Recent Opening of the Tomb of Jesus

Recent Opening of the Tomb of Jesus

For the first time in centuries, the alleged tomb of Jesus has been opened by archaeologists. Is there any evidence for the authenticity of this tomb? Also, Dr. Craig comments on the importance of the presidential election.


Transcript Recent Opening of the Tomb of Jesus

KEVIN HARRIS: It's Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Welcome!

Opening the tomb of Jesus? You may have heard about this in the news. Dr. Craig had some preliminary comments on it to his Defenders class not long ago that I want you to hear. We will be doing some more detailed podcasts on this in the near future.

Also, to those of you in the United States, Dr. Craig has some last minute opinions about the upcoming presidential election. Again, these are comments that he made at the beginning of his Defenders class.

By the way, be sure that you are checking out Dr. Craig's Defenders class podcasts. Those are at ReasonableFaith.org. Right now he is going through a series on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is very interesting. You can catch that at ReasonableFaith.org.

DR. CRAIG: Did you see that for the first time in several centuries the tomb of Jesus has actually been exposed to public view. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem the tomb of Jesus has been covered with a marble slab to protect it. Now archaeologists from the University of Athens who did the Acropolis are restoring the site of Jesus' tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and have removed the marble covering thereby exposing to view for the first time in centuries the actual limestone slab upon which the body of Jesus lay. It just thrills me to think of something like this.

Some of you may be thinking to yourselves, “Well, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – isn't this just another one of these legendary Catholic sites that has no claim to historical credibility?” Well, in fact, that is not at all the case. Scholars think that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has, in fact, a very strong historical claim to actually be the site of the tomb in which Jesus was laid. There are two factors that contribute to that.

First of all, the way this site was identified was just one year after the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, took a trip to the Holy Land in 326 to look for relics and other sites and antiquities from the time of Jesus. When she got to Jerusalem she asked the residents of Jerusalem, Where was Jesus laid? Where was he buried? The residents of Jerusalem pointed to a temple of Apollo and said, He was buried in a tomb over which then the pagans built this temple of Apollo. What is the first thing that is remarkable about that is that according to the New Testament the site of the crucifixion, Golgotha, and the site of Jesus' burial place was outside the city walls. They wouldn't have had executions going on within the sacred precincts of Jerusalem. It was outside the city walls. But at the time of Constantine the site identified by the residents of Jerusalem as the burial place of Jesus was within the city walls. What they didn't realize was that the Emperor Hadrian around the end of the first century had extended the walls of Jerusalem and that this burial site to which they pointed to did, in fact, lie outside the original walls of Jerusalem even though it now lay within the walls of Jerusalem.

So Helena ordered the temple to be razed and the ground excavated. This temple was built in AD 110. Jesus was crucified about AD 30. So that means that this is within about 80 years after the death of Jesus that this temple was built over the site. So historical memory in Jerusalem went all the way back to AD 110 that this was the burial place of Jesus. When they excavated the site, lo' and behold they found a tomb down there under the site where the temple of Apollo stood!

So this seemed to be a very strong historical claim for thinking that this was in fact the original tomb in which Jesus lay.[1]

Tourists who go to Jerusalem today and see the so-called Garden Tomb have a sort of lovely picture of what a tomb in a garden might be like but there is no historical credibility to thinking that that is the actual tomb of Jesus. The real tomb of Jesus seems to be the one that lies within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is exciting to think that that very burial place of Jesus now is exposed to public view temporarily before it is recovered with marble and enclosed again in the little shrine.

That was the first thing, in case you missed it in the news, that I wanted to share with you because I thought it was pretty exciting.

The other thing that I think deserves comment is there has been a considerable amount of talk that in view of the bad choices that we have in the upcoming presidential election, Christians ought not to vote for either one. Some have suggested even just staying home and abstaining from the election altogether. It seems to me that this is a very immature, and even childish, view of moral decision-making.

We are constantly confronted with moral choices in which neither choice is a good choice. In that case the ethical thing to do is to choose the lesser of two evils. This is a common moral experience that mature decision-makers have to make. You say, Which of these two choices would be worse for the country? and then make your decision accordingly.

As I explained last week, this is a very significant election because of the Supreme Court appointments that are going to be made. Already on the horizon are looming the clouds of threats to religious liberty in this country. Administration spokesmen have already said that exemptions to discrimination laws based on religious conscience are unconstitutional and ought not to be permitted. If a church chooses not to hire a Muslim, for example, to be on its staff, or an atheist, or a practicing homosexual, these people are claiming that that person is guilty of discrimination and denying civil liberties to these people and therefore there ought to be no religious exemption to this sort of selective hiring. This is going to come before the courts in the future, and how it shakes down is going to depend upon the kind of justices that are chosen to replace people like Antonin Scalia.

