Jesus is No Myth

Dedicated to promoting the idea that the Biblical Jesus Christ was a historical character.

The Resurrection

The Tomb

Joseph of Arimathea,[7] a member of the Great Sanhedrin, requested of Pilate, and received permission to remove the body of Jesus from the cross the same Friday on which Jesus was crucified. ( Mark 16:3) Nicodemus, also a ruler of the Jews, came with Joseph. These men removed the body from the cross, bound it in linen wrappings, along with spices—a mixture of myrrh and aloes—which Nicodemus had brought, and took the body to the tomb.

 Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus

(See John 19:38-42.)

Joseph of Arimathea provided a new tomb. The tomb had been hewn out of the rock. No one had ever lain in the tomb before. The tomb was near Golgotha, the place where the Romans crucified Jesus. They laid Jesus in the tomb on Friday as the women watched.

The Jewish custom of burial provided that the body be wound in a linen sheet eight feet long. To wind the body thus would have required two people, at least. Carrying the body from the cross to the tomb, would have required at least two people. So it was late on Friday afternoon, approaching the Sabbath, and Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses saw the tomb and how the body was laid.

Mark wrote,

Mark 15:46 And Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance. Matthew says when Joseph,

Matthew 27:59   … had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60  and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.    Luke said that Joseph laid Him,

Luke 23:53 …in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain.

Professor Willis describes the typical tomb of this place and period as,
In many instances the sarcophagus, couch, or other resting-place, is hewn out of the solid rock, and thus must have been left standing out from the floor, or projecting from the sides, when this apartment was first excavated. When the stone couch was employed, its surface was either level, or merely hollowed out an inch or two in depth, to afford a resting-place; and a raised part is often left at the head, to serve as a pillow, or a round cavity cut for the same purpose. Such couches are found in the Etruscan rock-tombs, and in those of Greece and Asia Minor....In the Jewish tombs of Syria the recess in the side of the chambers appears to have been always employed. But even this admits of great variety. In its simplest form, it is a rectangular opening or cavity in the face of the rocky side of the tomb, the bottom of it being usually higher than the floor of the chamber; and its length and depth just sufficient to admit of a human body being deposited in it. Often its upper surface or soffit is curved into an arch, which is either segmental or semicircular; and this, too, is its usual form when a sarcophagus is deposited in it. [8]


Note these facts: Joseph of Arimathea provided a new tomb. The tomb had been hewn out of the rock. No one had ever lain in the tomb before. The tomb was near Golgotha, the place where the Romans crucified Jesus.  Two women, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Mary the mother of Joses) saw where the tomb was. [These facts preclude confusion of the body of Jesus with another body, access by someone through a rear opening and loss of the way to the tomb.]

The Burial

John Mark’s account of the burial of Christ tells that Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, gathered up courage and went before Pontius Pilate to ask permission of Pilate to remove the body from the cross. (Mark 15:43-46) This audience would have taken place late on the Friday afternoon that they crucified Christ. Pilate granted Joseph’s request after the centurion told him that Jesus was dead. With permission from the governor Joseph and Nicodemus took away the body and prepared it for burial. The Scripture says that Joseph had obtained about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, along with a clean linen cloth to prepare the body. (John 19:39)

According to Jewish custom Joseph and Nicodemus would have washed and straightened the body. They used the linen wrappings as a bandage, winding it tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips about a foot wide. Then they placed the myrrh and aloes between the wrappings. The spices were aromatic and often gummy. They acted as a preservative, and as a cement to glue the linen wrappings together. John’s term “bound” is from the Greek: e[dhsan (devw) meaning “bound” or “tied” in linen cloths with spices.[9]

The King James Version uses the word myrrh to refer to different plants. One of these was a small tree with bushy branches and three-sectioned leaves, bearing a plumb-like fruit, and producing a fragrant gum that had many uses. The Hebrew word for this plant was mor. They used the gum in anointing oil, in perfume, and in ceremonial cleansing. The Magi brought it to the baby Jesus. The people at the cross offered it to Jesus in the form of “wine mixed with myrrh.” Nicodemus and Joseph also used it to prepare the body of Jesus for burial. [10]

It is settled knowledge as old as the 4th Century that myrrh is a substance that adheres closely to the body, so closely that grave clothes could not be removed easily. Missionaries and natives of Syria say that it is still customary to wash the body, wrap hands and feet in grave bands, usually of linen (John 19:40), and cover the face or bind it about with a napkin or handkerchief (John 11:44b). It is still common to place in the wrappings of the body aromatic spices and other preparations to retard decomposition.[11]

Edersheim says that “…haste characterized all that was done…” in the preparation of the body of Christ for burial. Joseph and Nicodemus brought the body to Joseph’s new tomb. Such a rock-hewn tomb had niches where they laid the dead. At the entrance of the tomb there was a court, nine feet square, where they ordinarily deposited the bier. Then it was that the bearers gathered to do the last duties to the dead. Evidence indicates that Nicodemus and Joseph tore the “clean linen cloth” into swathes. Then using the swathes they bound the body, including within the bindings layers of myrrh and aloes. Then they wrapped the head in a napkin.[12] When they laid the body in the tomb, the head would have rested upon the raised portion of the ledge at the far end that served for a pillow.

