I think that this might be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for non-believers to accept. “The resurrection never happened- people don’t just rise from the dead!” they scoff. Well, yes. People don’t. That’s why it’s a miracle. Now, I’ll talk about miracles a little later, but let’s just stick with the assumption that they can happen, for the moment. While keeping our minds open to the possibility of a miraculous occurence, let’s consider the theories surrounding Jesus’ death and return to life.
1. The Apostles Lied
Jesus died on the cross and, three days later, as he failed to come again, the Apostles gathered together and came up with a plan- if they just said he returned, no one could prove them wrong, could they? So they go out and preach the word of the “risen” lord to the unwitting public and dupe them into joining their church. This theory has some major flaws in it, the greatest of these being this- the Apostles died. All of them were tortured to death, the exception being John who was boiled in oil and then thrown off a tower, and after these failed to kill him, was exiled to the Island of Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down. James was torn apart. Matthias, the oft forgotten twelfth-prime apostle, was captured and eaten by cannibals for his beliefs. At any point in the events leading up to their death, if they had renounced their beliefs they would’ve been allowed to go free. But no one did. No one who is morally corrupt enough to lie to thousands would have the strength of character to stick to that lie whist being burned alive, or being thrown to the lions. There was no conceivable benefit for them to lie about this, which brings us to the next hypothesis.
2. The Apostles Were Deranged
In a fit of grief, they experience a group hallucination of Jesus coming down and speaking to them. This doesn’t fit the facts either. Having a psychotic break, and then continuing to adhere to the beliefs produced as a result of it makes a person at the very least mentally ill. The disciples of Christ, about 70 people, went out and converted people by the thousands, taking what was a very small messianic ‘cult’ in Judaism, and turning it into The Major Religion of the western hemisphere. While mentally ill people can and do convince others of their beliefs, they will by and large turn people off with their fervor. Consider UFOlogists. There is a substantially sized group of people in the world with rational explanations and what they consider real experiences with aliens. But they are still dismissed as kooks to the fringes, and very few people seriously believe that extraterrestrial beings are abducting corn farmers in Nebraska.
3. Jesus Didn’t Die
The Roman soldiers made a mistake and took him off the Cross when he had simply passed out from the pain or from blood loss, and he later recovered in the tomb and made his way back to the Disciples. This theory is extremely absurd, but it is still oft mentioned so I have to address it here. The Roman Soldiers who performed the crucifixion were highly experienced. Their entire job consisted of killing people, and if they failed to perform their job up to snuff, they were likely to be killed themselves. They would’ve made very sure Jesus was dead before taking him off the cross, knowing that to botch the job that utterly would result in their deaths. Anyone who holds the belief he didn’t die has not seriously considered the mechanics behind crucifixtion. One isn’t scourgified, beaten, have nails the size of railroad spikes driven through your forearms and feet, and then be left to the elements all day, and then be able to walk away from it all. Jesus died after his lungs collapsed- we know that because they had filled with water when his side was pierced to see if he was dead or not. He was laid to rest in a tomb with a boulder rolled in front of it and two Roman guards posted in front of it. How would a seriously wounded, fainting man push aside a boulder from the inside and then by pass two soldiers with out attracting attention? Or, how would the Disciples have overpowered the guards, removed the stone, and made off with Jesus’ body with out being identified and stopped?
The fact is, there is a great deal more evidence FOR the resurrection then their is AGAINST it. For the entirety of the Early Church’s history, when it was still widely attacked as heretical and blasphemous, there was one condemning piece of evidence that would’ve stopped it in it’s tracks- the body of Jesus. Had the Jews or Romans been able to provide Jesus’ body, wouldn’t they have?
Evidence for the Resurrecton
All About Jesus Christ: The Resurrection
Catholic Encyclopedia: Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Religious Tolerance.org: The resurrection of Jesus Christ; Fact or Fable?