Security Precautions -
We will have a look at facts that will prove the Deity of Jesus. The following is taken from the Book "The Best of Josh McDowell, A ready Defense" compiled by Bill Wilson.. Starting with His trials. The following shows that there is no mistake about who was put to death. It is Jesus who died on the cross, and not a substitute, we will examine the facts that prove His resurrection.
Security Precaution #1
Jesus Christ went through six different trials. One was before Annas, the high priest (John 18:13), another was before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57), the third before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 16:59), the fourth before Pilate (Matthew 27:2), the fifth before Herod (Luke 23:7), and the sixth was back before Pilate (Luke 23:11-25). There were three Jewish trials and three Roman trials.
The Jewish legal system was made up of two different Sanhedrins. One Sanhedrin was composed of 23 members who tried cases involving capital punishment. The other Sanhedrin of 71 could serve as a trial court for cases involving the head of state, the high priest, or for offenses against the state of the Temple. The Sanhedrin of 71 could not try a case involving capital punishment. It was probably the Shanhedrin of 23 that tried Jesus. One was located in every major city in Judea
Finally after the six trials, the Jewish authorities, in conjunction with the Roman authorities, delivered Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26).
Various "security precautions" were taken to make sure that when Jesus was dead He would remain dead and buried.
Security Precaution #2
Death by Crucifixion
Alexander the Great introduced crucifixion into the Mediterranean world -- mainly Egypt and Carthage. From all indications, the Romans learned the practice from the Carthaginians.
A Cruel Death
Death by crucifixion developed into one of the world's most disgraceful and cruel methods of torture. Cicero called it "the most cruel an hideous of tortures". Will Durant wrote that "even the Romans ... pitied the victims.
Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, who was an advisor to Titus during the siege of Jerusalem, had observed many crucifixions and called them "the most wretched deaths".
The Custom of Whipping
After the verdict of crucifixion was pronounced by the court, it was customary to tie the accused to a post at the tribunal. The criminal was stripped of his clothes, then severely whipped by the lictors or scourgers.
The whip, known as a flagrum, had a sturdy handle to which were attached long leather thongs of varying lengths. Sharp, jagged pieces of bone and lead were woven into them. The Jews were limited by their law to 40 lashes. The Pharisees, with their emphasis on strict adherence to the law, would limit their lashes to 39, so that if they miscounted they would not break their law. The Romans had no such limitations. Out of disgust or anger, the Romans could totally ignore the Jewish limitation, and probably did so in the case of Jesus.
A Medical Perspective
Dr. C. Truman Davis, a medical doctor who has meticulously studied crucifixion from a medical perspective, describes the effects of the Roman flagrum used in whipping.
The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across a person's shoulders, back, and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
Eusebius, a third-century historian, confirms Dr. Davis's description when he writes: "The sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.
A Crown of Thorns
After placing the crown of thorns on Christ's head they began to mock Him saying, "Hail, the King of the Jews." They also spit on Him and beat Him with a rod. Then they led Him away to be crucified.
The Crossbar Burden
A man condemned to be crucified had to carry his own crossbar from prison to the place of his execution.
Dr. Pierre Barbet points out that "they began to use a long piece of wood, which was used for barring doors and was called the patibulum (from patere, to be open)." The patibulum weighed approximately 110 pounds and was strapped to the victim's shoulders.
Crucifixion With Nails
Upon reaching the execution site, the condemned person was nailed to bound by ropes to the cross. Many have questioned the historical accuracy of the nailing of the hands and feet. The reason for this skepticism is that there has been almost zero evidence of it in history.
Dr. J.W. Hewitt, in his Harvard Theological Review article entitled, "The Use of Nails in the Crucifixion," said, "To sum up, there is astonishingly little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails." He went on to say that the victim's hands and feet were bound by ropes to the cross. For years Dr. Hewitt's statement was quoted as the final word. The conclusion, therefore, was that the New Testament account of Christ being nailed to the cross was false and misleading. Crucifixion by use of nails was considered legendary. It was believed that nails would have ripped the flesh and could not have supported a body on the cross.
