If you don’t believe Jesus was God, then how do you explain the historical fact that his tomb was empty, there were several eyewitnesses to his postmortem appearances, and many of his disciples died for their faith?
SAM THE SKEPTIC: Personally, I don’t even think Jesus existed. First, no secular evidence outside the Bible supports the life of Jesus. No birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates, nothing.
Second, the earliest NT writers seemed confused about the details and theology of Jesus’s life, which became clearer later on in the history of Christianity. For instance, the Trinity wasn’t developed until 200 years after Jesus’s death by the church leader Tertullian.
Third, the resurrection story is contradictory. John 20:1 says only Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Sunday morning, Matthew 28:1 said Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary of Magdalene showed up, and Mark 16:1 says both Mary’s plus a woman named Salome. Which one is it? Also, after finding the tomb empty, Mark 16:8 states they ran away and said nothing to anyone, but Matthew, Luke, and John all say the women ran to tell the disciples.
Now to the supposed resurrection. There are various hypothesis that explain the apparent resurrection of Jesus. The swoon theory argues that Jesus did not die on the cross, but fell unconscious and was later revived in the tomb in the same mortal body.
The second hypothesis argues Jesus was stolen from his burial. His tomb was found empty not because he was resurrected, but because the body was hidden somewhere else by the apostles or some unknown person. Grave robbing was a known problem in the first century Judaea.
Lastly, the vision hypothesis argues the sightings of a risen Jesus were visionary experiences. It’s similar to modern day ghost hunters who desperately try to find the supernatural that they hear and even say they “see” ghosts. However, there is no empirical evidence for this.
These are just some of the reasons why I don’t think Jesus rose from the dead or even existed. Thanks for your question.
CHRISTIAN ANSWER: Sam stated there was no secular evidence outside the Bible that supports the life of Jesus. This is simply false. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about Christ in his historical document “Annals” in AD 116. He mentions the emperor Nero and how he tortured Christians for following Christ, the one who suffered crucifixion during the reign of Tiberius.
Then there was the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote Antiquities of the Jews in AD 74 about Jesus who transgressed the law and was punished. Moreover, there was a letter written in AD 72 by an Assyrian Stoic Philosopher named Mara Bar Serapion. The letter refers to the unjust treatment of the execution of the “wise king” of the Jews.
Finally, to say one must appeal to a source other than the Bible to confirm the historical Jesus is like telling someone else to write my own biography. Shouldn’t the disciples be able to write a story about the person they followed?
Sam the skeptic mentioned three counter arguments to the resurrection of Christ: The swoon theory, the stolen body, and the visionary theory. Let me briefly show the weaknesses of these three views. The swoon theory argues Jesus did not die on the cross, but fell unconscious and later revived in the tomb. Medical authorities have reviewed the 1st century Roman execution process and found this theory unwarranted. First, they would scourge them with 39 lashes. This would produce deep lacerations and much blood loss, which most likely set the stage for hypovolemic shock and was the reason Jesus fell climbing up Golgatha. At the crucifixion, Jesus’ wrists and feet were nailed to the cross, which caused him to slowly suffocate to death. It also states a soldier thrusted a spear into Jesus side, and both water and blood came out. The reason water came out was because sustained rapid heart beat causes the fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and lungs. It’s called a pericardial effusion. Jesus was definitely dead.
The stolen body is another argument. Ironically, many skeptical NT scholars have been convinced that Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to have been a Christian fabrication. Given the hostility Christians had toward the Sanhedrin, it is unlikely Jesus’ followers would have invented a tradition about a member of the Sanhedrin using his own tomb to provide Jesus with a respectable burial. Second, the Jewish authorities knew exactly where this burial was so when rumors starting going around that Jesus resurrected from the dead, they would try to dispel this immediately and show the dead corpse since it would cause rioting in Jerusalem. However, the tomb was empty.
That’s why they accused the disciples of stealing the body in Matthew 28. But why would they accuse the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body if the tomb still contained the dead body of Jesus? Third, all the reports indicate the tomb was discovered empty by women. In first century Jewish society, women were not even allowed to testify in a court law. So if you were making up a story in an attempt to persuade others that Jesus was resurrected, why would you use women as your primary witnesses? The testimony of men would have provided much needed credibility to the story. Lastly, if the disciples stole the body, why would they die for a lie?
The last hypothesis states that the followers of Christ so badly wanted to experience the resurrection of Christ that they hallucinated. However, Jesus offered himself to be touched at least three times and he ate food with his disciples on 3 different occasions. When he appeared to Mary, she didn’t recognize him until he spoke her name. When he appeared to the apostles on a mountain in Galilee and to 500 others, it said some worshipped, and some were doubtful. All of these specific details indicate that the witnesses were not hallucinating or victims of group thinking.
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