2Why Does This Matter?It matters simply because of the ramifications of a Risen Christ. Christianity is the only religion in which its founder a) claimed to be God in flesh, and b) actually rose from the dead. Islam has a divinely revealed Holy Book, but Muhammad didn’t rise from the dead. Judaism has the Old Testament scriptures, full of vibrant stories, but Moses, Abraham, Adam etc., none of these went so far as to be physically risen from the grave.Upon the resurrection lies the truth of Christianity, and if this foundation were to fall then the Faith would crumble with it. Indeed, if true, then Jesus’ claims of being the Son of God, being the “way, the truth and the life” , they are all verified- He really was telling the truth! Thus, it is crucial to every sincere individual that they look at the Resurrection of Christ and make their own decision as to its position on the spectrum of reality.
3What Are The Possibilities? While pondering on this spectrum, it is worth us looking at the different ‘options’ relevant to the Resurrection of Christ. In fact, we have almost unlimited options, but we will look at by far the most feasible and likely ones in this presentation. These include-Jesus Didn’t Die.Jesus did die, but His body was stolen.Jesus did die, but His disciples just thought He had been risen for a particular reason.The Gospel Accounts are fictional (i.e. made up).Or, the Gospel Accounts are actually accurate, and Jesus Christ rose from the dead.Which ‘option’ listed here fits the evidence best? Let’s take a look…
4Option (1)- (a)- Jesus Didn’t Die. This theory (also known as the Swoon Theory) may initially sound feasible, but it quickly falters after one takes an honest look at the evidence.Jesus endured various horrific tortures prior to and whilst on the cross.First, we should look at the scourging that He was subjected to. In Lee Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’, Alexander Metherell (M.D., PH.D.) spoke of the horrendous characteristics of a Roman Flogging-“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way down to the back, the buttocks and the back of the legs…we know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they were crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into Hypovolemic shock [extreme loss of blood]”.
5Option (1)- (b)- Jesus Didn’t Die. Second, it is worth noting a few other events that are significant in deciding whether or not Jesus actually died. For example, the Gospels note how Jesus had a crown of thorns placed on His head. Medically speaking, these would have pierced the skin and most likely would have penetrated several nerves situated around the scalp. By doing this, Jesus would have been subject to even more pain that would ‘switch’ on and off –obviously adding to the ‘priming for death’Moreover, the Gospels note that Simon of Cyrene had to carry Jesus’ cross for him as He couldn’t do it on his own, indicating that the torture He had been subjected to was unusually harsh. Furthermore, the Gospels also mention that while on the cross Jesus said, “I thirst”. This may sound insignificant at first, but it indicates that Jesus underwent something called ‘hypovolemic shock’, a symptom of which is indeed a lack of bodily fluids leading to a feeling of thirst. This tells us that the flogging, beatings etc. had been particularly harsh and Jesus had already lost a substantial amount of blood by the time He was put up on the cross, thus making His death far more likely.
6Option (1)- (c)- Jesus Didn’t Die. Now we come to our last few factors in deciding whether or not Jesus died. This time, we’re going to focus on the act of Crucifixion itself, with special relation to Jesus’ experience.The main aspect that needs to be analysed is in the event described in John 19:33-34; the spearing of Jesus’ side- "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water".There are two things to note here. Firstly, the stab itself, as it would ensure Jesus' death. The Roman soldier would have pierced Christ below His left armpit, puncturing several organs including the lung. Secondly, however, is when John notes that there was "a sudden flow of blood and water". This signifies the separation of blood and plasma, which can only occur after death.
7Option (1)- (d)- Jesus Didn’t Die. On the note of the blood and water, the Christian Medical Fellowship states that, "Post mortem clotting of the blood can be delayed by the presence of circulating fibrinolysins, especially if death is associated with severe pain. The effect is that the red cells can separate from the plasma within thirty minutes. ‘Blood and water’ would then emerge in sequence by gravity from a body cavity pierced by a sharp object.”I would also like to make note here of the various resources concerning this topic I have listed on the Teen Apologetics site. You can find them on the ‘Objections with Jesus’ Page, in the article ‘Critique of BBC4’s ‘Did Jesus Die?’, under Point 2 (information is also available under Point 1, and of course within the many [over 100!] links I have listed on the Home Page).
