Did critics fail to show Jesus's corpse remained entombed?

  • Our question

    a man pulls back a rock to expose jesus body inside the tomb, several onlookers in front are very suprised

    Reports say that, after Jesus's death by crucifixion, he was interred in a rock-hewn tomb nearby Golgotha, by a sanhedrinist named Joseph of Arimatha. Reports also say that Christians were soonafter proclaiming that Jesus rose from the dead and was appearing to witnesses. We mean to ask here (1) was Jesus truly at least entombed in some sense, and (2) whether—in the face rumors of any rumors of Jesus's having risen from the dead—did skeptics and enemies (presumably Jewish) completely fail to quash such romors by simply publicly exhuming the corpse? Was this ostensibly simple refutation of Christianity ever successfully performed? To be succinct: AD 30-40 Jerusalem, did critics of Christianity utterly fail to show that Jesus's corpse remained?

“Yes, after all…
  • Belief that “He's alive!” flourished in Jerusalem

    Belief that Jesus resurrected flourished in AD 30-40 Jerusalem; Jews converted in droves.1 This is relevant because Jews would hardly believe this if critics showed everyone that Jesus's body remained in the tomb.2

    But wait, maybe Christians were only saying Jesus resurrected non-physically. (So showing his corpse wouldn't stop belief).

      • James Dunn (NT scholar, professor at Durham): “As we shall see later, the indications are strong that the Jesus movement 'took off' within Jerusalem within a short time after Jesus' death.” [Jesus Remembered (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 836.]
      • William Lane Craig (NT scholar, philosopher): “…so long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.” [On an Argument for the Empty Tomb (ReasonableFaith.org Q&A) online]
      • Craig Blomberg (NT professor at Denver): “[Notice] the virtual impossibility of proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of unbelieving Jewish opposition if the grave… were not in fact empty.” [Jesus and the Gospels (Broadman & Holman, 1997), 354.]
      • Paul Althaus (Theology professor at Göttingen): “[The resurrection kerygma] could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.” [Die Wahrheit des kirchlichen Osterglaubens, as cited by Pannenberg (C. Bertelsmann, 1941), 22f.]
      • Robert Stein (NT professor at SBU): “In Jerusalem, therefore, there could be no apostolic preaching of the resurrection of Jesus unless the tomb was in fact empty.” [“Was the Tomb Really Empty?” Themelios 5.1 (Sept. 1979)]
      • Wolfhart Pannenberg (Theology 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 his body was interred?" [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1968) 100.]; “…it is hardly conceivable that the Christian message of the resurrection could have spread abroad in Jerusalem unless the presupposition of the empty tomb were tenable.” [Systematic Theology (T & T Clark, 1988-1994), 357.]
  • They publicly granted that the body was gone

    In Jerusalem, Jewish opponents were publicly agreeing that Jesus's body was gone.1

    See this page to examine 2 arguments:

    But so what? Maybe those Jews were lying (to allow for creative counter-arguments against “the empty tomb proves He rose”)?2

      • Gerald O'Collins (Theology professor at St. Mary's, Twickenham): “What was in dispute was not whether the tomb was empty but why it was empty. We have no early evidence that anyone, either Christian or non-Christian, ever alleged that Jesus’ tomb still contained his remains.” [Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2009), 100.]
    1. The idea is that granting Christians that the tomb was empty would allow the Jews to throw back some especially devastating counter-arguments (notably: "the apostles stole it!):
      • Maurice Casey (NT professor at Nottingham): “Some Jews who heard the story of Jesus' bodily Resurrection from an empty tomb will have found the story absolutely unconvincing and they responded with a story of their own, one which reflects their absolute and understandable mistrust of Christians. …it will have been made up far away from Israel some time after Jesus' death and burial,…” [Jesus of Nazareth (T&T Clark, 2010), 478.]
  • They weren't arguing “We showed the corpse!”

    In Jerusalem, Jewish opponents were not arguing that “We showed visually that Jesus's body is still here.”1 This is relevant because the Jews would have inevitably desired to broadcast news of their exhuming or otherwise exhibiting Jesus's corpse, if it was ever done.2

    1. There are two reasons we know Jewish opponents were not arguing this:
      First, they publicly agreed the body was gone from the tomb, complaining that “body-theft caused it”.
      Gerald O'Collins (Theology professor at St. Mary's): “What was in dispute was not whether the tomb was empty but why it was empty. We have no early evidence that anyone, either Christian or non-Christian, ever alleged that Jesus’ tomb still contained his remains.” [_Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus_, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2009), 100.]
    2. Second, there's no trace of evidence that they boasted of having produced Jesus's body. See:

      Wolfhart Pannenberg (Theology professor at Harvard etc.): “There is no trace of any contention against Christians that the body was still in the tomb.” [Systematic Theology (T & T Clark, 1988-1994), 359.]
      Stephen Davis (Philiosophy & Religion professor at Claremont): “There is no record in any early anti-Christian polemic of anyone's suggesting that the tomb was not empty.” [Risen Indeed (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 74.]
      William Lane Craig (NT scholar, specialist in the Jesus-resurrection debate): “…the Jews did not respond to the preaching of the resurrection by pointing to the tomb of Jesus or exhibiting his corpse, but entangled themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain away the empty tomb.” [Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historical Resurrection of Jesus (Edwin Mellen, 1989), 372.]
      C. E. B. Cranfield (NT professor at Durham): “There is also the highly significant fact that neither the Jewish nor the Roman authorities ever produced evidence to disprove the claim that Jesus had been raised.” ["The Resurrection of Jesus Christ" in The Historical Jesus vol 3., ed. Evans (Routledge, 2004), 401.]
      For example, consider the evidence from the book of Acts:
      J. N. D. Anderson: “Have you noticed that the references to the empty tomb all come in the Gospels, which were written to give the Christian community the facts they wanted to know? In the public preaching to those who were not believers, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, there is an enormous emphasis on the fact of the resurrection but not a single reference to the empty tomb. Now, why? To me there is only one answer: There was no point in arguing about the empty tomb. Everyone, friend and opponent, knew that it was empty. The only questions worth arguing about were why it was empty and what its emptiness proved.” [“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”, Christianity Today (12 April 1968), 4-9.]
      J. P. Moreland: “In sum, the absence of explicit mention in Acts is best explained by noting the fact of the empty tomb was not in dispute and thus it was not at issue. The main debate was over why it was empty, not whether it was empty… No need existed for the early Christian preachers to make a major issue of the empty tomb. It was common knowledge which could be easily verified if such verification was needed.” [Scaling the Secular City (Baker Academic, 1987), 163.]

    3. This should be granted. After all, Jews strongly desired to discredit Christianity[Forthcoming]
      • Wolfhart Pannenberg (Theology professor at Harvard etc.): “[If it had been shown] that Jesus' grave had remained untouched… The Jewish polemic would have had to have every interest in the preservation of such a report.” [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1968), 101.]
      • Frédéric Godet (Theology professor): “If it remained in the hands of the Jews, how did they not by this mode of conviction overthrow the testimony of the apostles? Their mouths would have been closed much more effectually in this way than by scourging them” [A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, Vol. 2 (T&T Clark, 1875), 362.]
      • Andrew Martin Fairbairn (Theology professor at Oxford [d. 1912]): “…the silence of the Jews is as significant as the speech of the Christians” [Studies in the Life of Christ, 4th ed., (Hodder & Sltoughton, 1885), 357.]