Did AD 30 Jerusalem Jews will to check Jesus's tomb (to show it wasn't empty)?

“Yes, after all…
  • In general, Jews desired to falsify Christianity

    In general Jews desired to falsify Christianity, and being able to point to Jesus's non-resurrected body would have seemed the most obvious and simple way to do this.1

    But wait, maybe the Jews knew or believed that early Christians preached a non-physical resurrection (which would not be falsfied by showing the corpse).

    1. Craig Keener (NT professor at at Asbury): “Whether or not one believes the Gospels' empty tomb narratives, one can hardly imagine that the disciples would have proclaimed the "resurrection" without consulting the tomb. One can imagine even less that their detractors would not have done so to silence them.” [The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Eerdmans, 2009), 346.]
      Gerd Lüdemann (Early Christian history and literature professor at Göttingen): “Jews showed an interest in where Jesus's corpse had been put, and of course a proclamation of Jesus as the Risen One… provoked questions about his body from opponents or unbelievers.” [Resurrection of Jesus (Fortress Press, 1994), 116.]
      Paul Maier (Ancient history professor at Western Michigan): “…if Jesus' tomb had remained occupied, since anyone producing a dead Jesus would have driven a wooden stake through the heart of an incipient Christianity inflamed by his supposed resurrection. What happened in Jerusalem seven weeks after the first Easter could have taken place only if Jesus' body were somehow missing from Joseph's tomb, for otherwise the Temple establishment, in its imbroglio with the Apostles, would simply have aborted the movement by making a brief trip over to the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea and unveiling Exhibit A. They did not do this, because they knew the tomb was empty.” ["The Empty Tomb as History." Christianity Today 19 (March 28, 1975): 5.]
      Stephen Davis (Philosophy & religion professor at Claremont): “The enemies of the incipient Christian movement would doubtless have searched thoroughly in their effort to disprove the claims of the early Christians.” [Risen Indeed (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 74.]
      Ernest Hermitage Day (c. 1946): “The hatred of the Jews for Christianity was an intensification of that which they showed towards Christ Himself. No form of persecution, either exerted directly by themselves, or through the Gentiles whose passions they were able to arouse, was too bitter to be directed against the Christians. But there was one thing which would have rendered all organized persecution superfluous. The simple disproof, the effective challenge, of the fact of the Resurrection would have dealt a death-blow to Christianity. And they had every opportunity of disproof, if it were possible. Demonstration that the body still rested in the sepulchre, so near, so well known … would have been the most complete overthrow of the Christan cause.” [On the Evidence for the Resurrection (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1906), 34.]
      W. H. Giffith Thomas ([d. 1924] NT professor at Oxford): “Not more than seven weeks afterward Peter preached in that city the fact that Jesus had been raised. What would have been easier or more conclusive than for the Jews to have produced the dead body and silenced Peter forever?” [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia , ed. James Orr (Howard-Severance Co., 1915), 2566.]
      Robert Stein (NT professor at SBU): “The early preaching of the resurrection in Jerusalem would have been impossible if Jesus' body still lay in the tomb.… It is furthermore inconceivable that those Jews who opposed Jesus and his followers would not check for themselves to see if the tomb was really empty. All they would have needed to do to discredit the early Christian proclamation was to produce the body of Jesus.” [Jesus the Messiah (IVP, 1996), 264.]
      Charles Cranfield (NT professor at Durham): “Rumours of what the disciples were saying can scarcely have failed to get to the ears of authority within a few days of the Crucifixion, even if the audacious public proclamation of the Resurrection did not start till Pentecost.… The Sanhedrin must have known that the most effective way to be rid of what they regarded as a dangerous movement would be to produce the body, and knowing this they must surely have instituted an energetic search.” [“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” in The Historical Jesus vol 3., ed. Evans (Routledge, 2004), 401.]
      John R. W. Stott (Christian author/apologist): “The news spread rapidly. This new movement threatened to undermine the foundations of Judaism and to disturb the peace of Jerusalem. The Jews feared conversions; the Romans were apprehensive about riots. The authorities had one obvious course of action available to them. They could produce the remains of the body…. Instead, they were silent and resorted to violence. They arrested the apostles, threatened them, flogged them, imprisoned them, belittled them, potted against them and even killed some of them. But all this was entirely unnecessary if they had in their own possession the dead body of Jesus. … What the authorities didn't say is as clear a pointer… as what the apostles did say.” [Basic Christianity (IVP, 1958, 2008), 63.]
    2. N.T. Wright (NT & Early Christianity professor at St. Andrews): “The body was wrapped in grave-clothes along with a significant amount of spices, to offset the smell of putrefaction, on the usual assumption that other shelves in the cave would be required soon enough by the same family or group. There would be plenty of coming and going with further bodies; nobody who owned a burial cave would want to leave it with only one body it. Even Joseph of Arimathea, who according to the story was rich and devoted to Jesus, would have expected to use the cave again.” [The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003), 707.]
“No, after all…
  • “Jews wanted to avoid corpse impurity”

    “Jews saw reason to refrain from checking the tomb, feeling that they would contract 'corpse-impurity' upon entering into a tomb with a corpse.”

    By way of response, however,…

    • …contracting ritual impurity was common and not that big of a deal. It especially was not that big of a deal relative to their strong will to falsify Christianity [Forthcoming].1
    • …scholars regularly echo the sentiment of Keener and Althaus here.2
    • …gentile servants/allies were also available to check.
    • …it was sufficient to simply open the tomb up (to look without entering).
    • …it was sufficient to simply point to Jesus's known tomb.
    • …the bones would be seen anyways in 6-12 months.3
    1. It is unclear that many/all Jews believed that entering a tomb would result in their becoming ritually impure. See the discussion in Stone and Dunk, Oil and Spit (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011), 161. by Jodi Magness (Prof. of Early Judaism, Archaeologist). Notice Sanders, in Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, 34, “remarks on the apparent Pharisaic and rabbinic lack of concern with corpse impurity”.)
    2. Craig Keener (NT professor at Asbury; sp.= Hist. Jesus): “Whether or not one believes the Gospels' empty tomb narratives, one can hardly imagine that the disciples would have proclaimed the ‘resurrection’ without consulting the tomb. One can imagine even less that their detractors would not have done so to silence them.” [The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009), 346.]
      Paul Althaus (Professor at Göttingen): “In Jerusalem, the place of Jesus' execution and grave, it was proclaimed not long after his death that he had been raised. The situation demands that within the circle of the first community one had a reliable testimony for the fact that the grave had been found empty. [p. 25]… [The resurrection kerygma] could have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb has not been established as a fact for all concerned.” [Die Wahrheit des kirchlichen Osterglaubens, (C. Bertelsmann, 1941), 22. (as cited by Pannenberg)]
    3. There are a couple reasons to think the inside of Jesus's would be seen soon regardless:
      First, the bones would be seen either at Jesus's “secondary burial” into an ossuary (a bone box).
      Second, the bones could be seen even earlier if entombing another corpse.
      Third, the tomb was under construction, and if construction continued there would be more opportunities to see.

      Leen Ritmeyer: “Over 1,000 tombs have been studied around Jerusalem, and we know now that the first stage in tomb construction is the cutting out of a single chamber with benches arranged along the three sides, leaving a pit in the middle, so that the workmen could stand upright while working. A tomb could be left like this for a while, until the other chambers were added.” [https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2008/07/24/what-did-jesus-tomb-look-like-interview/]>