8Finally here, since Jesus’ death is obviously linked to His resurrection, what would the Swoon Theory entail with regards to this? Well, let’s look at Jesus’ ordeal first-- He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, probably after 11.30pm (Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-51; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1-11).- He was presented in front of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish High Council). His clothes were ripped, they spat in His face and they struck Him with their fists (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:63-65; John 18: ).- He was taken before Pilate and Herod. The crowd chose Jesus to die, and Jesus was flogged (Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 22: Luke 23:1-25; John 18: :1-16).- The Roman Soldiers then mocked Him, spat on him, and put a scarlet robe and the crown of thorns on His head. They took a staff and beat Him over the head "again and again" (Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 19:1).- They got someone called Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross, as Jesus could not, and they nailed Him to the cross. (Matthew 27:32-44; Mark 15:21-32; Luke 24:39; John 19: :25).- After receiving a drink of wine vinegar, Jesus gave up His spirit after crying out in a loud voice. They then pierced His right side, (Matthew 27:45-56; Mark 15:32-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 28-37).
9Option (1)- (f)- Jesus Didn’t Die. And finally, He was put into a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and several soldiers were put on guard (Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42:47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42).Jesus somehow just survived and 'woke up' 3 days later? Then He just got up and walked, even though He had wounds on His hands, feet and side, and serious flogging wounds and major blood loss? Even more bizarre is that for the Swoon theorists to be correct He would have had to push the incredibly heavy stone aside with all His injuries, sneak past the guards unnoticed, and then appear to the disciples and walk for miles whilst appearing perfectly fine.Consider this possibility logically and medically…
10Option (2)- (a)-A Stolen Body. So then, if indeed Jesus did die, then we have a choice. If one accepts the Gospels as vaguely accurate in their descriptions, then one must also accept the scholarly consensus that the tomb was empty several days after the Crucifixion (and also that the disciples believed they had seen Jesus, but we’ll come to that later).But, after all, if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then the only logical option left to explain the empty tomb is that His body was taken, or indeed stolen.As with everything in this debate, there are a couple of variants to this idea.
11Option (2)- (b)-A Stolen Body. The Disciples stole the body- It’s quite a mystery how this could have occurred keeping in mind there were Roman Guards outside the tomb, who wouldn’t have left their post or gone to sleep in fear of execution. And besides, the Disciples, being in a state of profound depression and emotional turmoil, would not have simply gone all the way back to the tomb to execute an incredibly ingenious plan which would require a steady mind and steady nerves. Not only that, but this does not explain how and why they proceeded to be persecuted, jailed, tortured and executed for something they consciously knew was a 'lie'. The Roman/Jewish Authorities stole the body- erm, why? What possible reason could there be? After going to the extent of killing their leader, why would they give this tiny, seemingly insignificant movement any credence by fulfilling what their Teacher had said He would do? Why would they then not produce the body once His followers started blabbering on about a resurrected Christ? Why would they place Roman Soldiers ON GUARD to protect the body from being stolen, only to steal it themselves? Is it just me, or does this not make sense?
12Option (3)- (a)-A Fake Risen Jesus So then, if we accept the arguments I’ve given, then we have eliminated the idea that Jesus didn’t die, or that the tomb was empty because His body had been stolen. We are left with several options, one of which being that the Disciples believed that they had seen Jesus, but they were mistaken. Again, there are many variants of this idea.This kind of argument takes into consideration the fact that the disciples were persecuted, tortured, beaten, jailed, and executed for something that the last option would suggest is a ‘conscious lie’. Not only is this against human nature, it just doesn’t ‘fit’ the data we have.So, with this in mind, let’s consider the options for this argument.