A Dead Man Speaks
Then, a revolutionary archaeological discovery was made in June 1968. Archeologist V. Tzaferis, under the direction of the Israeli Department of Antiquities and Museums, discovered four cave-rooms at the site of Giv'at-ha-mivtar (Ras el-Masaref) just north of Jerusalem near Mt. Scopus.
In Ossuary 4 of Tomb I, inscribed with the name Yohanan Ben Ha'galgal, were found the bones of an adult male and of a child. A large 7 inch spike had been driven through the heel bone, and both legs had been fractured. Haas reported: "Both the heel bones were found transfixed by a large iron nail. The shins were found intentionally broken. Death caused by crucifixion."
The bones in Ossuary 4 confirm another passage in the New Testament:
The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the man who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they say that He was already dead, they did not break His legs )John 19:32,33).
Purpose for Breaking the Legs
To understand why the legs were broken, one must study the means of execution. The soldiers would feel for the depression at the front of the wrist, then drive the heavy wrought iron spike through at that point. Next, the legs were placed together and a large nail was driven through them. The knees were left moderately flexed, and a seat (known as a sedecula) was attached to the cross for the buttocks of the victim.
Dr. Truman Davis, the M.D. whom I quoted before, describes what happens to the human body after a short time of exposure on the cross:
As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercoastal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
After a while, orthostatic collapse through insufficient blood circulation to the brain an heart would follow. The only way the victim could aboid this was to push up by his feet so the blood could be returned to some degree of circulation the upper part of his body.
When the authorities wanted to hasten death or terminate the torture, the victim's legs were broken below the knees with a club. This prevented him from pushing himself upward to relieve the tension on the pectoral or chest muscles. Either rapid suffocation or coronary insufficiency followed. In the case of Christ, the legs of the two thieves crucified with Him were broken, but Christ's were not because the executioners observed He was already dead.
Spilling of Blood and Water
One of the executioners thrust a spear into Christ's side, and as recorded in John 19:34, "Immediately there came out blood and water."
Davis relates that there was "an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. We, therefore, have rather conclusive postmortem evidence that Christ died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
A Job Well Done
Pilate required certification of Christ's death before the body could be turned over to Joseph of Arimathea. He consented to Christ's being removed from the cross only after four executioners had certified His death.
The efficiency of execution by crucifixion was quite well known in the time of Christ. Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, writes, True, there is a recorded instance of a victim being taken down from a cross and surviving. The Jewish historian Josephus, who had gone over to the Roman side in the rebellion of A.D. 66, discovered three of his friends being crucified. He asked the Roman general Titus to reprieve them, and they were immediately removed from their crosses.
Still, two of the three died anyway, even though they apparently had been crucified only a short time. In Jesus' case, however, there were the additional complications of scourging and exhaustion, to say nothing of the great spear thrust that pierced His rib cage and probably ruptured His pericardium. Romans were grimly efficient about crucifixions: Victims did not escape with their lives.
Security Precaution #3 -
Solid Rock Tomb
The body of Christ was placed in a new tomb, hewn out of a solid rock, in a private burial area. Jewish tombs usually had an entrance 4-1/2 to 5 feet high.
Security Precaution #4 -
The New Testament is very clear that the burial of Christ followed the customs of the Jews.
In preparing a body for burial, the Jews would place it on a stone table in the burial chamber. The body would first be washed with warm water.
It was the custom, as verified in the New Testament, to prepare the corpse (after cleansing) with various types of aromatic spices.
In the case of Christ's burial, 75 pounds of spices were used. One might regard this as substantial, but it was no great amount for a leader. For example, Gamaliel, grandson of the distinguished Jewish scholar Hillel, also was a contemporary of Jesus. Saul of Tarsus studied under him. When Gamaliel died, 86 pounds of spices were used in his burial. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that when Herod died, it required 500 servants to carry the spices for his body, So the 75 pounds for Jesus was not at all unusual.
After all the members of the body were straightened, the corpse was clothed in grave vestments made out of white linen. There could not be the slightest ornamentation or stain on the cloth. The grave linens were sewn together by women. No knots were permitted. For some this was to indicate that the mind of the dead was "disentangled of the cares of this life". To others, it indicated the continuity of the soul through eternity. No individual could be buried in fewer than three separate garments.
