Earlier I wrote the odds Jesus’ body was put in a tomb is less the 50%. From what we know of Roman law and Pontus Pilate most likely the body hung there for a week or two in full view of the public. The Romans did that to make this point: We Romans are in charge. Don’t break our rules.
If our information is correct and Jesus’ body just hung there on display, those who wanted to write a resurrection story needed something better. Their version had to conform to story telling standards.
Whether you are reading a book, watching a movie or play, the required pattern is this: The stage is set by letting the audience become acquainted with the characters. The hero and villains are identified. There is a dramatic event. But, who did it, what it meant or what will be the outcome develops a tension the story teller wants.
The Pharisees and the Romans were perfect villains–Jesus the perfect hero. The tomb in the story was a perfect prop. It allowed a drama to develop of a stone removed, a body missing and an unresolved outcome.
A story with the body just hanging there and crows pecking at it, then, instantly coming to life, is too quick and simple. A mystery had to be developed.
Maybe story tellers could have had the fog roll in, mysterious sounds heard followed by a missing body. “Where is it? Did you see anything?” might have worked, but a tomb was better.
P. S. Announcing an exciting event, a humanist conference right here in Fargo ND, Sept 12-14, 2014. Details at