On the third day after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the tomb in which he was buried was found to be empty. This is an accepted historical fact. Why was it empty? His followers claimed that He had risen from the dead. Some disagree. Whatever the case, the tomb was empty; so either He rose from the dead as His apostles said, or He did not.
Some of the arguments which try to explain the empty tomb without the Resurrection go thus;
The Apostles stole the body while the guards were asleep.”This theory was anticipated by the Jews who “gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, saying: Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep”[Matt 28; 12] (Catholic Encyclopaedia).
Objection; “To assume that the Apostles with a burden of this kind upon their consciences could have preached a kingdom of truth and righteousness as the one great effort of their lives, and that for the sake of that kingdom they could have suffered even unto death, is to assume one of those moral impossibilities which may pass for a moment in the heat of controversy, but must be dismissed without delay in the hour of good reflection.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia).
Besides, the Apostles were much too afraid to try anything of the sort, fearing that they would be killed for being Jesus’ followers. It is also silly to think that the soldiers had all conveniently fallen asleep on duty (a Roman soldier could be put to death for such an offence), and slept through the seal of the tomb being broken, the stone being rolled away, and the body being stolen.
Christ had not really died but had only lost consciousness, and then revived in the tomb.
Objection; It is ridiculous if one gives it more than a moment’s thought to believe that a man, after having lost so much blood, undergone such horrible torture, and having been pierced in the side with a spear to confirm His death, could have somehow fooled the Roman soldiers into thinking He was dead, and then been sealed in a tomb only to regain consciousness and somehow roll away the stone from the inside and slip past the guards, running away on feet which had been run through with nails.
The body was thrown in a ditch and was never buried with the criminals crucified with Him.
Objection; If such a thing had happened the teachings of the Apostles could have easily been proved false from the beginning if this fact was pointed out, or if the authorities retrieved the body. It would also mean that all of the Gospels from the point of the crucifixion onwards are completely fictitious.
We may also return to point one, that it is ridiculous, “To assume that the Apostles with a burden of this kind upon their consciences could have preached a kingdom of truth and righteousness as the one great effort of their lives…”
Some claim that the Apostles hallucinated, and only thought they saw Christ risen, that “they treasured the memory of Christ with a fondness which made it almost impossible for them to believe that He was gone.”(Catholic Encyclopaedia).
Objection; The Apostles had fled when He had been taken away; Peter had thrice denied that he knew Him, and only John stood at the foot of the Cross. They were not in a hopeful state of mind, to them all seemed lost, and as such they were not joyfully awaiting His resurrection, for though He had spoken of it to them they had not understood.
All these theories fail to explain the empty tomb and also, the Church, which through the ages has gone through persecutions and trials which should have killed it, yet somehow, it has risen again like its Master after each apparent defeat. What must be explained is how a small group of fishermen and others, none particularly learned, went from hiding in the upper room of a house for fear of being killed, to going out fearlessly into the world to preach Christ crucified and Risen, even unto death. “If their testimony is not true, what testimony is true? If we doubt the simple, definite, unanimous story of the Evangelists, the blood-sealed testimony of the Apostles, can we believe anything?” (Catholic Apologetics – Fr, John Laux)
“Only the Resurrection was mighty enough to induce the disciples to believe in the Church and the future of Christianity; as for us, we are certain that Christ rose from the dead, because we see the Church” (St. Augustine)
Scientific Evidence For the Resurrection of Christ?
Christ’s body was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb before nightfall without being properly cleaned or prepared for burial because it was the day before the Sabbath, on which no work was allowed. That is why the women returned on the Sunday, the day after the Sabbath to anoint the body. As such Christ’s body would have been placed on a shroud, a long piece of line, the remaining length being folded to cover the body to remain there until it could be properly attended. On Easter Sunday morning, when the other disciple (John) looked into the empty tomb after Peter, he saw the cloths neatly folded and he believed, [John 20; 6-9].
Though its early history is not certain, a linen shroud, more commonly known as the Shroud of Turin, has been displayed as the burial cloth of Christ since the 14th century. On its surface is the faint image of a man, back and front who has apparently undergone some terrible physical trauma, wounds in feet and wrists suggesting crucifixion.
Carbon 14 tests done in 1988 dated the shroud to the middle ages, but many argue that this could be due to the fact the Shroud had been exposed to extreme heat in a 1532 fire, and also the smoke of candles and incense through the years. More recently
others have claimed that it may in fact date to the 1st century, making it old enough to be the burial cloth of Christ. In 1898 the Shroud was photographed for the first time, and while developing the image, the photographer was astounded at what he saw staring at him for the negative.
Watch: Secrets of the Shroud Revisited Part 1 (EWTN’s Women of Grace show)