Edward L. Bode and the Empty Tomb in 1970

An early full formulation of the historical case for the empty tomb of Jesus was compiled by Edward L. Bode in 1970. Bode was a clear influence on William Lane Craig, who cites Bode’s work on 28 pages of his book Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Bode’s complete statement of his case is in the book The First Easter Morning: The Gospel Accounts of the Women’s Visit to the Tomb of Jesus (Analecta Biblica 45; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1970). It’s a difficult work to obtain – I had to order a copy through interlibrary loan (used copies sell for several hundred dollars on Amazon), and will be doing a fuller examination of it in the future. But Bode provides a summary account of his case in a 1970 journal article, “A Liturgical ‘Sitz Im Leben’ For the Gospel Tradition of The Women’s Easter Visit to the Tomb of Jesus?,” from The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2 (APRIL 1970), pp. 237-242. I’ve copied below a footnote from the article, which includes obvious parallels to the case for the empty tomb presented by Craig.

“That the tomb of Jesus was really empty is established by the sum of six arguments:

“(1) the nature of the narrative: Mark’s account shows dignity and restraint and makes no attempt to describe the resurrection or an appearance of Christ, whose appearances were the apologetic for the resurrection. Differences and disagreements among the gospel accounts suggest a time for development for the process stemming from first-hand witnesses to an astounding experience. Semitisms also point to an ancient source.

“(2) the remembrance of Joseph of Arimathea: Joseph is firmly fixed as having buried the body of Jesus. Thus the tomb was known.

“(3) the women as witnesses: The traditions list various women as having tomb. The report of women would have been suspect. Jewish interpretation did not give to women the right to bear witness. This is no way to create an out of whole cloth.

“(4) the third-day motif: The silence and the possible rough fit of the empty tomb tradition with the ancient creed professing the resurrection of Christ on the third day (1 Cor 15) indicate that the tomb story is not a late creation. If it were, it would have been careful to agree more closely with the ancient tenet of the third-day resurrection.

“(5) the preaching of the resurrection in Jerusalem: Given the Jewish notion of the resurrection of the body and the knowledge of the location of the tomb, it would have been impossible to preach a risen Jesus in Jerusalem if his tomb had still contained the body. With the Jewish mentality of resurrection and the availability of the tomb, some one was bound to look for himself to see if the tomb was empty or not.

“(6) the Jewish polemic: The early Jewish polemic against the resurrection did not deny the fact of the empty tomb; rather it tried to explain it away. This amounts to an implicit acknowledgment of the empty tomb.” (pp. 239-240)