The Swoon Theory

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Easter

“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50–53)

As we continue to look at the theories which seek to disprove the resurrection, we come to one which is quite common: Jesus did not actually die on cross, but simply fell into coma and later recovered in the tomb.

In tackling this it is important to understand quite what crucifixion is. For the Romans, the point was not only putting someone to death, but also for that death to be a deterrent. Cicero (106BC-43BC) described it as the “supreme punishment” and Josephus (AD37-100) called it “the most wretched of deaths”. Perhaps the most striking description comes from Seneca (4BC - AD65), who saw suicide as preferable:

Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.

Given the flogging, the crucifixion itself and the thrusting of a spear into Jesus side it is simply not feasible that he would have survived. The Roman soldiers were professional executioners.

There is another problem with the theory, too. The Gospels don’t simply say that Jesus was alive after Easter, but that he ascended into heaven. The swoon theory does not address these claims, and if Jesus was still walking around in Galilee how could these claims be made? In other words, the risen Jesus is more than a resuscitated Jesus. He is life.

The Twin or the Lookalike

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:27–28) - As early as the third century we find claims that another was crucified in Jesus’ place. Others have speculated that Jesus had a twin, or that a lookalike was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’s place. However, if a lookalike was crucified and laid in the tomb, then why wasn’t he there on Easter morning?

The Stolen Body

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:11–14) - There was a guard of Roman soldiers placed at the tomb and the tomb itself was sealed by a large stone. It is not credible to believe that the disciples either crept past the guard and rolled back the stone without being noticed, or that they could have overpowered the guard.

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