If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Didn’t Happen, What Did Happen?
The Resurrection is the great separator, the great divider. The Resurrection either happened or it didn’t. Jesus either died and rose from the dead, or the Bible is lying, and we are believing in a lie. 1 Cor 15 rightfully claims “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
This is an area worthy of defending. All of Christianity hinges on whether or not the Resurrection is a fact. I feel like the tactic of skeptics is to just throw a whole bunch against the wall and see what sticks. But what if there is both biblical and historical evidence that disproves their theories, and the only available option is that Christianity is true and that the Resurrection actually occurred?
If the Resurrection is true, there is no recourse but to believe everything He said. It’s easy to say that you will forgive people’s sins. It’s easy to say you are the savior and king of the world. It’s easy to say you are the One and True Living God who came to earth to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. It’s Almost IMPOSSIBLE to Prove It. Babe Ruth became a legend when he called His shot, then delivered. Jesus called His shot that He would die, and then raise from the Dead 3 days later. This is how you prove the impossible, you take down the Undefeated Champ, the Ultimate Judge that comes for every man – Death Himself. If Jesus could face Death and descend into it’s cold lifeless embrace for 3 days, and unlike anyone else in History Raise Himself from the Dead. Then Jesus would PROVE THE IMPOSSIBLE. He Would Prove He’s the GOAT. He’d prove He’s the Messiah, prove He’s the World’s Savior and King, and prove He’s the only way to Salvation and Eternal Life.
I’ll take down these 4 common theories and leave only Christianity as a possibility. Most objections fall under one of these categories and if you have any other objections, or come across some troll on the internet, just put them in the comment section and I’ll answer those too.
Swoon Theory – Jesus didn’t really die
Hallucination Theory – The disciples hallucinated
Myth Theory – Disciples created the Myth
Conspiracy Theory – Jesus’ body was stolen
Christianity – Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again
This is the idea that Jesus did not really die. That maybe Jesus was unconscious or had some weird disease that made Him seem dead. So they took him off the cross and wrapped Him up. They placed Him in the tomb, where after a couple days in that damp, cool place, He woke up. He unwrapped himself and started walking around the city.
This is ridiculous. This theory was batted around for the first time in the 17 and 1800’s Then we started discovering other evidences. First of all, we know He was crucified by the Romans and they were expert technicians in killing people. They knew exactly how to kill people. Tacitus, a roman historian and pagan said the following in 105AD:
“… Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the region of Tiberius…”
So, it was common knowledge that “Christus” was killed by the Romans in the first century. We even get a ton of details in another historical document in the Gospel of John 19:31-37:
“Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.”
We learn a lot from this verse…
1) They didn’t brake His legs because he was definitely dead. The Romans knew what they’re doing when it came to killing. They were the best.
2) Water and blood came out. My childhood pediatrician, when he heard I wanted to become a pastor pointed out that this passage proved Jesus was dead, because His blood already separated because of lack of circulation. Water came out and then blood.
3) Fulfilled prophecy, an absolute awesome aspects but we have little time to discuss it at this time. That prophecy of not a bone will be broken is about 1,000 years before it happened. He would be something Jesus didn’t have “control” over, and yet reveals he was in total control.
The Swoon theory just doesn’t make logical sense.
This belief states that the disciples hallucinated. They probably accidentally ate some magic mushrooms or something. They’re sitting there in that upper room, just praying and hoping Jesus comes back to life. Then one of them, probably Phillip is like, “Dudes, I totally see Him. He just walked through the door.” And everyone is like, “Yeah dude, I think I see Him too.”
The problem is, the bible doesn’t explain it that way at all. Luke 24:36-43 says:
“While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 ” See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, ” Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.”
The disciples were not sitting around hoping Jesus would return. They weren’t expecting it. A hallucination could occur if they were just praying constantly for Jesus to return and then their mind showed them what they wanted to see. Another important key here, as well as all throughout the Gospels, is Jesus’ physicality. He touched them and ate food with them. He had a physical body… just not exactly like ours. There were also many appearances like this – 40 days of appearances.
Also, the clincher of this argument is found in I Cor. 15:5-6: “5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep”
500 people generally do not see the same hallucination, plus many of them saw the same “hallucination” when Jesus ascended into heaven. Historically speaking, the reason why Christianity spread so quickly is because people from all over the world could visit Jerusalem and find people who saw Jesus face to face. If someone was skeptical of the resurrection of Jesus, they could go and visit Jerusalem. They could ask the baker, and blacksmith, and boatman; and each of them would say the same thing. They saw Jesus after He died, and watched Him ascend into heaven. The disciples and those that saw Jesus were so convincing that hundreds of thousands came to know Christ as their Savior.
The Hallucination theory just doesn’t seem to fit.
