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Was the Resurrection a Result of Mass Hallucinations? (Alternate Resurrection Theory #3)

Was the Resurrection a Result of Mass Hallucinations?

There are two facts one must address to disprove Christianity:

  • The historical evidence in favor of the resurrection
  • The rapid growth of Christianity in a hostile environment

In part one of our series we looked at the idea the Jesus’ body was stolen. In part two we considered the possibility that Jesus didn’t really die at all. Today we’ll consider the idea that the post crucifixion sightings of Jesus were mass hallucinations.

This theory was first popularized by David Strauss[1]. It’s the belief that the Apostles experienced mass hallucinations which explain their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. In their grief, guilt, and shock that Christ was killed, they had psychological experiences (collective or subjective) where they believed they saw something that wasn’t there.

Last Supper with Jesus and The Apostles How Might Have Experienced a Mass Hallucination

The Last Supper – Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com

 

According to this theory, we find parallels of this sort of thing all over the world:

  • Many people claim to have seen statues of Mary crying
  • Ghosts sightings
  • Alien abductions

Chris Hallquist, comparing Christ’s resurrection to stories of those who claim to have been abducted by aliens, says this:

The short of it is that there are many people in the US today who, as far as anyone can tell, sincerely believe they have been abducted by space aliens. They aren’t all lone psychiatric patients; there are organizations for these people.[2]

Is this a parallel to the accounts of sighting of Jesus recorded in history? Is it possible that resurrection stories come from followers of Christ who, in their grief, so wanted to believe that Christ rose from the dead, they hallucinated it? Yes, it’s possible. But remember this: possibilities do not amount to probabilities. While the swoon theory is possible, it is certainly not probable.

Related Product: The Resurrection of Jesus by Dr. Gary Habermas

The problems for the mass hallucination theory don’t end there. Let’s look at four flaws in this theory:

1. Hallucinations Don’t Happen in Mass

There are very few psychologists or psychiatrists who believe that such a thing as mass hallucinations exist. If a hallucination is a subjectively experienced phenomenon explicable in terms of brain chemistry, then mass hallucinations aren’t possible.

A mass hallucination would be like people coming to “Coffee and Theology” at Credo House and realizing that we’d all had the same dream the night before. Not just similar dreams, but exactly the same dream. I would consider this a prophetic miracle (if it’s message coincided with previously revealed revelation from God).

The improbability of a mass hallucination (for the naturalist) is so high it would have to be a miracle.  They might as well believe something easier: Christ really did rise from the grave and ascend into heaven. They may still hold to their naturalism, but this would just be a science-of-the-gaps excuse. In other words, there is a scientific explanation; we just don’t know it yet. Think of like this:

  • Resurrection = Miracle
  • Mass Hallucination = Miracle

The mass hallucination theory would be evidence for the supernatural just like Christ’s resurrection. So the mass hallucination argument is not really a naturalistic explanation at all. It’s just swapping one miraculous event for another.

2. Hallucinations Do Not Explain the Empty Tomb

The hallucination theory doesn’t explain the empty tomb of Christ. More specifically, it doesn’t explain why the Apostles didn’t check Jesus’ tomb to see if his body was still there. Forget the Apostles, why didn’t the Romans or the Jewish leaders check the tomb? The fact that they could have checked (thereby nipping Christianity in the bud) and didn’t is telling. Friend and foe alike had an interest in proving what happened to Jesus’ body.

Those who followed Christ would have wanted to verify their hallucinations. To assume they wouldn’t have checked or that they did check but lied about it, is to assume too much about their moral psychological state.

Would Christianity have flourished in such a hostile environment if it could be so easily falsified? Imagine yourself in such a situation. You know that if you become a Christian you’ll face harsh persecution, maybe death. Before you take that step you’d check to make sure the central claim of the movement is true. If Jesus body was still in the tomb the case for Christianity doesn’t even get off the ground.

