... continued from yesterday
It seems very likely indeed that these women found the tomb empty where Jesus’ body had been laid, as well as that they did not initially tell anyone, as Mark 16:8 says. There is first the fact that such specific names are mentioned. For such specific names to be remembered in places far removed from where they were known, surely the tradition started first in the places where they were known, probably well within their lifetime. 
Similarly, the fact that they did not initially tell anyone out of fear is scarcely a comment someone would invent. Indeed, Matthew and Luke chose not to mention this little detail even though they were likely copying Mark at this point. The tradition that Paul passes on about resurrection appearances does not mention these women, unless they are part of the five hundred who saw Jesus risen on one occasion. Their role in the story seems very likely--surely no one in that day would have invented women discovering the empty tomb if it had not happened that way. 
We thus have two very interesting likelihoods. First, Jesus’ tomb was empty on Sunday morning. Second, hundreds of individuals were quite convinced that they had seen Jesus alive after his death.  If we add a little faith to these two likelihoods, we have Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Obviously if a person does not believe that resurrections can happen, then he or she will find another explanation. But if you believe resurrections can happen, this is the most likely one of all history.
Paul says that the first resurrection appearance was to Peter. This is more than a little intriguing, since none of the gospels clearly tell about the incident. The most we get is an intriguing and allusive comment in Luke 24:34—"he has appeared to Simon." But the story of that appearance is not told, unless John has moved it to his final chapter (John 21).
The way the gospels present the resurrection appearances in general makes it clear that no one of them gives us the full story. For example, it is easy to think that the Great Commission of Matthew happened outside of Jerusalem right before Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9. Then we realize that the Great Commission took place in Galilee (Matt. 28:16), a three days journey away from Bethany where Jesus ascends (Luke 24:50).
In fact, Luke-Acts does not mention any of the appearances in Galilee at all, while Mark and Matthew indicate that Jesus' primary resurrection appearances were there. It would be easy to conclude that there is some artistry involved in these presentations rather than a completely literal presentation. For example, one of the features of Luke-Acts is to focus the center of his presentation, especially in Acts, on the city of Jerusalem. He has accordingly omitted the part of the resurrection story that took place in Galilee.
Even a brief comparison of the ending of Luke with the beginning of Acts highlights the artfulness of Luke's presentation. If one looks at the timing of Luke 24, you might easily infer that Jesus rises from the dead and ascends to heaven on the same day. Jesus appears to the men on their way to Emmaus "that same day" (Luke 24:13). They return to Jerusalem "at once" (24:33). "While they were still talking" (24:36) Jesus appears again, and Jesus leads them out near Bethany, where he ascends to heaven (24:50).
But then, when we turn to Luke's second volume, Acts, there are forty days between Jesus' resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3). This is scarcely a difference Luke would expect his audience to miss.  It must have surely been understood that Luke was not simply presenting a documentary of what happened but also arranging and presenting the material in an artful and meaningful way.
If our reaction is, "Luke messed up because the two don't seem to match," then we are not thinking about Luke-Acts in the right way. We are thinking it's all about history when in fact it's all about truth, using history as the medium. This is an important paradigm shift you must make if you are to have a deep understanding of the message of the gospels...
 Books such as James Dunn's Jesus Remembered and Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses remind us that such traditions would have likely circulated while these individuals were still living. The details of such oral traditions might vary quite a bit, but a core tended to travel intact.
 That is, if someone were making the story up from scratch, surely they would have had men find the tomb empty. For example, in John, Peter and the Beloved Disciple corroborate the fact that the tomb is empty. See also Luke 24:12.
 A good book on this topic is James Dunn's The Evidence of Jesus.
 Although I am using the name Luke for convenience, the author of Luke-Acts nowhere actually gives his name, assuming it was a man. Technically, Luke-Acts is anonymous.