DagoodS got me thinking about this "minimal facts" argument offered by Christian apologists. There are several minimal facts that are believed to be known about the life of Jesus, but 5 key ones relevant to the resurrection are these:
1-Jesus died by crucifixion
2-The disciples sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them
3-The church persecutor Paul converted to Christianity
4-The skeptic James converted to Christianity
5-The tomb was empty
Sometimes an apologist would appeal to more and sometimes less. For instance when Mike Licona debated Bart Ehrman in fact he only appealed to 1, 2, and 3 alone. Why not talk about 5? That's a big deal I figured. Maybe Licona avoids it because the consensus is not as strong on that point.
I'm prone to disputing all 5 of these points. I don't think the evidence justifies them. But Ehrman responded to Licona in a different and probably better way. As to point 1 his response is this: So what? Jesus died. Big deal. Everyone dies. Since everyone dies there's no need to waste time proving that Jesus died. So I'm left explaining why some people believed Jesus was raised. I would think there is no need to invoke a miracle to explain such an ordinary phenomenon. Some people have thought that Moses was raised. Some thought John the Baptist was raised. Who cares? That's not uncommon. I figure Licona needs to add the empty tomb to have any kind of a more persuasive case.
But does that matter either? Here's something else that's not uncommon. Moving a dead body that is presently buried in the wrong tomb. It was done all the time in ancient Israel. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea supposedly. Fine. Now it's a new day. Time to move him to the family tomb. The original tomb is empty. So what? That's actually to be expected.
The apologist will say that's unlikely because of the guards and also because the initial Jewish reply to the claim that the tomb was empty was that the disciples stole the body. OK. But it's possible that the story of the guards was contrived. It's also possible that the Jewish polemic also was contrived, or these critics were speculating and didn't really know that the body was being moved. They might be wrong. In fact most people would say they are wrong.
Let's suppose the Christian judges this to be unlikely. The Jews likely would have known that the body was being moved by the family and would have pointed it out. Well, they might have, but it's certainly possible that they wouldn't. So we have to judge which is more unlikely. Is it more unlikely that a body could be moved unbeknownst to the early critics or is it more unlikely that a body that had been dead for three days rose again to life? What would a rational person conclude?