Sunday, March 13, 2011

Get real

If Christianity is to be shown false it will occur when someone can show by the preponderance of the evidence that the empty tomb can be explained without a bodily resurrection.  Scholars are almost in universal agreement that Jesus was a historical figure, who died on a Roman cross, was buried in a known tomb, was reported missing from the tomb days later, and was reported to be seen by many.

What are the theories explaining this known information, and which theory has the best explanatory power?  I will consider some of the popular arguments and close with the theory that Jesus actually rose from the dead in bodily form.

1.  The Swoon Theory - The Swoon Theory has Jesus not dying on the cross, but resuscitating in the tomb. 
  • This can't be a proper explanation as the Romans at the cross would have been held accountable if Jesus was not dead.  In fact, Roman law pronounced a death penalty for any soldier who does not make sure an individual dies on the cross.
  •  Jesus legs were not broken showing the guards believed Jesus was already dead.
  • Blood and water was reported to have flowed from Jesus body due to a spear thrust through his heart.  A spear through the heart = death.
  • Jesus was buried in pounds of bandages and wrappings from head to toe.  It would have been impossible for him to breath and resuscitate.
  • The disciples never would have followed a swooned Jesus.
  • Jesus could never have overpowered the Roman guards.  Additionally, how does Jesus move the stone?
  • There is no early story of a swooning Jesus.
2.  The Conspiracy Theory - The story of Jesus resurrection was a concoction of his disciples.
  • Early Christians never believed the story to be an invention.  The Jewish culture was not one to believe in non-historical stories.
  • It is hard to believe that fishermen could construct such an elaborate story.
  • The Conspiracy Theory goes against the disciples character.
  • Why would the disciples construct such a story knowing it would condemn them to hell and pronounce a death sentence upon them due to persecution?
  • There is no way this lie could escape Jerusalem without being exposed by the Jewish people.
  • The story of the bodily resurrection was early (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
  • How do you explain the empty tomb?
3.   The Hallucination Theory - The disciples merely hallucinated a resurrected Jesus.
  • Hallucinations are not shared group experiences.
  • Hallucinations are short (a few seconds) and never are prolonged, such as the disciples spending hours with Jesus.
  • Hallucinations usually happen as a one time experience and never occur multiple times later.
  • Early Jewish converts of Christianity would never have been convinced of a hallucinated Jesus.
  • The Hallucination Theory does not match with the disciples character.
  • Hallucinated persons can't be touched and they never eat (Luke 24:42-43; John 21:1-14).
  • Hallucinations do not explain the empty tomb.
4.  Grief Related Hallucination Theory - Hallucinations where individuals are so grieved they project
     the person that is being grieved for.  Some say Paul was so grieved at persecuting Jesus that he
     hallucinated in seeing Jesus.
  • The same problems apply for the Hallucination Theory.
  • It is hard to believe that Paul, who thought he was serving God by persecuting Christians, would ever feel sorry for what he was doing, causing him to suddenly project Jesus out of grief.
5.  The Myth Theory - Similar to the Conspiracy Theory, the Myth Theory has subsequent  writers inventing a resurrected Jesus.
  • The gospels don't read as myth, but as historical documents.
  • There is not enough time for myth to develop.
  • Anyone creating a myth in the 1st century never would have used women as the first discoverers of the resurrected Jesus, knowing that the testimony of women in 1st century Palestine was invalid.
  • The writings of the New Testament were early enough that anyone could have countered them if they were myth.
  • Myth goes against the Jewish culture.
  • Why create a myth that would carry with it a certain death sentence?
6.  The Stolen Body Theory - The body of Jesus was stolen by his disciples.
  • What motivation would cause the disciples to do this if they knew the resurrection story would bring certain persecution?
  • The disciples were afraid after the death of Jesus.
  • This is against the character of the disciples.
  • How did the disciples get past the Roman guards?
  • How did the Jewish disciples get away with this hoax in Jerusalem where Christianity was birthed?
7.  The Twin Theory - Jesus had a twin or someone who looked just like him who died on the cross.
  • Wouldn't some have know it was an impostor who died on the cross?
  • Wouldn't someone have known Jesus had a twin?
  • How do you explain the empty tomb?
8.  The Alien Jesus Theory - This theory has Jesus as an alien who possessed advanced technology to make it appear that the resurrection took place.
  • Ummmmm, really?
9.  The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Theory - Jesus bodily rose from the dead.
  •  Prophesies exist to confirm the person of Jesus, even detailing the type of death he would receive (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
  • The bodily resurrection explains the empty tomb.
  • The bodily resurrection explains the encounters that numerous people had with Jesus.
  • The bodily resurrection explains the times Jesus had physical contact after the resurrection (eating, being able to be touched).
  • The resurrection was the earliest story (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
  • The resurrection story explains the changed lives of the disciples.  It is hard to believe that 1st century Jews who witnessed Jesus would be willing to die for a lie.
  • In sum, the bodily resurrection of Jesus has the best explanatory power when all theories of the resurrection story are lined up.
  • Much of the material derives from Kreeft and Tacelli's book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.  To see more detailed information click here.

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