Resurrection appearances.

  • Mark 16:9 and John 20:14 show Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene.
  • Matthew 28:9, 10 show Jesus appeared to the women from the tomb.
  • Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5 show Jesus appeared to Peter.
  • Luke 24:13-33; Mark 16:12 show Jesus appeared to the disciples walking to Emmaus.
  • Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24 show Jesus appeared to 10 apostles (Thomas was absent).
  • John 20:26-29 shows Jesus appeared to all 11 apostles.
  • John 20:26-29 shows Jesus appeared to seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberias.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:6 shows Jesus appeared to 500+ believers on Galilean mountain.
  • Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:33-52; and Acts 1:3-12 all show Jesus to have been seen by The Eleven.
  • Acts 1:3-12 shows Jesus to have been seen at His ascension.
  • Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8 show Jesus appeared to Paul.
  • Acts 7:55 shows Jesus appeared to Stephen.
  • Acts 22:17-21; 23:11 show Jesus appeared to Paul in the temple.
  • Revelation 1:10-19 shows Jesus appeared to John on Patmos.

How do we know these weren’t hallucinations?

* “Men who are subject to hallucinations never become moral heroes.  The effect of the resurrection of   Jesus in transformed lives was continuous, and most of these early witnesses went to their deaths for proclaiming this truth.” (Straton, BLR)

* “Generally, only particular kinds of people have hallucinations.

“They are those whom one would describe as ‘high-strung,’ highly imaginative and very nervous.

“The appearances that Christ made were not restricted to persons of any particular psychological make-up.” (McDowell)

* “There was a variety in mood…

“Mary Magdalene was weeping;…

“the women were afraid and astonished;…

“Peter was full of remorse,…

“…and Thomas of incredulity.

“The Emmaus pair were distracted by the events of the week…

“…and the disciples in Galilee by their fishing.”

“It is impossible to dismiss these revelations of the divine Lord as hallucinations of deranged minds.” (Stott)

* “[Raoul] Mourgue, in his fundamental treatise on the neurobiology of hallucinations, reached the conclusion that variability and inconstancy represent the most constant features of hallucinatory and related phenomena.  For him the hallucination is not a static phenomenon but essential a dynamic process, the instability of which reflects the very instability of the factors and conditions associated with its origin.” (Kleurer, as cited in Hoch, PP)  It is extremely unlikely, then, that two persons would have the same hallucination at the same time.

* “It is absolutely inconceivable that as many as (say) five hundred persons, of average soundness of mind and temperament, in various numbers, at all sorts of times, and in divers situations, should experience all kinds of sensuous impressions – visual, auditory, tactual – and that all these manifold experiences should rest entirely upon subjective hallucination.  We say that this is incredible, because if such a theory were applied to any other than a ‘supernatural’ event in history, it would be dismissed forthwith as a ridiculously insufficient explanation.” (Thorburn, RNMC)

* “Who ever supposes that the disciples deceived themselves and mistook the internal for the external, accuses them of such mental weakness as must invalidate their entire testimony concerning Christ and make it appear as though Christ Himself, when He chose such witnesses, did not know what was in man.  Or, if He Himself had willed and ordained that they should mistake inward appearances for outward perceptions, He would have been the author of error, and all moral ideas would be confounded if this were compatible with His high dignity.” (Christlieb, as cited in Smith, TS)

* Luke says at the beginning of his second book, the Acts of the Apostles, that our Lord showed Himself alive after His Passion “by many infallible proofs,” or more literally, “in many proofs.”

* The Appearances of the Risen Master may be analyzed according to the human senses to which they appealed, whether the sense of sight, or of hearing, or of touch.  The different phenomena may be conveniently grouped together under these divisions…

“And first as to the sense of sight…”Jesus met them”…”They saw Him”…”They…supposed that they beheld a spirit”…”See…My hands and My feet…”…”I have seen the Lord”…”He showed unto them His hands and His side”…”They saw the Lord”…“Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails”…”Because thou hast seen Me”…”And none of His disciples durst inquire of Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord”…”Appearing unto them by the space of forty days”…

“The appearances of the risen Christ are reported also as appeals to the sense of touch…”Handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having”…”And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish.  And He took it, and did eat before them” (Sparrow-Simpson, RCF)

* “The ‘hallucinatory’ vision at the tomb in Mark has an auditory experience: the angel tells the women to go and announce the fact to the disciples…

“Similarly in Matthew…the women both see and hear Jesus, and also touch Him…” (Thorburn, RNMC)

* Hallucinations are usually restricted in terms of when and where they occur.  “If the appearances had all taken place in one or two particularly sacred places, which had been hallowed by memories of Jesus,” and if “their mood had been expectant,” then “our suspicions might well be aroused.” (Stott)

* “Consider the wide variety of times and places:…The early morning appearance to the women at the tomb…The appearance on the road to Emmaus one afternoon…A couple of private interviews in broad daylight…By the lake, early one morning…On a Galilean mountain by five-hundred-plus believers.

