Does the empty tomb really matter? Asking the same question at Christmas with regard to the Virgin Birth, we found that (in addition to the implied bearing on the truth of Scripture) most important matters of faith and theology are involved. Can we say the same at Easter in relation to this miraculous sign at the end of the life of Jesus? Or is the empty tomb something which, though we accept it because it is recorded in Scripture, has little or no bearing on faith or confession?
Now it may be negatively granted that as the Virgin Birth is not the Incarnation, so the empty tomb is not the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the actual rising and leaving of the tomb, which are not described in the Bible. These are not quite the same thing as the resultant emptiness of the tomb and its discovery. In our anxiety to see the importance of the latter, we must be careful not to equate it with the former.
Two points, however, are to be considered. First, the empty tomb, even more conspicuously than the Virgin Birth, belongs indissolubly to the apostolic and scriptural tradition which proclaims the Resurrection. Thus, to disentangle the one from the other does violence to the evangelical record as a whole. And to reject the one is necessarily to reject the other. Second, while the story of an empty tomb does not prove a resurrection, the story of the Resurrection could hardly carry much credence were the tomb still occupied. Strained explanations of the empty tomb may be invented at a pinch, but there can be no effective proclamation of the Resurrection that does not include the story of the empty tomb. Denial of the latter implies rejection of the former. The empty tomb is an indispensable sign or accompanying phenomenon of the Resurrection. ...1
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