When asked to summarize the gospel some Christians may state, emphatically, “Christ is Risen!” This battle cry of truth may bring a sense of encouragement and joy for the believer, but others may think more skeptically about the resurrection.
Skeptics of Christ’s resurrection aren’t a new group. They existed in the Scriptures, they exist now, and until Christ returns, they will continue to exist. Over the course of history, explanations of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead have been categorized into four theories. Often when we cannot explain something logically, we will attempt to write theories or hypotheses to logically explain particular events.
In relation to the resurrection of Christ, which we are preparing to celebrate on Easter Sunday, we find these four theories: 1) Stolen Body Theory, 2) Swoon Theory, 3) Wrong Tomb Theory, and 4) Hallucination Theory. Each of these have been used in different ways since the time of Jesus to explain this crucial event. Let me give you a brief description of each theory.
Stolen Body Theory – this theory is self-explanatory. The reason that the tomb was found empty on that Sunday morning was because someone had stolen the body of Jesus. But who? The disciples? The Romans? The Jews?
Swoon Theory – the belief that Jesus did not die on the cross, but instead lost consciousness and then awoke when he was in the grave. If this is true, how do you explain the Roman soldiers who stabbed Jesus’ side and confirmed his death? If he woke up in the grave, how would he move the stone from the inside?
Wrong Tomb Theory – obviously with this theory it was the disciples who made a mistake. On Sunday morning when the women went to prepare his body for proper burial (Luke 24:1-12), they went to the wrong tomb which was why they found it empty.
Hallucination Theory – disillusioned and distraught by the loss of their leader, all of the disciples (as a group and individually) who saw Jesus resurrected were hallucinating.
Much of this thought process begins with skepticism (doubting the truth of something) and then leads to conspiracy (maybe this could be true). Yet we also find in the Scriptures a group of people known as the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. Although these theories may not have been used explicitly, the apostle Paul addressed this type of skeptic thought in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
If resurrection is not true, then Christ is not risen. If Christ has not been risen, then everything we (followers of Christ) do is in vain. If Christ has not been risen, why would so many be willing to die for their faith? I believe the chosen apostles and so many more disciples throughout history have been martyred because the resurrection is true. CHRIST IS RISEN, INDEED!
Yes, He is risen, and it is that truth that we remember and celebrate during this Lenten season. Christ died on the cross so the penalty for sins would be paid. Christ rose from the dead so the power of sin would be conquered. As followers of Jesus, we believe these truths and sing “hallelujah, Christ is risen from the grave.”
The Writings of John: A Survey of the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse by C. Marvin Pate
Christ is Risen by Phil Wickham