Did the c. AD 30 Jerusalem Church know-by-seeing whether Jesus's tomb was empty?
Scholars saying “YES”
* Charles Cranfield (professor at Durham): “The chances of finding the body, if the claim that Jesus was risen was not true, must surely at that early date have been quite good.” [“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” in _The Historical Jesus _vol 3., ed. Evans (Routledge, 2004), 401.]
- Craig Keener (professor 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 (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009), 346.]
- Wolfhart Pannenberg (professor at Harvard etc.): “How could Jesus' disciples in Jerusalem have proclaimed his resurrection if they could be constantly refuted merely by viewing the grave in which the body was interred? [p. 100.] …Christians must have attached great interest to this question.” [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1968), 101.]
- Gerd Theissen (professor at Heidelberg), Annette Merz: “…had it been known where Jesus was buried, it is hard to imagine how the Easter message could have been preached in Jerusalem without reference to this tomb.” [The Historical Jesus (Fortress Press, 1998), 502-503.]
- James Dunn (professor at Durham): “…it is questionable whether without an empty tomb… many would have believed them when they proclaimed, ‘God raised Jesus from the dead’…” [Jesus and the Spirit (SCM Press, 1997), 120.]
They wanted see if it was
Christians desired to see whether Jesus's body was missing from its tomb.
- They desired in general to know if the body was actually missing.2
• Wolfhart Pannenberg (Professor at Harvard [and others]): “Christians must have attached great interest to this question.” [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1968), 101.]
We know they had interest in whether the body was missing for three reasons:
• Christians were interested in knowing whether Christianity was false. (A critic might suggest that Christians did not feel that the truth of Christianity depended on Jesus's body being gone. But, this is inaccurate; Christians knew that their faith depended on Jesus's resurrection, and that resurrection was physical (i.e. grave-emptying).)
• Christians showed a general interest in gospel-history,
• Christians showed some interest in the possibility of missing-body apologetics or obtaining some evidence for their personal belief (note: though if they did show interest, it was not much). Couldn't it simply be that they were unable to check(see footnote 2), despite desire?
The church couldn't easily make the trek
The physical trek to the grave was prohibitively difficult/undesirable. (That is to say, it was too inconvenient to visit Jesus's tomb to see if it was empty.)
But wait, the grave was right there in Jerusalem.
J. N. D. Anderson (Dean of Law at London): “It is a matter of history that the apostles from the very beginning made many converts in Jerusalem, hostile as it was, by proclaiming the glad news that Christ had risen from the grave-and they did it within a short walk from the sepulchre. Any one of their hearers could have visited the tomb and come back again between lunch and whatever may have been the equivalent of afternoon tea.” [Christianity: The Witness of History (Tyndale, 1969), 95-96.]
The church did not know where the body was located
The church couldn't know if it was Jesus's body (decomposed)
The church could not know if the corpse they were looking at was Jesus's because of severe decomposition.