So there is a lot at stake here. We've already learned from Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges the sort of cultural shifts that can occur when the Supreme Court by 5-4 decisions makes legislative decisions from the bench. These decisions on the free exercise clause and the second amendment will undoubtedly come before the Court in coming years, and we had better hope and pray that there are judges on the bench that will allow for the free exercise of religion and recognize that churches and Christian charities and so forth cannot be forced to act against religious conscience.

Your vote can really make a difference. So you can't in good conscience ignore your civic duty and decline to vote. You need to pick the lesser of two evils. You should vote because your vote in a swing state could make an important difference.

In Romans 13 Paul says that we are to be subject to the governing authorities. They are ministers of God to execute his will. In a democracy like ours, I think that means exercising your civic responsibilities to vote. Remember that when Paul wrote that the Emperor that he was talking about was Nero – a bloodthirsty, military dictator of the greatest military dictatorship on the face of the Earth. Yet Paul could say he is a minister of God to carry out his will, and that we as Christians are to be submissive to the governing authorities. I think that it would be a dereliction of our civic duties as Christians to refuse to exercise mature, ethical decision-making and to participate in the electoral process.[2]

So we need to assess the choices clearly, choose the lesser of two evils, and then be sure to exercise our civic responsibility and vote because it really makes a difference.

Student: I completely agree with you. I am going to confine my comments to just one particular aspect of it which is the Vice President. Even though we have the lesser of two evils with the actual presidential election, I've looked more and more at Mike Pence versus the other Vice President. Mike Pence has said multiple times, I am a Christian way before I am a Republican. Just his voting record. He is extremely pro-life. Extremely pro-marriage. I think if you look at the Vice Presidential candidates, it is really something to consider as well when you look at a really great man in the Vice President.

Dr. Craig: Good reminder. Thank you.

Student: There are so many other important issues this election. We've got Congress. We've got amendments that will affect our state. Our localities. And our nation. To stay home is definitely not the right thing to do. The rest of the ballot is so incredibly important that you really do need to inform yourselves and vote.

Dr. Craig: Good reminder. Thank you.

Student: We know the kind of Supreme Court justices that Clinton will nominate. We also know the kind that Trump will nominate. We also know her stance on abortion. I agree with you. I hope that they can listen to your message.

Dr. Craig: Thanks. It seems to me that the lesser of two evils principle is just a fundamental facet of moral decision-making. That is not to say that the choice is not evil – is not a bad choice – but it is to say that in some moral choices one is forced to choose the lesser of the two evils.

Student: Very rarely I disagree with you on some things. This one, God bless you! I agree with you completely!

Dr. Craig: Oh, good! [laughter] I appreciate your independence!

Student: Here is my question for those who hold the view which is espoused. What standards are you going to use before you finally cast your vote? Obviously, if you want absolute perfection you are out of luck. So are you going to come up with some works-oriented thing? Are you going to hire a detective to go back on somebody? All you've got to go on is what is made publicly. It is almost works-oriented to say, This person doesn't quite meet my standards of excellence. Well, nobody meets God's standards of excellence. That is why we had to have a perfect Savior die for us.

Dr. Craig: Thank you.

Student: I have to say that for the longest time I really had a problem with this. I was thinking about voting but just leaving the presidential part blank. But after lots of consideration, reading a lot about both sides, I decided to go ahead and vote. Here is why. When I first became a Christian, a few years after that, I was studying a lot and one of the things I was really studying was the Protestant Reformation. What is interesting about the Protestant Reformation in England is that it was essentially done by Henry VIII. That guy was a scoundrel! I'm not going to use another word but . . .

Dr. Craig: [laughter] Reprobate?

Student: There is a clear example of where God used a crooked, evil ruler, yet it was done to bring about a greater good. I'm not saying that Trump's anointed or God's chosen or whatever; I'm not going to say that because you don't know. But there is at least an opportunity for the defense of religious freedom as you've mentioned. Another thing, too, is I had a pastor once tell me something I've never forgotten. He said, “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.” You and I can't do that, but he can. Look at the book of Judges.

Dr. Craig: Yeah!

Student: I'll say “Amen” to all the pro-voters here. If you look back at the heritage of people that have been elected and their behaviors – Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy, Bill Clinton – we certainly have had things we would have disagreed with on behavior. As far as pronouncements or statements are concerned that had global impact, during the face-off with the Soviet Union, John Kennedy used the term “We'll stand on our principles even if it means ashes in our mouth.” That was tough talk during those times. I would say to those that weren't around during that time, you should Google those speeches. That was hair-raising stuff at the time.

Dr. Craig: I wanted to leave you with the words of Edmund Burke, the great political theorist: “All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”[3]



[1] 5:08

[2] 10:06

[3] Total Running Time: 15:25 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)