The earliest Christian writer and in many ways the main apostle of Jesus authorised to persuade people that Jesus was from God, Paul never mentioned the empty tomb despite his stress on the death and resurrection of Jesus. The argument that he said Jesus was buried implies an empty tomb does not do much for us. If Paul believed the resurrection left Jesus' tomb empty it does not mean he believed anybody seen it was empty and knew the body was not taken away.

He said that we are buried in baptism and rise like Christ. But that could still be said if the new body takes only a few cells from the old leaving the dead one lying there. He stated in Romans that we are buried by baptism into Jesus’ death not his tomb. He said that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven and that Jesus had a spiritual body since the resurrection which makes a liar of Luke’s story that Jesus ate fish after his resurrection. The only time Paul says that Jesus was buried is in 1 Corinthians 15. There buried is just an incidental detail for Paul’s real concern is saying that Jesus died and rose and was seen. So Paul may have just assumed that Jesus was buried for to him it is nothing important. The burial would not be necessary to our salvation and the salvific events are the ones Paul is concentrating on. It is also interesting that since Paul says Jesus was buried and rose on the third day he may mean that Jesus rose the third day after burial and could have just been a pile of bones by the time he was buried.

Paul taught the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the heart of the Christian gospel and the truths on which all the Christian doctrines depend. Paul taught in scripture in Galatians 1 that even if he and the apostles and angels from Heaven changed the gospel in any way they were to be treated as anathema or accursed (shunned) plainly admitting that he was more concerned about dogma than anything and even God wasn’t allowed to contradict him! For Paul the resurrection was not important but believing in it was! Is he and the other apostles who tolerated this nonsense really worth believing when they said Jesus rose? All they cared about was the legend.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus was buried and then rose. This says nothing at all about a discovered empty tomb. And as we have seen, it does not tell us one way or another if Paul is claiming the tomb was empty. Paul unmistakably did not believe either that there was an empty tomb or that the resurrection was the reason it was empty. He said that Jesus was buried but he had a very spiritual concept of the resurrection so Jesus could have risen in a semi-material body made from some elements of the old one that would not be missed. He had to deal with Christian disbelievers in the resurrection. He argues that the resurrection visions are real because if they are not we are lost and our faith is good for nothing in 1 Corinthians (15:14). He would not use such an emotional argument devoid of logic and evidence unless he was desperately stuck and there was nothing else. He was creating a legend and giving it the power to become popular by lacing it with emotional blackmail.

He does not say that the visions are real because of the empty tomb which he would have had to do for his argument for the reality of the visions is illogical and silly. He lists the evidence for the resurrection and leaves it out. He is saying Jesus rose leaving the body behind or that somebody stole the body or that nobody knows or cares where the tomb is. Or if there was a tomb!

He says that the body is the seed of the resurrection body so he does not care about what became of Jesus’ crucified body. Perhaps Paul knew that an empty tomb has nothing to do with proving the resurrection or making it probable but only makes it possible. Even that means the existence of a tomb is debatable.

Paul was defending belief in the resurrection of Jesus in that chapter to the sceptical Corinthians. It seems to be universally agreed in Christendom that apparitions of Jesus were not enough to establish the truth of the resurrection for you have in the religious world, a case where one plausible or irrefutable apparition contradicts another one. So they say you need the body to vanish from the tomb and the visions both. If Paul thought that, he would have been clear about the empty tomb and listed witnesses to it. But only if there was an empty tomb...

Paul told the Corinthians that if Jesus was not raised then their loved ones will not rise either and believers are to be pitied.  Why the emotional blackmail if there really was a known tomb that was found empty?

Jonah in the Bible was swallowed by a fish and lived to tell the tale and was in it three days. Some say that when Jesus promised the sign of Jonah he was expecting to rise again bodily like Jonah. Jonah coming bodily out of the fish need not imply that Jesus intended to emerge bodily from the tomb. All that is needed is for the religious figure to live again somehow. Imagining that as Jonah left the belly of the fish empty so Jesus would leave the tomb is reading too much into it.

Jesus told the Jewish leaders he would give them no sign but the sign of Jonah. The gospels say he was referring to the resurrection. But was he? Nobody knew about Jonah being swallowed by the great fish and spat up again alive but Jonah. And the book of Jonah says nothing about a resurrection of Jonah. The fish seems to have had no ability to digest him. The story fits the notion of a man being swallowed and miraculously protected in the belly of the fish. I think the sign of Jonah was actually referring to his role as a prophet who called the people to repent. If Jesus said his only sign would be that of Jonah it follows that he was solely a messenger of repentance and not a miracle-worker. The Jewish leaders did not see Jesus rising from the dead or see him after he rose. They didn't take the story seriously. If the sign of Jonah was Jesus' resurrection then Jesus made a false prediction when he promised the Jewish leaders they would get this sign for they didn't.

