Common Arguments Used to Deny Jesus Rose from the Grave
The following are what is commonly used to refute the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, they are not reasonable, feasible, logical arguments.
The mythical view asserts that Jesus’ resurrection was a myth created by the early church to maintain and grow the significance of Jesus’ teaching and death. The major problem with this view is that Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:3 demonstrates that this so-called “myth” began early in the church. If it began early in the church, and had no real basis in history whatsoever, it is difficult to see how it could have been propagated for any length of time�let alone become the foundation of the church.
Why are there no early writings denying this ‘myth’? The Jewish leaders for sure would have written against this myth.
The presence of eyewitnesses mitigates against such an interpretation. The disciples themselves did not even believe in the resurrection of Jesus until they actually saw Him.
Subjective Vision Theory
Others have proposed a subjective vision theory in which they claim Jesus appeared to the disciples in dreams. From this, it is thought, the resurrection narratives developed. The problem with this view is that the disciples do not ever understand anything Jesus said about the resurrection during his ministry. It is unlikely, given the disciples lack of spiritual understanding during Jesus’ life, that they would all of a sudden postulate a resurrection in their own minds.
The disciples’ condition was one of defeat and discouragement and it is therefore difficult to think that they would have, or could have, become such great preachers of the faith on the basis of dreams. Besides there is no evidence that they had any dreams along these lines. And, it is difficult to believe that they would have dreamed of Jesus’ personal resurrection when all they really had to go on was the general resurrection at the time of judgment spoken of in Daniel 12:2 (cf. John 5:28, 29). Based upon the criterion of Palestinian environment and their religious knowledge and heritage, it seems unlikely that they would have dreamed such things.
Objective Vision Thesis
There is also an objective vision thesis. This proposal claims that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were simply visions given by God to authenticate Jesus’ spiritual resurrection. This appears unlikely, given the context of 1 Corinthians 15:5 and argument of the passage. First, in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 it is the same Jesus who died (i.e. the literal man), who is said to have been buried and then risen. Second, the hope of the believer’s resurrection body is the resurrection of Jesus’ body. This is clearly the argument of the passage (cf. vv. 12, 15, 20 and esp. v. 21) and rests upon the presupposition of a literal, bodily resurrection, not just a spiritual resurrection (12-22)
The Christian faith is based upon a literal resurrection. This is the proof that Jesus conquered death. If Jesus did not conquer death, then His words have no authority.
Excerpts from The Historical Veracity of the Resurrection Narratives.
The Hallucination Theory
The Hallucination Theory is perhaps the critics’ best bet. It maintains that the disciples were so grieved by the loss of their teacher that they experienced visions of him and then concluded he had risen from the dead. At first this seems reasonable since they definitely were shaken by his death. Yet, the data does not fit the theory. Before you read the following data it might be helpful to read the Encyclopedia Britannica’s information on hallucinations.
1. Studies show that grief-stricken hallucinations usually are quite short. However, the records reveal that a number of Yeshua’s appearances after his death were fairly lengthy, not just ‘hallucinations’ for a few minutes.
2. The encounters involved several senses.
Scientific definition of a vision:
An apparent act of vision takes place for which there is no corresponding external object. The optic nerve has not been stimulated by any outward waves of light or vibrations of the either, but has been excited by a purely inner physiological cause. At the same time the sense-impression of sight is accepted by the one who experiences the vision as completely as if it were wholly “objective”; he fully believes the object of his vision to be actually before him.
Definition of hallucination:
Perception of objects with no reality usually arising from disorder of the nervous system or in response to drugs.
An unfounded or mistaken impression or notion.
Yeshua talked with the disciples. He ate with them. He even let them touch him in order to dispel their own doubts. This occurred in a variety of situations with others present. This was more than a vision or hallucination.
3. On at least five occasions the Messiah appeared to seven or more of his followers. Groups of people rarely have the same hallucinations at the same time. All of this individuals had visual, auditory, and tactual encounters with Jesus.
There is also the more than 500 hundred that were together at one time.
4. Generally, only particular kinds of people have hallucinations. They are normally “high-strung”, highly imaginative and very nervous.
Jesus appearances were not restricted to person of any particular psychological make-up:
a. Mary Magdalene was weeping
b. The women were afraid and astonished
c. Peter was full of remorse
d. Thomas had unbelief
e. The Emmanus pair were distracted by the events of the week
f. The disciples of Galilee were fishing
Some would argue that emotional women are more susceptible to hallucinations. If this is true, what about Peter who was a strong and hardy fisherman who certainly would not be considered subject to foolish emotions.