“Indeed, there is almost a studied variety in the times and places of Christ’s appearances – a variance that defies the hypothesis that these were mere visions.” (McDowell)

* Hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy that causes their wish to become father to the thought. (Anderson, RJC); (Little, KWB); (Peru, OPC)

* William Milligan states that the subject of the vision must be characterized by “belief in the idea that it expresses, and excited expectation that the idea will somehow be realized.” (Milligan, RL)

* In the case of His post-resurrection appearances, Christ’s followers were caused to believe against their wills.  ”The phenomena, therefore, suggest that the Appearances were rather forced upon the mind’s attention from without rather than created from within.” (Sparrow-Simpson)

* “We may recognize the slowness with which the disciples arrive at a conviction to which only the inexorable logic of facts led them.” (Day)

* “any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention it is the oddest invention that ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus (Luke 24:13-31; John 20:15; 21:4).  Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that He would get the fact of the hallucination right?  Is He who made all faces such a bungler that He cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was Himself?” (Lewis)

* Hallucinations usually tend to recur over a long period of time with noticeable regularity.  “All the accounts suggest that the appearances of the Risen Body came to an end; some describe an abrupt end six weeks after the death…A phantom can just fade away, but an objective entity must go somewhere – something must happen to it…

“If it were a vision then it was the most systematically deceptive and lying vision on record.  But if it were real, then something happened to it after it ceased to appear.  You cannot take away the Ascension without putting something else in its place.” (Lewis)

* “Hallucinations are individual occurrences.  By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time.  They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people.  Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce an hallucination in somebody else.  Since an hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.” (Collins)

Change in disciples.

2 Peter 1:16 shows that the disciples truly believed.

* “The most drastic way of dismissing the evidence would be to say that these stories were mere fabrications, that they were pure lies.  But, so far as I know, not a single critic today would take such an attitude.  In fact, it would really be an impossible position.  Think of the number of witnesses, over 500.  Think of the character of the witnesses, men and women who gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known, and who even on the testimony of their enemies lived it out in their lives.  Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence – and then attempting to attribute this dramatic change to nothing more convincing than a miserable fabrication they were trying to foist upon the world.  That simply wouldn’t make sense.” (Anderson, RJC)

* “Note that when the disciples of Jesus proclaimed the resurrection, they did so as eyewitnesses and they did so while people were still alive who had had contact with the events they spoke of.  In 56 A.D. Paul wrote that over 500 people had seen the risen Jesus and that most of them were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6 ff.).  It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus.” (Montgomery, HC)

* “It was therefore impossible that they [the disciples] could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.

“The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unflinching courage.  They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted.” (Greenleaf, TE)

* “Are these men, who helped transform the moral structure of society, consummate liars or deluded madmen?  These alternatives are harder to believe than the fact of the Resurrection, and there is no shred of evidence to support them.” (Little, KwhyB)

* “Look at the changed life of James, the brother of Jesus.  Before the resurrection he despised all that his brother stood for.  He thought Christ’s claims were blatant pretension and served only to ruin the family name.  After the resurrection, though, James is found with the other disciples preaching the gospel of their Lord.  His epistle describes well the new relationship that he had with Christ.  He describes himself as ‘a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (James 1:1).  The only explanation for this change in his life is that which Paul gives: ‘After that He [Jesus] was seen by James’ (1 Cor. 15:7).” (McDowell)

* “the skepticism of Thomas comes out in the belief that the death of Jesus would be the death of His kingdom.  ‘Let us go, that we may die with Him.’  The man who uttered these words had, at the time when he uttered them, no hope of Christ’s resurrection.  No man would propose to die with another if he expected to see him again in a few hours.  Thomas, at that moment, had given up all intellectual belief.  He saw no chance for Jesus.  He did not believe in His physical power.  He had made up his mind that the forces of the outer worlds would be too strong for Him, would crush Him.” (Matheson, RMNT)  However, Jesus made Himself known to Thomas also.  In John 20:28 Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!” to the risen Savior.  He went on later to die a martyr’s death.

* “On the day of the crucifixion they were filled with sadness; on the first day of the week with gladness.  At the crucifixion they were hopeless; on the first day of the week their hearts glowed with certainty and hope.  When the message of the resurrection first came they were incredulous and hard to be convinced, but once they became assured they never doubted again.  What could account for the astonishing change in these men in so short a time?  The mere removal of the body from the grave could never have transformed their spirits, and characters.  Three days are not enough for a legend to spring up which would so affect them.  Time is needed for a process of legendary growth.  It is a psychological fact that demands a full explanation.

“Think of the character of the witnesses, men and women who gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known, and who even on the testimony of their enemies lived it out in their lives.  Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence – and then attempting to attribute this dramatic change to nothing more convincing than a miserable fabrication they were trying to foist upon the world.  That simply wouldn’t make sense.” (Anderson)

* “The power of God so came down upon Peter on the day of Pentecost that on that one day, in a sermon occupied, for the most part, with the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, three thousand souls were won to the Lord.  One thing is true: Peter was at least preaching what he believed: that God had raised Christ from the dead.  You cannot conscientiously preach lies with power like this.  The disciples went on preaching the Resurrection, until the whole world was turned upside down by faith in this glorious truth.  No, the disciples did not and could not have stolen the body of our Lord.” (Smith, TS)

* Each of the disciples, except John, died a martyr’s death.  They were persecuted because they tenaciously clung to their beliefs and statements.  As Paul Little writes: “Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false: The do not, however, die for what they know is a lie.” (Little)

* “If anything is clear from the Gospels and the Acts, it is that 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.” (Stott, BC)

* “When Jesus was crucified, his followers were discouraged and depressed.  They no longer had confidence that Jesus had been sent by God, because they believed anyone crucified was accursed by God.  They also had been taught that God would not let his Messiah suffer death.  So they dispersed.  The Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks.