This is the belief that maybe the disciples created the Myth. They didn’t want to feel like losers since Jesus wasn’t really the Messiah, so they just started telling stories that He’d come back to life. Well, those stories kind of took on a life of their own.
There are 3 major problems when it comes to this theory.
1) The gospels account do not sound like a myth. There are far too many details. If these fisherman really made a “fish tale,” it would have been more grandiose and they would give the people what they want. They would expect bigger and greater, and the legend would give it to them, like Jesus then came back 90 feet tall and ate all the Pharisees and Romans. Along with this is one detail in particular that really doesn’t fit the myth genre.
Remember, it was women who first saw Jesus and realized he wasn’t at the cave. No way would the myth writers give any part to woman at all. Women were looked down upon in society and their testimony would be less than convincing.
2) There was not enough time for a Myth to have been created. The book of James might have been written as early as 54AD. And 1 Corinthians was written between 55-56 AD most likely. (Even people who use a very late date put it in the 60’s AD) This is less than 30 years after Christ died. Christianity had spread into Greece by then. Christianity spread fast and very fast. 1 Cor 15:1-6 says:
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
As it can be seen here, the Gospel is clearly articulated within 30 years of Christ death and resurrection. It didn’t develop, it was declared.
For it to spread so quickly there must have been a large base of people that had seen Jesus to testify of such an event. About 500 seems like an adequate number.
It took Hinduism over 1,300 years to reach as many people, and took Islam about 400 years to spread the same distance. Christianity did it in 30. They didn’t use war or threats or violence. Instead the war, threats, and violence was used against them and they grew despite it.
3) It would not make a lot of sense for the Disciples to use Jesus as their Messiah candidate. The Jews crucifying Him shows us that he was not a “good candidate.” Some expected the Messiah to be a great military leader to lead the Israelites into battle against the Romans. Some thought the Messiah would be here to usher the World in a New World order with our transformed bodies marching towards eternal Salvation. No matter what, the only way the Disciples would have preached Jesus as the Messiah, would be if it were not their idea.
1 Peter 1:16-21 comes right out and responds to this attack:
“16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The Myth theory just does not fit well with historical evidences.
First of all, is it possible the Pharisees or the Romans stole the body? To not waste any time, absolutely not. If they stole the body and the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection started popping up, they would have quickly showed the body and proved the menacing Christians wrong. Therefore if the body was stolen it would have been stolen by the Disciples. But there are a ton of problems with that. Here’s the biblical account of what went down:
Matthew 27:62ff – 62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.”66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone 1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.
So here are the problems:
1) Getting the body. If there were armed guards in front of the tomb, did the disciples kill them? Maybe they just knocked them unconscious and stole the body?
2) Why would they even attempt to steal the body and then lie that He rose again? Is lying and deceiving against what Jesus taught them? Most certainly. Is it schizophrenic to lie and deceive and then preach to not lie and deceive? Why would the Disciples lie at all? Did they have anything to gain from the lie? Lies generally benefit the liar. The disciples had no hope of gaining anything, not money, or prestige. They had everything to lose. And remember, most of these disciples were not just killed, they were tortured to death. Peter was crucified upside down in 67AD, and James was beheaded in 44. Likewise Phillip was crucified in 54, and Matthew beheaded in 60AD. All the disciples were either crucified, beheaded, stoned, or speared to death except John who was exiled on an island. None of them let the cat our of the bag? None of them got their story mixed up? All of them were willing to die for a lie that they got no personal accolaides for? Chuck Colson who was involved in the Watergate Scandal is now a Christian minister. He says Watergate proves the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The 11 disciples kept the same “lie” for 40 years, where the 7 members in Watergate couldn’t keep the lie going for 3 weeks with a little congressional pressure.
3) Here is the key and honestly the key to all these theories. It was the changed lives of the apostles. Every single one of the Disciples were “scaredy cats.” These people were all of a sudden courageous? We can track how Christianity spread through archeology and anthropology and sociology and you know what, everything again and again proves the New Testament events. The lives of the Disciples were not the only ones that changed. A Pharisee who hated Christians turned towards Jesus Christ and His life was changed. His name was Paul. And thousands back then have similar testimonies and millions more today have the same testimony. It’s not a lie, because lives are still being changed by the Gospel. It’s irrefutable.
The Conspiracy theory is a poor, unsubstantiated theory.
Jesus is not something you can try. It is someone you place your whole faith and trust in. The reason the Resurrection is so important is because it deals directly with the one thing man can do nothing about – death. The Resurrection is either true or it’s a lie. If it’s true, and you believe it then your life must change. It changes everything. If that unbelievable event is true, then all of Jesus said in Scripture is true. If it’s all true, then it demands your life, your soul, your all.