At this point, the aromatic spices, composed of a fragrant wood powdered into a dust known as aloes, were mixed with a gummy substance known as myrrh. Starting at the feet, they would wrap to the armpits, put the arms down, then wrap to the neck. A separate piece was wrapped around the head. I would estimate an encasement weighing a total of between 92 and 95 pounds.
John Chrysostom, in the fourth century A.D., commented that "the myrrh used was a drug which adheres so closely to the body that the graveclothes could not easily be removed."
Security Precaution #5 -
Very Large Stone
Matthew records in his writings that a large stone was rolled against the front of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Mark said the stone was extremely large (Mark 16:1-4). In today's language, he would have said, "Wow! Get a loada that rock!"
Just how large was that "Wow, get a loada that rock" stone?
In the Mark 16:4 portion of the Bezae manuscripts in the Cambridge Library in England, a parenthetical statement was found that adds, "and when He was laid there, he (Joseph) put against the tomb a stone which 20 men could not roll away."
The significance of this statement is realized when one considers the rules for transcribing manuscripts. It was the custom that if a copier was emphasizing his own interpretation, he would write his thought in the margin an not include it within the text. One might conclude, therefore, that the insert in the text was copied from a text even closer to the time of Christ, perhaps, a first-century manuscript. The phrase, then could have been recorded by an eyewitness who was impressed with the enormity of the stone which was rolled against Jesus' sepulcher.
One and a Half to Two Tons
After my lecture at Georgia Tech, two engineering professors went on a tour of Israel with other Georgia Tech faculty members. They remembered the comments I had made about the large size of the stone. So, being engineers, they considered the type of stone used in the time of Christ and calculated the size needed to roll against a 4-1/2 to 5 foot doorway.
Later, they wrote me a letter containing all the technical terms, but they put their conclusions in simple language on the back of it.
They said a stone of that size would have to have had a minimum weight of 1-1/2 to two tons. No wonder Matthew and Mark said the stone was extremely large.
One might ask, "If the stone were that big, how could Joseph move it into position in the first place? He simply gave it a push and let gravity do the rest. It had been held in place with a wedge as it sat in a groove or trench that sloped down to the front of the tomb. When the wedge was removed, the heavy circular rock just rolled into position.
Security Precaution #6 -
Jewish officials panicked, because thousands were turning to Christ. To avoid a political problem, it was to the advantage of both the Romans and the Jews to make sure Jesus was put away for good.
So the chief priest and Pharisees gathered together and said to Pilate, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again, ' Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first" (Matthew 27:63).
Pilate said to them "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." An so "they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone" (verse 65).
Some people would argue that Pilate said, "Look, you have your Temple police. You take your Temple police, and go make it secure."
The Temple Police
Now, if you want to say it's a Temple guard, you need to realize who made up that guard. It consisted of a group of 10 Levites who were placed on duty at different places at the Temple. The total number of men on duty was 270. This represented 27 units of 10 each. The military discipline of the Temple guard was quite good. In fact, at night, if the captain approached a guard member who was asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. A member of the guard also was forbidden to sit down or lean against something when he was on duty.
A Roman Guard
However, I am convinced it was the Roman guard that was placed at the grave of Christ to secure it.
A.T. Robertson, noted Greek scholar, says this phrase is in the present imperative and can refer only to a Roman guard, and not the Temple police. According to him, Pilate literally said, "Have a guard."
Robertson adds that the Latin form koustodia occurs as far back as the Oxyrhynchus papyrus in reference to the Roman guard. The Jews knew Pilate wanted to keep the peace, so they were sure he'd give them what they wanted.
What was the Roman Guard?
A Roman "custodian" did a lot more than care for a building. The word "custodian" represented the guard unit of the Roman Legion. This unit was probably one of the greatest offensive and defensive fighting machines ever conceived.
One helpful source for understanding the importance of the Roman guard is Flavius Vegitius Renatus. A military historian, he lived several hundred years after the time of Christ when the Roman army started to deteriorate in its discipline. He wrote a manual to the Roman Emperor Valentinian to encourage him to instill the methods of offensive and defensive warfare used by the Romans during the time of Christ. Called The Military Institutes of the Romans, it is a classic today.
