. It is not within the character of loyal grieving women of cook up a plot.
Theory Seven: Jesus resurrected himself.
The tomb was definitely empty, Everyone in the city knew this. What they didn’t know was why. The grave clothes told their own convincing story. There were hundreds of very bold post-resurrection witnesses and advocates, 500 at one time, most of whom were still alive when a written record was made. The population, by the thousands, immediately believed the resurrection story. Everyone knew something strange had occurred and waited seven weeks for an answer that made sense. The seven week gap would not be there if the story was a fraud. Time gaps lead to doubts. Preaching about the resurrection started ten minutes walk from the tomb, in the heart of enemy territory. If it wasn’t empty then it was a stupid place to start preaching! There was an enormous change in the disciple’s lives. They went from doubting fearful, confused and disloyal men to fearless advocates, willing to die for their message. Christ’s hostile brother, James, became convinced that his brother was God.