3. Parallel Hallucinations Are Not So Parallel

What about the weeping Mary statues that have been reported all over the world? Don’t many people witness them? Are we to believe that they are true or mass hallucinations? Again, they cannot be mass hallucinations. A mass hallucination would be a miracle greater than a mere crying statue. So what are they? There are a few options:

  • Hoaxes
  • Illusions
  • Point-of-sight references
  • Psychologically expected occurrences
  • True

Most of the crying statues, when investigated at any level, turn out to be hoaxes. For example, in 1995, there was a Madonna statue that appeared to be weeping blood in Civitavecchia, Italy. 60 people witnessed this. The blood was tested and shown to be male blood[3]. The statue owner refused to undergo a DNA test to see if it was his blood. The Roman Catholic Church has only approved one of these stories as legitimate. And the RCC has more reason than most for wanting these stories to be true.

If they aren’t hoaxes, than illusions and point-of-sight perspectives are not so hard to accept, especially if you’re expecting to see something. People often go to these statues hoping and expecting that they’ll see something. A tear in the eye of a statue is pretty obscure. It may be that people are simply seeing what they want to see. They see something that looks like a tear, declare that is is a tear, and go home happy.

As for alien abductions, once again, unless there are many people seeing the exact same thing, at the same time, in the same place (and I know of none that claim to be, but am open to correction), this isn’t really a parallel too much of the Gospel narrative on the resurrection. These would be more like those who have died and said they saw heaven. They all give somewhat similar accounts based on, what seems to be, cultural conditioning on what they believe heaven is supposed to be like.

And further unlike the crying statues and near-death visions of heaven (and here is where we can throw in seeing ghosts)  the Apostles had no cultural or psychological expectations to hallucinate Christ’s resurrection. They did not expect him to raise. And with Paul and James it goes even further. They did not expect him to raise and did not want him to. In these cases, hallucinations may come on an individual level when one desires to see, say, a dead loved one so bad due to grief. Some postulate that the guilt of what they did to Christ caused them to see visions of him. But, again, at least with Paul and James, we have no reason to believe they felt guilt for what happened. They seemed perfectly content in their antagonism toward Christ.

Now, of course, while I am very skeptical of alien abductions and crying statues, I don’t dismiss them out of hand. Things that don’t fit my worldview are not completely dictated by my worldview. Reason and evidence should create our worldview, not the other way around.

4. This Argument Could Be Made for Any Historic Event

If the mass hallucination theory is adopted, what’s to stop us from applying this to any and every historical event that we don’t agree with or like? Nothing. In fact, we could apply it to reality itself vis-a-vie the Matrix and throw it all out the window. Who is to say that 9/11 was not a mass hallucination? Who is to say that the Holocaust was not a mass hallucination? Who is to say that the landing on the moon was not a mass hallucination?   This wouldn’t be scholarly of us. It’s turning a possibility into a probability.

In my opinion, the resurrection of Christ is not best explained by mass (or individual) hallucination. It is trading one miracle with substantial evidence to support it for a lesser miracle with no evidence to support it.

Footnotes

Jesus Didn’t Die from Crucifixion (The Swoon Theory)(Alternate Resurrection Theory #2)

Jesus Didn’t Die from Crucifixion

It’s difficult to deal with alternate theories on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. There are plenty of them out there. That’s not the hard part. It’s just hard to choose the ones that pose the most legitimate challenge.

Further Reading: Was Jesus’ Body Stolen (Alternate Resurrection Theory #1)

Before developing an alternative view of Christ’s death and resurrection the standard view must be rejected. After all, why go searching for an alternative to a perfectly good explanation? One must reject the possibility of God raising a person from the dead before proposing a different theory. Why? Because none of the alternatives have better historical or rational support. So if your alternative theory isn’t going to win on its own merits you must do away with the original story out-of-hand so there’s nothing to be compared to.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Empty Tomb of Jesus with an Angel, Women Visitors, and Roman Soldiers.

The second alternative theory I want to talk about is the “Swoon Theory.” “Swoon” means to faint. This theory says that Christ never really died at all. The swoon theory was promoted by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Dan Brown famously used this book in connection with his best-seller The Da Vinci Code. This theory is popular among Muslims who traditionally reject Christ’s death on the cross. The swoon theory was first proposed by H. E. G. Paulus in The Life of Jesus (1828).

