Does “buried... raised” in 1 Corinthians 15:3 entail an empty grave?

  • Clarifying the question

    1 Corinthians 15:3 says of Jesus “that He was buried, and that He was raised.” We mean to ask here whether this phraseology entails for the author and readers that Jesus left behind an empty grave, even without explicitly saying it.

  • Historians saying “YES”

    • John A. T. Robinson: “Paul's words in 1 Cor. xv.4, that Jesus 'was buried' and that 'he was raised to life on the third day', seem to presuppose some connection between the resurrection and the tomb (and not merely the appearances) as part of what he received at his first instruction as a Christian.” [“Need Jesus have been perfect?” in Christ, Faith, and History: Cambridge Studies in Christology, eds. Sykes and Clayton (Cambridge, 1972), 49.]
    • Dale Allison (NT professor at Princeton): “…the statement 'he was buried' followed by the proclamation of the resurrection seems to indicate that the empty tomb was implied in the kerygma.” [Resurrecting Jesus (Continuum Int., 2005), 92.]
  • A point about plausibility

    It is worth noting that this creed was only an outline; it was not supposed to be detailed.

    • N. T. Wright: “…when the story [of the empty tomb discovery] was telescoped into a compact formula it was not the principal point. The best hypothesis for why ‘that he was buried’ came to be part of this brief tradition is simply that the phrase summarized very succinctly that entire moment in the Easter narratives.” [The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003), 321]
    • James Denney (Professor of Systematic Theology, NT Language and Literature [d. 1917]): “That he says nothing more than that to these persons the Lord did appear is no proof that he had nothing more to say. He could, no doubt, have told a great deal more about that last appearance which the Lord had made to himself, if he had thought it relevant; and the probabilities are that in this outline” [article]
    • E.L. Bode: “…one cannot demand that all known tradition be included within a brief credal formula.” [The First Easter Morning (Bible Institute, 1970), 181.]
“Yes, after all…
  • Otherwise, “buried” is odd/gratuitous

    If v4 didn't entail a counteracted burial, then mentioning a “burial” in v3-4 would be superfluous (it would instead simply read: “He died… and was raised.”).

    • James Dunn (NT professor at Durham): “Why the second clause ('that he was buried')? Why not the immediate transition from death to resurrection, as in other accounts? (E.g., Acts 3.15; 10.39-40.) The most obvious answer is that the disposal of the body in burial was an important point in the earliest confessional statements. Which probably reflects the place of the tomb narratives — burial but also empty tomb — in the earliest traditions of Easter.” [Jesus Remembered (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 839.]
  • 1 Cor 15's “died-buried-raised” tradition involves the empty tomb when reported in sister passages.1 This is relevant because these sister passages give context to what was meant by 1 Cor 15, suggesting it too had the empty tomb in mind.

    • William Lane Craig: “This remarkable correspondence of independent traditions reveals that the four-line formula is a summary in outline form of the basic events of Jesus's passion and resurrection, including his burial in the tomb.” ["Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd Lüdemann's Hallucination Hypothesis" (Edwin Mellen Press) Online.]
    1. Compare these three passages:
      Acts 13:28-31, 36-37 1 Cor 15:3-5 Mk 15:37-16:7
      Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killedthey took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb But God raised him from the deadand for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people He whom God raised did not undergo decay. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his lastAnd he [Joseph] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb"He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him." "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him."
    2. In response, one critic has this to say:
      • Richard Carrier (Mythicist NT scholar): “Mark is adopting Paul's language, and thus Mark may have added any new ideology to the simpler core belief of Paul. This therefore tells us nothing about what Paul believed.” [“Craig's Empty Tomb & Habermas on Vision” (1999, 2005): Online.]

      In response to Carrier, however, this renders it particularly implausible that Mark did not narrate the appearance to Peter, the 12, et al., which were essential parts of the very short creed Mark is allegedly elaborating on.
“No, after all…