What documented evidence is available on "the empty tomb" of Christ?


#1

Ultimately it seems, it is the divinity of Jesus which centralizes proof for Christianity, and the resurrection which centralizes proof for the divinity of Jesus. Of course, since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, we must be able to affirm the historicity of the resurrection in any good discussion about the evidence for Christianity.

Speaking of which, I myself was recently talking with a friend – an agnostic/atheist/deist (he defined it extremely vaguely) – about the *implications *of the resurrection, and I logically proved my points:thumbsup: . However, what was left in this ultimate skeptic friend of mine was my lack of sources and how he believed none of these events could have been neutrally recorded beyond reasonable doubt :o .

So, beyond philosophical talk about the resurrection, can anyone link me to some cold, hard documentation or sources? I promised I would bring citations to our next talk.


#2

The Gospels are documented evidence.


#3

As a believing Catholic, I can accept this, but in discussion, the Gospels are clearly biased sources (opening the door to arguments of possible forgery, embellishment, lying, and any other synonyms for falsehood). :o


#4

No more so than any other document one could produce. If any documentation is suspect, all documentation is.

The reliability of the Gospel accounts has been defended successfully again and again, with several books written about the subject. It would be tedious to go over that whole issue here, but one thing that is often said is why should we believe in ANY historical account? For example, how do we know that Julius Ceaser ever lived? The earliest copies we have of original accounts of his life are even more recent that those we have of the Gospels. Why does no one doubt the veracity or impartiality of *these *documents? :hmmm:

Back to your original question: point out to your friend that his question is illogical. He is asking for evidence of the empty tomb. You can’t prove a negative. If he was asking who was buried in Grant’s tomb, we could dig up Grant and make a positive ID.

If he doesn’t believe in the existence of God, ask him to provide you empirical, documented evidence that He doesn’t exist. Same thing. :smiley:


#5

The deaths of the apostles and early martyrs are the best proof. Who would allow themselves to be brutally killed for something they knew to be a lie, a fabrication they themselves concocted over wine in some hidden room? Surely some of the ones who knew the truth would have let the cat out of the bag to save themselves. But we have zero evidence that any of the early Christians who were to be put to death ever denied the Resurrection to save themselves. And the Romans (and Jews too) would have recorded such denials and used them against the Church, so they certainly would have come down to us in the historical record.


#6

Excellent response, VociMike. Who would ever die for a lie? No one that we know of for the past 2000 years of recorded history.


#7

I apologize, but that is sort of what I ***was intending ***for this thread.

Frankly, this sort of argument may be a satisfying defense for the already-believing Christian, but to my knowledge it is the leasteffective argumentative tool, and serves only to choke off real discussion into the realm of: “O.K., we’ll agree to disagree on this, but how 'bout that football game last night?”

Again, I completely understand what you are saying here, but I once again would appreciate cold, hard documentation that “the tomb was empty” from a source that might’ve even been biased against the early Church (i.e. ROMAN:thumbsup: sources).

I do enjoy philosophical discussion about such topics, but to a skeptic, the martyrs are just more de-ranged Heaven’sGate cultists without the in-your-hand evidence.


#8

Why would anybody have an expectation that such documentation would exist? If it happened as the gospels describe it, those Roman guards would have covered the thing up themselves, to avoid punishment. After all, they were put there specifically to prevent the body from being taken!

And really, what does an empty tomb mean? The body could simply have been stolen by the nutjob followers (viewing it with Roman eyes now). Why bother, as a local Roman official or historian, to document that?

Notice that neither is there any record that the Romans opened the tomb and found a body. If they had, that would have been excellent ammunition against those wierd new Christians, and it would have been extensively documented. But not a peep.


#9

Hi Laurence,

I think your stuck with defending the good ol Bible. As far as I know there is no other source that provides documented evidence for this.

Check out Lane Craig on this. He isn’t Catholic, but he makes some good points based on the methods of historical criticism.

Ut


#10

Noting the efforts by the Sanhedrin to silence the apostles - Acts 4, 5 etc - I think they would have shown a body if they could have found it. That would have been the easy way to accomplish their goal.


#11

Craig Lane is quoted by Lee Strobel in his book “Case For Christ” that deals with alot of those questions.

