What about the Empty Tomb? – Objection # 4 & #5

Objection # 4: The Tomb was Never Visited – The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb 
It seems like critics do not get tired of construing theories about the empty tomb. Before we will further discuss the issue of people going to the wrong tomb, I have to ask a question to the reasonable reader: “Do you think today we are so much smarter than the people of the first century? Were the people of the first century really that unintelligent?” I can hardly imagine such.
Nevertheless we will briefly take a look at a scenario where the women (and people in general) just went to the wrong tomb. According to this view the women saw an empty tomb, but since it was still dark they mistakenly went to the wrong tomb. Thus the legend of the resurrection spread among the disciples. A closer look at the Gospel accounts again reveals that this seems implausible. Geisler points out that it could not have been dark since Mary Magdalene was assuming that the gardener (which turned out to be the Messiah himself) was working (John 20:15). Not only the women, but Peter and John made the same mistake and went to the wrong tomb (John 20:4-6).[1]Stein adds, “The historicity of the empty tomb is supported by the fact that a specific tomb, which was known in Jerusalemas Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, was associated with the burial of Jesus.”[2]This is to say that the tomb was well known.
But let us assume that they went to the wrong tomb, the only action the Jewish leaders would have to undertake was to show them the right one and so produce the body of Christ.
This theory does not hold any grounds and I personally wish we could credit first century people with intelligent minds. 
Objection # 5: Appearances of Jesus Were Mistaken; Hallucinations; Projection Theory
 
           These three objections, (a) Appearances of Jesus Were Mistaken, (b) Hallucinations, (c) and the Projection Theory have slightly different nuances yet can be tied together.
              Ad (a): This theory[3]comes up if someone considers that Mary thought he was a gardener at first (John 20), that two disciples thought he was a stranger (Luke 24), and the disciples thought he was a Spirit (v. 37). Mark further adds to this theory when he writes, “After these things he appeared in another form to two of them” (Mark 16:12[emphasis mine]).
            Though it is true that initial doubt was there, the accounts of the Gospels leave no doubt that the initial hesitation was resolved fairly quick. Jesus clearly convinced them with his wounds and words. Second, the misguided appearances of Jesus do not explain the empty tomb. Third, the transformation of the disciples (and other 500 people) is not explained by this theory. And fourth a misguided appearance most likely does not fool so many persons.  
            Ad (b): Like I mentioned before, this argument is closely tied to objection (a). Most of the solutions can be restated, yet Morris gives further insight, “Hallucinations come to those who are in some sense looking for them, and there is no evidence of this among the disciples. […] Hallucinations are individual affairs, whereas in this case we have as many as 500 people at once seeing the Lord.” [4]The first statement of Morris – that “[h]allucinations come to those who are in some sense looking for them” – actually leads us to objection (c).
            Ad (c): This theory follows the argument “that it was generated out of the despairing imagination of the disciples.”[5]There is an implication that the disciple out of a strong desire for religious fulfillment and satisfaction projected those needs and “created” a risen Lord. Yet for such a strong disposition no evidences are found. To the contrary, the Gospel accounts on several instances report that the disciples were of hardness of heart and unbelief (Mark 16:11, 14). Luke, in an even stronger tone, states: “but these words [the testimony of the women of the empty tomb and the proclamation by the angels that Christ was raised from the dead] seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (24:11). Thomas did not even believe the testimony of the other ten Apostles (John 20:25).
            P. W. Comfort states a similar fact for the women who first saw the empty tomb and witnessed first the announcement by the angels that the Lord was raised from the dead, “The women were not prepared to see an empty tomb. Everything about the scene caught them off guard and left them numb […].”[6]
            What about James, the brother of the Lord, and Saul? They for sure had no strong disposition of a risen Christ. How does this theory account for their conversion? As stated under (a) in this section, all these so called ‘explanations’ do not account for the empty tomb but rather are a note to the resurrection appearances of Christ.
             
Conclusion
 
As we have seen all of the naturalistic approaches seem to have serious issues in solving the problem for the empty tomb. The exegetical issue (see post one in this series) too was solved, as I think, without major problematic issues.
But in the end we come back to the problem of Weltanschauung. Leaning on Van Daalen Craig comments that “it is difficult to object to the fact of the empty tomb on historical grounds; most objectors do so on the basis of theological or philosophical considerations.”[7]Thus we see through a negative/defensive apologetic approach major objections can be resolved but such do not change somebody’s presuppositions.
In order to approach this subject on a more positive/aggressive apologetic, further investigations in the field of the reliability of the Gospel accounts[8]and evidences for a literal bodily resurrection[9]have to be employed.
But the aim of this series was to defend the truth of the resurrection of Christ as an inference of the best explanation of the empty tomb. Craig concludes with the same statement and writes, “If the evidence for these facts is strong and cannot be plausibly accounted for by alternative explanations, then the resurrection of Jesus would seem to be the historical hypothesis that most suitably fits the facts of the case.”[10]
May the risen Lord be glorified and may we hold on to the hope we have in his resurrection!


See the last two posts for full biographical reference.
[1] Geisler “Resurrection, Alternate Theories of,” 645.
[2] Stein. “Was the Tomb Really Empty,” 26. 
[3]Argumentation adapted from Geisler “Resurrection, Alternate Theories of,” 646.
[4] L. L. Morris. “Resurrection.” New Bible Dictionary. (3rd ed. Ed. Wood, D. R. W.; Marshall, I. Howard: Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1011.
[5] Thomas C. Oden. “Did Jesus Christ Really Rise from the Dead?” This We Believe: The Good News of Jesus Christ for the World. (Ed. John N. Akers, John H. Armstrong, and John D. Woodbridge Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000), 105.
[6] Philip Wesley Comfort. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11. (Carol Stream, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2005-c2006), 555.
[7]Craig, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” 152.  
[8] For this the following works are worthy to be mentioned: Blomberg, Craig Blomberg. “Gospels (Historical Reliability).” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Ed. Green, Joel B.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I. Howard: Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
And idem. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987.
[9]See Norman L. Geisler. “Resurrection,Evidence for.” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1999.
[10]William Lane Craig. “On Doubts About the Resurrection.” Modern Theology. (6.1. O. 1989), 54.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s