Vegitius wanted to see the Roman armies restored to the efficiency an might which characterized them at the time of Christ. These armies were great because they were highly disciplined. He wrote, "Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it. We find that the Romans owed ... the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observation of discipline in their camps and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war."
There are two other excellent sources. At Indiana University, Dr. George Currie did his doctoral dissertation on the Roman custodian, and Dr. Smith edited a dictionary entitled, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,
The Force of the Roman Guard
These and other sources point out that the Roman guard was not a one-, two-, or three man force. Supercilious (dismissive, disdainful) pictures or the tomb of Jesus Christ show one or two men standing around with wooden spears an mini-skirts. That is really laughable.
A Roman guard unit was a 4 to 16 man security force. Each man was trained to protect six feet of ground. The 16 men in a square of 4 on each side were supposed to be able to protect 36 yards against an entire battalion and hold it.
Normally what they did was this: 4 men were placed immediately in front of what they were to protect. The other 12 were asleep in a semi-circle in front of them with their heads pointing in. To steal what these guards were protecting, thieves would first have to walk over those who were asleep. Every four hours, another unit of 4 was awakened, and those who had been awake went to sleep.
They would rotate this way around the clock.
Historian Dr. Paul Maier writes, "Peter would be guarded by four squads of four men each when imprisoned by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12), so sixteen would be a minimum number expected outside a prison. Guards in ancient times always slept in shifts, so it would have been virtually impossible for a raiding party to have stepped over all their sleeping faces without waking them."
High Priest Offers Bribe
Even Matthew records that it was a multi-man force when he wrote that "some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened" (Matthew 28:11).
A critic at this point might say, "see, they came to the high priest. It shows that they were the Temple guard". The context is clear, however, that they came to the high priest because he had influence with the Roman authority and because it was the only possible way to save their necks. The high priest tried to bribe them (which would have been a mockery if they had been Temple police). He gave them money and told them what to tell the people. When the news reached Pilate, the high priest said he would keep them from being killed. Normally, they would receive the death penalty, because the story was to be that they had fallen asleep while guarding the tomb.
It is significant that the governor had to be satisfied, because I have not been able to find any account in history - secular, Jewish or Christian - indicating that the Roman governor had anything at all to do with the Temple police.
Even if the guard at the tomb had been made up of Temple police, the security would have been no less thorough.
A Fighting Machine
T.G. Tucker, in his book, Life in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul, describes one of these Roman guards:
Over his breast, and with flaps over the shoulders, he will wear a corset of leather covered with hoop-like layers, or maybe scales, of iron or bronze. On his head will be a plain pot like helmet, or skull cap, of iron.
In his right hand he will carry the famous Roman pike. This is a stout weapon, over 6 feet in length, consisting of a sharp iron head fixed in a wooden shaft, and the soldier may either charge with it as a bayonet, or he may hurl it like a javelin and then fight at close quarters with his sword.
On the left arm is a shield, which may be of various shapes. The shield in not only carried by means of a handle, but may be supported by a belt over the right shoulder. In order to be out of the way of the shield, the sword -- a thrusting rather than a slashing weapon, approaching 3 feet in length -- is hung at the right side by a belt passing over the left shoulder ... On the left side, the soldier wears a dagger at his girdle.
Polybius, the Greek historian of the second century B.C., records that, in addition to all this, the men are adorned with a crown made of feathers and with three upright feathers, either purple or black, about a foot and a half high; when they add these on the head along with the other arms, the man appears twice as big as he really is, and his appearance is striking and terrifying to the enemy.
The men of the lowest property classes also wear a bronze plate, 8 inches square, which they place in front of their chests and called the heart guard; this completes their armament. But those worth more than 10,000 drachmae, instead of wearing the heart guard, along with the rest of their equipment, wear a coat of mail.
Security Precaution #7 -
Matthew records that along with the guard they set a "seal on the stone"(Matthew 27:66). A.T. Robertson says this could be placed on the stone only in the presence of the Roman guards who were left in charge. Vegitius indicates the same thing. The purpose of this procedure was to prevent anyone from tampering with the grave's contents.
