There is little to no debate among both Christian and non-Christian historians on the facts of Jesus’ empty tomb. By contrast, there is widespread debate as to what best explains those facts.
The historical facts of Jesus’ death and empty tomb are these:
- Jesus was murdered and buried.
- Three days afterward, his body went missing.
- Accounts of Jesus’ appearance to both his disciples and unbelievers/skeptics were reported over the course of many days.
- These appearances transformed his followers and some previous skeptics into courageous preachers of Christianity, with Jesus’ resurrection becoming the central focus of their teaching.
Again, even atheist scholars acknowledge these points, such as the skeptic German historian Gerd Lüdemann who said, "It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."
The question is, what best explains these facts?
When examining rival theories on ancient events, historians oftentimes use the “cumulative case method”, which involves utilizing various criteria to help arrive at a conclusion on a particular issue. These criteria generally focus on what explanation for a historical account is best at:
- Explanatory power.
- Explanatory scope.
- Not being ad-hoc.
- Not contradicting accepted beliefs.
- Far exceeding its rival theories in meeting those conditions.
When applied to the various hypotheses submitted to explain the empty tomb of Jesus, where does the evidence lead?
You can view and download all presentations completed so far in the Essential Apologetics series here.
 Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 80.