“Then, after a short period of time, we see them abandoning their occupations, regathering, and committing themselves to spreading a very specific message – that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God who died on a cross, returned to life, and was seen alive by them.

“And they were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming this, without any payoff from a human point of view.  It’s not as though there were a mansion awaiting them on the Mediterranean.  They faced a life of hardship.  They often went without food, slept exposed to the elements, were ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned.  And finally, most of them were executed in torturous ways.

“For what?  For good intentions?  No, because they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had seen Jesus Christ alive from the dead.  What you can’t explain is how this particular group of men came up with this particular belief without having had an experience of the resurrected Christ.  There’s no other adequate explanation…

“Wait a minute – think carefully about the difference [between Muslim, Mormon, Jim Jones, and David Koresh followers who were willing to die for their beliefs and the followers of Jesus Christ who died for their beliefs].

“Muslims might be willing to die for their belief that Allah revealed himself to Muhammad, but this revelation was not done in a publicly observable way.  So they could be wrong about it.  They may sincerely think it’s true, but they can’t know for a fact, because they didn’t witness it themselves.” (Moreland)

Resurrection was foundation for the church

Acts 1:21, 22; 2:23, 24; 2:31, 32; 3:14, 15; 3:26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39-41; 13:29-39; 17:30, 31; and 26:22, 23 all affirm that a basic foundation for the establishment of the church was the preaching of Christ’s resurrection.

* “The church is a fact of history.  The explanation for the existence of the church is its faith in the resurrection.  Throughout its early years, this institution suffered much persecution from the Jews and Romans.  Individuals suffered torture and death for their Lord only because they knew that He had risen from the grave.  “There would have been no Christianity if the belief in the resurrection had not been founded and systematized…The whole of the soteriology and the essential teaching of Christianity rests on the belief of the Resurrection, and on the first page of any account of Christian dogma must be written as a motto, Paul’s declaration: ‘And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain [1 Cor. 15:14].’  From the strictly historical point of view, the importance of the belief in the resurrection is scarcely less…By means of that belief, faith in Jesus and in His mission became the fundamental element of a new religion which, after separating from, became the opponent of Judaism, and set out to conquer the world.” (Smith, GCWC)

* “Now the peculiar thing about this phenomenon [that Jesus resurrected] is that, not only did it spread to every single member of the party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual center of Judea, against the ablest dialecticians of the day, and in the face of every impediment a brilliant and highly organized camarilla could devise.  And they won.  Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas.  In less then fifty years it had begun to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire.

“When we have said everything that can be said about the willingness of certain types of people to believe what they want to believe, to be carried away by their emotions, and to assert as fact what has originally reached them as hearsay, we stand confronted with the greatest mystery of all.  Why did it win?” (Morrison)

* “Paul Little points out that the church, which was founded around A.D. 32, did not just happen, but had a definite cause.  It was said of the Christians at Antioch in the early days of the church that they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).  The cause of this influence was the resurrection.” (Little as cited by McDowell)

* “Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended His disciples’ experience of Him, it is hard to see how the Christian church could have come into existence.  That church was founded on faith in the Messiahship of Jesus.  A crucified messiah was no messiah at all [see Psalm 16:10].  He was one rejected by Judaism and accursed of God.  It was the resurrection of Jesus, as St. Paul declares in Romans 1:4, which proclaimed him to be the Son of God with power.” (Major, as cited in Smith, TS)

* “There’s no question it [the Christian church] began shortly after the death of Jesus and spread so rapidly that within a period of maybe twenty years it had even reached Caesar’s palace in Rome.  Not only that, but this movement triumphed over a number of competing ideologies and eventually overwhelmed the entire Roman empire.

“Now, if you were a Martian looking down on the first century, would you think Christianity or the Roman Empire would survive?  You probably wouldn’t put money on a ragtag group of people whose primary message was that a crucified carpenter from an obscure village had triumphed over the grave.  Yet it was so successful that today we name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Caesar and Nero!” (Moreland)

New Traditions.

* “At the time of Jesus, the Jews had been persecuted for seven hundred years…Many Jews had been scattered and lived as captives in these other nations…

“However, we still see Jews today, while we don’t see Hittites, Perizzites, Ammonites, Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians, and other people who had been living in that time.  Why?  Because these people got captured by other nations, intermarried, and lost their national identity.

“Why didn’t that happen to the Jews?  Because the things that made the Jews, Jews – the social structures that gave them their national identity – were unbelievably important to them.  The Jews would pass these structures down to their children…and reinforce them with their rituals, because they knew if they didn’t, there soon would be no Jews left…

“…they believed these institutions were entrusted to them by God.  They believed that to abandon these institutions would be to risk their souls being damned to hell after death.

“Now a rabbi named Jesus appears from a lower-class region.  He teaches for three years, gathers a following of lower- and middle-class people, gets in trouble with the authorities, and gets crucified along with thirty thousand other Jewish men who are executed during this time period.

