atheist, the Resurrection of Jesus seemed preposterous to me. I was willing to
accept the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, but I rejected the
supernatural claims of the New Testament Gospels, especially the claim that
Jesus rose from the dead. When I eventually decided to investigate the
Resurrection, I made a list of all the possible explanations for the claims of
the disciples. Were
they mistaken about the death of Jesus? Did
they lie about the Resurrection? Were
they hallucinating? I examined a number of explanations, including the
possibility that an imposter tricked the disciples and convinced them that
Jesus was still alive. If this were the case, the disciples might have unknowingly
advanced a lie.
theories may account for the observations of the disciples, they require an
additional set of conspirators (other than the apostles who were later fooled)
to accomplish the task of stealing the body. Many of my partners spent several
years investigating fraud and forgery crimes prior to joining us on the
homicide team. They’ve learned something about successful con artists. The less
the victim understands about the specific topic and area in which they are
being “conned,” the more likely the con artist will be successful. Victims are
often fooled and swindled out of their money because they have little or no
expertise in the area in which the con artist is operating. The perpetrator is
able to use sophisticated language and make claims that are outside of the
victim’s expertise. The crook sounds
legitimate, primarily because the victim doesn’t really know what truly is legitimate. When the targeted victim
knows more about the subject than the person attempting the con, the odds are
good that the perpetrator will fail at his attempt to fool the victim. For this
reason, the proposal that a sophisticated first-century con artist fooled the
disciples seems unreasonable. There are many concerns with such a theory:
1. 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.
2. Many of the disciples were skeptical and displayed none of
the necessary naïveté that would be required for the con artist to succeed.
Thomas, for example, was openly skeptical from the beginning.
3. 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 disciples themselves.
4. This explanation also fails to account for the empty tomb
or missing body of Jesus.
5. The impersonator would need to possess miraculous powers;
the disciples reported that the resurrected Jesus appeared miraculously (Luke
24:36), performed many miracles and “convincing proofs” (John 21:6, Acts 1:3),
and ascended into heaven miraculously (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9).