The empty tomb: What science says about the resurrection
Church Matters

The empty tomb: What science says about the resurrection of Christ

The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre or Church of the Resurrection is a silent witness to the amazing fact of the resurrection of Christ

Easter, tomb

The Resurrection is the most important day in the entire Catholic calendar: hence, the proclamation of the Christian Faith: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.!”

Standing in the Old City of Jerusalem, the famous Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is also known for centuries as “the Church of the Resurrection.” It is every age’s silent witness to the amazing fact of the resurrection of Christ. Reckoned to be the holiest site for global Christians, it has been the most beckoning pilgrimage site for Christianity since the fourth century.


Such is the conclusion of the awe-inspiring 2017 headline news from CNN. CNN, as we all know, is a non-sectarian commercial network that draws its conclusion, as in this case, from the research-based findings of present-day archeologists.

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It is neither a myth nor a legend. The Bible says so. Science says so. History says so. The empty tomb is found inside the basilica constructed by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. The Man who was buried there rose from the dead!

Contra factum non fit argumentum, as the Romans used to say. “You cannot argue against facts!”

Let us visit the inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, standing in what was once known as Calvary. Come and see the “burial bed” that Mark (the earliest of the four Gospels) narrated as the exact place where the Body of Jesus Christ was laid down following His shameful death on the cross (Good Friday) on a hill (Golgotha) just outside the Damascus Gate.

Inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Jesus’ “burial bed” kept untouched within the Holy Aedicule (Latin aedes meaning “small house”) comes alive. Splendid! A marvel to behold.

What does science say?

The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., another non-sectarian organization, invited the world to see in 3D the “Tomb of Christ: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre Experience,” and many of us had the experience of going back to Old Jerusalem in virtual reality.


The Sacred Tomb of Jesus, or the Holy Aedicule, underwent a historic restoration—a massive-expensive project that used state-of-the-art technologies, capturing global interfaith attention. “Such shelves and niches, hewn from limestone caves,” scientists confirmed, “are a common feature in the tombs of wealthy 1st-century Jerusalem Jews.”

Consider how reverent their treatment of the historic project was: “We consolidated the holy rock. We opened the tomb of Christ in order to protect it from the infection of grout. Then we reinstalled the stone slabs after inserting joints of titanium,” Dr. Antonia Moroloulou said. Moropoulou, a chemical engineer at the National Technical University of Athens, led the interdisciplinary team of specialists and masons who carried out the special project of Jesus’ tomb restoration in 2017.

What does the Bible say?

Jesus the Poor was buried in a borrowed tomb carved into the rock, hence a cave. The tomb’s owner was Joseph of Arimathea the Rich, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council that had condemned Jesus.

On the evening of the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body, and, after Pilate granted his request, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb (Mark 15:43). Reckon how Jesus was given an honorable burial and how Joseph wrapped the body in a clean shroud (now the Holy Shroud of Turin). Exegetes wonder why Matthew’s Gospel uses the Greek word soma (body) rather than ptoma (corpse).

The Roman authorities made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard, an added detail to answer claims by contemporary opponents that the followers of Jesus had stolen his body (Matthew 27:61-66).

Did Jesus, true God and true man, die on the cross and was buried?

There are two distinct questions. The first quest is this: Did God die on the cross and was buried? And the second question: Did God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, die on the cross and was buried? In Christian theology, these statements demand clarifications and definitions of terms.

To the first question, did God die on the cross? The answer is no. It is impossible if, by God, we mean divinity itself. How could it be possible for God to die? By definition, DEUS (Latin for God) is immortal, eternal, perfect and immutable! Thus, if you say that God died, it is in itself a contradiction.

By definition, the Divine Supreme Being, which we call God, cannot die and will never die!

The following is a partial list in metaphysics and dogmatic theology of the attributes of God [DEUS], a list that can be found in the statements officially defined by Ecumenical Councils and Extraordinary Synods of Bishops, ex-cathedra papal teachings, handed on to us by Sacred Tradition made through the centuries:

God is absolutely perfect.

God is actually infinite in every perfection.

God is absolutely simple.

God is absolutely immutable [Malachi 3:6: “For I, the Lord, do not change”].

God is eternal [no beginning, no end].

God is immense or absolutely immeasurable.

God is everywhere present in created space, omnipresence.

God knows all OMINISCIENCE (scientia simplicis intelligentiae).

God is almighty, immortal and omnipotent; therefore, he cannot, will not and will never die. See 1 Timothy 6:16: God “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

God is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth.

To the second question, did God the Son, in reference to Christ the Savior, die on the cross? The answer is yes.

The Incarnate Word, the Logos of the Father, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has all the attributes of divinity. And my all-time favorite of these attributes is this: God is divine mercy! But he also has the attributes of human nature. Jesus, true God and true man, died and expired at 3 o’clock on Good Friday.

Jesus, who said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” [Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani (Ἠλί, Ἠλί, λιμὰ σαβαχθανί)] in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46, and he who prayed the last words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” [Luke 23:46], died on the cross and was buried on the same day.

After more than 2,000 years have passed, different people of different persuasions and different beliefs still talk about His Glorious Resurrection. Jesus is alive!


Dr. José Mario Bautista Maximiano, convenor of the Love Our Pope Movement (LOPM), is the author of Church Reforms, Volumes 1 & 2 (Claretians, 2023 & 2024) and 3-volume series on 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines (Claretians, 2020, 2021, & 2022).

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TAGS: Easter, Holy Week
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