“Why seek the living among the dead?”
Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?
by Mark Karapetyan
“I don’t think Jesus died on the cross. I believe that he either survived the crucifixion, and somehow his followers were able to fabricate a divine resurrection story, or that he was a brilliant con man who deceived and tricked everyone into believing that he died and three days later rose from the dead” answered George, my workout friend from the gym, when I asked him once if he believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
I believe that skeptics like George reject the resurrection evidence, not because it is insufficient, but because of its moral implications on their lives. Many theories attempting to show that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fraud, have been advanced. Several of these theories originated in ancient times, but others are modern.
In this brief study, I will examine and refute some of the most popular theories and demonstrate the validity of the disciples’ resurrection claim.
The Swoon Theory
This theory proposes that Jesus did not die on the cross, but merely passed out (“swooned-half dead”), and was later revived while in the tomb.
There are several serious problems with this theory. To begin with, am I to believe that after being flogged almost to death (at least thirty nine times according to Jewish Laws) and after losing a lot of blood (to the point where He was too weak to carry His own cross), Jesus somehow survived the brutal, deadly, Roman crucifixion? The Romans executed any guard or soldier who let a death prisoner escape. In addition, the Romans did not break the legs of Jesus as they did to the other two criminals on the cross, which meant that Jesus was already dead and the Romans knew it. (Breaking the legs quickened the death of the person on the cross since the victim couldn’t push with their legs and raise themselves up to breath.) Blood and water poured out when a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side indicating that He had already been dead from asphyxiation. Joseph of Arimathea then took the body of Jesus and encased it with 70-100 lbs. of linen, according to Jewish tradition. How did a half- dead, bleeding, and weak Jesus manage to unwrap the heavy linen off His body, then, with pierced hands, move away a two-ton large stone that had been placed over the entrance of the tomb without any help? Where were the Romans guards when a swooned Jesus with pierced feet escaped the tomb? The Roman soldiers were ordered by Pilate to guard the tomb since they heard rumors that the disciples might come and steal the body. In Roman times, if a prisoner escaped, the guard would be burnt alive without his uniform or executed instead of the prisoner. The guards had a strong motivation not to let Jesus escape.
The swoon theory fails terribly when you consider that a half-dead man laid in a cold tomb for three days without food or water, somehow managed to free Himself of the wrappings, quietly pushed away a large stone, fought off the trained Roman guards, and then escaped. It doesn’t make sense!
The Conspiracy Theory
This theory assumes that the followers of Jesus conspired and fabricated the entire resurrection story.
Blasé Pascal gives a powerful refutation:
“The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition is difficult, for it is not possible to imagine that a man has risen from the dead. While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.” (Pascal, Pensees 322, 310).
The “cruncher” in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in that bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn’t have become Christians.1
If I were to fabricate any story to deceive people, I’d try to stay away from Washington D.C (my home town) where so many people know me in person and could easily dismiss my claim. The disciples couldn’t have fabricated the resurrection story in the small city of Jerusalem and get away with it. Too many witnesses who knew them in person could have exposed their lie. Despite this difficulty, the disciples stuck to their story and spread it all over Jerusalem.
Another question comes to mind as I analyze this theory. What was the motive of this conspiracy?
What could the followers of Jesus have gained from fabricating a story like this? Lies are always told for selfish advantage. The disciples were harassed, tortured, beaten, abused, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and eleven out of the twelve were killed for their belief. Who dies for a lie? It’s one thing to die for something that you think is true, but it is another thing to die for something you know well is a lie ! Would you die for a lie?
In conclusion, if the resurrection was a concocted, conspired lie, it violates all known historical and psychological laws of lying. The followers of Jesus who claimed to have seen Jesus alive from the dead were willing to experience horrific deaths rather than deny that it happened. If they just made it up, what possible motivation could they have had for doing so?
The Hallucination Theory
The hallucination theory argues that the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were not literal appearances, but were instead hallucinations experienced by His followers. However, several lines of reasoning reveal the weaknesses of this theory.
First, why couldn’t the Jews and the Romans produce Jesus’ body and once and for all put an end to the resurrection claim? The Jews and the Romans WERE NOT hallucinating and knew exactly where the tomb was (the Roman soldiers guarded the tomb and Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus) yet no one could produce the body. This theory could explain the resurrection, but can’t explain the empty tomb. Where did the corpse go? If the disciples stole the body, then we are back to the conspiracy theory and its unreasonable assumptions. If the Romans and the Jews took it, all they had to do was produce the body, but they couldn’t!
Second, hallucinations usually last a few seconds or minutes, not hours. This one lasted around for forty days. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God .“ Acts 1:3
The disciples and the women did not even believe what they saw at first. They thought it was a ghost. Jesus had to eat in front of them to prove He was not a ghost because ghosts and spirits can’t eat nor drink. (Many sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was only spiritually resurrected and not bodily).
Third, hallucinations are private, individual, and subjective. Christ appeared to over five hundred people at once. Did all of them experience similar hallucinations at the same time? Have you ever seen a mass hallucination of something supernatural?
The main issue with this theory is that hallucinations only occur for individuals, not groups for people. There were many people that could have discredited the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection, but were unable to.
The Myth Theory
This is the theory that says the story of Jesus is a mythical one, copied from the stories of pagan mystery gods, such as Osiris and Mithras. However, just like the previous theories, the myth theory cannot be reconciled with the historical evidence.
