As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is ample evidence that Jesus did rise from the dead. We explored two theories that are commonly used in attempts to disprove the resurrection, and discovered why these theories are flawed.
Today, we’ll be looking at the last two arguments against the resurrection.
The Swoon Theory: the belief that Jesus did not die on the cross; rather, He was simply unconscious and was later revived.
From a medical and historical standpoint, this is highly inaccurate.
Rome showed minimal mercy not only to those it dominated, but also to its own armies. In an occupation where failure often resulted in the death penalty, Roman soldiers ensured they completed their tasks thoroughly. Execution within the Roman army could occur for any of these reasons:
- Fleeing from battle
- Leaving their assigned post
- Falling asleep while on duty
- Resisting orders
- Not fighting to the best of their ability
Other common punishments in the Roman army included flogging, being forced to live in brutal conditions, and having their hands cut off. You can read more about this from a scholarly article here.
Roman soldiers were skilled killers; they knew how to do their job, and how to do it effectively. If they failed, they were at risk for execution.
When it came to Jesus’ crucifixion, the Romans were thorough in their task of killing Him. Death through crucifixion is often attributed to asphyxiation as the condemned could no longer push themselves up to breathe. Soldiers frequently broke the condemned’s legs in order to speed the arrival of death since the crucifixion process could last for days. In John 19:32-33, the Roman soldiers didn’t break Jesus’ legs as He hung on the cross, indicating that He had already died.
In the following verse, John 19:34, we receive medical evidence for Jesus’ death. John writes that when Jesus was believed to be dead, a Roman soldier pierced His side with a spear. This pierced either His pericardial cavity (the protective walls around the heart) or His pleural cavity (which surrounds the lungs), and released a flow of both blood and water. The presence of water indicates that Jesus could have died directly from heart failure, as water had swelled around His heart and lungs.
Regardless of whether Jesus officially died from asphyxiation, heart failure, or a combination of other factors, the Romans knew that Jesus had died.
In Mark 15:44-45, a soldier reports to Pontius Pilate that Jesus was successfully crucified. If he wasn’t absolutely positive that Jesus had died, why would he risk his life by presenting a lie to Pilate?
The Stolen Body Theory: in this theory, the disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb and claimed that He had risen from the dead.
This theory is once-gained debunked by the Roman soldiers. As was discussed above, failure in a major task equated to a high likelihood of being executed. A station of Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb would not be moved by eleven disciples, even if the disciples were armed with weapons.
The soldiers wouldn’t have been sleeping on the job, as this was also potential grounds for execution. Even if they had been asleep, how could the disciples have silently moved the stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb (which happened to be incredibly heavy)? Doing so would have broken the Roman seal placed on the tomb, which indicated that the tomb was under the protection of Rome and that tampering could result in death.
As was mentioned yesterday, if Jesus remained dead, the message of salvation would be a lie, and the disciples would have known this. If they desired to spread the lie of the now-false religion, the disciples would need to steal Jesus’ body to make it appear that He had “risen.”
Considering the disciples would certainly be killed or executed for attempting to steal Jesus’ body, why would they risk death? They had nothing to gain from stealing the body or promoting a false religion that was being persecuted. Not only this, but countless Bible verses, written by these same disciples, showed that they had been incredibly fearful men. They were fearful, and had abandoned Jesus during His final hours. If Jesus was a fraud, why would they risk death for something that wasn’t true?
As I’ve heard this stated multiple times throughout my life, a man does not die for something he believes to be a lie. Rather, he dies for what he believes to be true.
Since 10 of the 11 disciples were eventually killed or executed for sharing the Gospel (Judas is not included in this), it means they genuinely believed that Jesus had risen from the dead — and that His body hadn’t been stolen. The disciples were transformed from fearful followers into bold leaders that proclaimed the message of salvation to all corners of the earth.
Only the resurrection of Christ could make such drastic changes in these men’s character.
Regardless of whether you discuss the overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection with someone, having a personal understanding of this miracle can strengthen our faith and provide reassurance to us whenever we face trials in this life.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”