Some of the best Gospel disproofs are right out in plain sight. Take the Empty Tomb for instance. Everybody’s heard of it. It’s the centerpiece of the Easter story. It’s the core of the Christian apologetic for Jesus actually rising from the dead.
Nobody ever stops to think how very very odd it is that the Empty Tomb would end up in such a pre-eminent place.
Imagine for a moment that the Resurrection story were not the result of distraught disciples being nudged over the edge by one trauma too many. Imagine that you are a genuine, messianic incarnation of God, and that you’ve just willingly sacrificed your life for your beloved disciples, and then—by your own omnipotent and godly power—have just raised yourself from the dead both as a vindication of your ministry and as the redemption of your disciples. Where are you going to go now? Disney-frickin-world?
There’s basically three places a genuinely-resurrected Messiah would be immediately after his resurrection: either (a) still in the tomb, waiting for his disciples, or (b) on his way to meet his disciples to let them in on the good news, or (c) already with his disciples. He’s risen from the dead, and he has work to do with his disciples before he “ascends into heaven,” so we ought to expect that his next destination, after the tomb, would be right back with his disciples again.
That being the case, there’s really no good reason for the disciples to have discovered an empty tomb unless the empty tomb itself is the actual astonishing post-Crucifixion event. If a genuine resurrection had occurred, we would expect the Resurrection itself to be the primary focus of the story, with the Empty Tomb relegated to the same trivial and barely-mentioned role as the Folded-Up Burial Cloth and the Rolled Away Stone—part of the story, of course, but just as passing details, not as the main drama. The primary evidence would be provided by Jesus himself showing up, in person, and everybody seeing him (including unbelievers).
On the other hand, imagine the Empty Tomb as the only objectively-factual portion of the Resurrection story. Imagine the disciples, already emotionally strained and exhausted by the sudden and violent execution of their hoped-for Messiah, abruptly confronted with the shocking and inexplicable disappearance of the very body itself. If, under such intense stress, some of them began to see Jesus the same way Elvis fans sometimes see Elvis, what sort of stories would that produce?
Right: the appearances would be markedly ghost-story-ish and separated by large gaps, just like what we find in the New Testament stories. They’re subjective appearances, and therefore they depend on the believer’s frame of mind, which changes from moment to moment. Large-scale, multiple-witness “visitations” would require particular social circumstances, like what you sometimes find in modern Pentecostal congregations, and even then the group experience would not produce a manifestation visible to unbelievers. And yet, because of the Christian emphasis on “spiritual truth,” these invisible appearances would not seem like lies to Christian eyes. They would be real, “true” appearances—spiritually speaking.
Meanwhile, for outsiders, the actual, visible evidence would be the Empty Tomb. That would be the part everybody could see, and therefore the part that would displace the Resurrection itself as the primary evidence for the validity of Christianity. A real Resurrection wouldn’t need to leave that task to a mere vacant hole in a rock, because a real Risen Savior wouldn’t just be a subjective experience in the minds of believers only. The actual New Testament stories are not the events we would expect if an actual Resurrection were literally true, but they’re exactly what we would expect to see if the “Resurrection” only happened in the minds of believers. Right down to the centrality of the Empty Tomb.
Not an ironclad, last-nail-in-Christianity’s-coffin disproof, I’ll grant you, but just one more bit of evidence that is inexplicably more consistent with a skeptical explanation than a credulous one. And that’s all I’m going for here.