Myth takes years to develop. It can’t be developed and believed in the presence of eye witnesses within a short period of time. Many of the New Testament books were written soon after the death of Jesus. The gospels are unique and different in content from other mythical stories. The gospel writers recognized the difference between actual eye witness testimony and myth. They gave attention to small details such as names, locations, dates and events.
The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all the myths. Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this. There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in, everything is meaningful.2
The Jews were familiar with seasonal deities and found them detestable, making it extremely improbable that they would borrow mythology from them. This is why no trace of pagan cults celebrating dying and rising gods can be found in first-century Palestine. 3
Josephus was a prominent first century Jew. He was a court historian for Emperor Vespasian, who wrote about the history of the Jewish people. On one occasion he writes, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man, for he wrought surprising feats. He was the Christ. When Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared restored to life and the tribe of Christians has not disappeared.” 4
If the resurrection of Jesus was mythical, why did several secular historians write about it? In addition; if the gospel writers exaggerated or fabricated the resurrection story, don’t you think that their hostile adversaries and other eyewitnesses would have immediately exposed them?
“Unquestionably, no one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus.” – Albert Einstein
The Stolen Body Theory
This hypothesis posits that the body of Jesus Christ was stolen from his burial place. His tomb was found empty not because He was resurrected, but because the body had been hidden somewhere else by the apostles. This particular hypothesis has been around longer than any other.
However, why would these men attempt such a feat?
If the disciples stole the body, how did a group of fisherman fight and overpower strong, trained Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb? The disciples were cowardly men who ran away in fear the moment Jesus was arrested. What caused the disciples to suddenly turn into brave fearless Gospel preachers?
It is true that many people have died for a lie. From Jim Jones to the Heaven’s Gate cult, people who are deceived by a cult leader can be quite willing to die. It would be extremely rare, however, if anyone would deliberately construct a false story and then die for it with a martyr’s zeal. It is even more difficult to believe that eleven men would go to their deaths for this lie. 5
This view implies that the disciples knowingly devoted their lives to a falsehood. J.P. Moreland points out: “The disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion. They faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyrs’ deaths.” 6 In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they had known that what they were preaching was a lie.”
One more point, if the Jews and the Romans had stolen the body, and not the disciples, as some have claimed, then Jesus’ body could have been easily produced. Christianity would have been dead in an instant!
In summary, it is evident that all of the theories we have discussed have no merit to them. They do not present any serious challenges to the resurrection claim. The Romans and the Jews could not produce the body because Jesus wasn’t in the tomb. HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD. Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Ellen. G. White, Buddha, and all the other ‘faith leaders’ died. Not Jesus, HE IS ALIVE!
The resurrection of Jesus is the central tenet of Christian theology. If the resurrection is a man-made story, then Jesus is a liar and the Christian faith is false. On the other hand, if it is true that Jesus conquered death and decay, then not only His claims are true, but so is His promise to us that one day, “in a twinkle of an eye, we all shall be made alive.”
“The resurrection is the keystone of the arch on which our faith is supported. If Christ has not risen, we must impeach all those witnesses for lying. If Christ has not risen, we have no proof that the crucifixion of Jesus differed from that of the two thieves who suffered with him. If Christ has not risen, it is impossible to believe his atoning death was accepted.”
 Peter Kreeft. Evidence For The Resurrection Of Christ
 Strange Notions.
 Please Convince Me-The Minimal Facts
 Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 212.
 American Vesion.org-The Body Snatcher
 (1987, pp. 171-172).
APOLOGETICS - ARTICLES AND INFORMATION
- What is Apologetics?
- The Lost Truth
- Logic & Reasoning
- Truth & Reality
- Does God Exist?
- The Cosmological Argument
- The Design Argument
- The Moral Argument
- Who is Jesus?
- Satan’s Wish!
- God’s Dilemma!
- Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?
- Does God Answer Prayers?
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Was Noah's Flood Real?
- Are Miracles Possible?
- The Apostle Peter
- Does Archaeology Support The Bible?
- Science & The Bible
- How Can Jesus be the only Way to Heaven?
- Don’t All World Religions Teach the Same Thing?
- Undesigned Coincidences
- Are All Men Created Equal?
- Is the Bible Really the Word of God?
- Amazing Bible Facts
- The Blind Atheists
- Jesus Meets Einstein
- Did the Gospel Writers Tell the Truth?
- The Evolution Fairytale
- The Day Common Sense Died!
- The Philosophy of Jesus
- The Report (Part 1)
- The Report (Part 2)
- Are All Religions True?
- Are There Contradictions in the Bible?
- Are All Religions True?
- Why Does God Allow Evil & Suffering?
- Bible Prophecy
- New Age Christianity
- The Wager
- When God Cried
- What Happened to America?
- Don’t All Good People Go to Heaven?
- Jesus at the United Nations
- False Teachers
- The Conference
- Jesus & the Woman at the Well
- The Day You face God
- Was Jesus Really Crucified?
- The Blind & the King
- Is Jesus God?
- The Meaning of Life
- Hero & the Fake
- The Insanity of Pluralism
- Who is God?
- The Tree of Good & Evil
- The Confused Agnostic
- Lazarus Come Forth!
- When God Seems Silent
- Case #1101
- The Proposal
- The Prayer
- Roman Catholicism
- Jesus Meets the Pope
- First Century Jesus
- The Patterns of False Religions
- Timid Christianity
- The Foolishness of Life without God
- An American Thanksgiving
- An American Christmas
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