From Jonathan M, writing for Apologetics UK. He presents 6 arguments for the empty tomb.
Fact#3: The gospels record that the primary witnesses to the empty tomb were women
All four gospels (including John, who was almost certainly writing independently of the synoptic gospels) make women the first witnesses of the empty tomb, and Matthew and John make women the first witnesses of the risen Jesus. Male witnesses appear only later and in two of the Gospels. This is incompatible with a dishonest intention to write an untrue but convincing account, because of the lowly status of woman as witnesses in the ancient world.
This fact is significant because in both first century Jewish and Roman cultures, women were lowly esteemed and their testimony was not highly regarded. Further, female witnesses were only permitted to be legal witnesses to matters within their knowledge if there was no male witness available. Women were second-best witnesses, and anyone wanting to artificially bolster a fictional account would have without question made male witnesses the primary discoverers of the empty tomb. The Jewish Talmud remarks, “Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women,” and “Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer).” Josephus states further,“But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and of their sex.”
This fact becomes even more significant in light of Luke 24:11, when Luke records that “…they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
The best explanation for why all four gospel writers would have included such an embarrassing and awkward detail is that that is actually what happened and they were committed to recording it honestly and with integrity, regardless of its blow to their credibility.
It’s also important to note when Paul writes about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he uses the Greek word “soma” which means physical body.
This article on the resurrection from Ratio Christi explains a point that Jonathan missed in his article.
2.The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Explains Paul’s Use of the Word “Soma”
Whenever the New Testament mentions the word body, in the context of referring to an individual human being, the Greek word “soma” always refers to a literal, physical body. Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. What is significant is that Paul uses the word soma to describe the resurrection body of Jesus (1 Cor.15:42-44).Greek specialist Robert Gundry says “the consistent and exclusive use of soma for the physical body in anthropological contexts resists dematerialization of the resurrection, whether by idealism or by existentialism.” (1) Furthermore, N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God shows that the Greek word for resurrection which is “anastasis” was used by ancient Jews, pagans, and Christians as bodily in nature, with this being the case until much later(A.D. 200).
The only explanation that can be given to the emphatic insistence on the early proclamation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, rather than translation or even a spiritual body is the fact that the apostles did in fact actually witness a material resurrection.
The empty tomb is the sticky wicket when making the case for the resurrection – some people like Mike Licona don’t even use it, because only about 75% of ancient historians will give it to you. The strongest piece of evidence for the empty tomb is that women were the first discoverers of the empty tomb. The New Testament authors would never have made that up. Skeptics who debate William Lane Craig often cite that as their sole reason for accepting the empty tomb. For example, Bart Ehrman accepts it, and he’s a radical. The women followers are crucial to the pivotal event in Christianity.
See it used in a debate
You can see some arguments for the empty tomb made and defended from criticism in this debate with the atheist scholar James Crossley.
This my favorite resurrection debate.
To hear a related lecture by Craig on the topic of “Who did Jesus think he was?”, click here to download it. The video is here for download. This lecture was delivered in February, 2009 at Columbia University, probably the most secular leftist university in the United States.