Explanation of the Swoon Theory

Here’s the swoon theory in a nutshell:

  1. Jesus never really died on the cross. Either they thought he was dead and took him down, or they intentionally took him down before he died.
  2. He was placed in the tomb where he remained for a couple days regaining his strength.
  3. He presented himself alive to many people including the Apostles.
  4. Those who saw him post-crucifixion thought he’d risen from the dead and spread this story, which formed the basis for Christianity.

There are at least four good reason to reject the swoon theory.

PRODUCT: Dr. Gary Habermas covers the swoon theory in session twelve of his 30-session courses on The Resurrection of Jesus.

1. The Nature of Crucifixion

The Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus’ executioners weren’t an inexperienced lynch mob. They were highly trained and experienced soldiers who regularly crucified people. employed what was probably the most common form of capital punishment of the day. Crucified men generally died from asphyxiation due to collapsed lungs. But even if they didn’t the executioners had a fail-safe to guarantee death. They would break their legs. With broken legs there was no way for the victims to push themselves up to breathe.

Though one could live days on a cross without dying, once the legs were broken, death came very quickly. Additionally, if there was any uncertainty as to whether the man had died, there was another way to ensure his death. They would spear the victim in the chest (which was done to Christ). To claim that Christ was still alive after all this is to say that:

  • The Roman executioners were incompetent in their job. This idea has no extra biblical historical support. The Romans were widely believed to have perfected the “art” of crucifixion)
  • Mary and Josephus (along with all those involved in the burial) were wrong in their belief that Christ was dead.

These two hurdles make it difficult to believe the swoon theory with intellectual integrity.

2. The Glory of the Resurrection

Let us assume that Christ did somehow survive the crucifixion. Although it’s highly implausible it’s not impossible. This is just the first of at least four challenges to the swoon theory.

Christ, a man whom the Romans just attempted to crucify, would have been clinging to life,. He would have been wrapped in burial cloths (complete with one hundred pounds of burial spices) and placed in a tomb. A heavy rock was rolled over the opening sealing off the tomb. If that wasn’t enough the Roman’s placed guards outside to keep watch.

Not only do we have to believe that Christ survived crucifixion but he somehow:

  • Didn’t die from blood loss and infection
  • Recovered his strength without medical attention, food, water, etc.
  • Was strong enough to move a stone meant to seal his tomb
  • Evaded the Roman guards outside
  • Been healthy enough to pass off as having resurrected in a glorified body

Doesn’t it seem more likely that he would have been rushed to the hospital immediately, shrieking in pain the whole way? Surely, he would have died a few days later of infection and blood loss. It’s easier to believe the God raised Jesus from the dead than this string of events.

Even David Strauss, who did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, rejected the swoon theory in his A New Life of Jesus (1879):

It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given to his disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, and impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry […] Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship. (1.412)

3. The Ascension Into Heaven

Let us suppose that Jesus didn’t die and that somehow his wounds were not fatal. Let us further suppose that he convinced the Apostles that he was the Messiah and the first fruits of the resurrection. Even if we grant both of these, we still have to reckon with the ascension of Jesus. The Apostles’ complete claimed that Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). The swoon theory (as a simpler alternative) isn’t doing so well. Even if it allows us to skirt the resurrection we still have to develop an explanation for the ascension.

4. The Lack of Evidence

This is may be the most important point we can make: there is no evidence to support the swoon theory. Nothing in Scripture or other contemporary writings support the swoon theory. It would take more faith to believe the swoon theory than to believe in the resurrection. It seems like those who want to avoid the resurrection will buy into just about anything.

Was Jesus’ Body Stolen? (Alternate Resurrection Theory #1)

If you’re not a Christian, the story of the resurrection of Christ is perplexing. What I mean is that the resurrection represents a confusing situation. It’s an event without rival in history. I’m not saying that you don’t have what you believe to be valid reasons for rejecting it. But rather that if you do reject it you have a lot of explaining to do.

