If Jesus Christ’s resurrection is true, why does he have two tombs?
The idea that Jesus’ followers found his tomb to be empty on the first Easter is one of the most important beliefs of Christianity.
For example, conservative Christian apologist Norman Anderson said, “The empty tomb stands, a veritable rock, as an essential element in the evidence for the resurrection”
And Brant Pitre, a Catholic theologian, said, “The empty tomb is a necessary condition for the Resurrection”
In other words, if there was no empty tomb, there was no resurrection.
This is, of course, not a problem for Christians. The tomb where Christ was buried has been visited by millions of Christians, including me. Here is a photo of myself at Jesus’ tomb, taken while I was on a trip with my Southern Baptist church youth group in 1972. I saw with my own eyes that it was empty. The man on my right, just entering the tomb, was my pastor, who assured all of us that this really was the place where Jesus was resurrected.
The place where we went was called “The Garden Tomb”.
The Garden Tomb is located in Jerusalem. Here is a Google Earth Satellite Photo of its location.
After I got back to my home in the United States, I enthusiastically shared my experience with my friends. But my Catholic friends told me that they believed in a completely different tomb. Their tomb was in a large building called “The Church of the Holy Sepulcher”.
So I checked and, sure enough, there really is a big building in Jerusalem called “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre”.
This church is in Jerusalem, but it is not very close to the Garden Tomb. In fact, it is about 600 meters south of the Garden Tomb.
Who is right? I took this trip in 1972, long before the internet. So I had to do some investigation.
The only evidence that I could find in support the Garden Tomb was that my pastor and the tour guide at the Garden tomb said it was the real one, and that many Protestant and Mormon Christians believed it was. But it is much too old, because archaeologists estimate that it was made in the 7th or 8th century B.C. The Gospel of John clearly says that Jesus’ tomb was a “new” tomb. The evidence is profound and unambiguous. The Garden Tomb can NOT be the “real” tomb of Christ.
What about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? There is a lot more history behind the church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built in the fourth century and is believed by the vast majority of Christians to be the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb.
Why do the Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic churches claim that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb?
Surprisingly, they do not base their claim on the Bible. There are good reasons for this.
The Bible gives no hint of the location of Jesus Christ’s tomb. The Epistles never mention it and never claim that their authors had actually seen it. In fact, none of the Epistles mentions even mention it. Although the Book of Acts mentions it once, never mentions anyone actually seeing it, and gives no hint of where it is. And the Gospels, the only books of the Bible that make any claims about Christ’s tomb, give no hint about where it was
So why did Christians decide to build this big church in this particular spot? The evidence for this claim can be easily divided into two categories. First, historical evidence. Second, the “holy fire”, an annual miracle that Christians believe that God performs every Easter at the church. Let’s start with the historical evidence.
Around 325 A.D., Helena, the mother of emperor Constantine, had a dream in which she believed that God told her to go to Jerusalem . Constantine gave her unlimited funding for her trip.
When Helena got to Jerusalem, one of the first things that she did was ask to see where Jesus had been buried. Unfortunately, Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, did not know where the tomb was! In fact, nobody knew where it was!!
How did Helena decide where Jesus’ tomb was? History provides two or three different explanations. One explanation was provided by Rufinus of Aquileia, who said it was a “sign from Heaven”.
A slightly different version is reported by Sozomen, who said that God revealed it by “signs and dreams”.
But Sozomen also provides an intriguing alternative explanation. He reports that some people believed that a Hebrew was the only one who knew!! Who was this mysterious Jew?
His name was Judas Kyraikos. According to ancient manuscripts, he did not give up this knowledge willingly. Helena had to torture him for 7 days and threaten to burn to death all of the Jews in Jerusalem before he told her.
But the story has a happy ending. When they found Jesus’ tomb, which contained the three crosses described in the Gospels, Judas became a Christian.
Helena then fired Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem
And made Judas the new bishop of Jerusalem, where he served until he died.
Then the church declared Judas to be a Saint and his mummified body is supposedly preserved in a Catholic church in Ancona, Italy.
So, ancient history provides three explanations about how Helena found the location of Jesus’ tomb. It was either a sign from Heaven, signs and dreams, or the torture-induced words of a Jew. All of these stories have the same basic claim:
In the entire Roman Empire and the entire Christian church, in 325 A.D., there was NOT ONE person who remembered, NOT ONE document that recorded, where Jesus’ tomb was, with the dubious exception of a single person who was not even a Christian and said so only after seven days of brutal Roman torture!!
