If you’ve been following along with us at ColdCaseChristianity.com, you already know we offer a free downloadable Bible Insert
every month (located in the right toolbar of the homepage). Our inserts
are brief reviews (or outlines) of important issues related to
Christian Case Making. Each resource is created as a graphic image you
can print and trim it to fit in your Bible, or upload it to your phone
or tablet. Many of you have already written to tell me you’re collecting
these inserts on your mobile device. Last month I posted the first of
two inserts reviewing the explanations typically offered for the
Resurrection of Jesus, along with the deficiencies of each explanation.
This month I’m posting the second half of that list.
The following brief summary of explanatory deficiencies is excerpted from my book, Cold Case Christianity.
I’ve omitted larger observations from the book related to my own case
work and experience as a detective; this abbreviated list is merely a
summary of the historic observations related to each explanation. A more
comprehensive examination is included in the chapter explaining the
process of abductive reasoning.
If we begin with a minimal list of evidences related to the Resurrection
of Jesus (Jesus died on the cross and was buried, Jesus’s tomb was
empty and no one ever produced His body, Jesus’s disciples believed that
they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, and Jesus’s disciples were
transformed following their alleged resurrection observations), the
following explanations, along with their deficiencies, must be
Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross?
Many first-century and early second-century unfriendly Roman sources
(i.e., Thallus, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, and Phlegon) and Jewish
sources (i.e., Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud) affirmed and
acknowledged that Jesus was crucified and died.
2. The Roman guards
faced death if they allowed a prisoner to survive crucifixion. Would
they really be careless enough to remove a living person from a cross?
Jesus would have to control His blood loss from the beatings,
crucifixion, and stabbing in order to survive, yet was pinned to the
cross and unable to do anything that might achieve this.
displayed wounds following the resurrection but was never observed to
behave as though He was wounded, in spite of the fact that He appeared
only days after his beating, crucifixion, and stabbing.
disappeared from the historical record following His reported
resurrection and ascension and was never sighted again (as one might
expect if He recovered from His wounds and lived much beyond the young
age of thirty-three).
Were the Disciples Lying About the Resurrection?
The Jewish authorities took many precautions to make sure the tomb was
guarded and sealed, knowing that the removal of the body would allow the
disciples to claim that Jesus had risen (Matt. 27:62–66).
people local to the event would have known it was a lie (remember that
Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 that there were still
five hundred people who could testify to having seen Jesus alive after
3. The disciples lacked the motive to create such a lie (more on this in chapter 14).
The disciples’ transformation following the alleged resurrection is
inconsistent with the claim that the appearances were only a lie. How
could their own lies transform them into courageous evangelists?
Did the Disciples Hallucinate the Resurrection?
1. While individuals have hallucinations, there are no examples of large groups of people having the exact same hallucination.
While a short, momentary group hallucination may seem reasonable, long,
sustained, and detailed hallucinations are unsupported historically and
3. The risen Christ was reported seen on
more than one occasion and by a number of different groups (and subsets
of groups). All of these diverse sightings would have to be additional
group hallucinations of one nature or another.
4. Not all the
disciples were inclined favorably toward such a hallucination. The
disciples included people like Thomas, who was skeptical and did not
expect Jesus to come back to life.
5. If the resurrection was simply a
hallucination, what became of Jesus’s corpse? The absence of the body
is unexplainable under this scenario.
Were the Disciples Fooled by an Imposter?
The impersonator would have to be familiar enough with Jesus’s
mannerisms and statements to convince the disciples. The disciples knew
the topic of the con better than anyone who might con them.
of the disciples were skeptical and displayed none of the necessary
naïveté that would be required for the con artist to succeed.
impersonator would need to possess miraculous powers; the disciples
reported that the resurrected Jesus performed many miracles and
“convincing proofs” (Acts 1:2–3).
4. Who would seek to start a world
religious movement if not one of the hopeful disciples? This theory
requires someone to be motivated to impersonate Jesus other than the
5. This explanation also fails to account for the empty tomb or missing body of Jesus.
Were the Disciples Influenced by Limited Spiritual Sightings?
The theory fails to account for the numerous, divergent, and separate
group sightings of Jesus that are recorded in the Gospels. These
sightings are described specifically with great detail. It’s not
reasonable to believe that all these disciples could provide such
specified detail if they were simply repeating something they didn’t see
2. As many as five hundred people were said to be
available to testify to their observations of the risen Christ (1 Cor.
15:3–8). Could all of these people have been influenced to imagine their
own observations of Jesus? It’s not reasonable to believe that a
persuader equally persuaded all these disciples even though they didn’t
actually see anything that was recorded.
3. This explanation also fails to account for the empty tomb or the missing corpse.
Were the Disciples’ Observations Were Distorted Later?
In the earliest accounts of the disciples’ activity after the
crucifixion, they are seen citing the resurrection of Jesus as their
primary piece of evidence that Jesus was God. From the earliest days of
the Christian movement, eyewitnesses were making this claim.
students of the disciples also recorded that the resurrection was a key
component of the disciples’ eyewitness testimony (more on this in
3. The earliest known Christian creed or oral record (as
described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15) includes the resurrection as a
4. This explanation also fails to account for the fact
that the tomb and body of Jesus have not been exposed to demonstrate
that this late legend was false.
Were the Disciples Simply Telling the Truth?
This explanation has only one liability: It requires a belief in the
supernatural; a belief that Jesus had the supernatural power to rise
from the dead in the first place.
Every explanation offered for a particular set of facts has its own set of unique deficiencies. Even a true
explanation will suffer from some apparent liability. As a cold-case
detective, my cases (even those in which the defendant confessed to the
crime following his conviction) have always presented unanswered
questions and apparent deficiencies. Jurors were encouraged to make a
decision in spite of these deficiencies by selecting the best inference
from the evidence: the explanation that best explains the facts of the
case while possessing the fewest liabilities.
With that in mind, it’s important to recognize the deficiency of the Christian explanation:
It requires a belief in the supernatural. For many people, this is a
deal killer; this is the reason they simply cannot accept the Christian
account. But as I’ve written in the past,
we cannot begin our investigation of supernatural claims (like the
Resurrection) by rejecting supernaturalism from the onset. We cannot
start with our conclusions predetermined. While the Christian
explanation does present a deficiency of sorts, this liability is
actually a matter of presupposition rather than evidential sufficiency.
If we can overcome our bias against the supernatural, the Christian
explanation is the most reasonable and suffers from the fewest number of
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker at Stand to Reason, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity
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