“But five weeks after he’s crucified, over ten thousand Jews are following him and claiming that he is the initiator of a new religion.  And get this: they’re willing to give up or alter all five of the social institutions that they have been taught since childhood have such importance both sociologically and theologically.” (Moreland)

Jews abolished practiced Jewish traditions

* “The Jews’ original day of rest and worship was Saturday because it was said that God had finished His creation and rested on the seventh day.  This was written into their holy laws.  The Sabbath is one of the supporting columns of Judaism.  One of the most reverent things in the life of a Jew the keeping of the Sabbath.  The Christians met for worship on the first day of the Jewish week in acknowledgment of the resurrection of Jesus.  These Christians actually succeeded in moving to Sunday this age-old and theologically-backed day of rest and worship.  Yet remember, THEY WERE JEWS THEMSELVERS!  Keeping in mind what they thought would happen if they were wrong, we must recognized that this was probably one of the biggest decisions any religious body of men have ever made!!  How are we to explain the change from Saturday to Sunday worship without the resurrection?” (Green, paraphrased by McDowell)

* “First, they [the Jews] had been taught ever since the time of Abraham and Moses that they needed to offer an animal sacrifice on a yearly basis to atone for their sins…But all of a sudden, after the death of this Nazarene carpenter, these Jewish people no longer offer sacrifices.

* “Second, Jews emphasized obeying the laws that God had entrusted to them through Moses…Yet within a short time after Jesus’ death, Jews were beginning to say that you don’t become an upstanding member of their community merely by keeping Moses’ laws.

* “Third, Jews scrupulously kept the Sabbath by not doing anything except religious devotion every Saturday…However, after the death of this Nazarene carpenter, this fifteen-hundred-year tradition is abruptly changed.  These Christians worship on Sunday – why?  Because that’s when Jesus rose from the dead.

* “Fourth, they believed in monotheism – only one God.  While Christians teach a form of monotheism, they say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God…They [the Jews] would have considered it the height of heresy to say someone could be God and man at the same time.  Yet Jews begin to worship Jesus as God within the first decade of the Christian religion.

* “And fifth, these Christians pictured the Messiah as someone who suffered and died for the sins of the world, whereas Jews had been trained to believe that the Messiah was going to be a political leader who would destroy the Roman armies…

“…how can you possibly explain why in a short period of time not just one Jew but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up these five key practices that had served them sociologically and theologically for so many centuries?  My explanation is simple: they had seen Jesus risen from the dead…

“Keep in mind that this is an entire community of people who are abandoning treasured beliefs that have been passed on for centuries and that they believed were from God himself.  They were doing it even though they were jeopardizing their own well-being, and they also believed they were risking the damnation of their souls to hell if they were wrong.” (Moreland)

The early church celebrated communion.

Acts 2:46; John 6; Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 show the early Christian church celebrating communion.

* “They met Him in this sacrament [communion].  He was not dead and gone, but risen and alive.  And they would celebrate this death of His, in the consciousness of His risen presence, until His longed for return at the end of history (1 Corinthians 11:26).  We possess a short eucharistic prayer from the earliest Christian community, from the original Aramaic-speaking church (1 Corinthains 16:22 and Didache, 10).  Here it is.  Maranatha!  It means, ‘Our Lord, come!’  How that could have been the attitude of the early Christians as they met to celebrate the Lord’s Supper among themselves is quite inexplicable, unless He did indeed rise from the dead on the third day.” (Green)

* “What’s odd is that these early followers of Jesus didn’t get together to celebrate his teaching or how wonderful he was.  They came together regularly to have a celebration meal for one reason: to remember that Jesus had been publicly slaughtered in a grotesque and humiliating way…

“…How do you explain that?  I explain it this way: they realized that Jesus’ slaying was a necessary step to a much greater victory.  His murder wasn’t the last word – the last word was that He had conquered death for all of us by rising from the dead.  They celebrated his execution because they were convinced that they had seen him alive from the tomb.” (Moreland)

The early church celebrated baptism.

Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:1-6 show that the early Christian church celebrated baptism.

* “The Christians had an initiation ceremony – baptism.  This is where they dared to depart again from Judaism.  The Jews continued to circumcise, while the Christians followed their Lord’s command concerning baptism.  A person was called to repent of his or her sins, believe in the risen Lord, and be baptized.

“Now, what did baptism symbolize?  There is little doubt about this!  Paul explains that in baptism a believer is united to Christ in His death and resurrection.  When he enters the water he dies to his old sin nature, and he rises out of the water to share a new resurrected life of Christ.  There is nothing in Christianity older than the sacraments, and yet they are directly linked to the death and resurrection of Christ.  How is one to account for the meaning of Christian baptism if the resurrection never took place?” (McDowell)

* “The early church adopted a form of baptism from their Jewish upbringing, called proselyte baptism.  When Gentiles wanted to take upon themselves the laws of Moses, the Jews would baptize those Gentiles in the authority of the God of Israel.  But in the New Testament, people were baptized in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – which meant they had elevated Jesus to the full status of God.

“Not only that, but baptism was a celebration of the death of Jesus, just as Communion was.  By going under the water, you’re celebrating his death, and by being brought out of the water, you’re celebrating the fact that Jesus was raised to newness of life.” (Moreland)

*** The institution of the church, then, is a historical phenomenon explained only by Jesus’ resurrection.  Those sacraments that Christianity observes serve also as a continual evidence of the church’s origin.  

