What about the Empty Tomb? – Objection # 2: Jesus Never Died; the Swoon Theory & Objection # 3: Somebody Stole the Body

Objection # 2: Jesus Never Died – The Swoon Theory
            This might be the easiest objection to answer. First it seems pretty clear from the account of the Gospels that Jesus died (see especially John 19:34). Here the Apostle John gives us the detail that “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water [emphasis mine]. “This detail alone, and its confirmation by modern medical experts, strongly validates the claim that this narrative is an eyewitness account.”[1]Further Roman soldiers were well acquainted with the crucifixion and pronounced Jesus as dead. As also the affirmation looked for by Pilate indicates: “Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead…” (Mark 15:44-45). Keener makes a crucial observation which is worth quoting at length,
The skeptic’s proposal that Jesus had only swooned and then recovered would not explain how he could have loosed the strips tied around him or escaped a sealed tomb, but it also ignores the nature of crucifixion: Josephus had three of his friends taken down alive from a cross, but two of them died despite medical attention because their bodies had been so weakened from the crucifixion.[2]
Morris raises further questions, “How did he get out of the tomb? What happened to him? Why do we hear no more? When did he die? Questions multiply and the answers do not appear.”[3]
The “Swoon Theory,” as a reasonable person observes such, makes no sense of the empty tomb and creates more questions and miracles than the one which it tries to undermine. 
Objection # 3: Somebody Stole the Body
This is probably the most often used argument against the resurrection of Christ. Sinnott-Armstrong uses such when he states, “Suppose it [the tomb] was empty. There are still (at least!) two possibilities: (1) Jesus’ body disappeared and rose into heaven, or (2) someone took the body without being caught.”[4] In his mind the answer is obvious – the stolen body makes more sense than the resurrection. Does it really? Ok, let us assume the body was stolen. Who stole it? There are two parties which could be accused of stealing the body (that the Roman party stole the body makes no sense, since that would have created an uproar which Pilate wanted to withhold by any means).  For sure grave robbers would be another option, but Osborne observes, “The extensive description of the graveclothes (20:6–7) first of all proves that the body would not have been stolen. No thief would have taken the time to roll up the grave cloths so neatly.”[5] Keener agrees, “Had robbers stolen the body (a rare practice) they would have taken it in its wrappings; had they left the wrappings, they would have left them in disarray. Whoever left them, left them there neatly.”[6]Yet if such would have been the case, I am sure that the Jewish leaders would have paid an immense amount of money to get the body somehow. Thus we have the (a) Jewish leaders, and (b) the disciples who could have possibly moved the body. Let us examine each group and see how this would make sense.
Ad (a): That the Jewish leaders would have been responsible for stealing the body, can also be easily refuted. If such would have been the case why did they not show the body when the disciples preached about the resurrection of Christ and thus silenced them? Further “[t]his theory is contrary to the conversion of James and especially Saul.”[7]Saul a radical Pharisee would have for sure known about the body and could never have converted to the Christian faith he so much hated.
Ad (b): That the disciples stole the body is yet another theory which was invented as early as the Gospel account of Matthew, where we read, “And when they [the chief priests] 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”’” (Mt. 28:12-13). This too though hardly makes any sense. Morris refutes this theory and states,
They [the disciples] were dispirited, beaten men, hiding away for fear of the Jews. Moreover, Matthew tells us that a guard was set over the tomb, so that they could not have stolen the body even had they wanted to do so. But the crowning improbability is that they would have suffered for preaching the resurrection as Acts tells us they did. Some were imprisoned, and James was executed. Men do not suffer such penalties for upholding what they know to be a lie.[8]
The overtaking of the guards and soldiers was nearly impossible, but that they would die for their Savior, whose dead body was hidden by them somewhere, clearly edges on insanity. Yet the disciples’ moral and mental characters are not presented in such a way. Again the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, and Saul refutes such a theory. If this theory would have been true, James and Saul would have for sure found out “and they would never have remained in the faith of such a basis.”[9]The “Stolen Body Theory” – however it is construed – thus too cannot stand its ground.



[1] Norman L. Geisler. “Christ, Death of.” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1999), 128.
[2] Craig S. Keener. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. (Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jn 20:6. [emphasis original]
[3]L. L. Morris. “Resurrection.” New Bible Dictionary. (3rd ed. Ed. Wood, D. R. W.; Marshall, I. Howard: Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1011.
[4] William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist. (Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress, 2004), 37.
[5]Grant R. Osborne. “Resurrection.”  Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. (Ed. Green, Joel B.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I. Howard: Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1992), 685.
[6]Keener. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament. Jn 20:6.
[7] Geisler “Resurrection, Alternate Theories of,” 644.
[8] L. L. Morris. “Resurrection.” New Bible Dictionary. (3rd ed. Ed. Wood, D. R. W.; Marshall, I. Howard: Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1010.
[9] Geisler “Resurrection, Alternate Theories of,” 645.

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