This week, we've discussed a few things about the empty tomb: the fact that the women found it, the early Christians' belief in it, what people said about Jesus' body not being in it, and the location of it. Yesterday, we discussed contemporary claims regarding Jesus' body and found them wanting. However, in order to evaluate the evidence for the empty tomb of Jesus, one must first show that he was actually buried in that tomb because if Jesus was never buried in that tomb, then the question of the empty tomb is irrelevant. That is our task today.
Most importantly, all four gospel writers state that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Mt 27:57-61, Mk 15:42-46, Lk 23:50-53, Jn 19:38-41) and with the exception of Mark, they mention that it was his new tomb. Why would the gospel writers all point to the same prominent figure and to his new tomb? Because, to point to such a prominent figure might be the writers’ way of suggesting that anyone that might want to verify their claim could seek out not only Joseph of Arimathea, but also seek out the site of his new tomb. The claim allows itself to be falsified. All one had to do to prove the Christians' claims wrong would be show the body of Jesus in the prominent tomb. However, no writings of antiquity exist that claim that Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. While some modern claims to the contrary exist (which we discussed yesterday), they are not supported by biblical and archaeological scholarship and thus do not successfully falsify the claim that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.
So, we can know with good confidence that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as he was a prominent figure, and no claims to the contrary were made. In fact, the claims made against the resurrection in that time (that the disciples stole the body) imply that the tomb everyone was talking about was, in fact, empty.