Finally, I took a look at some of the academic scholarship regarding the empty tomb of Jesus. I was truly surprised to find that a large majority of scholars today agree that Christ's tomb was found empty.
The Jerusalem Factor. Since Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem, it would have been impossible for Christianity to begin in Jerusalem while the body was still in the tomb. Christ's enemies in the Jewish leadership and Roman government would only have to exhume the corpse and publicly display it for the hoax of the empty tomb to be shattered.
The Jewish Response. Rather than point to an occupied tomb, the Jewish leadership accused Christ's disciples of stealing his body. Wouldn't this strategy seem to establish that there was, in fact, an empty tomb and a missing body?1
The Women's Testimony. In all four Gospel accounts of the empty tomb, women are listed as the primary witnesses. This would be an odd invention, since in both Jewish and Roman cultures women were not esteemed and their testimony was not admissible.
When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what's really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, 'Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women' and 'blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.' Women's testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren't even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it's absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women... Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb -- Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that -- like it or not -- they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status.2