Was The Tomb Really Empty? -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:1 (Winter 1977)
Article: Was The Tomb Really Empty?
Author: Robert H. Stein

Was The Tomb Really Empty?

Robert H. Stein*

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). For Christians the resurrection of Jesus constitutes the foundation stone of faith. Apart from the resurrection there is no gospel, no “good news,” for apart from Easter there is no hope but, as witnessed to by the first disciples, only despair. Yet the resurrection turned fearful and despondent men into men of courage and confidence, men who believed that the resurrection not only verified all that Jesus had said and taught but assured them of the defeat of death and the guarantee that they would share in this great victory of their Lord (John 14:19).

Evangelical apologetics has sought to support the historicity, the “facticity,” of the resurrection by means of several arguments. The most important of these arguments in the NT is the resurrection appearances. (Note the pre-Pauline creedal formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3–11, especially vv 5–8.) Attempts to explain these appearances by means of apostolic fraud, hallucinations and visions, or parapsychology have never been convincing, and evangelicals have been quick to point out the inadequacy of such rationalistic attempts.1

A second argument in support of the resurrection is the existence of the Church. How does one explain such a phenomenon as the Church? Apart from the resurrection it is perhaps conceivable that a “memorial society” might have arisen to commemorate the death of a much-loved teacher, but there certainly would not have been a Church meeting daily to celebrate the breaking of bread “with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). The very existence of the Church witnesses to the fact of the resurrection.

A third witness to the resurrection is the existential experience of the risen Christ in the heart of the believer. As one familiar hymn states it, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” To those who would minimize this argument and reject it as unscientific and subjective, the evangelical would point out that millions of Christians have for nearly two thousand years made this very claim. It is a simple fact that throughout the history of the Church the single most important witness to the resurrection of Jesus has been the witness of the risen Christ within the heart of the believer!

A fourth argument for the resurrection is the witness of the empty tomb. If every effect has a caus...

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