Friday, March 18, 2011

Bad Arguments for the Resurrection, Part 4

Bad argument #4: The burial of Jesus in Joseph’s tomb is a fiction.

I won’t go into a lot of details on this one, since I already do in Defending the Resurrection. There are a wide variety of arguments which devolve from this one, and I haven’t seen one I would not describe as remarkably inept, though they do range from outlandish to insensible. For example:

Joseph of Arimathea was high on drugs and buried Jesus somewhere else after putting him in his tomb.

Joseph of Arimathea didn’t even exist. His name is a pun on “best disciple”.

Jesus was buried in a common grave for criminals. (This one should have been buried itself after Byron McCane’s landmark study, where he also explained why Joseph didn’t bury the other two guys.)

Paul doesn’t mention burial in a tomb, much less Joseph’s tomb specifically.

The burial in the tomb of Joseph was part of a “reversal of expectation” motif, because Jesus was supposed to be buried by his father Joseph. (As common as the name “Joseph” was in first century Judaea, this one counts as particularly idiotic. Presumably Jesus was supposed to secure the services of someone with a different name to bury him, to be sure we wouldn’t see a “reversal of expectation motif” happening 2000 years later. Of course, if Joseph of Arimathea had been named “Simon” – another common name of the era – the critics would invent some “motif” where Simon Peter was the other guy. Or imagine if he had been buried by Judas of Arimathea. The only way Jesus could have avoided this one was to hire a guy named "Klippleskim" as his mortician.)

I handle all these in DTR, as noted. As bad as they are I take them as a sign of either desperation or sheer inventiveness by critics. Or maybe both.


  1. I've thought for a long time that Jesus' burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is one of the most secure facts around. Jesus' burial by a non-family member would have been considered very dishonorable in ancient Palestine. It would be quite bizarre for the Gospel writers to provide such an account of the nature of Jesus' burial unless it actually happened that way. Had they been playing fast and loose with history (as many skeptics think is the case with Joseph of Arimathea), we should expect to read of Jesus being buried by His family, wouldn't we? There just seems to be little reason to suppose the entombment by Joseph of Arimathea is fictitious, given the dishonorable nature of the burial.

  2. Yes, precisely. A made-up burial would not be shameful in any sense.

  3. I thought you've suddenly changed to highlighting what not to say when asked to defend the Resurrection. It should be interesting to read bad arguments for the resurrection instead.