“Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” was previously published on my Christian Humanism blog that no longer exists.
As Christians, we are asked to accept the impossible with blind faith, that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead after three days. A big part of faith is, essentially, suspension of disbelief. We are told by the church that this was possible because with God, all thing are possible. But as Christian Humanists, some of us have subscribed more to the notion of the humanity of Jesus Christ, rather than the divinity, and we’re left without a reasonable explanation for how the Resurrection was possible. I have a theory, but let’s get into a few preliminary things.
Did the Resurrection Really Happen?
Non-Christians balk at the “zombie Jesus” story. It’s understandable. But over a decade ago, I was watching a documentary where historians (Christians and non-Christians alike) analyzed the historical accuracy of the Gospels. The one thing they could neither prove nor disprove, of course, was the Resurrection story. But one of the historians said something that resonated with me, something that I still remember now, although I have to paraphrase because it was a long time ago.
Something happened. After Jesus died, Christianity itself should never have taken on the status as anything more than a persecuted cult that did not outlive the Apostles and others who knew Jesus personally. After all, Peter denied Christ while he was still alive, because he did not want to die alongside him. With Jesus gone, the rest of them should have stayed wisely silent, as well. But the nonbeliever Saul, who had sworn to stamp out the cult of Jesus’ followers, had a complete conversion following his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul became Paul, and he became the biggest champion of this new religion of Christianity, writing letters to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, etc. about the glory of Jesus Christ. Something extraordinary had to have happened to make him have this complete turnabout. Having Jesus appear to him after His death would certainly count as something extraordinary, would it not?
How Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
You can choose to believe that it happened just as the Bible said. That Jesus died on the cross, that He descended into hell, and that His body rose and left the tomb to make a few visits to important people and keep His message alive. This was possible because God made it so; it was an act of divine intervention for His vessel on Earth. That takes a lot of faith, unquestioned faith. I used to accept that, but my rational mind – given to me by God – has a hard time with this.
What if, instead, Jesus Christ did not actually die on the cross? This would also qualify as quite miraculous, I think. What if He had instead slipped into a deep coma because of the trauma He suffered on the cross, and appeared as dead? It wasn’t so long ago that bells were put inside of coffins just in case people weren’t actually dead when they were buried. Medical technology just didn’t exist to detect the barely perceptible signs of life in a body hanging on by just a thread. What if the miracle of the Resurrection was that, against all odds, Jesus survived the Crucifixion, that He actually recovered without any sort of medical treatment after three days in a tomb?
1 Corinthians15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
It seems that even some of Paul’s words suggesting a connection to “those who have fallen asleep” could be applicable in this theory. While writing this up, I found that this theory is called the Swoon Hypothesis, although it would appear that many proponents of this theory attribute His survival to conspiracy – which is not what I am suggesting here.
Isn’t This Blasphemous Thinking?
I know that some may accuse me of blasphemy, but remember that the Bible was written by men who did not have the same understanding of science and medicine that we have today. For all intents and purposes, Jesus Christ was dead to them. People who fell into comas in the first century did not generally come out of them. And therefore, it would be a miracle for Jesus to do just that. It’s just a different kind of miracle. As for what the scriptures say about how He descended into hell to battle with Satan while he was dead, who are we to say what happened to His spirit while His body lay as if dead? The Native Americans and other religions believe in spirit walking, so who is to say that this is not what He did?
Critical thinking, questioning what is written in an ancient document based on oral tradition is not blasphemy, in my opinion. If God did not want us to ask such questions, why would He give us the capacity to think of them?
Whatever actually happened, it was a miracle that Jesus had risen from His place in the tomb to walk amongst His friends and followers three days after He was supposed to have died. You can choose to believe whichever version of the miracle suits your mind, and I will believe mine. Feel free to share your thoughts about the Resurrection in the comments below, and we can continue the discussion – repsectfully.