After the guard inspected the tomb and rolled the stone in place, a cord was stretched across the rock. This was fastened at either end with sealing clay. Finally, the clay packs were stamped with the official signet of the Roman governor.
A parallel to this is seen in Daniel: "And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel" (Daniel 6:17).
Purpose of the seal
Henry Sumner Maine, a member of the Supreme Council of India, formerly regius professor of the civil law at the University of Camberidge, speaking on the legal authority attached to a Roman seal, said, "seals in antiquity were actually considered as a mode of authentication."
To authenticate something simply means to prove that it is real or genuine. So this seal on Jesus' tomb was a public testimony that Jesus' body was actually there. In addition, because the seal was Roman, it verified the fact that His body was protected from vandals by nothing less than the power and authority of the Roman Empire.
Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb's entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law and power.
Grave Robbers Warned
In Nazareth, a marble slab was discovered with a very interesting inscription - a warning to grave robbers. It was written in Greek and says, "Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that grave and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing or other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charges of violation of sepulcher."
Maier observes, "All previous Roman edicts concerning grave violation set only a large fine, and one wonders what presumed serious infraction could have led the Roman government to stiffen the penalty precisely in Palestine and to erect a notice regarding it specifically in Nazareth of the vicinity." It well could be a response to the commotion caused by Christ's resurrection.
Facts to be Reckoned with.
Now something happened. Something happened almost two thousand years ago that changed the course of history from B.C. (Before Christ) to A.D. (the Latin Anno Domini - the year of our Lord).
That "something" was so dramatic it completely changed eleven men's lives, so that all but one died a martyr's death.
That something was an empty tomb! An empty tomb that a 15 minute walk from the center of Jerusalem would have confirmed or disproved.
Even after the two thousand years since that time, mankind hasn't forgotten the empty tomb nor the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ.
If you wish to rationalize away the events surrounding Christ and His resurrection, you must deal with certain imponderables. In fact, you might say that both the Jews and the Romans outwitted themselves when they took so many precautions to make sure Jesus was dead and remained in the grave. These "security precautions" -- taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing and the guarding of Christ's tomb -- make it very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead!
Consider these seven facts:
Fact #1 -- Broken Roman Seal
The first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men responsible. When they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. Your guts ran into your throat. So people feared the breaking of the seal. Even the disciples displayed signs of cowardice, and hid themselves.
Fact #2 - The Empty Tomb
Another obvious fact after the resurrection was the empty tomb. The disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach Christ raised from the dead; they went right back to the city of Jerusalem where, if what they were teaching were false, their message would have been disproved. The resurrection could not have been maintained for a moment in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty.
Dr. Paul Maier says,
Where did Christianity first begin? To this the answer must be: "Only one spot on earth - the city of Jerusalem". But this is the very last place it could have started if Jesus's tomb 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.
What happened in Jerusalem seven weeks after the first Easter could have taken place only if Jesus' body were somehow missing from Joseph's tomb, for otherwise the Temple establishment, in its imbroglio (confused state) with the Apostles, would simply have aborted the movement by making a brief trip over to the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea and unveiling exhibit A. They did not do this, because they knew the tomb was empty. Their official explanation for it -- that the disciples had stolen the body -- was an admission that the sepulcher was indeed vacant.
There are both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions that acknowledge an empty tomb. These sources range from the Jewish historian Josephus to a compilation of fifth- century Jewish writings called the Toledoth Jeshu. Maier calls this "positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favor, then that fact is genuine."
Gamaliel, who was a member of the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the Christian movement was of God (Acts 5:34-42); he could not have done this if the tomb had been occupied, or if the Sanhedrin had known the whereabouts of Christ's body.
Even Justin Martyr in his Dialogue With Trypho relates that the Jerusalem authorities sent special representatives throughout the Mediterranean world to counteract the story of the empty tomb with the explanation that His followers stole the body. Why would the Jewish authorities bribe the Roman guard and propagate the "stolen body" explanation if the tomb was occupied? Historian Ron Sider concluded that: "If the Christians and their Jewish opponents both agreed that the tomb was empty, we have little choice but to accept the empty tomb as an historical fact."
