Some skeptics argue for the separation of religion and science based on the assertion that religious beliefs are not subject to objective testing—either verification or falsification—as scientific hypotheses are. Christianity, however, stands apart. It is possible, theoretically, to falsify Christianity’s core doctrines.
For example, if Jesus of Nazareth’s bodily resurrection from the dead could be convincingly disproved then the Christian faith would be, for all intents and purposes, falsified. Paul asserts this possibility in his writings (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). So it’s important for believers to be prepared to respond to various attempts at explaining away this pivotal historic event.
Some skeptics suggest that amid the grief and confusion of the crucifixion, the women who followed Jesus mistook the location of his burial cave and went to the wrong one, which they found and reported as “empty.” This scenario seems unlikely on two counts: first, these women would have watched carefully where the body was laid because they planned to return with spices, perhaps before daylight; second, their plan involved considerable expense—including the cost of the spices and the mortal danger of being caught by Jesus’ enemies, both Roman and Jewish.
Even in the unlikely event of misidentified location, substantial challenges remain. Joseph of Arimathea, the tomb’s owner, could certainly have redirected Jesus’ followers to the correct location. The disciples would not have taken the women’s word without checking. Further, the Roman soldiers assigned to guard Jesus’ tomb would not have been posted at the wrong tomb. Given that the Jewish and Roman officials were more than eager to quash Christianity, they would have made every effort to find the right tomb (and the body) and, thus, put an end to this troublesome “sect” before it really got off the ground.
This wrong tomb hypothesis offers no explanation for the subsequent actions of Christ’s enemies, the transformation of Jesus’ followers, or the rise of the Christian movement. It plays fast and loose with both facts and logic. There must be a better explanation. Look for examinations of other resurrection alternatives in future issues of Reasons.