Concerning the first believers who witnessed Christ’s resurrection, L. L. Morris comments:  “They were Jews, and Jews have a tenacity in clinging to their religious customs.  Yet these men observed the Lord’s Day, a weekly memorial of the resurrection, instead of the Sabbath.  On that Lord’s day they celebrated the Holy communion, which was not a commemoration of a dead Christ, but a thankful remembrance of the blessings conveyed by a living and triumphant Lord.  Their other sacrament, baptism, was a reminder that believers were buried with Christ and raised with Him (Colossians 2:12).  The resurrection gave significance to all that they did.” (Morris, as cited in Douglas, NBD) ***

Inadequate theories about resurrection:

Swoon Theory

* “Their [people holding to the swoon theory] explanation runs like this: Christ was indeed nailed to the cross.  He suffered terribly from shock, loss of blood, and pain, and He swooned away; but He didn’t actually die.  Medical knowledge was not very great at that time, and the apostles thought He was dead.  We are told, are we not, that Pilate was surprised that He was dead already.  The explanation assertedly is that He was taken down from the cross in a state of swoon by those who wrongly believed Him to be dead, and laid in the sepulcher.  And the cool restfulness of the sepulcher so far revived Him that He was eventually able to issue forth from the grave.  His ignorant disciples couldn’t believe that this was a mere resuscitation.  They insisted it was a resurrection from the dead.” (Anderson, CWH)

* Christ did die on the cross, according to the judgment of the soldiers, Joseph, and Nicodemus (along with the medical study of Christ’s death, given in the 2nd week’s Bible study on the resurrection).  “It is significant that not a suggestion of this kind has come down from antiquity among all the violent attacks which have been made on Christianity.  All of the earliest records are emphatic about Jesus’ death.” (Little)

* “…it [the swoon theory] won’t stand up to investigation.  To begin with, steps were taken – it seems – to make quite sure that Jesus was dead; that surely is the meaning of the spear-thrust in His side.  But suppose for argument’s sake that He was not quite dead.  Do you really believe that lying for hour after hour with no medical attention in a rock-hewn tomb in Palestine at Easter, when it’s quite cold at night, would so far have revived Him, instead of proving the inevitable end to His flickering life, that He would have been able to loose Himself from yards of grave-clothes weighted with pounds of spices, roll away a stone that three women felt incapable of tackling, and walk miles on wounded feet?” (Anderson)

* John R.W. Stott asks, can we believe “that after the rigours and pains of trial, mockery, flogging and crucifixion He could survive thirty-six hours in a stone sepulcher with neither warmth nor food nor medical care?  That He could then rally sufficiently to perform the superhuman feat of shifting the boulder which secured the mouth of the tomb, and this without disturbing the Roman guard?  That then, weak and sickly and hungry, He could appear to the disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that He had vanquished death?  That He could go on to claim that He had died and risen, could send them into all the world and promise to be with them unto the end of time?  That He could live somewhere in hiding for forty days, making occasional surprise appearances, and then finally disappear without any explanation?  Such credulity is more incredible than Thomas’ unbelief.” (Stott, BC)

* Skeptic David Friedrich Strauss – himself certainly no believer in the resurrection – says: “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave…and impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry.  Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship.” (Strauss, LJP)

* “Those who propose the swoon theory would also have to say that Jesus, once He had revived, was able to perform the miracle of wiggling out of the grave clothes that were wound tightly about all the curves of His body, and leave without at all disarranging these.” (McDowell)

* “…Aromatic spices…served partially as a preservative and partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering…

“On the morning of the first day of the week the body of Jesus had vanished, but the graveclothes were still there…

“The wrappings were in a position where the head had been, separated from the others by the distance from armpits to neck.  The shape of the body was still apparent in them…How was the corpse extricated from the wrappings, since they would not slip over the curves of the body when tightly wound around it?” (Tenney, as cited in Smith, TS)

* “Those who hold this theory have to say that Christ, in a weakened condition, was able to roll back the stone at the entrance of the tomb – a feat which historians say would take several men – step out of the sepulcher without awaking any one of the soldiers (if we assume for argument’s sake that they were asleep, and we know they were certainly not!), step over the soldiers and escape.” (Rosscup, CN)

* “If He (Jesus) presented Himself as one from the dead, whereas He was not such, He is guilty of false hood, and must be denied even the most common honesty.” (Le Camus, LC)

* If we believe this theory, “Christ Himself was involved in flagrant lies.  His disciples believed and preached that He was dead but became alive again.  Jesus did nothing to dispel this belief, but rather encouraged it.” (Little)

* “Again, there’s just no way he could have survived the cross.

“But if he had, how could he walk around after nails had been driven through his feet?  How could he have appeared on the road to Emmaus just a short time later, strolling for long distances?  How could he have used his arms after they were stretched and pulled from their joints?  Remember, he also had massive wounds on his back and a spear wound to his chest…

“Listen, a person in that kind of pathetic condition would never have inspired his disciples to go out and proclaim that he’s the Lord of life who had triumphed over the grave.

“…with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health.

“So it’s preposterous to think that if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his.  There’s just no way.” (Metherell)

* “…the German rationalist Venturini put forward the suggestion that Christ did not actually die on the cross, but fainted, and that in the cool temperature of the grave He recovered and subsequently appeared to the disciples.

