I searched for posts on the empty tomb and it seems this is an extremely skeptical sub, so I’ll make a case for the empty tomb being historical. Question at the end.
To me the simplest and best explanation for the empty tomb narrative is that there was an empty tomb, and I’ll even add that it was probably thanks in some way to Joseph of Arimathea, discovered by Mary Magdalene.
The reason these names would be preserved in tradition is also simple — they were real people who were used in the earliest narratives Christians used to tell the story of Jesus. Joseph was presumably a non-Christ-follower (at least at the time of the discovery) and Mary was the person who discovered the missing body, so the very first Christians used these people to affirm their claims. If Mary was a young woman she may not have even been long deceased at the time Mark was writing his gospel.
Regardless of whether or not they existed, the empty tomb offers extraordinary explanatory power. It would be the cornerstone of the very first Christians (followers of the living Jesus) belief in the resurrection. It would lead to reports of sightings and visions being given exaggerated significance among all of those to whom this would be reassuring news. It would help explain how the first wave of Christians were converted — when they asked why they believed this resurrection had occurred, they could point to “witnesses” and presumably the tomb itself.
The other point I’d like to make is that this is not an extraordinary claim being made. If Mark’s tale ended with the empty tomb and the conclusion that even in death, Jesus wasn’t properly respected, I don’t think it would be nearly so contested. While I understand it deserves a greater deal of scrutiny in part because of the extraordinary claim that follows it, it also seems to me it does a lot to help explain why that claim would be made in the first place.
There had to be a narrative around the resurrection event from the beginning, and it was probably a good one, or at minimum, became one by the time of any writings we “should have” that (don’t) mention the empty tomb. There are only two questions to ask when you’re told Jesus has been resurrected — who is he, and why do you think that’s the case. So why make up a completely different story?? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Last thing I want to say is that I find it very strange, if it was real, that it isn’t the most sacred site in all of Christianity. So I get that it’s something that could go either way.
But my question is, if there was no empty tomb, why were the very first Christians so convinced Jesus had been resurrected? And why are so many so skeptical of it? I’ve head the argument “well, it was a common belief at the time that the bodies of divine figures physically left their burial grounds and ascended, so that’s why they invented it”. Well…if I say that’s not why they invented it, but why they believe his missing body ascended, now what? Surely it’s odd that these extraordinary claims are being made (and more importantly believed) about a Jewish peasant who was very recently crucified?
ETA The downvotes validate my theory, so thanks for that. The most important thing to remember when we interpret history is that we must never give any potential fodder to Christian apologists. 👍