There is also a whole explaination on those Roman Guards. How the Army operated. Why they would never have done anything wrong, messed up their assignment. It was a good thing they were guarding the tomb as it offers proof of reliability. It was a detailed explaination on the whole guard.

now ARghh where did I hear this? let me try to remember I think it could have been in a gentler time on 700 club they were speaking about a book written.

anyone have a idea? Its amazing how the Roman Guards help the reliability. And a non biblical source which is what your friend wants. Also in the Case for Christ book Lee examines the dating of the gospels and I think the earliest is several yrs after Christ died on the cross.

Other historical books like Caesars Gallic War was 900 yrs later than Caesars day.
Check out “Evidence that demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell also quoted by the Case for Christ book.

:slight_smile:


#12

read the book “The tomb of christ”… Without skipping beat I believe in the location it goes into the archelogical history for.

Evidence of the ressurection itself is a diffrent matter, but that tomb was and is still real… and is meticuliously described in every detail in the Gospels.


#13

two things:
Of all the professors and theologians I’ve heard of, none have been more knowledgable than Gary Habermas. Im not saying there arent any better than him, but his specialty is the resurrection and he knows plenty.

Also google the name Simon Greenleaf. A very famous law professor at Harvard who decided to put an end to Christianity once and for all. Ended up becoming one!:smiley: :thumbsup: He wrote “Treatise on the Law of Evidence” which is still in use in law schools everywhere.
Heres a good link:
tektonics.org/harmonize/greenharmony.htm


#14

You can’t be serious - there are endless cases of people dying for lies, even today. There are people who kill themselves because someone convinces them that a spaceship is coming to pick up their souls…

There is no historical evidence of the resurrection (evidence that a historian would say makes a case for it). It is purely a matter of faith. Is there a single history book which states that a person rose from the dead in 33AD? Is there any documentation from anyone other than a couple of documents written long after the event and written by those who were already believers?

I’m not saying it is not true but it is clearly *not *in the realm of history.


#15

as are all other historical primary source material from that era (or any other), If there was proof there would be no need for faith. If you do not believe the testimony of witnesses who saw, touched and spoke to Christ after his resurrection, neither should you believe any writings from that era, say of Julius Caesar or any Roman emperor, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus or other Roman historians who also redacted testimony of witnesses to contemporary events. Neither, by the way, should one accept as authentic “burial boxes with inscriptions” or any other alleged object of antiquity or “hidden gospels of Judas” from that era without proof, yet the same people who are so critical of the authentic gospels as sources fall in love with these spurious pop artifacts.

There is in fact an entire school of biblical criticism that approaches scripture in just that way, with the methods applied to all other historical and literary documents, but that by itself does not adequately uncover or interpret the meaning of that scripture. Faith alone can do that, and not merely individual faith, but the corporate faith of the Church guided by the source of the documents, the Holy Spirit. A person who accepts neither the authority of the Church nor the existence of the Holy Spirit is not going to accept the gosepls as historical sources either.

This is why the apologist cannot rely solely on methods of secular sciences and humanities to defend the faith. At some point he must witness his own faith, and if he is not doing this by his actions, character and entire mode of living, his words will be in vain. An evangelization effort that does not begin in the individual’s conversion is empty.

From a historian’s standpoint (that is my training) the best evidence for the authenticity of the gospel accounts is the actions of the key players, including the doofus who went on to become the first pope. (Sorry, St. Peter, you do realize I am making a point). If I were forging documents in order to bolster my authority and inject a note of versimilitude to an otherwise unconvincing narrative, I would surely make myself and my leaders look a whole lot better.


#16

there are cases of people dying for falsehoods that they nonetheless believed to be true, but i’m not sure you’re going to find cases of people dying for beliefs they knew to be false.

and even if you did, you’d perhaps find isolated cases of individuals doing so, but in all likelihood not whole groups of people giving their lives for a position they fabricated and know to be false.

but that is as may be: any evidence you have for this claim of yours is obviously historical, and would consist of a litany of alleged facts about these people and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. now, unless there’s documented evidence that these people actually knew they were dying for a falsehood, how would you go about demonstrating that this is what they were in fact doing, and not dying for something they believed to be true?

in short, the historical evidence for your claims that many people have died for lies of their own making (that were also believed to be false at the time of their deaths) is going to be much the same as the christian evidence that the apostles didn’t die for myth they spun themselves.

and those arguments must be judged on their own merits as pieces of reasoning.

so - maybe you can present the case for your claim, above, and we’ll go from there…

[quote=patg]There is no historical evidence of the resurrection (evidence that a historian would say makes a case for it).
[/quote]

this is just false: there are christian historians that find the historical case very compelling…

if you want to make an epistemological claim about the degree of warrant required for reasonable belief in historical claims, then please do so - i agree it’s important to have a justificatory benchmark for such things - but it’s unhelpful simply to say that such a benchmark cannot be met without defining just what counts as meeting it.