Other authorities say that the body lay with its face turned upwards, and its hands folded on the breast. Judging from existing practice the neck and the upper surface of the shoulders were commonly left bare as well as the face.

There are important facts to consider: There is no record of spices found in the tomb following the resurrection. Secondly, the aloes was a fragrant wood that had been pounded or reduced to dust, while the myrrh was an aromatic gum, morsels of which were mixed with the powdered wood. Thirdly, John says that he and Peter ran to the tomb after the report of the resurrection and Peter saw the “linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” [13] The language of the gospel indicates that Peter "steadfastly and intently beheld" the linen swathes that had covered the body of Jesus, and the napkin that had been about his head [14] There was no sign of haste. All was orderly.

The amount of spice that John says Nicodemus brought for the preparation of the body is extremely large (about a hundred pounds). The quantity, however, is of less importance than the fact that is established by the best authorities, that the spices were dry, and would therefore fall to the ground in a heap if the body were placed in an erect posture, or if the cerements were removed. (Cerements were waxed cloths used for wrapping the dead.) Certainly, if the disciples (or anyone else) had stolen the body they would have disturbed the wrappings, and spilled the aloes. But that was not the case. Otherwise, they would have removed the wrappings, or they would have carried the body away still wrapped. But the wrappings were “lying there.” And the gospel writers do not mention spices spilled on the floor.

Also, the tomb was new, and it belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. There would be no confusion about what tomb to use. Significantly, no one had been buried there before Jesus. These facts preclude confusion with another body. Nicodemus and Joseph were acquainted with Jesus, thus ruling out misidentification of the body. Add to this the fact that the women were “…looking on to see where He was laid…” [15] and the evidence is indisputable that they buried Jesus within a rock-hewn sepulcher well known to the witnesses, and “…rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away." [16]

The Stone

So it was late on Friday afternoon, approaching the Sabbath, and Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses saw the tomb and how the body was laid. Matthew says when Joseph,

Matthew 27:59  … had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60  and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.   See also, Luke 23:54, 55; Mark 15:47.

The stone was large

Matthew 27:60  “…he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb…”

Mark 16:3  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 

The significance of the stone is that it sealed the tomb from outside influence. The weight precluded removal by a single person, or two women in the case of Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James.[17] It renders absurd the idea that Jesus awoke from a swoon and rolled the stone away himself--despite his wounded side, feet and hands, further aggravated by the wounds from scourging.

The Seal

Matthew wrote,

Matthew 27:66   And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.

Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, said that the seal would have been nothing more than a cord stretched across the rock and fastened at each end with clay. Like any seal, its purpose was not to cement the rock, but to indicate whether anyone had tampered with the stone.[18]

Feeling reassured in the belief that the tomb was secure, the Pharisees left the guard and returned to the city. To them, it was certain that the disciples could not, nor would they dare, defy the Roman Governor, and overpower a military guard in order to embarrass the civil authorities.

Review - the burial

1. Joseph of Arimathea received permission from ______________ to remove the _________________ of Jesus from the cross.

2. The name of the man who accompanied Joseph to take the body down from the cross was __________________________.

3. These men bound the body of Jesus in ________________  ______________ and ______________.

4. Joseph provided a ______________ _______________ for the burial.

5. ________________________ watched as they buried Jesus.

6. The entrance of the tomb was closed by a _____________  ______________.

The Guard At the Tomb

On the morning of the Sabbath, following the Passover, chief priests and Pharisees met with Pilate. Matthew wrote in his gospel,

Matthew 27:62   On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63  saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64  “Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65  Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

The guard at the tomb was more than a single soldier. Matthew wrote, describing the emotional state of the guard following the Resurrection, “...and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” [19]

Further, Matthew said,

Matthew 28:11  Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12  When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13  saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’

Professor William Smith in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities gives some information about the number of men in a Roman “guard.” According to Dr. Smith, the maniple (a subdivision of the Roman Legion) consisting of either 120, or 60 men “furnished…for the tribune to whom it was specially attached…two guards…of four men each, who kept watch, some in front of the tent and some behind, among the horses. We may remark, in passing, that four was the regular number for a Roman guard (a quaternion)… of these, one always acted as a sentinel, while the others enjoyed a certain amount of repose, ready, however, to start up at the first alarm.”

[The Romans divided the night into four watches of three hours each. If there was a separate guard for each watch, then there would have been 16 soldiers on guard duty that night.] Clearly “guards” implies more than one soldier. “Some of the guard” implies more than two. A guard usually consisted of four soldiers, each of whom kept watch in turn while the others were able to rest.[20]

Review - the guard at the tomb

1. The purpose of the guard at the tomb was to make the ______________ ________________ until the ______________ ______________.