Jesus could not have been buried in a fancy tomb. The Gospels lie that he was buried in a new tomb belonging to the rich. Criminals were dumped in a common grave. Sometimes Jewish rulers did let friends of the deceased take the corpses but only after a year on the dump. Then the bones were allowed to be buried in the family tomb (page 105, The Womb and the Tomb). It is thought that Jesus was a different case because it was Pilate that had condemned him to death and not the Jews. But this overlooks the fact that it was Jews who asked for Jesus’ body. They had to obey the Jewish leaders and would not have been permitted to bury Jesus in a tomb. Pilate might have permitted them to have the body but he did not command anything. The rest of it was up to the Jews and they would have wanted Jesus in the dump.

The Romans dumped the people they put to death. This was the law. The Jews feared not being buried above anything else so leaving criminals unburied proved a good deterrent to Jewish rebels against Rome which was to Rome’s advantage.

Mark says that Pilate permitted Joseph of Arimathea to take the body of Christ. That would have been admitting to the world that he and his men had executed a man they believed to be innocent. It would have been scandalous and a booster to those who wanted to overthrow Rome by fomenting hatred and trouble and they would think that Rome was starting to be scared of them so it would be a good time to attack. If the gospels are correct to say that the Jews forced Pilate to destroy Jesus then there was no way Pilate could have let Jesus have a proper burial.

It would appear that there must have been a tomb for if it had been made up, stories about how Jesus was seen leaving it would have been invented. But since the Christians would have been suspected of stealing the body why should we expect such stories? But in any case such fancy stories would have been told and we just can’t hear about it now.

There is no evidence that tombs had round stones that could be rolled back like the tomb of Jesus had. Only the tombs of the extremely rich had these. The rolling stones came in after 70 AD (Craig’s Empty Tomb and Habermas on the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus). There is no evidence for the objection made by Christians that the word for rolled in gospel may simply denote moved (ibid).

Second Peter states that the apostles did not give out cleverly devised myths when they revealed to the world the power and the coming of the Lord Jesus but were eyewitnesses to a visionary event, the transfiguration, that revealed the majesty of Jesus (1:16). In other words, a vision verified the power and coming of Jesus. It doesn't hint that it means the second coming of Christ. It just says coming. The vision he recounts said nothing or indicated nothing about a second coming. Second Peter is plainly saying that Jesus' power and coming had to be revealed to the apostles in a vision. He was not heard of before. This supports the idea that there was no Jesus known of until some people claimed to be having visions of this being who claimed to have been crucified and died and rose again. The empty tomb then was unknown.

The idea of Jesus being put into a rich man's tomb is prompted by Isaiah 53 where a figure who was supposed to be Jesus was allegedly predicted. The dubiousness of how Jesus fulfilled prophecy leads to doubt. Did the story of the tomb come from this text?

Scholars mostly think there was a tomb. But even if there was it might have been a tomb that was said to be Jesus'!


Christianity for the Tough-Minded, Ed John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship Inc, Minneapolis, 1973
Conspiracies and the Cross, Timothy Paul Jones, Front Line, A Strang Company, Florida, 2008
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vol 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha, Cumbria, 2000
Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan, London, 1985
The First Easter, What Really Happened? HJ Richards, Collins/Fount Glasgow, 1980
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, Corgi, London, 1982
The Jesus Event, Martin R Tripole SJ, Alba House, New York, 1980
The Jesus Inquest, Charles Foster, Monarch Books, Oxford, 2006
The Passover Plot, Hugh Schonfield, Element, Dorset, 1996
The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1993
The Resurrection of Jesus, Pinchas Lapide, SPCK, London, 1984
The Unauthorised Version, Robin Lane Fox, Penguin, Middlesex, 1992
The Second Messiah, Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, Arrow, London, 1998
The Turin Shroud is Genuine, Rodney Hoare, Souvenir Press, London, 1998HoarHo
The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Raymond E Brown, Paulist Press, New York, 1973
The Womb and the Tomb, Hugh Montifiore, Fount – HarperCollins, London, 1992
Verdict on the Empty Tomb, Val Grieve Falcon, London, 1976
Who Moved the Stone? Frank Morison, OM Publishing, Cumbria, 1997


Still Standing on Sinking Sand, Farrell Till,

Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story by Richard Carrier

A Naturalistic Account of the Resurrection, Brian Marston
This site argues that somebody unknown stole the body to stop the apostles stealing it or venerating it and lost it and argues that the witnesses of the risen Jesus were lying because no effort was made by them to preserve first hand reports of what was seen and how and when. It argues that since the apostles had followed Jesus at great personal sacrifice and now he was dead they invented the resurrection to save face. Also the inclination of people at the time to believe in dying and rising gods may have overwhelmed them and made them lie to themselves that Jesus had risen. He answers the objection that a lie like that would need a large-scale conspiracy for lots of lies start off with a small group of people and if the lies are attractive other people will believe them. Plus he says that Jesus could have rigged events to make sure he would fulfil Old Testament prophecy so the Christians should not be saying the gospel story is true for it fits old prophecy. I would add that owing to the total absence of evidence that Jesus was nailed to the cross and the fact that the gospels never say any of his friends were close to the cross that Jesus might have been tied to it and the Christians later assumed he was nailed because the psalm seemed to say so.

The Case For Christianity Examined: Truth or Lies?

Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story, A Reply to William Lane Craig by Jeffrey Jay Lowder

The Resurrection, Steven Carr

Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? Dan Barker versus Mike Horner