5. Hallucinations are linked in an individual’s subconscious to his particular past experiences. They are very individualistic, extremely subjective, and in a place with nostalgic atmosphere.
It is then very unlikely, then, that two persons would have the same hallucinations at the same time. Plus none of the individuals are documented to have had any other ‘hallucinations’ or any past experiences that would have triggered hallucinations. The appearances of Jesus were at a variety of locations so it was not like the appearance came at a nostalgic location for each person.
6. Those who normally have hallucinations are normally characterized as having a belief in the idea that it expresses, and excited expectation that the idea will somehow be realized.
None of the disciples were expecting Jesus to be resurrected. The women went to the grave and were shocked that he was not there. Mary was actually going to anoint Jesus body with spices. The disciples were in a house hiding from the people because of fear. The two walking on the road were upset that Jesus had died.
As a matter of fact, there were three separate occasions that Jesus was not immediately recognized. (Luke 24:13-31, John 20:15, John 21:4)
6. Most people who have hallucinations normally become involved in strange behavior, strange thoughts, and are seen as foolish.
There is no documentation that the disciples started strange practices, immoral behavior, justified sinful behavior, or encouraged any anti-social behavior. As a matter of fact, after the appearances of Jesus they were many times accused of being ‘too moral’.
7. The Jewish authorities were very much opposed to the vigorous preaching of the resurrection by the early Messianic Jews. To quiet them forever all they needed to do was produce the decaying body of Yeshua and all Jerusalem would have known that these eleven were deceivers or insane. ‘Their credibility would have disappeared instantly. The Jewish authorities only needed to document all the ‘insane behaviors’ of these ‘crazy’ disciples of Jesus.
8. If the disciples did have hallucinations and they were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection, then they were insane. What is more sad than this is that many Christians have died as martyrs for their faith and have never seen Jesus. So they must be really insane?
The Wrong Tomb Theory
This theory claims that the women who went to pay last respects to their beloved rabbi that early Sunday morning supposedly lost their bearings and arrived at the wrong tomb. They noticed it was empty, and as they puzzled over the situation were greeted by a young man who tried to explain that they were in the wrong place. They fled the scene in terror and later concluded, along with the talmidim, that Yeshua had risen from the dead. Serious difficulties exist with this theory too:
1. According to the records, the women had witnessed Yeshua’s burial less than 72 hours prior to their return visit and they were returning in the early morning light. It does not seem likely that all of them would have forgotten so quickly where their teacher lay.
2. Yeshua was buried in a private garden not in a cemetery. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose that other tombs might be confused with his.
3. At least two other talmidim (disciples) went to the tomb to verify the women’s report, since they didn’t believe the women at first either. It is inconceivable that they, too, lost their way.
4. Perhaps most significant of all is the simple fact that the authorities certainly would have gone to the right place if they could produce the body and dispel the claims of the growing numbers of Yeshua’s followers once and for all. The authorities, however, never took this simple step. Why? Because it was clear to all the people of Jerusalem that the garden grave was empty. No one could produce the body because it was gone! The ultimate result was that thousands and thousands of Jews in the area recognized Yeshua as the long-promised Messiah.
The Stolen Body Theory
Rarely suggested by modern biblical scholars, was popular among Roman and Jewish writers until the Middle Ages. The major premise of this theory is that Yeshua’s tomb was empty because his followers stole the body. This is highly unlikely because:
1. Jewish authorities requested a unit of tough Roman soldiers to guard the tomb and prevent this very thing, since Yeshua had predicted his resurrection. The guards knew that if he escaped, such an offense was punishable by their death. This is documented in the Bible. If you do not believe the Bible, do you believe that the Jews would have allowed Jesus body to be stolen?
2. The talmidim (“disciples”) were proponents of the highest ethical standards. Therefore, for them to have removed the body, lied about its whereabouts and then continued to practice and preach God’s holy moral code and die as martyrs seems improbable. If the disciples died horrific deaths for believing in the resurrection of Jesus when they actually hid his body, they were insane. If they were insane enough to die for a lie, there should be much documentation on how crazy the disciples were after Jesus death.
Excerpts from Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.