This photo, taken on my recent third trip to Israel, gives a good perspective of Jerusalem at the time of Christ's death. It is a view of Old Jerusalem from the Tower of David or Jerusalem Citadel. This tower had nothing to do historically with King David, dating to the Byzantine and Islamic occupation of Jerusalem, but is a great viewing platform today.
The golden Dome of the Rock toward the right is on the Temple Mount where Herod’s Temple stood. The grey domes on the left are part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was first built in 335 AD by the Emperor Constantine on the site where Emperor Hadrian had constructed a temple to Artemis or Venus after the Bar Kokhba revolt of 135 AD. Hadrian built it over the place revered by Christians as Christ’s tomb. Since that was only about 40 years after the death of the Apostle John and well within the lifetime of those who knew the apostles personally, it seems certain that they would have known the exact tomb. Thus I believe the Catholic Church got that one right, and that is indeed the location where Christ was crucified and was buried in a tomb nearby (John 19:41-42). Boundary walls of the Venus temple have been found among the archaeological remains beneath the church (Virgilio Carbo, The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, 1981).
The tomb was only a stone’s throw from the Temple where the curtain was rent in twain at His death, signifying the opening of the way to God for believing sinners through Christ's atonement.
“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51).
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
There is no logical explanation for the empty tomb other than the resurrection.
The Jews didn’t steal it, because they wanted to prove that He did not rise. They took every precaution to prevent such an event, and after the stone was rolled away the the guards fled, they had to create the lie that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:11-15). If Jesus’ body was located anywhere, they would have searched it out with all diligence and produced it.
The Roman government had no motive to remove it. The highest Roman authority in Judea had ordered Jesus’ crucifixion because of His claim to to kingship and had sealed the tomb for good measure.
As for Christ’s apostles, it makes no sense that they would steal it. First, they were hiding in fear for their lives. Second, they had no opportunity, because the tomb was sealed and guarded. Third, they had no leader who could have envisioned and accomplished such a thing. Peter was a broken man at that point and had given up his discipleship to Jesus to go back to fishing (John 21:3). Fourth, they would have been fools to have suffered and died for a lie! The disciples didn’t suffer for what others had seen, such as Muslims who die for the Koran; they died for what they had professedly seen themselves (Acts 4:18-20). We must not forget what the early Christians suffered for their testimony that Christ rose from the dead. They were denounced by family and friends, hated by and considered the enemies of society, tortured, kept imprisoned for years in dark, rat-infested cells. Their property was confiscated; they were crucified, burned alive, torn apart by wild beasts, chopped into pieces, roasted on racks; their tongues were torn out and their eyes put out. The also had to endure the torture and death of beloved family members. Fifth, it would have been impossible for such a large number of people to have kept the secret hidden. “Even if it had been possible, and the disciples the men to do it, the subsequent history of Christianity would have been different. Sooner or later, someone who knew the facts would have been unable to keep them hidden” (Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?). Sixth, a great moral religion like we find in the New Testament, which exalts truth and honesty, could not have been founded upon a despicable deception.
Just weeks after Christ’s crucifixion, only a stone’s throw from the empty tomb itself, Peter publicly proclaimed the resurrection and 3,000 believed, followed a little later by “a great company of priests” and “a great number” more (Acts 2:37-42; 6:7; 11:21). All of the people were aware of Christ’s tomb. If anyone could have produced a body or come up with a reasonable account for it being missing, they would have!
Many lawyers have analyzed the evidence from a legal standpoint and have concluded that the evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. We give eight examples in the free eBook Questions Answered on the Bible and Christianity.
For example, Simon Greenleaf, Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University, was one of the most celebrated legal minds of America. In 1846 he published An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice.
“All that Christianity asks of men is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses [to the Resurrection] be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth” (An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists).
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:22-36).
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