Probably no aspect of the Biblical account of Jesus has faced as much opposition as the story of His resurrection from the dead, and rightly so; for Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” – [1 Corinthians 15: 14].
Therefore, those against Christian teaching get to disqualify the faith if they disprove Christ’s rise from the dead. But do any of these alternate theories hold up under scrutiny?
The Jewish Perspective
Christians have wielded the Bible for the last slightly over 2000 years, justifying Christ’s resurrection. It just so happens that it is the same book dissenters have always held to make their case for a no-risen Christ.
It is also worth mentioning that this “Holy Book” from which Christians derive a resurrected Jesus is of Jewish Origin, i.e. The Jews wrote it and majority of the characters in the stories of the Bible are unquestionably Jews.
Ironically, the Jews of today are at a radical disagreement with the notion that any Jesus ever happened to this earth, let alone resurrect after death.
Jews do not believe that it is prophesied that the Messiah will be crucified. They do not believe that he will be raised from the dead any more than anyone else. They don’t even believe that the Messiah will be the world’s “savior” in the sense that he will redeem us from our sins.
According to them, the Messiah will be a mortal man, born of a normal man and woman. He will be of the undisputed scion of King David through his father. He will become uncontested ruler in the Land of Israel over all the People of Israel, that is, all Twelve Tribes of Israel. He will have at least one son, who will be king after the Messiah dies a normal death at an advanced age.
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He will be as described by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2-4): “full of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of God . . . he will smite the tyrant with the rod of his mouth, and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips . . .”
However, Christians have never been moved by the Jews’ “unbelief” as to them, it is also a biblically expected/prophesied quirkiness that will go on until the “fullness of time” when the whole of Israel will believe in their Savior.
This has not stopped alternate theories on Jesus’ resurrection to multiply.
In naturalistic theories, the assumption is that Jesus died and did not return to life. What is inevitable here is the inescapable fact that Jesus actually died on the cross. The most basic duty with all naturalistic theories is to explain what happened to the body. Following are examples of such;
The Authorities Moved the Body
It is a premise which proposes that the Roman or Jewish authorities took the body from the tomb to another place, leaving the tomb empty. That the disciples wrongly presumed Jesus to be raised from the dead.
This theory is contrary to the conversion of James and especially Saul. How could such a severe critic as Saul of Tarsus be so duped? Certainly, this theory does not explain the resurrection appearances after death.
The Tomb Was Never Visited
This theory is that in the two months after Jesus’ death, he appeared in some spiritual form to some of the disciples, and they preached the resurrection based on this. But no one ever checked the tomb to see if Jesus’ dead body actually was there.
The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb
Some suggest that the women went to the wrong tomb in the darkness, saw it empty and thought he had risen. This story was then spread by them through the ranks of the disciples and led to their belief in the resurrection of Christ.
The Disciples Stole the Body
That the guards spread the story that the disciples had stolen the body in the night and took it to an unknown location. This is a popular claim, particularly in Jewish circles. It explains the story of an empty tomb and the inability of anyone to disprove the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
Joseph of Arimathea Took the Body
A similar notion is that Joseph of Arimathea stole the body of Jesus. He was a secret believer in Jesus, and Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb. The problems of this theory however boil down to “Why?” “When?” and “Where?”
Others include the hallucination and the impersonation theories. In fact, more theories than are known have always surrounded the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
However, on May 7, 1979, in the religion section of Time Magazine, was an Orthodox rabbi [Jewish teacher] who had written a book claiming that the resurrection of Jesus was a true historical event.
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The rabbi, Pinchas Lapide did not ever become a follower of Jesus, but admitted in the article that the evidence for factuality of the resurrection of Jesus was overwhelming. In his book, The Resurrection of Jesus; a Jewish Perspective, Lapide concluded that God raised Jesus form the dead, not because he was the Messiah but out of mercy… seeing such a faithful man killed unjustly, God raised him.
This however is also not the problem for some of the doubters of the rise of Jesus from death. This is why such as the swoon theories exist.
The Swoon Theory
“Swoon” means to faint. The theory proposes that Christ never really died at all but fainted [temporarily died] and got resuscitated. This theory is not famous however many hold it authentic.
It has been promoted by several writers and scholars, including Dan Brown who widely used on it in his infamous novel, “Da Vinci Code” in which Jesus is portrayed as an ordinary man who was not divine, did not die for our sins and was never resurrected!