Please do not underestimate the significance of what I am saying. I am not saying merely that no ancient document survives today, in modern times, that reliably tells us where Christ’s tomb was, although that is in fact true. What history tells us is that Helena had the resources of the entire Roman empire behind her, and unlimited funding from her son, the Emperor, and the entire Christian church with all its scholars and manuscripts. Helena’s team had access to thousands of Roman manuscripts, official records and maps, as well as millions of Christians, thousands of Christian manuscripts and hundreds of Christian scholars and historians, but nobody knew where Christ’s tomb was!! Nobody could find one bit of reliable evidence about where Christ’s tomb was, less than 300 years after Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected.
In addition to the Bible, there was a very large volume of other Christian writings available to the church in 325 A.D. Not one of them ever claims to have visited Christ’s tomb, or to have known where it was. These authors include Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Tertullian, Origen, Ignatius, Papias, Justin, Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria, and many many more.
Can this really be true? Can it really be true that the location of the most important event in history was forgotten, even by the Christians in the Jerusalem church living less than a mile from it and maybe even on top of it? What do Christianity’s defenders say about this complete absence of evidence?
Mostly, they don’t say anything. Conservative Christian apologists rarely mention the fact that nobody knew where Christ’s tomb was, even when they are trying to defend the Resurrection. For example, this important fact is completely missing from “I believe in the resurrection” by George Eldon Ladd, “Jesus resurrection fact or figment” by William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann, “The Resurrection Factor” by Josh McDowell, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” by Habermas and Flew, and even Michael Lincona’s 700 page treatise, “The resurrection of Jesus, a new historiographical approach”.
I did find this interesting admission by conservative Christian Frank Morrison, in his book “Who moved the Stone”, which is quoted in Evidence the Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.
“Consider first the small but highly significant fact that not a trace exists in the Acts, or the Missionary Epistles, or in any apocryphal document of indisputably early date, of anyone going to pay homage at the shrine of Jesus Christ. It is remarkable – this absolutely unbroken silence concerning the most sacred place in Christian memory. Would no woman, to whom the Master’s form was a hallowed recollection, even wish to spend a few moments at that holy site? Would Peter and John and Andrew never feel the call of a sanctuary that held all that was mortal of the Great Master? Would Saul himself, recalling his earlier arrogance and self-assurance, not have made one solitary journey and shed hot tears of repentance for his denial of the Name? If these people really knew that the Lord was buried there, it is very very strange.”
I also found the following statement from James Dunn in his book, The Evidence for Jesus, where he said, “For the period covered by the New Testament and other earliest Christian writings, there is no evidence whatsoever for Christians regarding the place where Jesus had been buried as having any special significance. No practice of tomb veneration, or even meeting for worship at Jesus’ tomb is attested for the first Christians”
How could Christians forget this? There are several possibilities.
First, the Romans, who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and 135 AD, might have destroyed everything so completely that the tomb was hidden under debris. Also, all possible landmarks, which could have been used to determine the location of the tomb, might have been destroyed.
Second, the maybe the Christian church ceased to exist in Jerusalem and nearby areas, for several generations, because of the Roman conquests, causing this knowledge to be lost.
The third theory is that Christ’s tomb was not important to early Christians because it was empty. Let’s start with theory #1.
Theory #1 says that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem so completely that Christ’s tomb was covered with debris, or possibly destroyed, and, more importantly, all landmarks which might have helped identify the location of the tomb were also destroyed.
This argument does not work because the Romans left quite a few landmarks when they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 and 135 A.D. A partial list of these includes:
The Tower of David
The Western Wall of the Temple, also known as the “Wailing Wall”.
The Garden of Gethsemane
The Struthion Pool
The Tombs of the Kings
The tombs of Zechariah and Ben Hazir
And the Silwan Necropolis.
This is just a partial list, with their approximate locations in Jerusalem on a Google Earth satellite photo. I think you get the idea. There were lots of landmarks that Christians could have used to say that Jesus’ tomb was “300 feet east of the Tower of David” or “200 feet south of Huldah Gates”.
It would have been very easy for first, second, third and fourth century Christians to identify the location of Jesus’ tomb from the relative positions of nearby landmarks which were no more than a few hundred feet away.
So theory #1 doesn’t work. Let’s move on to Theory #2. Church might have ceased to exist in Jerusalem and nearby areas for several generations because of Roman destruction of Jerusalem
The problem here is that we have very good historical evidence that the Christian church in Jerusalem did in fact continue to exist even though the Romans had twice laid waste to Jerusalem and much of Judea. The Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea gives us some valuable information about the Jerusalem church.