The Resurrection of Christ from the Tomb

The Resurrection of Christ from the Tomb

Almost a third of the world’s population base their faith on the resurrection of Christ. This doesn’t make it true, but it can’t be dismissed out of hand either. This belief has endured for two-thousand years. So a lot of people believe it and it has a rich historical pedigree. So far, so good, but It’s also a story filled with historical markers. The Bible mentions times, real geographical locations, dates, and historical people. In short, the Resurrection is very falsifiable. Yet it endures.

Related Product: The Resurrection of Jesus DVD Course by Dr. Gary Habermas

You probably see the problem for the non-christian already. If they deny the resurrection, they have to explain two things:

  • How did a belief in the resurrection come about?
  • Why did Christianity grow so quickly in the first and second centuries?

In the days leading up to Easter, I’m going to review the four most significant naturalistic theories on the resurrection. These are theories that argue that Christ did not really rise from the dead.

Jesus’ Body Was Stolen (Alternate Resurrection Theory #1)

This particular hypothesis has been around longer than any other. The book of Matthew speaks about this theory. Matthew says that is was created so the Jewish leaders could deny the resurrection. They bribed the guards to keep them quiet.

Matthew 28:11–15 (ESV)

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.

12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers

13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’

14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

It’s interesting to note that by the time Matthew was written, the “stolen body” theory had been around for almost 30 years. There are several problems with this theory. Let’s take a look at four of them.

1.  The Resurrection Is Supported by More than the Empty Tomb

One thing the stolen body theory has going for it is that it does account for the empty tomb. The empty tomb is a basic fact that most scholars, liberal and conservative, accept. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona use this in their “minimal facts” approach. The minimal facts approach seeks to support the resurrection from facts agreed upon by a majority of scholars.

The stolen body theory fails today for the same reason it failed in the first century: the resurrection is supported by more than the empty tomb. Of course, the lack of a body is a necessary condition for the resurrection to be true, but the appearances and ascension of Christ are also bedrock components of the resurrection testimony.

Related Product: The Case for the Resurrection DVDs by Mike Licona and Michael Patton

Stealing a body is one thing. Making it appear to be alive is a whole other kettle of fish. If the Apostles stole the body, how did they animate it to fool those who say they saw him alive? How did they make this body appear to ascend into heaven? How did they get this body to appear to Paul some years later? The stolen body theory just totally misses the mark here.

2. The Deaths of the Apostles

Tradition and history tells us that all the Apostles (except John) died a martyr’s death. The traditions for the deaths of James, Peter, and Paul are almost beyond debate.

The Apostles’ deaths make no sense if the stolen body theory is true. The Apostles were killed for being Christians. Their Christianity was based on a belief that Christ rose from the dead.

The stolen body theory would ask us to believe that these men died knowing that what they were dying for was untrue. It gets worse. They would have also died having attained no earthly rewards. Rather, they endured terrible suffering, rejection, and martyrdom for nothing. Even if one could concoct an initial motive for this kind of deception (which is far-fetched all by itself), this motive would have quickly yielded to the Apostles’ sense of self-preservation.

Similarly, one would have to explain why Jews who followed the Mosaic Law could rationalize creating such a significant lie about their Messiah and then maintain that lie for the rest of their lives.

3. The Unacceptability of Resurrection to Jews and Greeks

To say that the disciples stole Christ’s body is to say that they made up the resurrection. It’s not that they were mistaken. That would be one thing. It’s not even that they were out of their mind. They would have to have been intentionally deceptive. If you’re a first century Jew trying to get a new religion off the ground a resurrected messiah is exactly what you wouldn’t do. Let’s look at two reason why this would be the case.

First, let me back up for a moment and speak about the unacceptability of both the death and resurrection of Christ. It was culturally reprehensible at all levels to have a crucified and resurrected Messiah. The Jews certainly were not expecting their Messiah to be killed, especially in this manner. “Cursed is any man who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). Who would want a cursed man to be their Messiah?

