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Revisiting the Empty Tomb

The Early History of Easter

By Daniel A. Smith

Publication Year: 2010

The Gospels disagree on what happened at the empty tomb, on who was there, and on what they saw or heard. The fact that our earliest written witness to the risen Christ, Paul, says nothing of the empty tomb has long provoked the question, what did early believers know about Easter, and when did they know it? Daniel A. Smith seeks to get behind the theological and apologetic concern to "prove" the resurrection and asks, where did the accounts of the early tomb come from, and what purpose did they originally serve? He shows that Paul is a valuable witness to the development of Easter traditions; that Q was already interested in connecting the disappearance of Jesus with his future role; that Mark was interested in the disappearance of Jesus, rather than in the empty tomb as such; and that both sources had interests different from the later Gospels. Chapters provide careful and insightful discussions of the earliest traditions about Jesus' disappearance; in a conclusion Smith draws significant implications for a theory of Christian origins.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

...Over the course of this project, from its inception to its completion, many individuals have offered important support and encouragement in various ways, and I wish to offer them my thanks. First, I want to thank those who kindly agreed at various stages of this project to read individual chapters and to provide feedback, in particular John Kloppenborg...


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: Not Here but Risen: Seeing and Not Seeing the Easter Jesus

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pp. 1-12

...On the north side of the nave in St. George’s Anglican Church in London, Ontario, not far from where I usually sit, there is a stained-glass window that depicts a resurrection scene. In this scene, Jesus is standing outside the tomb with his hand raised in blessing, and Mary Magdalene is in the foreground turning around and looking over her shoulder at him ...

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1. When the Dead and/or Gone Appear to the Living

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pp. 13-26

...Our study of how the two traditions of disappearance/absence and appearance/ presence came to be so fully integrated in early Christian tradition and literature begins with what Paul says about his experience of the risen Jesus: “God was pleased . . . to reveal his son in [or to] me” (Gal. 1:15-16); “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1); “He appeared to Cephas . . . and last of all . . . he also appeared to me” (1 Cor. 15:5, 8). In this last citation ...

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2. Paul: “Last of All, He Appeared Also to Me”

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pp. 27-46

...Even though neither the pre-Pauline tradition that is preserved in 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5, 7 nor Paul himself (anywhere in his surviving letters) mentions the empty tomb, our investigation of the empty tomb stories begins with Paul. This is for two reasons. First, the tradition he refers to is the earliest source that offers any substantial information about belief in Jesus’ resurrection ...

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3. Empty Tombs and Missing Bodies in Antiquity

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pp. 47-62

...a jealous rage and kicks his wife, Callirhoe, and to all indications she dies. She is given a fabulous funeral and is buried with great treasures in a tomb much like the one described in the Gospel narratives. During the night, pirates come to pillage the tomb, and they break in just as Callirhoe revives, for she was not really dead. This is a classic example of the narrative device of apparent death, which, as G. W. Bowersock has remarked ...

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4. The Sayings Gospel Q: “You Will Not See Me”

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pp. 63-82

...Mark wrote first and was used by Matthew and Luke as the major source for their narratives about Jesus, and (2) that the best explanation for the sayings material Matthew and Luke have in common (but did not get from Mark) is that they used a common documentary source (that is, an actual text) that is now lost. Although there is still some debate on this point, in this book I take for granted that Q was an actual ...

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5. Mark: When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away

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pp. 83-98

...Early in Mark’s Gospel, it comes to the notice of the Pharisees that Jesus and his disciples are not engaging in the customary religious practice of fasting. When asked why, Jesus replies with an analogy about a wedding party: guests at a wedding do not fast, but they feast as long as the festivities continue. Jesus says, however, that a time is coming for his followers “when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast, on that day ...

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6. Luke: “Why Do Doubts Arise in Your Hearts?”

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pp. 99-118

...Luke’s version of the empty tomb story is quite different from its Markan source, and it includes some important narrative developments. As shown above, Paul talks about visionary appearances of the risen Christ without mentioning an empty tomb, and Mark’s narrative suggests a tangible disappearance without an appearance, tangible or otherwise. Despite this, Paul and Mark both use the category of resurrection to express Jesus’ vindication ...

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7. Matthew: “And Behold, Jesus Met Them”

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pp. 119-136

...Ulrich Luz has remarked that “the narrative fictions in Matthew’s Gospel . . . contrast strangely with his overall marked loyalty to tradition.” By “narrative fictions” Luz means newly created stories that Matthew did not receive from either textual or oral sources or, on a larger scale, the rearrangement of episodes creating a new chronological order of the Jesus story...

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8. John: “Where I Am Going, You Cannot Come”

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pp. 137-152

...Matthew’s inclusion of an appearance of Jesus at the tomb, witnessed by the women who discover the empty tomb and encounter the angel. The question that immediately arises is how best to explain these parallels. Was the author of the Fourth Gospel a recipient of the same basic traditions that lie behind Matthew 28:9-10 and Luke 24:12? Did the author use Matthew and Luke as source texts? Or was he somehow the recipient of secondary oral traditions ...

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9. Rewriting the Empty Tomb: Early Christian Deployments and Developments

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pp. 153-176

...The first thing to be observed about the early Christian reception of the empty tomb story is that in some ways it was not well received at all. Later canonical writings and early extracanonical texts all but ignore it, and when it does surface again in the second century and later, most of the theological interests of its canonical deployments are lost or ignored...

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10. Revisiting the Empty Tomb: Why Beginnings Matter

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pp. 177-184

...Sometime near the end of the first century, these words were written to the Christian community in Corinth. I refer to them here for two reasons, the first of which is that it is a very early Christian text that uses the image of people being led out of a darkened tomb as a metaphor for coming into community together under the benefaction of God....


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pp. 185-234


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pp. 235-250

Index of Selected Subjects

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pp. 251-253

Index of Modern Authors

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pp. 254-256

Index of Ancient Texts

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pp. 257-269

E-ISBN-13: 9781451405699
E-ISBN-10: 1451405693
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800697013
Print-ISBN-10: 0800697014

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010