“This suggestion…ignores the deadly character of the wounds inflicted…the frightful laceration of the hands and feet, the loss of strength through the ebbing away of blood, the hopelessness of human aid…the tight-drawn bandages…the heavy stone.  To try even to think of what would happen to an utterly collapsed constitution, bleeding from five torn and untended wounds, lying on the cold slab of a tomb in April without human succor of any kind, is to realize at once the unreasonableness of the argument.” (Morrison)

Disciples stole body (see Matthew 28:11-15)

* “I do not propose to devote any considerable amount of space to testing the historical accuracy of this charge [that the disciples stole the body] because the verdict has been anticipated by the almost universal sense and feeling of mankind.  So far as I know there is not a single writer whose work is of critical value today who holds that there is even a case for discussion.  We know these eleven men pretty well by their subsequent actions and writings.  Somehow they are not build that way.  There is no trace of the daring sort of ringleader who would have had the imagination to plan a coup like that and to carry it through without detection.  Even if it had been possible, and the disciples the meant to do it, the subsequent history of Christianity would have been different.  Sooner or later, someone who knew the facts would have been unable to keep them hidden.

“Further, no great moral structure like the early church, characterized as it was by lifelong persecution and personal suffering, could have reared its head on a statement that every one of the eleven apostles knew to be a lie.” (Morison)

* As seen above in the Bible study, the disciples were so completely changed, that it is far too implausible to even suggest that they stole the body, and lied about it.

* “…the Jewish authorities never questioned the report of the guards…The guards would have never come back with such a story…unless they were reporting actual, indisputable occurrences, as far as they were able to apprehend them.  The story which the Jewish authorities told the soldiers to repeat was a story to explain how the tomb became empty.” (Smith, TS)

* “When the chief priests induced Pilate to ‘command…that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day,’ the factual record justifies the conclusion that the sepulcher was in very truth mad ‘sure.’…we are inescapably faced with the conclusion that the measures taken to prevent the friends of Jesus from stealing His body now constitute unimpeachable proof that they could not and did not steal it.” (Roper, JRD)

* “These disciples were in no mood to go out and face Roman soldiers, subdue the entire guard, and snatch that body out of the tomb…Peter had proved himself such a coward…that, to save his own skin, he denied his Lord, and cursed and swore.  What could have happened to Peter within those few hours to change him form such a coward to a man rushing out to fight Roman soldiers [to steal Jesus’ body]?” (Smith, TS)

* “’Either,’ says St. Augustine, ‘they [the guard] were asleep or awake; if they were awake, why should they suffer the body to be taken away?  If asleep, how could they know that the disciples took it away?  How dare they then depose that it was stolen?’” (Fallow, PCBE)

* “Sleeping sentinels could not know what happened.” (Bruce, EGNT)

* “That story [that the soldiers were asleep] is so obviously false that Matthew does not even bother to refute it!  What judge would listen to you if you said that while you were asleep, your neighbor came into your house and stole your television set?  Who knows what goes on while he’s asleep?  Testimony like this would be laughed out of any court.” (Little)

* “It was death for a Roman sentinel to sleep at his post…If they [the Jewish rulers] did [believe that the disciples stole the body], why were not the disciples at once arrested and examined?…It is nowhere intimated that the rulers even attempted to substantiate the charge.” (Selwyn, as cited in Smith, TS)

* “The stone at the tomb was extremely large.  Even if the soldiers were asleep and the disciples did try to steal the body, the noise caused while moving such a rock would surely have awakened them.” (McDowell)

* “No robbers would ever have rewound the wrappings in their original shape, for there would not have been time to do so.  They would have flung the cloths down in disorder and fled with the body.  Fear of detection would have made them act as hastily as possible.” (Tenney, RR)

* The disciples did not realize the truth of the resurrection as yet, “They did not seem to understand that He was to rise the third day; they certainly were surprised when they found that He had risen.  These circumstances negate the thought that they would even contemplate stealing the body to create the impression that He had risen.” (Whitworth, LHP)

* “Stealing the body of Christ is something totally foreign to the character of the disciples and all that we know of them.  It would mean that they were perpetrators of a deliberate lie which was responsible for the misleading and ultimate death of thousands of people.  It is inconceivable that, even if a few of the disciples had conspired and pulled off this theft, they would never have told the others.” (Little)

* “The historian must acknowledge that the disciples firmly believed that Jesus was risen.” (Strauss, a skeptic of Christianity)

* “If the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, they would have known that their resurrection proclamation was false.  However, they ‘constantly referred to the Resurrection as the basis for their teaching, preaching, living and – significantly – dying.’  The theory that the disciples stole the body, then, is utterly absurd! (Lewis and Short, LD)

Jews stole body

* “Within seven short weeks [after Christ’s resurrection]…Jerusalem was seething with the preaching of the resurrection.  The apostles were preaching it up and down the city.  The chief priests were very much upset about it.  They said that the apostles were trying to bring this man’s blood upon them.  They were being accused of having crucified the Lord of glory.  And they were prepared to go to almost any lengths to nip this dangerous heresy in the bud.” (Anderson)

* “If the Jews had issued on official order to have the body moved, why, when the apostles were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, didn’t they explain: ‘Wait!  We moved the body – Christ didn’t rise from the grave.’

“If such a rebuttal failed, why didn’t they explain exactly where His body lay?

“If this failed, why didn’t they recover the corpse, put it on a cart, and wheel it through the center of Jerusalem?  Such an action would have destroyed Christianity – not in the cradle, but in the womb!” (McDowell)

* “There is not the slightest hint or suggestion in the earlier extant writings, apocryphal or otherwise, that the priests ever contemplated changing the burial place, while there are a number of distinct statements that they were concerned lest some unauthorized person should abduct the body.” (Morison)

* “For if the priests induced Pilate to change the burial place…they must have known the ultimate and final resting place, and in that event they would never have been content with the obviously unsatisfactory and untrue statement that the disciples had stolen the body…” (Morison)

The Romans stole the body

* “It would have been to the governor’s advantage to keep the body in its grave.  Pilate’s main interest was to keep things peaceful.  Moving the body would have caused unwanted agitation to arise form the Jews and the Christians.

