Empty Tomb Painting


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For many people of antiquity, empty tombs were seen as signs not of resurrection but of assumption, that is, the person being taken bodily into the divine realm. In Chariton's ancient Greek novel Callirhoe, the hero Chaereas finds his wife's tomb empty and immediately assumes the gods took her rather than believe she was resurrected or that her body was stolen by grave-robbers. In Ancient Greek thinking, the connection between postmortem disappearance and apotheosis was strong and there are numerous examples of individuals conspiring, before their deaths, to have their remains hidden in order to promote their postmortem venerations. Arrian wrote of Alexander the Great planning his own bodily disappearance so that he would be revered as a god. Disappearances of individuals to be taken in the divine realm also occur in Jewish literature, although they do not involve an empty tomb. Daniel Smith suggests the empty tomb stories and resurrection appearances in the gospels come from separate traditions, with the former about Jesus' absence or assumption, while the latter were about Jesus' presence. He concludes that the gospel writers took the two traditions and weaved them together.