Against the Historical Plausibility of the Empty Tomb Story and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus: A Response to N.T. Wright

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
James Crossley University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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Wright's recent book on the resurrection is the most important defence of the historical accuracy of the empty tomb and the bodily resurrection. However, his arguments do not stand up to close scrutiny. Sufficient attention is not paid to the importance of Jewish and pagan legendary traditions concerning great figures of the past. Unlike non-Christian traditions, the Gospel narratives are never treated with any decree of scepticism (not even Mt. 27.52-53) which is a dubious practice for a historian. The earliest evidence for the empty tomb has no genuine eyewitness support (in contrast to the resurrection appearances) and Mk 16.8 suggests that the story was not well known. The first resurrection appearances are more likely to be visionary experiences interpreted as a bodily raised figure, which meant that the early accounts of Paul and Mark could assume an empty tomb even if historically this was not the case.

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