In this final post to our investigation into the women at the empty tomb, we will look at two rebuttals to the challenges raised to our historical argument from the last post. After offering a rebuttal to both of those arguments, we will conclude with inferring the best explanation for all the evidence we have surveyed.

There are two rebuttals to these objections. For the former objections there is no sting when one realizes that the reason for the writing and retelling of the empty tomb narratives is not for insiders of the Christian faith, but for outsiders. As N. T. Wright rebuts, this argument “suggests that the implied reader of the narrative is someone who is already within the Christian fold, which John at least explicitly denies (20.31).”[1] There is thus a confusion in this argument about the role of the narratives in the Gospels. Arguably, the Gospels were not written for insiders, but for outsiders to believe the good news of Jesus. However, this would be made more difficult with the inclusion of the story of the women, since it is their credibility that would come into question. The latter argument suffers from the fact that there is no good historical reason to suppose the disciples went to Galilee. All the New Testament sources suppose the disciples were in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ burial and the discovery of the empty tomb. As Wedderburn notes, “Nothing therefore compels us…to say that the male disciples all immediately made a beeline for Galilee; almost everything in the Gospels’ accounts in fact presuppose that they did not.”[2]

As we conclude, we summarize that the examined evidence of the reliability of the Gospel’s writers named women as eye-witnesses, the low credibility given to women from first-century Greco-Roman sources, Jewish law, and Pseudo-Philo, as well as the weaknesses of the objections to the role that the criterion of embarrassment would play in recording these narratives leads one to an inference to the best explanation of the data: A group of women, including Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb on the first day of the week and found it empty. Thus, what the disciples and others have heard as “nonsense,” we hear as history.

What do you think of this conclusion? Does the examined historical evidence over the last week lead you to the same conclusion? If no, why not? Please let me know in the comment below!

Footnotes:

[1] N. Wright, “Resurrecting Old Arguments: Responding to Four Essays,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 3, no. 2 (June 1, 2005), 221.

[2] A. J. M. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999).