He even provides a list of the Christian bishops of the church of Jerusalem, from the Apostolic age until 325 A.D.
So what happened to the church when Rome conquered Jerusalem? Why weren’t they killed with the Jews?
Two different ancient Christian historians provide an answer. And there is even an answer in the Bible.
According to Eusebius, the Jerusalem church was miraculously warned before the war to leave and move to a city named Pella.
Epiphanius says about the same thing.
So where was Pella? It was a city in Decapolis, about 50 miles northeast of Jerusalem. The important thing about Decapolis is that it was a semi-independent part of the Roman Empire, and was not part of Judea. So the Roman legions that destroyed Jerusalem did not bother anything in Decapolis. The Bible says that Jesus visited Decapolis, so there may have already been some Christians there.
The Bible also gives us some hints as to what happened to the Jerusalem church when Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem. Luke 21:20-21 says, "...when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city" . The Gospels of Matthew and Mark say something similar. Conservative Christians believe this is a prophecy. Liberal Bible scholars say that is was written in hindsight. Either way, it gives us a pretty good idea of what the Christian church did.
Epiphanius even tells us that Christians came back from Pella to Jerusalem.
So, what happened to the church when Rome destroyed Jerusalem? They went to Pella and came back when it was safe.
There is one more reason why Theory #2 just doesn’t work, because it is also virtually certain that older generations of the Jerusalem church would have told younger generations about the location of Christ’s tomb, and also written it down on papyrus or parchment, and maybe even in stone, so that this important knowledge would never be lost, even if they did have to spend several generations in exile.
So theory number two is contradicted by very good historical evidence. We have a continuous list of its leaders from the middle of the first century through the time of Helena’s visit, and we have very good explanations of why Christians were not harmed when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Also, theory #2 is contradicted by the common sense explanation that Jerusalem Christians would have passed this important knowledge to younger generations of Christians, verbally and in writing
Let’s move on to Theory #3.
This is the only theory that we’ve been able to find, that Christian apologists have actually tried to use. This is strange, because it is the weakest of all three of the theories that are presented in this video. It does, however, have the advantage of not requiring the apologist to mention any actual facts to support his argument. That’s a good thing for them, because, as we have seen, there are NOT any historical facts to support the existence or location of Christ’s tomb . But I digress. Conservative Christian Norman Anderson says, “They [early Christians] … knew that his [Christ’s] body was not there, and must have concluded that a visit to the tomb would be pointless.”
And we have a rather vague statement by Josh McDowell, “To the critic of the resurrection, this extraordinary silence of antiquity concerning the later history of the grave of Jesus produces, I’m sure, a feeling of profound disquiet and unrest”. This statement is ironic, because it is Christianity's defenders who should be feeling “profound disquiet and unrest” if this is the best argument they can come up with.
This theory is wrong for at least three reasons. First, memorials to dead people are important, even if there is no body present, because visiting these memorials fulfill a basic human need. Second, many other places that Jesus visited have been memorialized, even though he is no longer there. Third, this assumes that human nature changed suddenly and completely in 325 A.D., because Constantine was willing to go to the expense of spending huge amounts of money to build a large, fancy church on the site that they believed to be Jesus’ tomb, which has been visited by literally millions of Christians since it was built almost 1700 years ago.
Jerusalem and Judea have several examples of so-called “tombs” which actually have no bodies in them. One good example is the tomb of Zachariah, which we have already briefly discussed. It is located just southeast of the old city wall and is actually a solid, carved rock. There was never a body in it because it is solid rock.
Another good example is the tomb of the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, which is also located just outside the walls of Jerusalem. The ancient church believed that this tomb never contained Mary’s body, because they believed that Mary’s body was taken directly to Heaven at the moment she died. This is called “The “Assumption of Mary”.
This is not unusual. There are at least 20 memorials to people who drowned when the Titanic sank, in at least 5 different countries, most of which do not contain any human remains.
And let’s not forget that Washington D.C. has memorials to Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, even though Lincoln is buried in Illinois, and Washington and Jefferson are buried on their respective plantations in Virginia. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. These memorials fulfill basic human needs and are visited by millions of people every year, even though not one of them has never contained the actual dead body of the person it memorializes.
So let’s move on to the second reason why theory #3 doesn’t work. Many other places that Jesus visited are memorialized, even though he is no longer there. This includes the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, the Mount of Transfiguration and many, many others.