Fact #3 - Large Stone Moved
On that Sunday morning, the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of that 1-1/2 to 2 ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mentioned the removal of the large stone.
Up an Incline
For example, in Matthew 27, it is said that a "large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb." Here the Greek word used for roll is kulio, meaning "to roll." Mark used the same root word kulio. However, in Mark 16, he added a preposition to explain the position of the stone after the resurrection.
In Greek, as in English, to change the direction of a verb or to intensify it, you add a preposition. He added the preposition ana, which means "up or upward." So, anakulio can mean "to roll something up a slope or an incline." For Mark, then to have used that verb, there would have had to be a slope or an incline coming down to the front of that tomb.
In fact, that stone was so far "up a slope" that Luke used the same root word kulio, but added a different preposition, apo. Apo can mean, according to the Greek lexicons, "a separation from," in the sense of "a distance from." Apokulio, then, means to roll one object away from another object in a sense of "separation" or "distance from it." Now they saw the stone moved away in a sense of distance from "what?"
Let's go back to Mark 16. In Sunday morning, the women were coming to the tomb.
You might say, "Wait a minute! Why were those women coming to the tomb Sunday morning?" One reason was to anoint the body over the graveclothes with a mixture of spices and perfume. Another might ask, "Why would they come since the Roman security unit was there guarding the grave?"
That's quite simple. The guard did not examine the body and secure the sepulcher until Saturday afternoon. On Friday afternoon the women had watched as the body was prepared in a private burial area. They lived in the suburb of Bethany and therefore were not aware of the Roman and Jewish actions about putting extra security at the place of Christ's burial.
Let's go back to Mark 16 again.
The women are saying, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" Here, they used the Greek word for entrance. That's logical, isn't it? But, when they got there they said, "Who rolled the stone away from ...?" and here they changed the Greek word for "the entrance" to the word used for the entire massive sepulcher. Apokulio, then, means "away from" in the sense of at a "distance from the entire massive sepulcher."
Picked Up and Carried
In fact, the stone was in such a position up a slope away from the entire massive sepulcher that John (chapter 20) use a different Greek verb, airo, which (according to the Arndt and Gingrish Lexicon) means "to pick something up and carry it away."
Now, I ask you , if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, then roll the stone over and steal the body, why would the have moved a 1-1/2 to 2 ton stone up a slope away from the entire massive sepulcher to such a position that it looked like someone had picked it up and carried it away? Those soldiers would have had to be deaf not to have heard that stone being moved.
Fact #4 - Roman Guard Goes AWOL
The Roman guard fled. They left their place of responsibility. This has to be explained away because the military discipline of the Romans was exceptionally good. Justin, in his Digest #49, mentions all offenses which required the penalty of death: a scout remaining with the enemy, desertion, losing of disposing of one's arms, disobedience in war time, going over the wall or rampart, starting a mutiny, refusing to protect an officer or deserting one's post, a drafted man hiding from service, murder, laying hands on a superior or insult to a general, leading flight when the example would influence others, betraying plans to the enemy, wounding a fellow soldier with a sword, disabling self or attempting suicide without reasonable excuse, leaving the night watch, breaking the centurion's staff or striking him when being punished, escaping guard house, and disturbing the peace. To the above, one can add "falling asleep." If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in duty, then lots were drawn to see who would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure.
Fear of Punishment
One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes, then burned alive in a fire started with the garments. The entire unit certainly would not have fallen asleep with that threat hanging over their heads. The history of Roman discipline and security testifies to the fact that if the tomb had not been empty the soldiers never would have left their position, nor would they have gone to the high priest. The fear of the wrath of their superiors and the possibility of the death penalty meant they paid close attention to the most minute details of their job. Dr. George Curie, who studied carefully the military discipline of the Romans, with that fear of punishment "produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches."
Dr. Bill White is in charge of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. His responsibilities have caused him to study quite extensively the resurrection and the events following the first Easter. White makes several critical observations about the Jewish authorities bribing the Roman guard.