“J.N.D. Anderson says of Pilate: ‘He…was upset about this strange teaching.  If he had had the body moved, it seems incredible that he wouldn’t have informed the chief priests when they were so upset.’ (Anderson, RJC, 6)

“Pilate merely wanted peace.” (McDowell)

* “Pilate was an obstinate man, as his curt refusal to alter the terms of the inscription shows.  He was clearly glad of any excuse to be rid of this painful incident, and if a Jew of substance desired and was granted the necessary permission to take charge of and bury the body, what more need have been done?  With the procurator in the mood in which he apparently then was, it would have required some exceedingly strong arguments to have induced him to alter his decision even at the request of the Jewish power.” (Morison)

Joseph of Arimathea took the body

* “Joseph was a secret disciple and as such would not have moved the body without consulting the other disciples first.

“If Joseph had ventured to move Christ’s body without consulting the rest, he surely would have told the other disciples afterward, when the resurrection message was being published, what he had done.” (McDowell)

* “At first sight the suggestion that the man who, by universal consent, begged the body of Jesus from the roman procurator, might himself have removed it for private reasons to another place, is one that seems to carry considerable weight…

“Now a closer examination of this hypothesis reveals certain weaknesses and inconsistencies that gravely affect its probability.  In the first place, the hour required for this supposititious removal (necessarily between the close of the Sabbath and the first sign of dawn) is in itself a rather strange time for a respected leader of the people to choose for a perfectly legitimate operation that could have been performed much better and more expeditiously at the break of day.  It should never be forgotten that on this theory Joseph of Arimathea and the little party of women were independently and quite unknown to each other planning to perform a service that would bring them to the tomb at the earliest possible moment consistent with the observance of the Sabbath.  Because of the difficulties presented by the darkness that moment was unquestionably the break of day.  Theoretically, therefore, Mary Magdalene and her friends, upon reaching the tomb, ought to have come upon the party of Joseph already at work.

“There is no trace, however, of this dramatic meeting taking place.  We are compelled, therefore, to put the supposed removal further back into the night.  We have to think of a party of men operating with lamps or torches, working under the maximum difficulties, picking their way through the unlighted regions beyond the city wall, carrying a heavy body, probably for some considerable distance, and depositing it in another grave.  We have to think of them going to the trouble of removing all the grave-clothes first, leaving these in the tomb and removing the naked body to its destination.  And we have to regard them as either forgetting to close the door of the old tomb or not wishing for the moment to waste time by doing so…

“There are two ways of regarding Joseph of Arimathea consistently with the narratives.  He was either (a) a secret follower or disciple of Jesus who seriously desired to perform openly this service to one whose leadership he had hesitated to acknowledge during life, or (b) a pious member of the Sanhedrin who was concerned only with the fulfillment of the Jewish law, which enjoined burial of the crucified prisoner before sunset.

“A great deal has been made of the second possibility…It seems to me, however, that there is one insuperable difficulty in the way of its acceptance.  The Jewish law that enjoined burial before sunset applied equally to the two thieves, and there is no suggestion that Joseph occupied himself with…the remains of these two men…The fact that Joseph did make this isolated application to Pilate shows that he was not acting in an official or representative sense.  In any case, why should an honorable councilor and a member of the Sanhedrin have undertaken with his own hands a menial task that could more appropriately have been left to the civil guard?

“…there are very definite indications in the apocryphal literature that the priests were very angry with Joseph of Arimathea and summoned him before the council.  There would have been no occasion for such anger if he had acted merely at their behest, but very good reasons for it if he had stultified their collective action in the eyes of the people and of Pilate himself, by giving to the body of Jesus an honorable and respectful burial.  Finally, there is the explicit statement in Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was a disciple, and Luke says that he had not consented to their counsel and deed…

“Now when we accept this view of Joseph of Arimathea [that he was a disciple of Jesus], we admit also a whole circle of ideas that are inseparable from it…If he took the action recorded of him in the Gospels he compromised and even destroyed his social standing with the official and ruling caste…He would hardly have adopted a bold and courageous course like that if he had not held Jesus in deep love and veneration….The more closely we consider this action of Joseph of Arimathea, the more we get the impression of a man acting on an inner compulsion to seize the last fleeting opportunity to align himself with the cause of Jesus before it was too late.  Would he have incurred the penalties inseparable for is action…and have been willing within thirty-six hours to part with the glory?  I think not.  Overwhelmingly, psychology is against it.

“…If Joseph had made a perfectly legitimate removal of the body and…had done so in the middle of the night…the true facts of the matter must have been quite easily accessible to the priests.  After all, another tomb had to be found, and at least two or three helpers were required to carry the body.  Why then when all Jerusalem was seething with the Christian controversy, did they not simply tell the truth…?

“Finally…we cannot find in the contemporary records any trace of a tomb or shrine becoming the center of veneration or worship on the ground that it contained the relics of Jesus…

“Strangely though it may appear, the only way we can account for the absence of this phenomenon is the explanation offered in the Gospels, viz., that the tomb was known, that it was investigated a few hours after the burial, and that the body had disappeared.” (Morison)

Hallucination theory.

