I recently read a book that postulated there is no "historical" evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. There is reported evidence, of course, found in the bible. This is not technically the same as historical evidence. For example I could write that the moon is made of green cheese. I could even start a religion based on the notion that the moon is made of green cheese. Historians could later find documents where I coherently laid out my belief system based on the moon being made of green cheese. None of that information, however, would provided historical evidence that the moon at some time was made of green cheese.
So, one wonders, why then would the story have circulated all these years that Jesus was raised from the dead? There are a number of important reasons. Let's start with: it's miraculous. IF you want to have an impressive religion, miracles are it. Joseph Smith certainly understood that when he reported reading golden tablets. The historical Buddha, did not, because his brand of resurrection was available to everyone, and repackaged as "reincarnation."
Another important reason, is that Jesus' resurrection is part and parcel to the doctrine manufactured by the apostle Paul. Paul was not one of the original apostles. During Jesus' lifetime, Paul was not even a periphery follower. We have no evidence they ever met. We have a report from Paul that on the road to Damascus he saw a vision of Jesus, or the resurrected Christ. From the auspicious meeting, Paul changed his whole life and single handedly guided the new church away from traditional Judaism to the Christian religion, distinct and popular with gentiles.
The early church struggled with the question of whether new converts needed to become Jewish before they would become Christian. It would seem the obvious answer is "yes." After all, if you don't buy that the 10 commandments have any validity, then why would you even care about the most important two that Jesus admonishes his followers to follow? If you don't buy that the books of the Torah have any validity, then why would you care about a Jewish Preacher, condemned by Roman authorities to die, who counseled people to the "know" the scripture? Interestingly, Paul takes the opposite tack. He firmly stands on the side of no conversion necessary.
He counsels against gentile believers keeping kosher or getting circumcised. Faith in Jesus, belief that he was the Passover lamb, come to save people of their sin is all Paul believed was necessary. This whole sale tossing of peculiar Jewish ritual is what caused a new religion to be created in barely a century from the death of Jesus. Nothing in Jesus original message was about "Christianity." Jesus was a Jewish man, born of Jewish parents who preached to Jewish audiences about their teachings and beliefs. The New Religion, was shaped by Paul.
So, if Jesus was NOT resurrected, what other possible explanations are there to the tomb being empty? The simplest explanation might be that the body had been removed. By whom? Any number of people. Perhaps by followers who wished to bury him in a secret location. Perhaps by Jews who wanted to dissuade people from worshipping at the grave. Perhaps by Roman soldiers to desecrate the body. Perhaps by relatives of Joseph of Arimathea who did not wish to have the body there. All rather far fetched explanations you may complain. But if you have never heard of the Christian religion, if we were talking about a regular body, would you find my explanations more plausible more reasonable than a body coming back to life?
Why then would no story have come up to explain the loss of the body? Perhaps because no authorities knew about it? Perhaps because none of the followers knew about it? Perhaps because the story of the resurrection was too key to the new young religion. Perhaps because the people who removed the body had been killed accidently or by Roman soldiers before anyone learned what they were doing? Perhaps because there was a report which was erased by time.
Or what about another explanation altogether â€“ what if the body was still in the tomb? How do we really know it ever removed? We know because the gospels say so, you might argue. But do they? Each gospel tells a very different version of what happened. Who was there? Only Mary? Mary and some women? Mary and one other woman? What did they see? An angel? Two angels? A young man? If every detail is different and in question â€“ how do we know the body was really missing? Are we basing our belief on a document first written down 40 to a hundred years after the death of Christ, certainly penned by no one who was present at the tomb the next morning? At any rate, the gospels we have are not originals dating from the time of Christ. They are copies of copies of copies of this tale heard second hand.
Think on this: if you were asked to write about your family's history, you may have a grandmother or grandfather you could ask questions of. You might even video tape them to make sure you got every word exactly correct that they uttered. But how accurate are their memories of something they heard an older person tell them 40 or 50 years ago, regarding an event they did not personally witness? Do you start to see how the story of the tomb may be slightly exaggerated? Especially in light of the fact that certain people had a strong agenda to create a mythology around the story of Christ?It's radical to think we've all been had. So what if it's true then? He conquered death. If he conquered death, why isn't he around? People will say they have talked to him, as real as you or me. They will base their life's decisions on answers received in prayer. Some people feel they touched and spoke to living Jesus, but usually the truth is it's more like a dream or vision. . . isn't it possible, entirely possible that the early believers experienced the same thing?