If the stone were simply rolled to one side of the tomb, as would be necessary to enter it, them they might be justified in accusing the men of sleeping at their posts, and in punishing them severely. If the men protested that the earthquake broke the seal and that the stone rolled back under the vibration, they would still be liable to punishment for behavior which might be labeled cowardice. But these responsibilities do not meet the case. There was some undeniable evidence which made it impossible for the chief priests to bring any charge against the guard. The Jewish authorities must have visited the scene, examined the stone, and recognized its position as making it humanly impossible for their men to have permitted its removal. No twist of human ingenuity could provide an adequate answer or scapegoat and so they were forced to bribe the guard and seek to hush things up.
Fact #5 - Graveclothes Tell a Tale
In a literal sense, the tomb was not actually empty. Instead, an amazing phenomenon occurred. After visiting the grave and seeing the stone rolled away, the women ran back and told the disciples. Then Peter and John took off running. John outran Peter, and upon arriving at the tomb he did not enter. Instead, he leaned over and looked in and say something so startling that he immediately believed.
He looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain. There were graveclothes, in the form of a body, slightly caved in and empty -- like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar's cocoon. That was enough to make a believer out of anybody! He never did get over it!
The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb -- but the empty graveclothes, undisturbed in their form and position.
Fact #6 -- Appearances of Christ Confirmed
On several occasions, Christ appeared alive after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter.
A Principle to Remember
When studying an event in history, it is important to investigate whether enough people who were participants or eyewitnesses to the event were alive when the event were published. This is helpful to validate the accuracy of the published report. If the number is substantial, the event can be fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and in a week the police report turns out to be composed of fabricated lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it.
In other words, when a book is written about an event, the accuracy of its contents can be validated if enough people are alive at the time it is published who have been either eyewitnesses or, or participants in, the events recorded.
Several very important factors often are overlooked when investigating Christ's post- resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that first Sunday morning.
Fifty Hours of Eyewitnesses
One of the earliest records of Christ's appearing after the resurrection is by Paul (1 Corinthians 15). The apostle appeals to his audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than five hundred people at one time. Paul reminds them that the majority of these people were still alive and could be questioned.
Dr. Ewin M. Yamauchi, associate professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes:
What gives a special authority to the list [of witnesses] as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, "If you do not believe me, you can ask them."
Let's take the more than five hundred witnesses who say Jesus alive after His death and burial and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of these five hundred people were to testify only six minutes each, including cross examination, you would have an amazing fifty hours of firsthand eyewitness testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you could well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.
Variety of People
the second factor often overlooked is the variety of locations and people involved in Jesus' appearances.
Professor Merrill C. Tenney of Wheaton College writes:
It is note worthy that these appearances are not stereotyped. No two of them are exactly alike. The appearance to Mary Magdalene occurred in early morning; that to the travelers to Emmaus in the afternoon; and to the apostles in the evening, probably after dark. He appeared to Mary in the open air. Mary was alone when she saw Him; the disciples were together in a group; and Paul records that on one occasion He appeared to more than five hundred at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
The reactions also were varied. Mary was overwhelmed with emotion; the disciples were frightened; Thomas was obstinately incredulous when told of the Lord's resurrection, but worshipped Him when He manifested Himself. Each occasion had its own peculiar atmosphere and characteristics, and revealed some different quality of the risen Lord.
In no way can anyone say His appearances were stereotyped.
A third factor very crucial to interpreting Christ's appearance is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced. Over and over again I have read or heard people comment that Jesus was seen alive after His death and burial only by His friends and followers. Using this argument, they attempt to water down the overwhelming impact of the eyewitness accounts -- but this line of reasoning is so pathetic it hardly deserves comment.
No author or informed individual would regard Saul or Tarsus to have been a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. He despised Christ and persecuted Christ's followers (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2; Philippians 3:5-6). For Paul it was a life shattering experience when appeared to him (Acts 9:3-6). Although Paul was not at the time a disciple, he later became one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection.
No one acquainted with the facts can accurately say that Jesus appeared to just "an insignificant few."