* It has already been affirmed above in the Bible study that the people who had seen the resurrected Christ could not have been hallucinating.  Some will agree, however, that they indeed did not hallucinate, but rather they saw the spirit of Jesus and that is the resurrection of which the disciples preached (a spiritual one, not a physical one) while the remains of Jesus still lay in the grave.  As has already been proven, the remains were not still in the grave, and also…

* “You see, the Jews had a physical concept of resurrection.  For them, the primary object of the resurrection was the bones of the deceased – not even the flesh, which was thought to be perishable [Job 14:12-14; Hebrews 11:17-19; and Daniel 12:2 clearly show this Jewish concept].  After the flesh rotted away, the Jews would gather the bones of their deceased and put them in boxes to be preserved until the resurrection at the end of the world, when God would raise the righteous dead of Israel and they would come together in the final kingdom of God.

“In light of this, it would have been simply a contradiction of terms for an early Jew to say that someone was raised form the dead but his body still was left in the tomb.  So when this early Christian creed [1 Cor. 15] says Jesus was buried and then raised on the third day, it’s saying implicitly but quite clearly: an empty tomb was left behind.” (Craig)

* Jesus deals the deathblow to this theory when he says: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)

Women went to wrong tomb

* “Kirsopp Lake suggested in 1907 that the women merely went to the wrong tomb.  He says they got lost and a caretaker at an unoccupied tomb told them, ‘You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  He is not here,’ and they ran away, afraid.  Isn’t that a plausible explanation?” (Strobel)

* “Lake didn’t generate any following with this…the site of Jesus’ tomb was known to the Jewish authorities …the authorities would have been only too happy to point out the tomb and correct the disciples’ error when they began to proclaim that Jesus had risen form the dead.  I don’t know anybody who holds to Lake’s theory today.” (Craig)

* “These women had carefully noted where the body of Jesus was interred less than seventy-two hours before [Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55]…
”Do you think that you or I or these women or any other rational person would forget so quickly the place where a dearly loved one was laid to rest just seventy-two hours earlier?” (McDowell)

* “The women reported to the disciples what they had experienced, and later Peter and John also found the tomb empty [John 20:2-8]…

“Is it to be argued that Peter and John also went to the wrong tomb?” (McDowell)

* “If the women went to the wrong tomb (an empty sepulcher), then the Sanhedrin could have gone to the right tomb and produced the body (if Jesus did not rise).  This would have silenced the disciples forever!

“The high priests and the other enemies of Christ would certainly have gone to the right tomb!” (McDowell)

* “Certainly Joseph of Arimathea, owner of the tomb, would have solved the problem.” (Little)

* “Professor Lake’s citing of Mark 16:6 is incomplete.  He quotes only part of what the young man said and ignores the key part of the narration.  The phrase, ‘He has risen,’ is conspicuously absent in Lake’s citing of the verse.  Notice the following comparison with the NASB:


“He is not here, see the place where they laid Him.”


“He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” (McDowell)

* “For [Lake’s misquote] I can see no scholarly justification whatever.” (Anderson)

* “They [the women] had bought spices and were going to complete the anointing of their Lord’s body, since the approach of the Sabbath had made the work so hasty two days previously.  These devoted and business-like women were not the kind to be easily deceived or to give up the task they had come to do.” (Stott, BC)

* “That the women went by mistake to the wrong tomb, and that the attempt of a bystander to direct them to the right one was misunderstood, is rationalization which is utterly foreign to the spirit of the narrative.” (Professor A. E. J. Rawlinson)

* “this theory, despite its appearance of rationality, has one peculiar weakness.  If it was so dark that the women accidentally went to the wrong tomb, it is exceedingly improbable that the gardener would have been at work.  If it was late enough and light enough for the gardener to be at work, it is improbable that the women would have been mistaken.  The theory just rests upon the synchronization of two very doubtful contingencies.  This is, however, only part of the improbability and intellectual difficulty which gathers around it.” (Morison)

* “Also, if the ‘young man’ was the gardener, as some people assert, why didn’t the priests secure his testimony as evidence that Christ’s body was still in the grave?” (Morison, paraphrased by McDowell)

* “If the disciples as a body were in any pressing kind of danger, their women-folk were in like peril…

“This interdependence of the women and the men very seriously embarrasses Lake’s theory at its most vital point.  Lake is compelled to keep the women in Jerusalem until Sunday morning, because he firmly believes that they really went to the tomb.  He is also compelled to get the disciples out of Jerusalem before sunrise on Sunday because he holds that the women kept silence.  Finally…he finds it necessary to keep the women in Jerusalem for several weeks while the disciples returned to their homes, had certain experiences, and came back to the capital.

“…Would he himself in similar circumstances have gone off to safety, leaving his wife or his mother in a situation of unquestioned peril?…If it was safe for the women to remain in the city and go unostentatiously to the tomb of Jesus, it was safe for the disciples to remain also.” (Morison)


* “All that Christianity asks of men…is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they who try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals.  Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination.  The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.” (Greenleaf, TE)

* “Here is the complete record:

Confucius’s tomb: occupied

Buddha’s tomb: occupied

Mohammed’s tomb: occupied 

Jesus’ tomb: EMPTY.” (Hardy, C)

* The verdict is in.  The decision is clear.  The evidence speaks for itself.  It says very clearly:


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