AD Apologetics – Part 1: Jesus’ death and the Empty Tomb

Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb

Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb (John 20.1) in “AD – The Bible Continues” episode 2 “The Body is Gone”

The series “AD – The Bible Continues” presents many strong evidences of why the resurrection of Jesus is true.

Why believe in Christianity?
What makes Christianity different from any other religion?
Why not believe in other religions?
What makes Jesus different from the founder of other religions?
How do you know Christianity is true?
Why should I believe in Jesus?

The answer to these an many other question about the authenticity of the Christian faith is the same.  That which:

 – distinguishes Jesus and Christianity from any other religion,
– validates that Christianity is true, and
– proves that Jesus is the son of God

 is the same fact: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith

No other religion has a founder who has proved he is the Lord of Life by showing mastery over death by being raised from the dead. This is precisely the point scripture makes when it proclaims:

…who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Rom 1.4)

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith, because without the resurrection there is no point to the Christian faith, and indeed no  faith at all. Or as the apostle Paul put it:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
1 Cor 15.14, 17

It is no wonder then that of all the doctrines that critics, liberal scholars and those who wish to destroy Christianity could take aim at,  the one they choose to attack early, often and most viciously is the teaching that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead, after having being put to death on a Roman cross and entombed.

But all such attacks on the resurrection fail. God, knowing he has made the resurrection the cornerstone of the proof of the veracity of the Christian faith has provided an airtight case to prove it’s true. That evidence is provided in the Bible. (Which is why the other main attack vector is on the Bible – in an attempt to throw the evidence out of court before it is ever considered. A word to the wise Christian evangelist – don’t fall for attempts to disregard or not use the Bible – besides being the most reliable, well attested ancient document in existence1, it contains the gospel, which is the power of God. Use it!)

There are many attempts to discredit the resurrection of Jesus, but there’s much more evidence that refutes such ill-conceived attempts. Many of the those evidences that refutes deniers have been presented in the well done series AD – The Bible Continues. These evidences have made the series a joy to watch.

So without further ado, below is a brief description of various attempts to explain away the resurrection or discredit it, followed by the AD – The Bible Continues presentation of the evidence against it. (Click the picture to view.)

Attempts to Explain why the Resurrection isn’t true

1. The Apparent Death Theory

Also known as the “Swoon” theory or “Coma” theory contends that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he just appeared to be dead. Many apologists have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that Jesus was in fact dead.2 Here is how AD  handles this discredited theory:

First, Caiaphas, the high priest, in laying the groundwork to request the tomb be guarded, tells Pilate the Roman governor about Jesus claiming he would fulfill prophecy by rising from the dead. In response Pilate says “Roman crucifixion really doesn’t allow for that. “ Note the passing reference to the “wild animals stole the body and consumed it theory. That of course raises more questions than it answers. How did wild dogs or other scavengers get into a tomb sealed with a stone that required a number of men to move?  Why didn’t the guards kill them before they even got to the stone? How is they left no trace of a bone? The whole idea is so ludicrous they dismiss it by pointing out the sealed, guarded tomb.

The Second, (and even better) response to the apparent death theory is Pilate’s proof to his wife that when Roman kills someone, they are without question, dead:
Mad or a Fool to believe Jesus not dead after Crucifixion
One must be “Mad or a fool” to believe Jesus was not dead after crucifixion. (John 19.33-34)(click picture to view) (Mobile/tablet format) (wmv [IE])

2. The Conspiracy Theory

The empty tomb is powerful evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The conspiracy tries to undercut that evidence by suggesting that Jesus’ disciples conspired to steal the body to make it appear he rose from the dead. See the scenes below for two responses:
Romans! We need to leave

Romans!  We need to leave. (mobile/tablet  format) (wmv [IE])

(The disciples were too fearful to risk such a daring plot against the power of Rome
John 20.19)

Temple guard set at the tomb to prevent theft
Guards at the tomb (Matt 27.66) (mobile/tablet  format)  (wmv [IE])

Even if they had wanted to steal the body, they couldn’t because a guard had been set.

3. The Wrong Tomb Theory

This theory posits that the disciples went to the wrong tomb. That’s  why it was empty. Many apologists have pointed out others (like Jewish  opponents) would surely have gone to the right tomb to prove them wrong.  AD does a good job of showing the uniqueness of being buried in a  rich man’s tomb, as well as the amount of time spent at the tomb, making  it highly unlikely they would have forgotten which one it was.

At the Tomb of a rich man (Joseph of Arimathea – Matt 27.57) where Jesus was buried. (mobile/tablet Format)  (wmv [IE])

4. The Displaced Body Theory

This theory holds that Joseph of Arimethea, a “good and upright man” (Luke 25.50), after burying the body in his own tomb, later moved it to another one. However being a righteous man, he (and helpers) would
certainly have spoken up once he became aware people were claiming Jesus rose from the dead, and knowing he had created a false impression. AD shows rim to indeed be a “good and upright man” committing to doing what’s right and upholding what’s true.

Joseph of Arimathea – compelled by “decency” and the truth would not have let a false theory stand. (mobile/tablet format)  (wmv [IE])

These have been unconvincing attempts to explain away the powerful evidence of the empty tomb of Jesus. In part 2 we’ll look at the evidence of Jesus being alive after being dead and buried, and attempts to explain that evidence away.


Duane Caldwell | posted 4/30/2015 | printer friendly version

Related article:
AD Apologetics – Part 2: Jesus’ Triumphant Resurrection


1 On the reliability of the Biblical accounts, see the quote by E. M. Blaiklock – Professor of Classics, reproduced here:


2. For instance William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, Chicago, Moody Press, 1981,  p.36


Images: AD: The Bible Continues

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