Incarnation is the supreme miracle of Christianity; without it, no such
religion can exist. But the miracle that is most commonly challenged as a
threat to rational thought is the Resurrection. We may summarize the
shall take each theory in turn, and see its logical results.
swoon theory holds that Jesus, innocently, did not die on the cross but
awakened some time later, left the tomb – and that the disciples mistook this
for a true resurrection. This theory has its objections:
consider the history of the crucifixion itself:
foretold his resurrection – as the Pharisees clearly understood. How did
he know he was going to survive the Crucifixion? More realistically,
perhaps: why did he ever volunteer to do it?
spear in his side produced blood and water
– a sure sign of death by asphyxiation, caused by pneumonia. (This was
the most common cause of death in crucifixion.) This was the major reason
that the Journal of the American Medical Association rejected this theory.
Romans didn’t break his legs – something done to hasten death. These
people knew what they were doing. The only reason for this is that he was
Roman soldier clearly understood that if the crucified didn’t die from it,
he would soon take his place. This is motivation to do the job right the
out of the tomb
are some difficulties, too, in getting out of the tomb.
how did the weakened, tortured Jesus roll the stone away – a stone which
took several men to put in place? Which covered the entrance – no edge to
to the point, how did such a beaten, weakened man even get out of the
winding sheet wrapped around him like a cocoon? That’s not easy for a
fully healthy man, let alone one in this condition.
performed these feats, how did he get past the guards? They didn’t notice
the stone moving?
that (somehow) he’s out of the tomb, past the guards and on his way to his
disciples, answer these questions:
did no one notice that he was in such a weakened condition? There is no
thought of bandaging up his wounds, or treating him.
for heaven’s sake, did he go? By this theory he is mortal like us, and
stays for forty days – and then disappears. Where did he go? Why do we
hear no more of him?
usual result of asking these questions is that “there must have been a
conspiracy.” We will deal with that in due course.
story holds that the disciples, distraught by events, hallucinated the
resurrection. This has its difficulties too.
with hallucinations themselves
have been studied medically, and such observations pose a serious problem for
usually last, at most, a few minutes. This one went on for forty days.
usually happen only once, unless you are indeed afflicted with a
particular type of mental illness. This one happened over and over to a
lot of people.
usually are the result of our own inner processes. One thing is clear:
the disciples thought the resurrection unimaginable. How, then, did they
don’t eat real fish. Jesus did.
don’t provide rational teaching like Jesus did.
were many witnesses with the same hallucination. How?
people were not New Age thinkers with something to smoke, but ordinary
peasants of the time.
hundred identical hallucinations at once?
most telling, the witnesses at each incident started by showing that they
did not believe in the resurrection, but had to be convinced. That’s a
hallucination within a hallucination.
this theory the corpse is still in the tomb – which yields some potent
stone and seal would still be there. Who would believe these people?
disciples would certainly have known that something funny happened, and
would have verified what they thought they saw. Where? At the tomb –
still sealed with the stone. In fact, this is just what the Apostles did.
the story spread, the Jews had every reason to stop it. They could have
done so simply by producing the body. They didn’t.
one is relatively recent. It runs something like this: We know that the
Gospels weren’t written until very late – 200 AD at the earliest, more likely
300-350 AD. The Apostles, in this version, were myth makers. The embellished
the story of the real Christ until it became that of the Christ of classic
Christianity. The church later added to this mythology. Thus, we can never
really know the “historical Jesus.” This is also called the “two layer theory”
– the first layer being the historical (and unknowable) Jesus, the second the
mythical one of Christianity. This is a favorite of liberals who believe in
having faith in faith (often called “Easter faith.”) It certainly allows you
to make any number of speculations which your fellow liberals will call
“brilliant.” But the theory has its problems:
of the Scripture
we know how myths were written in those days – even Christian myths. Such
myths are easily identified by style, and were consistently rejected by
the early church.
there is the date of Paul’s writing. You can jabber all you want about
the date of the Gospels (there is good evidence for first century dates),
but virtually no scholar denies that Paul’s letters were written before AD
65 – the year he was fed to the lions. Paul’s letters as a whole
completely reject any form of myth, and solidly affirm the resurrection.
may seem a curious argument today, but bear with me. The first witnesses
to the resurrection are women. If you’re going to create a myth, start
with people who are more credible. The ancient world would not have
accepted such a myth based on a woman’s account.
specifically denies that the Apostles are myth makers.
may bring forward two more items of evidence:
is absolutely no documentary evidence from the first through third
centuries of any such myth making going on successfully. The manuscripts
have very little variation in them. On the contrary, attempted myth
making was consistently rejected.
of all types was consistently rejected by the early church. For example,
Chrysostom, who commented on most of the books of the New Testament, shows
that his understanding in the late 4th century is virtually
identical to the manuscripts from the early 2nd century. His
quotations from Scripture are such that individual word discrepancies can
be identified, and these are few. There are no 3rd or 4th
century myths in his writing.
the theories above assume that the Apostles acted in innocence. They were
deceived by Jesus’ recovery in the tomb; they were hallucinating; they were
making myths just to make things better. But there is a more sinister
version. The Apostles, in this theory, conspired to invent Christianity
knowing full well that it was false. This is a very popular theory today, but
it too has its problems.
first set of objections has to do with the Apostles themselves.
severe torture and death, not one of the early disciples or Apostles ever
confessed to conspiracy. The authorities of that time did not hesitate to
use torture to get results. Despite that, there are no confessions of
conspiracy – only faith. Do people act like that for something they know
is a lie?
guys? A bunch of hick fishermen from Galilee? A conspiracy? These guys
couldn’t conspire their way out of a paper bag. How did they ever keep
their stories straight?
possible motive could they have had? Sentiment for a dead Jesus? That
won’t last long. Money? Sure – if you can explain how they intended to
profit from it. Pure masochism comes to mind – if you can explain how
masochism benefits from conspiracy.
what an imagination these fishermen had! This is a story that exceeds
Tolkien or Shakespeare at their finest. How did they even dream this one
by their very nature, have intrinsic limits and problems. Here are some
questions concerning those:
hundred plus conspirators? How many people did it take to leak Watergate
to the press? Can so large a conspiracy go undetected for so many years?
It is absurd.
you’re going to lie about something, wouldn’t you make it an attractive
lie? This is a lie that produces persecution for its adherents. Surely
they could have been smarter than that.
Jews and the Romans had every facility for breaking such a conspiracy – and
plenty of motive to do so. They tried. They failed. Conspiracies
usually break down under such pressure.
holes in the theory
are two other gaping holes in this theory.
how did they get the body out of the tomb? Guards, huge stone, seal – all
these had to be passed and then made to look as if the resurrection had
occurred. How did they do that? Especially, how did they get the
guards to cooperate – when cooperating would get the guards crucified?
if they didn’t do that, why didn’t the Jews simply produce the corpse?
last option, of course, is Christianity. If this is not the right one, then
what we know as the church today sprang from fraud, hallucination, mythology or
worse. How is it that such good things as Christians do come from such an evil
truth is simple: the opponents of Christ do what they accuse Christians of
doing: ignoring the evidence, starting with the conclusion and working
backwards to a theory. Try it the other way around, folks, and see where it