I have heard of a conspiracy theory that argues that Jesus’s body was
taken by the Romans and then some sort of stunt was pulled using someone
who looked like Jesus to make the 500 mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor 15
believe he had risen from the dead. The argument then says that church
membership was increased by bribery (from the Romans). This plot was
encouraged by the Romans bribing or frightening some of the apostles into
supporting the plot. Probably some of the apostles would not have gotten
involved for moral reasons. Acts would then have given false information
by saying that all the apostles were involved in the early church. This
would not have been a problem for the theory, as only Acts talks about the
early church, and there were so many persecutions in the Jerusalem church
disrupting the believers that it would have been hard for Christians when
Acts was available to check which apostles had been supporting the church
at the start. How would you argue against this !

This “conspiracy theory” is so outrageous and illogical that I
think the mere existence of this theory shows how difficult it is and how
desperate some people must be to present any reasonable argument against
the resurrection.

First, the idea that any of the twelve apostles could actually
be fooled by an imposter that he was indeed their dearest friend with whom
they had spent the past three years is beyond the possibility of being
believed–never mind fooling all twelve, plus dozens of other very close
friends of Jesus who were also among the 500 eye-witnesses. Has there
ever been such a case in the history of humanity? Second, this conspiracy
“theory” argues against itself by claiming that some of the apostles were
bribed into accepting the theory, when the theory itself implies that the
500 witnesses were fooled into believing this imposter was actually

The next claim of this theory, if possible, takes incredulity
to an even higher level. Why would Romans bribe anyone to support
Christianity? There is not a single conceivable reason for this to
happen. The further idea that some of the apostles actually supported
this and actually fought battles with those who refused to support the lie
is showed for its quality as an argument by the idea that most of the
apostles were martyred for a faith that this “theory” claims all of them
were well aware was a complete lie.

This “theory” is so far-fetched that I am tempted to wonder if
it might have been proposed, not as a serious theory, but as a satire on
some of other somewhat less outrageous theories about the resurrection
(such as the stolen body or the swoon theory). I would say that a vastly
more reasonable explanation of the over five hundred eye witnesses to the
resurrection is that Jesus was, in fact, resurrected from the dead. For a
treatment of the more traditional arguments against the resurrection, see
the article at this web site The Resurrection of Jesus.

John Oakes

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