Maybe you've heard or thought a version of this myth--
"He never really died, but became conscious and left the tomb."
"His disciples stole the body and fabricated the story of resurrection."
"The disciples had hallucinations about Jesus and that's where we get the stories of a risen Christ."
"Jesus' enemies stole his body, and his disciples made it up."
These are all attempts to avoid what is the greatest supernatural miracle in history. If true, the resurrection vindicates Jesus, his claims, his teaching and the entirety of the Old and New Testaments.
There's so much riding on it that some people are willing to say almost anything to nullify the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
I'd like to briefly address the myths listed above before I would suggest another approach to skeptics.
- Jesus was only unconscious. Aside from the fact that Jesus' death was ordered and carried out by Roman soldiers whose own lives would have been at risk for letting a person who was dead go, there are other obvious problems with the explanation. It assumes that Jesus, having been beaten and crucified as he was, would have been able to roll away that pesky stone and overcome his Roman guards. Additionally, one must ask, where did Jesus go after rising from the dead? Are we to believe that he was able to hide his presence from the authorities for perhaps decades, bearing in secret all the tell-tale signs of crucifixion? This "swoon theory" lacks much stickiness at all.
- His disciples stole the body. Beyond the fact that the disciples would have had to overcome the Roman guards, dispose of the body somewhere else, and then begin to persuade others of the truth of the resurrection, there are other issues with this explanation. The disciples claimed that over 40 days he appeared to them, teaching and commissioning them. Additionally, the writings and works and subsequent martyrdom of the apostles don't exactly bear the marks of the kinds of hooligans who would steal his body and deceive the world. The followers of Jesus began to suffer over decades for their claim and most of them gave up their lives in horrible ways. All for a lie? But beyond this, one must ask, "Where are the Roman soldiers who were overcome? Why are they not telling the truth?"
- His disciples had a group hallucination of Jesus and then extrapolated their faith from it. Again, while it's not exactly a legal proof, one would question how such traumatized and mentally wounded people might have moved on with in 50 days and began to boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord and Christ. How would they have come to explain and incorporate the salvation they claimed that came from the cross and the hope that came resurrection so brilliantly, built on the Old Testament, in such a convincing fashion that people would give up their lives for it? The disciples not only present cogent arguments for what they believe, but they incorporated it into a worldview that is consistent and convincing to people across cultures, languages, times and religious contexts. It hardly seems like the work of people who were either mentally unstable or devious.
- Jesus' enemies stole his body. One must ask, what is the motive for this behavior, and why would these enemies not have produced the body as soon as possible after claims of resurrection arose? The enemies were likely searching for the body once the apostles began to claim resurrection, that is sure. But it is equally clear that they never found it.
In the end, a supernatural resurrection may be the best explanation for what undid the Roman Empire and started a movement that has transformed culture and individuals for the past 2000 years. There may be no other parallel in history for any religious to have the widely slung influence of the Jesus movement without military intervention.
But belief in the truth of the resurrection is not merely a matter of coming to deduce logic. It is the work of God in the hearts of people who come to esteem it for what it is--a miracle of truth and beauty that will one day spread to all people in the resurrection of the dead in the culmination of history.
Take a long look, skeptic! You may still say it's foolish, but you really should come up with some other excuses. These old lines betray an enthusiasm to reject Jesus, but little heart for finding the truth about him.
Share this post today to help people in your life who are resisting Jesus by repeating this old myth about him. You can learn more about the 21 Myths in 21 Days blog series by clicking here!
Labels: apologetics, Christian origins, faith, Jesus Christ, New Testament, resurrection, truth