13Option (3)- (b)-A Fake Risen Jesus The Disciples were on Drugs- this is one of the more ‘interesting’ objections. Because of its, ‘interesting’, nature, it is rather easy to dismiss. In response, one has to ask- were all the witnesses of a risen Christ ‘drugged’ (all 500…)?!? All on the same drug, which by some chance had exactly the same effect? In different places, at different times? Even though the Jews placed a large emphasis on purity? This actually IS a theory that some scholars have put forward.The Disciples hallucinated Jesus into existence- 1 Corinthians 15 states that up to 500 people at once saw the risen Christ, so whether or not you isolate the Disciples in this issue does not matter, simply because the other few hundred individuals are not so easily dismissed! Are they all going to hallucinate about Jesus? In the same way, at the same time? To put it simply, hallucinations are personal to one person Not to 2 or even 3 or 4 people or more. Hallucinations don't have these effects in such great numbers. Psychology teaches that hallucinations are personal events, and not only that, but they very often do not result in character change. The situation couldn’t be any more different here- the disciples (plus many of the other Christian Martyrs) would have died for a psychological discrepancy, nothing more.
14Option (4)- (a)-Fictional Gospels As we have seen, Jesus almost certainly died, the Disciples almost certainly did not hallucinate, and His body almost certainly was not stolen. So what else have we got to eliminate in order to establish the truth of the Resurrection? This option is maybe the strongest of all- the notion that the Gospels are somehow unreliable or indeed completely fictional. However, strength doesn’t equate truth.
15Option (4)- (b)-Fictional Gospels The Gospels, true or not, are generally thought to have been written between 50 and 90AD, depending on one’s position (however most date them between 55 and 80AD). However, the Epistles (i.e. the letters written by early Christians such as St.Paul) were written within 2 and 30 years after Jesus.According to scholars who study folklore and legends within cultures, a legend with great detail generally takes at least 3 generations to develop and spread.The Epistles show that from 2 to 20 years after Jesus' death people believed He had been physically raised from the dead, supporting what is described in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.2) The Gospels themselves are 99.5% ‘textually accurate’. In other words, the copy we have now is the same in 99.5% of the details to the earliest copies we have. Most of the .5% are linguistic mistakesand individual letters that are misplaced.Remember this from the previous section of material???
16Option (4)- (c)-Fictional Gospels 3) The Gospels are also supported by external findings, such as secular historians and archaeological findings. Although the former in particular have been disputed, others have formulated strong arguments for their historicity. Both areas of research, therefore, provide a support mechanism for the Gospel narratives.4) The Gospels are believed to have been written around 25 and 60 years after Christ’s death. Although this may seem like a long time, it is actually extraordinary in comparison with other ancient texts. Plus, it negates any idea of ‘legendary development’, i.e. as time went on more and more miraculous content was ‘added in’. This is because people who would have been around in Jesus’ time and would have known the earliest traditions would have quickly corrected any digressers.
17ConclusionAs mentioned earlier, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important belief in Christianity. In fact Christianity rests upon Christ’s death and Resurrection. No qualms about it. If true, then it is the most momentous event in human history. As Søren Kierkegaard named it, it is an “either/or” scenario…We have seen various Objections to such a belief. We have seen how they are argued, and more importantly, how they can be dismissed. Let’s do an overview-3) Several days later, Jesus was ‘seen’ by a large number of people. Such a group could not have all hallucinated, nor is it likely that they were on drugs.4) Within a reasonable amount of time later, the Gospels were written. A legend would have taken at least three generations to develop.1) Jesus almost certainly died on the Cross, was placed in an empty tomb, and it was sealed up.2) The Disciples could not, would not and did not steal His body, the same goes for the Jewish or Roman Authorities.
18Option (5)- Resurrection? Conclusion? Look at which of the 5 scenarios fits the evidence best.We can AT LEAST say that there is as much if not more evidence for something miraculous that occurred than there is evidence for something natural that occurred.A decision based on the evidence, not on our pre-determined biases or conclusions could be the first step for many to salvation.If indeed this option seems to be the more likely out of the 5, then we HAVE to ask ourselves, “Who is this man who has power over life and death?Or better posed – “Who do I say that He is?”