And last but not least, Theory #3 assumes that human nature suddenly reversed itself in 325 A.D., so much so that they built an enormous, hugely expensive church on the site where they thought Jesus had been buried. Not only has this site been visited by millions of Christians for almost 1700 years, the alternative site, the Garden Tomb, has been visited by millions of Bible-believing Christians, including me, since archaeologists dug it up a century and a half ago, and in spite of the fact that there is no evidence that it was ever Jesus Christ’s tomb.
Let’s briefly review the Biblical and historical evidence for the existence of Christ’s tomb. First, there is the Bible, which refers to it in the Gospels, which discuss it in some detail, but do not provide any information about where it was, the book of Acts, which mention it only once, without actually saying where it was or whether anyone ever went there. Then there are the Epistles of the Apostles, which never mention it.
Then there is the historical evidence, or lack thereof. Even Christians admit that “not a trace of historical record of Christ’s tomb exists in any document of indisputably early date”. The best that Christianity can do is to come up with obviously faked legends about Constantine’s mother, which do nothing but confirm that nobody knew where Christ’s tomb was in 325 A.D.
And Christianity’s defenders offer no plausible theory as to why everyone forgot where Christ’s tomb was.
But there is one last thing that the church does to try to prove that they know where Christ’s tomb is. It is the annual Easter miracle of the Holy Fire.
This happens every year. On the Saturday before Easter, a priest goes into the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and God miraculously lights a candle, which only the priest witnesses. Don’t miss that part.
Only the priest ever sees God light the first candle. Nobody else sees God light the first candle. Yeah, right. The priest then lets everyone else light their candles from this miraculous fire.
How do we know that this is really from God? Because THE FIRE WON’T BURN YOU. I’m not making this up. People actually believe this. There are many videos on YouTube about this. The church teaches that THIS FIRE WILL NOT BURN YOU and encourages good Christians to test this belief, which we can see here in these video clips.
Here’s another one.
And yet another victim, the guy in the white t-shirt, trying to burn himself. I could go on, but you get the idea. There are lots of videos about this on YouTube, and lots of web sites that discuss it. You can do your own search if you want to. The church does this disgusting fraud every year on the Saturday before Easter, and expects two billion Christians to believe that this deliberate lie proves that Jesus Christ rose from the grave.
Now, back to the original question: If Jesus Christ’s resurrection is true, why does he have two tombs?
We’ve seen that the Bible gives no hint as to the tomb’s location and that most of the books of the New Testament don’t even mention it. We’ve seen that no ancient historian or theologian ever claimed to have even seen it, and the only so-called evidence is a fakey legend that only shows that nobody knew where it was in 325 A.D. We’ve seen that Christianity’s modern defenders have no plausible explanation for why everyone forgot where the tomb was, and we’ve seen that the church itself, to this day, perpetrates a tawdry, obvious, insulting and dangerous fraud to deceive people into believing that God lights a candle at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre every Easter, as proof that their tomb is the correct one.
So there are two possible explanations about why Jesus has two tombs: Either everyone forgot where it was, or there never was a tomb to begin with. If there was no tomb, then Christ’s resurrection is a myth and maybe even a fraud. Which explanation is the right one? We hope we’ve given you enough information to make a well informed decision.
Thank you for watching our video. For more interesting videos, and more interesting information about the Bible and Christianity, please visit our web site, freethinkersbooks.com. If you liked our video, please click the YouTube “Like” icon, subscribe to our YouTube channel and share our video with your friends. Thanks again.
If Jesus Christ's Resurrection Is True, Why Does He Have Two Tombs?
But Catholic and Orthodox scholars believe that Christ was buried at the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has been revered by Christians for almost 1,700 years.
Transcript of this video:
Where did Jesus Christ's resurrection happen? Even though the resurrection was the most important event in the history of the Universe, scholars disagree about where it happened, i.e., the location of Christ's tomb.
This video examines the historical evidence for both of these locations, and demonstrates that neither location is likely to be the tomb of Christ.
Information about Christ's tomb is strangely absent from early church history and the writings of early Christian historians and theologians. In fact, outside of the Bible, there is no evidence that anyone ever knew where Christ's tomb was. And even the Bible itself gives us good reasons to doubt that any of its writers knew the location of the miracle which is the basis for all Christian belief.
This historical silence, about such an important event, raises some disturbing questions about the Resurrection itself.
Most Protestant and Mormon scholars believe that Christ was buried at a place that they now call The Garden Tomb.