[quote=patg]It is purely a matter of faith.
[/quote]

in some sense, sure, just like it’s a matter of faith that the things i read about julius caesar’s battle with vercingetorix have been reliably recounted to me by the writers of the history. but once i make that leap, the truth of those claims can only be ascertained by deduction, induction, and abduction…

look, “faith” isn’t just believing in some proposition without any evidence at all - the apostles weren’t faithless because their belief in jesus wasn’t formed immediately after jesus said “i am the messiah”; the apostles’ faith grew based on the things jesus both said and did, including his miracles, like the resurrection.

faith is supported by reason, it just isn’t determined by it.

[quote=patg] Is there a single history book which states that a person rose from the dead in 33AD?
[/quote]

the bible and many patristic sources.

[quote=patg] Is there any documentation from anyone other than a couple of documents written long after the event and written by those who were already believers?
[/quote]

so i shouldn’t read any books on world war 2 that weren’t written within a year or two of the event, and by veterans of the events that are being written about?

[quote=patg]I’m not saying it is not true but it is clearly *not *in the realm of history.
[/quote]

yes, it is. jesus either rose from the dead or he didn’t. if he did, it’s a historical event (i.e. it is an event that occurs in the history of the world). trying to determine whether the recorded historical facts warrants such a conclusion is precisely the purview of the historian. that is to say, it is one of the historians jobs to argue from recorded historical fact to un***recorded historical fact. and those conclusions are history***.


#17

The best “cold, hard documentation” that the tomb was empty was the fact that nobody of that day denied it, not even the skeptics!

What was disputed was WHY it was empty, and how it could be explained.


#18

I don’t think the Gospels fudged one important piece of evidence, The description of Jesus’s tomb and location at Golgotha. If one knows anything about the holy Sepulcre and what archeologists know it about it’s evidentially confirmed first century look and exact location, you may being to understand at least one aspect of the gospel story is true… That Tomb is without a doubt, the same tomb that figured in the Gospel narrative. It is flawlessly described in the narratives and fits that description to a tee.

There is not much evidence for the resurrection outside of the gospel story(if you don’t believe the “shroud of Turin” of cause, some people do believe it’s evidence), but there is cold hard substantial scientific evidence the Tomb that figured and was described in the Gospel narrative is the same tomb we always thought it was but didn’t have the technology to find out until now.

That is an important and not to be underestimated piece of the puzzle.


#19

[quote]Quote:
Originally Posted by Fidelis
If he doesn’t believe in the existence of God, ask him to provide you empirical, documented evidence that He doesn’t exist. Same thing.

Frankly, this sort of argument may be a satisfying defense for the already-believing Christian, but to my knowledge it is the leasteffective argumentative tool, and serves only to choke off real discussion into the realm of: “O.K., we’ll agree to disagree on this, but how 'bout that football game last night?”
[/quote]

Not exactly. :slight_smile:

Pointing out the absurdity and illogic of a question is not “choking off real discussion” and it certainly isn’t changing the subject, as you have characterized it. **It is simply an invitation to reframe the question so that it may be discussed intelligently. **You are not under any obligation to answer leading or loaded questions, or questions such as these that ask for empirical evidence of a negative.

For example, some equally silly challenges are:

[LIST]
*]Prove to me that George Washington never was a Jesuit.

*]Prove that we didn’t have, at one time, three moons instead of our present one.

*]Prove to me Jesus wasn’t Japanese.
[/LIST]

The list could be multiplied. You can’t prove a negative.


#20

See, this is right on the money! This is perfect! This is what I’ve been asking for! :thumbsup:

Now…How can I find a first-hand source by the skeptics of the time (or about the skeptics of the time) that confirms your statement? :confused:

I hear this statement about “nobody denying it” so often and believe it – which is why I’m so convinced that there has to be *some *documentation on it! We wouldn’t want to have Christians making things up after all! (since that deteriorates credibility)

Now: where! :mad:


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