The Women and the Empty Tomb -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 123:492 (Oct 1966)
Article: The Women and the Empty Tomb
Author: Zane C. Hodges

The Women and the Empty Tomb

Zane C. Hodges

[Zane C. Hodges, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The central fact of the Christian faith is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning the reality of this pivotal event, all of the New Testament Gospel writers are in complete agreement. Yet, despite their agreement about the fact itself, a superficial reading of their accounts suggests that their records present many discrepancies in detail. In no area of the resurrection narratives is this more evident than when they are describing the women’s discovery of, and testimony about, the empty tomb. It is important, therefore, in the context of modern unbelief to give special attention to the precise relationship the women had to the triumphant events of Easter morning.

In approaching such a study, at least two important considerations must be kept in mind. First, it needs to be remembered that the resurrection was a complete surprise to those who became the initial witnesses to it. As such it constituted so great an emotional shock, after the tragic events of the cross, that its effects at times seem almost traumatic. The emotional reactions of the women, and of the disciples as well, are often irrational and are constantly fluctuating. For a time they seem to be imprisoned on an emotional roller coaster—now reaching a pinnacle of joy only to plunge into the depths of fear, now rising to the heights of faith only to fall

precipitously into the abyss of unbelief. As a result, some of the actions these rampant feelings prompted are seriously misunderstood by modern scholars who have only studied them in the abstract, from a safe emotional distance.

A second fact which must be kept in mind is a frequently ignored literary device of the Gospel writers. Scholars often mistakenly assume that, when these writers are silent about details given in the other accounts, this is prima-facie evidence that these details were unknown to them. Or again, they may assume that the sources—whether written or oral—used by each author constitute the most crucial limiting factor in his selection of details. But neither supposition can withstand scrutiny in the face of an interesting technique which the evangelists employ in Gospel composition. This technique, simply stated, is the moulding of scattered incidents into a connected story in which the absence of unmentioned details is not allowed to mar the flow of the narrative.

Perhaps the most obvious instance of this is to be seen at Luke 24:50ff where it would be possible to infer (though Luke does n...

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