The Resurrection by Ugo Da Carpi

The Resurrection by Ugo Da Carpi

Second, the Greeks would have nothing but disdain for the idea of a bodily resurrection. From their perspective, the material body was something to escape. The Greeks were dualists. They believed that the material world was evil and the spiritual world was good. Their goal, then, was to die and leave their physical, material, bodies behind (good riddance!). The resurrection of Christ (as some sort of solution to mankind’s problems) went against everything they believed.

The Gospel of a crucified and resurrected God (for both Jew and Greek) was about the dumbest story anyone could ever invent. Normally, when people fabricate stories, they build in some degree of marketing potential. However, this story was counterproductive on every level. It was a foolish story. However, this foolishness actually evidences its historicity. The story of the resurrection could not possibly be expected to sell… unless it was true.

4. There’s Just No Evidence for the Stolen Body Theory

Ultimately, when all is said and done, this myth suffers the same fatal flaw every other alternative suffers from: there is little or no evidence for it. The best evidence we have for the stolen body theory is that the New Testament mentions it!

Further Reading: The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus

How Jesus Became God—or How God Became Jesus? A Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book and a Concurrent Response

Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God, released just yesterday, is the most recent example of a scholarly tradition of books with similar titles offering to explain how Christianity turned a simple itinerant Jewish teacher into the Second Person of the Trinity. Two of the earlier, notable such books were Richard Rubenstein’s When Jesus Became God (1999) and Larry Hurtado’s How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (2005). In what may be an unprecedented publishing event, a book by evangelical scholars critiquing Ehrman’s book was released at the same time yesterday, entitled How God Became Jesus. The concurrent publication of the rebuttal book was facilitated by the fact that its publishing house, Zondervan, is owned by HarperCollins, which published Ehrman’s book under the HarperOne imprint.

Ehrman, of course, has more name recognition in the English-speaking world than any other biblical scholar today, due especially to his de-conversion story (enthusiastically disseminated in the mainstream media) of abandoning evangelical Christian belief and becoming an agnostic. Sadly, he is probably a hundred times better known than any of the five scholars who contributed to How God Became Jesus. In particular, it is a shame that Craig A. Evans is not better known. Evans is also the author of what I consider the stand-out chapter responding to Ehrman. More on that later.

An Overview of the Two Books

Ehrman’s thesis is that Jesus was not viewed, by himself or his disciples, as in any sense divine during his lifetime, but that belief in his divinity arose almost immediately after his disciples had visions of Jesus that they interpreted as meaning that God had raised him bodily from the dead. Continue Reading →

Top 5 Resurrection Myths – #3: The Resurrection Was Borrowed from Ancient Myths

Contention: The story of Christ’s resurrection was actually borrowed from ancient mythology that predated it by many years. While these myths eventually died out, for some reason the Christ story was able to survive. Why should anyone give special pleading to Christianity? As Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy put it:

“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem?” (The Jesus Mysteries).

For me, this myth about the Resurrection of Christ is the most disturbing. My negative feelings toward it do not come from its viability, but from two things: 1) tt provides an incredibly effective sound bite that can quickly bring about severe doubt in believers who have never examined the claim, even though 2) it is about the most easily dismissible fable concerning the Resurrection of Christ.

I ran into a distraught Christian the other day who told me her faith was in a tailspin due to this tale. She simply did not know how to respond, and felt like her faith was losing is grounding. Many “Internet atheists” love this argument. I don’t know whether they have ever looked into it themselves (I have to believe they have not), but it is blindly and irresponsibly replicated in blogs, videos, and atheistic evangelism (yes, there is such a thing!) slogans.

Problems:

1. It is rejected by the scholarly world

Most people don’t realize that this theory was first presented in the late 19th century. It gained some traction, as it was the “new kid on the block” for dismissing the Resurrection of Christ in favor of a naturalistic worldview. However, the scholarly world (conservative and liberal alike) dropped it in the early twentieth century, and now considers it a non-issue. Continue Reading →

Top 5 Resurrection Myths – #4: The Apostles Stole Christ’s Body

Seminary level course on the Resurrection taught by Gary Habermas: 13 more days to get it at a price you will never see again.  We need your help to make this course a reality.

