Religious Studies professor Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God, takes on questions surrounding the resurrection:
Was Jesus put in a tomb and three days later that tomb was found empty? Well, that’s a historical question. And to answer it, it doesn’t require any set of religious beliefs; you can simply look at the sources and draw some historical conclusions. …
Before I wrote this book and did the research on it, I was convinced as many people are, that Jesus was given a decent burial and on the third day the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and that started the belief in the resurrection.
Apart from the fact that I don’t think Jesus was given a decent burial — that he was probably thrown into a common grave of some kind — apart from that, I was struck in doing my research by the fact that the New Testament never indicates that people came to believe in the resurrection because of the empty tomb. This was a striking find because it’s just commonly said that that’s what led to the resurrection belief.
But if you think about it for a second, it makes sense that the empty tomb wouldn’t make anybody believe. If you put somebody in a tomb and three days later you go back and the body’s not in the tomb, your first thought isn’t, “Oh, he’s been exalted to heaven and made the son of God.” Your first thought is, “Somebody stole the body.” Or “Somebody moved the body.” Or, “Hey, I’m at the wrong tomb.” You don’t think he’s been exalted to heaven. In the New Testament it’s striking that in the gospels the empty tomb leads to confusion but it doesn’t lead to belief. What leads to belief is that some of the followers of Jesus have visions of him afterwards.
Michelangelo, The Resurrection (1532), Royal Collection, London