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5 False Resurrection Theories

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the 3rd day is the cornerstone of Christian faith. Without this key historical fact Christianity crumbles to the ground, it is nothing more than a bunch of crazy people who are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and pleasure to gain a fictional eternity with a dead man.

Let’s take a brief look at 5 false resurrection theories. If you’d like to study them in more detail apologist Peter Kreft analyzes theories 1-4 in a series of blog posts here.

Theory #1 Hallucination

This theory supposes that everyone who said they saw Jesus alive after his resurrection was hallucinating. Somehow all the disciples and many others managed to have the same hallucination of Jesus risen from the grave. This may be the weakest of the 5 theories as it’s nearly impossible to imagine that everyone could have the same hallucination. Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people (1 cor 15:6) Could it be that those 500 plus people all suffered the same delusion?

Furthermore, there is absolutely no sign of psychiatric problems with the disciples either before or after the resurrection. None of them display classic signs of schizophrenia but rather show very normal and healthy patterns of thinking in their behavior and in their writing.

If Christ only appeared to one person who then related it to others, we might be able to plausibly assume that it was a hallucination or a vision. However, since he appeared to hundreds of people over a period of several weeks we must rule out the idea that his resurrection was a figment of the imagination of over 500 people.

Peter Kreft writes:

The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place. This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus. Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched, and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter. 1)Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate

Theory #2 Myth

Some argue that the resurrection is a myth that the disciples built around their favorite teacher, Jesus, after he died. They loved and honored him so much that their stories about him got blown out of proportion until finally the story solidified into one common myth about his resurrection.

The problem with this theory is that the resurrection stories we find in the gospels don’t look like typical myths. If they were myths then certainly they would have some significant differences from each other, yet the four gospels and the book of Acts all seem to correlate the same story. Furthermore myths are usually created over several generations. There’s not enough time between the actual events and the creation of the story for it to be a myth.

Rather, the gospels were all written within a generation or so after Jesus death while others were still living who saw Jesus in person and may have witnessed his crucifixion and seen him in his resurrected body.

Theory #3 Conspiracy

Could it be that the disciples stole the body and kept it hidden away while claiming that Jesus rose from the dead? It’s hard to imagine this could happen. We know that the tomb was guarded well and the disciples were not trained in tactical fighting nor did they have money to hire men to do the dirty work for them. It would have been nearly impossible for them to get past the guards and into the tomb. Even the guards admitted that something miraculous happened when the stone was rolled away. (Mat 28:14-15)

If the disciples knew full well that Jesus had not been raised from the dead it doesn’t seem likely at all that they would have then all gone forward from that day on preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 11 disciples met their death because of this teaching, only John died of natural causes but he also was sent to exile on and island. What would motivate all these men to give up their lives and their comfort for something they knew was a lie and had no power?

About this theory John Stott writes that it:

simply does not ring true. It is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible. If anything is clear from the Gospels and from the Acts, it is that all the apostles were sincere. They may have been deceived, if you like but they were not deceivers. Hypocrites and martyrs are not made of the same stuff. 2)Stott, John R. W. Basic Christianity

Theory #4 Swoon

Another theory proposes that Jesus lost conscious while he was being crucified and went into a coma for 3 days. The Roman officials mistakenly thought he had already died so they took him down of the cross. Those who embalmed him also didn’t seem to notice that he was still breathing. After 3 days Jesus regained consciousness, got up, rolled away the stone, slipped past the Roman guards and went on his way.

The problems with this theory are numerous. First, we know that the Romans were highly skilled and highly experienced executionists, who knew could very accurately read the signs of life. The breaking of the legs of those who were being crucified was a common way to speed up their death, however, Jesus’ legs did not need to be broken because he had already died. Nevertheless just to make sure the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with his spear.

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:33-34

The flow of blood and water seems to indicate that Jesus’ heart had already stopped.

M.D. Truman Davis states:

…an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. We therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that [Christ] died the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.3)Davis C, Truman, “The Crucifixion of Jesus”

Even if Jesus did simply lose consciousness while on the cross, it’s impossible to think that his embalmers wouldn’t have noticed. Additionally, after all this blood loss from the soldier sticking his spear in his side and the previous scourging it’s rather ludicrous to think that after 3 days without food, water, or warmth he would wake up and be able to stand, fold his grave-clothes and then single-handedly roll back a stone that weighed several tons!

Theory #5 Wrong tomb

Finally there’s the theory that the women who brought spices and later Jesus’ disciples all went to the wrong tomb. This theory would also have to include elements of some of the other theories if it were to work at all. For instance, if the women and the disciples went to the wrong tomb then how do you account for Jesus’ repeated appearances to many people? Would not Joseph of Arimathea to whom the tomb belonged have heard about it and checked for himself? Who did the 500 see if Jesus did not raise from the dead?

This theory is plainly not acceptable!

Fact – Jesus rose from the dead

So then we are left not with another theory but with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead just as he said he would! This historical fact is the hope for everyone who calls themselves “Christian” Jesus is conquered death and he gives that death conquering power to all who will believe in him!

‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 15:55-57

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

References   [ + ]

1. Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
2. Stott, John R. W. Basic Christianity
3. Davis C, Truman, “The Crucifixion of Jesus”

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