2. The enemies of Jesus wanted the guard present lest the ________________ come and _______________ _____________ away.

3. They went and __________________  the grave __________________.

4. Along with the guard they set a ___________________ on the ____________________.

5. The guard at the tomb was ________________ than a _________________ soldier.

6. The statement: “Some of the guard” implies more than ____________ ________________.

7. A guard usually consisted of ____________________ soldiers.

8. The seal would have been a ________________ stretched across the ______________.

The Resurrection

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.

Matthew 28:1  Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2  And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

The angel said,

Matthew 28:5  But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6  “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

The appearance of the angel occurred while the guard was still present. But the guard had shaken for fear of him, and had become “ dead men.” When the soldiers awoke, they evidently fled from the garden, some of them coming into the city to tell the chief priests what had happened.

Then the elders and chief priests did a remarkable thing. After they had heard the soldiers’ story, they attempted to conceal the whole matter by paying,

Matthew 28:12 … a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13  saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14  “And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15  So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

The authorities in Jerusalem knew that the disciples of Jesus had not stolen His body. They had obtained a guard for the tomb to prevent such an occurrence. Note the facts that argue against the claim that the disciples stole the body,
The authorities in Jerusalem continued to publish the story that the disciples had stolen the body from the tomb. In his dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr, who came from neighboring Samaria, reported about 150 AD, that the Jewish authorities even sent specially commissioned men across the Mediterranean to counter Christian claims with their explanation of the Resurrection.

Mark says,

Mark 16:1  Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2  Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3  And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. 5  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6  But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7  “But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8  So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Review - the resurrection

1. The resurrection of Christ occurred on the ______________ day of the ____________.

2. The angel appeared while the Roman _________________ was ________________.

3. The elders and chief priests _______________ the soldiers to say, “His _________________ came by ________________, and stole Him away while we were _____________________.”

4. The disciples did not have the _________________ to defy the _____________________.

5. The disciples were utterly _________________________ for the death of Jesus.

6. The women who came to the tomb were saying, “Who will ____________ _______________ the stone for us from the entrance to the ____________.”

7. When the angel told the woman Jesus had risen the women fled ________________ and _________________.    

The Appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection


Note these facts:

Review - the appearances

1. Jesus appeared to a woman named _____________  ___________________.

2. The name of the disciple on the road to Emmaus was __________________.

3. Jesus appeared to eleven of the ____________________.

4. Jesus appeared to more than ______________ brethren at one time.

5. Jesus appeared to ______________ of __________________.

6. Did only one person see Jesus?

7. Did they see Jesus separately, or while together?

8. Was Jesus seen only at night?

9. Did the witnesses see Him only once?

10. Was there physical contact between Jesus and the disciples?


Jesus rose from the dead.  

The facts are decisive. Jesus Christ died upon the cross. (He did not swoon). He arose from the dead, one whose body had been dead in the full physical sense of the word, but later became alive again.

Final Review


1. On what holy day did the Romans crucify Jesus? What day of the week?

2. What day of the week did Joseph and Nicodemus bury Jesus?

3. On what Jewish holy day did Jesus lie in the tomb?

4. Name at least three facts which show that Jesus was dead while he remained on the cross?

5. Was the tomb in which they buried Jesus new or old?

6. Where was the tomb? How had the tomb been constructed?

7. Was the location of the tomb known to anyone? To whom?

8. What was the reason for the guard at the tomb of Jesus?

9. What comprises a guard of Roman soldiers?

10.  How was the tomb made secure?

11. On what day of the week did the Resurrection take place?

12. Was anyone present when Jesus arose?

13. What did the soldiers at the tomb do when Jesus arose?  What did they do afterward?

14. What story was published by the authorities in Jerusalem to explain the Resurrection? What is the flaw in the story?

15. Was the Resurrection of Jesus bodily, or spiritual?


End Notes

7. Edersheim says that Joseph was a member of the priestly council, a fourteen member standing council that regulated everything concerned with the affairs and services of the temple. See The Temple its Ministry and Services, pp. 70-71.  

8. Extract from the Architectural History of the Holy Sepulchre, by Prof. Willis, formerly Jacksonian Professor in the University of Cambridge. The Holy City: G. Williams, Vol. I, p. 150.  

9. Bauer, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  

10. Packer., Tenney, White, The Bible Almanac, p. 253.  

11. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  

12. Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. ii. p. 617-618.  

13. John 20:5-7.  

14. Ibid., Edersheim, Life and Times, p. 634.  

15. Mark 15:47.  

16. Matthew 27:60.  

17. Mark 16:3.  

18. Ibid., Maier, First Easter, p. 92.    

19. Matt 28:4.  

20. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 222, 223.