Countering Common Arguments against the Resurrection
For that reason, it’s easy to see why people have attempted to “explain away” the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s examine the most common arguments people give as to why the Resurrection did not take place:
The “swoon” theory
Premise: Jesus did not actually die, but He went into a deep coma (or “swoon”) from the severe pain and trauma of the Crucifixion. However, in the cool atmosphere of the tomb, He “revived” and was somehow able to get out of the strips of cloth wrapped tightly around His body and appear to His disciples.
Rebuttal: Remember, the Roman guards were actually the first to report Jesus’ death (John 19:33–37). They were experts at execution and would be put to death themselves if they allowed a condemned man to escape death. They were so certain that Jesus was dead, they did not even bother to break His legs. And when the spear they thrust into Jesus’ side brought forth blood and water, they had final proof of His death, for this occurs when the heart stops beating.
Also, for the “swoon” theory to be valid, Jesus would have had to survive massive loss of blood through the scourging, the nail wounds, and the spear thrust. In addition, in this impossibly weakened condition…
- He would have had to endure 40 hours without food or drink, manage to unwrap Himself from His grave clothes, and roll away the massive stone closing the tomb—and then convince His followers that He had risen from the dead.
- He would have had to travel countless miles in that condition to make many appearances to His disciples over a period of 40 days.
- He would have had to delude the disciples into thinking that He could simply appear in a room without the use of a door.
This theory is so absurd, it really doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a response. Yet there are some who would conveniently hang their doubt on it.
The “no burial” theory
Premise: Jesus was never put in the tomb to begin with. Instead, He was thrown into a mass grave for criminals, according to Roman custom.
Rebuttal: If this were true, neither the Jewish leaders or the Roman soldiers would have bothered to seal the tomb knowing His body was not in there (Matthew 27:62–66). Moreover, to disprove Jesus’ resurrection, they would only have had to retrieve the body and put it on display.
The “mass hallucination” theory
Premise: Everyone who claimed to see the risen Lord was hallucinating out of an earnest desire to see Jesus alive again.
Rebuttal: Jesus’ disciples had not expected to see Him alive again (Mark 16:10–11). It came as a complete and total shock to them. Scripture also tells us that 500 people saw Him on one occasion alone.
Ironically, the nonbelievers initially had more faith in the words of Jesus than His own disciples. The chief priests and Pharisees came to see Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63–64). They remembered Jesus’ words concerning the Resurrection, while the disciples had apparently forgotten them!
The “stolen body” theory
Premise: Jesus’ disciples took His body in order to fulfill Jesus’ words (see Matthew 27:64). According to Scripture, this story goes back to the day the guards who had stood watch at Jesus’ tomb told the chief priests what had transpired. The chief priests bribed the guards, telling them to spread this story instead of what they had witnessed (Matthew 28:11–15).
Rebuttal: Jesus’ friends could not have taken His body because they had left the scene, convinced that He was dead. When the women reported Jesus’ resurrection to the eleven apostles and other believers in Jerusalem, “their words seemed…like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). The apostles had no reason to counterfeit Jesus’ resurrection since they did not even believe it themselves. How could it be that the very men who fled for their lives, while Jesus was still alive, could suddenly muster the courage and ingenuity to steal the body from a guarded tomb, and then boldly start preaching and teaching about a Jesus they knew was dead?
Christ’s resurrection is not a lie.
If the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a lie, how could all of the apostles—with the exception of one man—go to an early grave saying so? According to church history and tradition, all of them died the death of a martyr.
- Peter: In Rome, Peter was severely scourged and then crucified. He asked to be crucified upside down, not upright like Jesus.
- Andrew (Brother of Peter): Andrew was martyred in Patrae, Achaia. It was there that he was bound to an x-shaped cross and crucified. He preached to his persecutors until he died.
- James (Son of Zebedee): James was the first of the apostles to be martyred. His death is the only martyrdom of the apostles mentioned in the New Testament (see Acts 12:2). Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, was responsible for beheading James.
- John (Brother of James): Tradition tells us John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but the oil mysteriously did no harm to John. Afterward, he was banished to Patmos. Though John was sentenced to death because of his faith, he was the only apostle who did not die for his belief in the risen Christ.
- Philip: This apostle was martyred in Helipolis. He was scourged and later crucified.
- Bartholomew (Nathanael): According to the “Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew,” he was put in a sack and thrown into the sea. Another tradition states he was crucified upside down after being flayed alive.
- Thomas: This apostle of Christ was run through the body with a lance in India.
- Matthew (Levi): Matthew was slain in distant Ethiopia.
- James (Son of Alphaeus): The apostle James was stoned and was then beaten to death with a club.
- Judas, Son of James (Thaddaeus): Church tradition is not clear on the martyrdom of this apostle. One tradition states he was crucified, while another tradition claims he was shot to death with arrows.
- Simon (the Zealot): Tradition states Simon was crucified in Britain after preaching the gospel there.
If his life would have been spared, don’t you think at least one of them would have suddenly exposed such a lie under threat of death? Of course he would have! But they did not expose it because it was not a lie—it was truth.
Jesus’ enemies would not have stolen His body because His resurrection was the very thing they were trying to prevent. It would have defeated their own purposes to do so. If they had taken it, they would have produced it to prove that He was no longer alive.