I have been a believer of Jesus Christ for more than 10 years. Recently my brother who is an atheist challenged me with many absurd theories he found on the internet. That provoked me to look for solid evidence of the case of Christ, which I think is a good thing, because I believed too easily without being critical. I skipped an important stage. I have been doing my research online and found that there are very solid extra-biblical sources (Tacitus, Josephus, Talmud) that 1. Jesus was a real person 2. He was executed on the cross 3. He was buried and 4. The tomb was empty. I have no doubt about these as they are even recognized by skeptics.
I have gone through some theories about the resurrection of Jesus. One of them bothered me – the conspiracy theory. With this concept, I created a few possible scenarios for the resurrection. Please consider the possibilities below, without assuming the validity of the New Testament. I know their chances are remote, and have little evidence to support, but please refute them with logic, history and extra-biblical evidence.
What if someone stole the body of Jesus? Many people reject this possibility by saying there were no motives for the Jews, the followers and the roman government, but were there really none? Riots after Jesus’ execution were mentioned in some extra biblical sources. The riots were caused by the missing body and the claim that Jesus resurrected. Someone may benefit from these riots, especially Jews who want political instability in order to threaten the roman government’s rule.
I have heard no evidence whatsoever that there were riots caused by the missing body. If you have seen someone say this, I would appreciate you forwarding the information. I believe it is highly likely that the statement is simply false, but there is always a possibility a new source of information has come up, so I would be happy to investigate. For now I will say that this is not a reasonable explanation because there is absolutely no evidence that riots happened. In any case, who would benefit from these riots? Certainly not Christians! Certainly not the Jews. If they had the body, then they would have produced it to quell belief in Jesus. Whether they might have gained from riots is debatable, but whether they would be willing to hide a body, helping promote belief in the resurrection–this is not possible.
It is also possible that someone hated Jesus so much they wanted to torture his body.
I assume you mean mutilated his body. They certainly tortured him while he was alive. Anyone who would mutilate his body would also have a stake in suppressing belief in Jesus, so would have produced the body. Not only was the tomb empty, but there was no body produced. Besides, there was a strong Roman guard at the tomb. Whoever did this would have to have cooperated with the guard. This simply does not make sense. Why would the Roman guard let them mutilate the body?
John, who did not flee, and was present at the execution with Mary, may have also stolen the body of the Lord because he loved Jesus so much and wanted fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy of resurrection. He could steal the body, stay silent about this, let the women discover the empty tomb and preach the story of resurrection. Then Jesus could be the Messiah. He was the only one who know the secret and the only one who didn’t die a martyr. (then the “criterion of embarrassment” to have women testify for the empty tomb would be invalid, because other apostles were also deceived and believed genuinely in this situation)
The assumption here is that John would put out a massive lie an produce a world-wide conspiracy for something he did not even believe in. If there is one thing which is clear, the apostles believed that Jesus was in fact resurrected. If they knew all along that the whole thing was a lie, then why would they give their lives for a lie? If John were to steal the body in order to create this conspiracy of lies, then he would need many allies, as they would have to somehow pay off the guards or fight their way through the guards. There is no way such a conspiracy could form. Why would this group give their lives for a thing they did not even believe in? This simply makes zero sense at all. This means that John, who took care of Mary after the death of Jesus, also lied to Mary. The character of John and Peter simply does not make this theory even remotely possible. The fact (or likelihood) that John was not actually killed seems irrelevant here, as he lived a life in constant threat of execution, he was arrested, he was exiled. Why would he do all this for a person he know not to be the Messiah? This theory makes no sense on several levels.
What if the resurrection was a conspiracy to overthrow the Roman government?
How could the resurrection overthrow the Roman government? In fact Jesus was resurrected, and the Roman government was not overthrown. In fact, there is no evidence than any Christian group ever rebelled against the empire, which is not surprising because Jesus’ teaching was very strong against rebellion, and specifically against rebellion against the governing authorities. So, of whom would the resurrection be a reason to overthrow the Roman government? The Jews? Most of them denied the resurrection and they certainly did not use it as a reason to rebel. We need a theory we can work from. There is no potential person who could use the resurrection as a conspiracy to overthrow Rome. Sorry, but there is not a shred of logic behind this theory.
Jesus was a prominent figure, and he prophesied his execution and resurrection publicly. It was possible for the apostles to use this opportunity to create a cult for their own interests. Struggle for power among the apostles lead to the adding of stories like Peter denying Christ 3 times, Paul persecuting Christians, James being a skeptic in early times and Thomas not believing the resurrection.
Sorry, but this explanation is not at all rational. Like I already said, one thing is really obvious. These people believed in the resurrection. We can argue that they were wrong, but not that they did not believe in it. They staked their life on this. They certainly did not gain any riches or worldly power from it. That is for sure. In fact, all but John (according to tradition) were executed for this belief. This “cult” was not created for their interest. That is for sure. We need to propose theories that are consistent with what we know about human beings, and this one is not consistent.
There were 500 brothers who witnessed Jesus – are there any extra-biblical sources to prove its validity?
No, the only source for this claim is Paul. But if you read his letter, written in the late 40s or early 50s, about twenty years after the event, you will see that Paul is saying, in essence, you can ask one of the five hundred for yourself. If these 500 did not even exist, then no one would have taken Paul seriously and 1 Corinthians never would have made it into the New Testament. So, we have no other source on this, which certainly does not disprove it, and the internal evidence makes the claim very believable.
It could have been made up by the authors of the gospels or the apostles. At that time, readers who did not directly see Jesus resurrected could not deny it because they were not among the 500 brothers who saw Jesus and ate with him.
I have already argued that this make no sense at all. This implies a conspiracy with no logical members of the conspiracy with no logical reason to produce the conspiracy. Again, whether Jesus actually was raised can be debated, but that the early church believed he was, including the apostles and hundreds of other eye-witnesses cannot reasonably be doubted.
Finally, I have a question about Daniel 9:25-27. The verses accurately predicted Jesus. The beginning was about the Messiah. “He” was referring to Jesus the messiah. Certainly about Jesus: put to death, He ends transgressions, Maybe about Jesus: confirmed a covenant with many, and put an end to offerings But “He” suddenly did something bad– setting up abomination that causes desolation…(v.27)
There are articles that say the former “He” is Jesus, and the latter “He” was the antichrist / Titus. But I find the sudden change so awkward, because there were no mentions of another person. So it should be talking about the same person. My question is: Why is “He” regarded as different persons? Except the NT( matthew 24:15), are there any other evidence in the OT / extrabiblical sources to support this interpretation?
I do respect the early church fathers very much and I accept Jesus as my personal savior. I propose these possibilities not to denounce anyone of them, but to make things clear.
Good question. I am not a student of Hebrew, so cannot give very useful comment on the use of the word “he” in Daniel 9:27. What I can say is that the one who set up the Abomination of Desolation is Titus. In AD 70 Titus completed the destruction of Jerusalem begun by his father Vespasian in AD 68. Upon tearing down and burning down the temple, he offered pagan sacrifice on the site of the temple. This is the “abomination of desolation” which Jesus also warned about in Matthew 24:15. What I can say is that in the marginal reading in my NIV, the word “he” is not included. It says, “And one who causes desolation will come upon the wing of the temple.” Apparently, the Hebrew pronoun used here can be either “he” or “one.” One thing we can be really confident of: the “he” who confirmed a covenant is not the “he” or “one” who set up the abomination of desolation!