First, the Jewish sources that we have examined admit the empty tomb, thereby providing evidence from hostile documents. Josephus notes the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection, while the Toledoth Jesuspecifically acknowledges the empty tomb. Justin Martyr and Tertullian confirm Matthew 28:11–15 by asserting that Jewish leaders were still admitting the empty tomb over a century later. While these Jewish sources (with the exception of Josephus) teach that the body was stolen or moved, they still admit the empty tomb.
Second, there are apparently no ancient sources that assert that the tomb still contained Jesus’ body. While such an argument from silence does not prove anything, it is made stronger by the first consideration from the hostile sources and further complements it.
Third, our study has shown that Jesus taught in Palestine and was crucified and buried in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate. These sources assert that Christianity had its beginnings in the same location. But could Christianity have survived in this location, based on its central claim that Jesus was raised from the dead, if his tomb had not been empty?
91 Cf. Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review, pp. 199–200.
It must be remembered that the resurrection of the body was the predominant view of first century Jews. To declare a bodily resurrection if the body was still in a nearby tomb points out the dilemma here. Of all places, evidence was readily available in Jerusalem to disprove this central tenet of Christian belief. The Jewish leaders had both a motive and the means to get such evidence if it were available. As expressed by historian Paul Maier, speaking of the birth of Christianity: But this is the very lastplace it could have started if Jesus’ tomb had remained occupied, since anyone producing a dead Jesus would have driven a wooden stake through the heart of an incipient Christianity inflamed by his supposed resurrection.^92