The next resurrection myth is that the Apostles (or Jesus’ followers) stole Christ’s body. This particular hypothesis has been around longer than any other. The Book of Matthew speaks about this theory as having been created in order for the Jewish leaders to deny the resurrection. They bribed the guards to keep them quiet (which, as an aside, is good evidence that the guards were Roman and not from the temple — otherwise, why would the Jews have to bribe them?):

Mat 28:11-15
Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

It is interesting to note that by the time Matthew was written, this theory had been in circulation for nearly 30 years.

However, there are several problems with this theory:

1. The resurrection is evidenced by more than the empty tomb.

One positive about the stolen body theory is that it does well in assuming the empty tomb. This is a basic fact that most scholars, liberal and conservative, accept. Gary Habermas uses this in his “minimal facts” approach where he evidences the resurrection from a few basic facts that the majority of scholars accept.

But this theory fails today for the same reason it failed in the first century: The resurrection is evidenced by much more than the empty tomb. Of course, the empty tomb is a necessary condition for the event, but the appearances and ascension of Christ are also components that form the bedrock of the resurrection testimony. If the Apostles stole the body, how did they animate it to fool those who say they saw him alive? How did they make this body appear to ascend into heaven? How did they get this body to appear to Paul some years later? Continue Reading →

Top 5 Resurrection Myths – #5: Christ Never Really Died

This is a series on objections to the resurrection. It is to promote Gary Habermas’ course on the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus that he will be teaching here at the Credo House. We are attempting to get backing for this course right now. Please help us make this 30 session, seminary level course available to everyone. It will be available as DVD, streaming video, CD, steaming audio, and on the Credo Course App (coming after 6 Credo Courses are completed—early next year). We need your help to make this course a reality.

It is difficult to deal with alternate theories regarding the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. The difficulty lies not in that there are not many out there, but that it is hard to choose which ones pose the most legitimate challenges. One thing is certain: if a prima facie rejection of the possibility of a truly dead person coming back to life through the power of God was not present, then there would be no alternatives to the resurrection of Christ, as the evidence for any of these alternatives is not present. One has to reject the possibility of God raising a person from the dead and then begin to seek explanations that would not otherwise be evident.

The first alternative that I wish to talk about is the “Swoon Theory.” “Swoon” means to faint. This theory proposes that Christ never really died at all. Although not very popular (but, to be truthful, none really have a wide acceptance), this theory was promoted by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which is primarily known for its use by Dan Brown in his best seller The Da Vinci Code). As well, the theory has been popularized recently among Muslims, who traditionally reject Christ’s death on the cross. It was first proposed by H. E. G. Paulus in The Life of Jesus (1828).

Explanation of the Swoon Theory:

Jesus never really died on the cross. He was either thought dead and taken down, or intentionally taken down before death. He was placed in the tomb for a couple of days, then he regained his strength and presented himself alive to many people, including his Apostles. They were convinced that he had risen from the dead and spread this story, which formed the basis for the Christian message.

Why this must be rejected:

1. The nature of crucifixion.

Christ’s crucifixion was ordered by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The executioners were not a rogue group of lynchers who attempted to kill a man, but experienced soldiers who employed what was probably the most common form of capital punishment of the day. Crucified men generally died from asphyxiation due to collapsed lungs, but the executioners had a fail-safe to guarantee the death of the victim. In order to speed up the suffocation, they would break the legs of the crucified. In doing so, there was no longer any way for the dying man to use his legs to give his lungs room to breathe. Though one could live days on a cross without dying, once the legs were broken, death came very quickly. Additionally, if there was any uncertainty as to whether the man had perished, there was another way to finalize his death. They would spear the victim in the chest (which we see done to Christ). To say that Christ was still alive after all that is to say that the Roman executioners were incompetent in their job (an idea which does not have any extrabiblical historical support, as Romans were widely believed to have perfected the “art” of crucifixion) and that Mary and Josephus, along with all those involved in the burial, were mistaken in their belief that Christ was dead. This is very difficult to believe with intellectual integrity. Continue Reading →