The Empty Tomb

Here is a recent short interview Dr Robin Faith Walsh did on the meaning of the empty tomb (see time 1:27 ff)

Walsh discusses the History of Greek and Roman literature/culture with bodies disappearing from tombs because the person has become a god, such as in Chariton’s novel.  The empty tomb in Greco-Roman culture was meant to convey a change in status, a person becoming a god. 

The interviewer then raises to Walsh the question, based on what meaning an empty tomb would have, as to whether the disciples may have stolen the body, as this is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and perhaps parodied in what Walsh thinks may be a satire on the gospels, the Satyricon.

Supposing there was an empty tomb, which isn’t required because crucifixion victims were not always given proper burial, the body may certainly have been stolen precisely for this reason: to perpetrate a hoax with the common theme an empty tomb would carry.

Walsh conveyed the humanity of Jesus whose mortal form would be replaced and used up by a spiritual body. To the ancient reader/listener immersed in the Greco-Roman world this would convey apotheosis or becoming a god.

Certainly, the robbing of corpses from tombs was enough of a problem that Caesar had to declare an Edict against it, which we have in the form of the Nazareth Inscription. And, although there is no guarantee a crucified criminal would receive a burial, the account of the dishonorable burial in Mark rings true because if Mark was inventing the burial, why wouldn’t he have invented an honorable one? And, if Jesus had a known grave, rumors of apotheosis could have been dismissed by critics checking the grave, but opponents didn’t argue the tomb wasn’t empty.

So, if we look to Corinthians for the earliest expression of the faith in the resurrection, it’s said Jesus appeared to Cephas/Peter, the 12, the 500, and Paul. Obviously no recourse to miracle is needed here. Bereavement auditory and visual hallucinations happen (my godmother had them when her husband died), and it could have been as simple as seeing someone passing in a crowd you think is Jesus. Appearing to the 500 is a similar thing, like the Mass Fatima sky miracle/hallucinations.

However, given the conspicuous meaning of an empty tomb in antiquity, I do think we need to take seriously the possibility of a hoax

I have an article on this topic here:

The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context