Fact #7 - Women Saw Him First
Another authenticating feature of the resurrection narrative is that the first appearances of the risen Christ were not to His disciples, but rather to women -- to Mary Magdalene and the other women. This must have been an embarrassment to the apostles, Christ's inner circle. They were likely quite jealous.
According to Jewish principles of legal evidence women were invalid witnesses. They did not have a right to give testimony in a court of law.
Dr. Maier accurately observes that since the testimony of a woman was deemed unreliable, the "initial reaction of the Eleven was understandably one of suspicion and disbelief. Again, if the resurrection accounts had been manufactured .. women would never have been included in the story, at least, not as first witnesses."
It Changed Their Lives
The changed lives of those early Christian believers is one of the most telling testimonies to the fact of the resurrection. We must ask ourselves: What motivated them to go everywhere proclaiming the message of the risen Christ.
Had there been visible benefits accruing to them from their efforts -- such as prestige, wealth or increased social status -- we might logically account for their actions. As a reward, however, for their wholehearted and total allegiance to this "risen Christ", these early Christians were beaten, stoned, thrown to the lions, tortured, crucified, and subjected to every conceivable method of stopping them from talking. Yet they were the most peaceful of men, who physically forced their beliefs of on one. Rather they laid down their very lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
Those Hardest to Convince
There was the skeptical family of Jesus (John 7:1-5). His Brothers did not believe in Him. They were embarrassed to hear their brother say to the people, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me," and "I am the vine, you are the branches," and "I'm the shepherd, you are the sheep" (John 14:6; 15:5; 10:11). What would you do if your brother did that?
There was James, His brother. He was found in the company of the Pharisees. James and his brothers mocked Jesus.
However, after Jesus went to that degrading death on the cross disgracing the family, and was buried, where do we find those hardest to convince -- His own family?
We find them in the upper room with the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit to be sent (Acts 1:13-14). Now, since they mocked Him while He was alive, what happened in a matter of a few days to turn their lives upside down?
James became a leader in the early church and wrote an epistle stating, "I James, a bond- servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ [his brother] ..." (James 1). Eventually, for the cause of Christ James died a martyr's death -- he was stoned.
The best explanation I know is recorded by Paul: "Then He appeared to James" (1 Corinthians 15:7).
His Cowardly Followers
What about the fearful disciples of Jesus? When the authorities captured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, "all the disciples left Him an fled" (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). During Christ's trial, Peter went out and denied Him three times (John 18:15-27; Mark 14:66-72). After Christ was crucified, the fearful disciples hid themselves in an upper room and locked the doors (John 20:19). But something happened within days to totally change this group of cowardly followers into a bold band of enthusiasts who faced martyrdom without fear of hesitation. Peter, who had denied Jesus, was imprisoned for his persistence in preaching a "risen Christ" and later was himself crucified upside down.
What happened? The most logical explanation is that the resurrected Jesus "appeared to Cephas [Peter] ... then to all the Apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:5-7).
A Jewish Fanatic Converted
And how about Paul, the religious persecutor of the Christians? This Jewish Fanatic so hated the followers of Christ that he obtained special permission to go to other cities and incarcerate Christ's disciples. He ravaged the church (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2; 22:3-5).
But something happened to this persecutor. He turned from an antagonist to a protagonist of Jesus. He changed from a bitter interrogator of Christians to one of the greatest propagators of the Christian faith.
The irony is that Paul began to confound the Jewish authorities "by proving Jesus is the Christ," the Son of God (Acts 9:22). He was eventually killed for his devotion to Christ.
What happened? This historical explanation is Paul's statement that Jesus "appeared to me also" (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:3-22).
It would be very difficult to explain the transformation of these men if the resurrection were not true. Professor Robert Grant says: "The origin of Christianity is almost incomprehensible unless such an event took place."
A Resurrection Explains All the Facts
Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf, a man who lectured for years on how to break down testimony and determine whether or not a witness is lying, concludes:
It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.
The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unflinching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths they asserted.
A believer in Jesus Christ today can have the complete confidence, as did those first Christians, that his faith is based not on myth or legend but on the solid historical fact of the empty tomb and the risen Christ. The End