The resurrection account of Christ has amassed a numerable amount of conspiracy theories that attempt to explain away the bodily resurrection of Christ only to replace it with theories so fallacious that any level thinker should realize their absurdity. But, what exactly is a conspiracy theory? According to the Oxford dictionary definition it means, “a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”, in other words it is a belief that a secret plot was organized with intention to influence a circumstance or event.
One of the most renowned conspiracy theories that has been around since the biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection is that the disciples of Jesus came to the tomb at night and stole the body away.
“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.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV)
The Jewish leaders of that day created a conspiracy theory that would remain in popularity until the time of Justin Martyr (160 AD) and is still floating around today in the minds of some skeptics. Yet, this theory fails to account for many things that would have easily been able to be brought to light if it were true. Firstly, the Roman soldiers who stood as guard would have only fled as a very last resort, and they were not ones to back down from their post, but somehow we are supposed to believe that the disciples moved a stone rock at the entrance of the tomb quiet enough so that they wouldn’t awaken? Secondly, it seems like most of Jesus’ disciples were frightened and grieving about the death of their teacher and lord, but even if they did steal the body… all the people would have needed to prove that the resurrection was false is Jesus’ own lifeless body. And lastly, if this were the case, it does not explain the witness’ testimony to seeing the risen Christ or Paul’s eventual conversion to the Christian faith that he persecuted so zealously. By proclaiming Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, Christians invalidated themselves before the Jewish synagogues and the Roman government thereby abandoning the lives they once lived for lives filled with persecution and suffering. They genuinely believed that the body of Jesus had risen bodily and no one in all history has ever provided a body to disprove the resurrection claim.
Another similar theory is that the Roman and Jewish authorities moved Jesus’ body from the tomb themselves, but why would they accuse Jesus’ disciples of stealing the body from the tomb? And if this were true, the authorities would only need to provide the body of Christ to disprove all of the Christian faith’s claims and end the new religious movement once and for all. But again, this did not happen. According to Norman Geisler’s own words,
“If the Romans of the Sanhedrin had the body, why did they accuse the disciples of stealing it? Such a charge would have been senseless. And if the opponents of Christianity had the body, why didn’t they produce it to stop the resurrection story? The reaction of the authorities reveals that they did not know where the body was. They continually resisted the apostles’ teaching but never attempted to refute it… The stolen body hypothesis is a fallacious argument from innocence. There is not a shred of evidence to support it.”
Modern Resurrection Objections
After examining the original conspiracies that arose against Christianity from the beginnings of the faith, I find it necessary to look into some of the modern theories that also attempt to challenge the validity of the resurrection account as recorded in the biblical gospels. These theories have popularly come to be called the theory of mistaken identity and the hallucination theory.
The theory of mistaken identity was proposed by Hugh Schonfield, it is the belief that the post-mortem appearances of Jesus were actually another person altogether who had not died. The disciples mistook him for Jesus and began to spread the rumors of Christ’s bodily resurrection. It is ridiculous to believe that Christ’s own disciples would believe that another man was Jesus for a long period of time, I specify “a long period of time”, because as humans we all sometimes mistake a random person for someone we know, but we always come to the realization eventually that we were in error. While some of the disciples did in fact think Jesus’ post-mortem body was another person at first, they eventually understood him for who he truly was. This is explained in several Bible passages, (John 20, Luke 24, and Mark 16). One needs to recognize that while the disciples wrote much of the New Testament, they were not above natural human interactions, IE mistaken identity, fearing for their lives, doubting Jesus, and so on. If anything this helps to prove all the more that they were determined to record the gospel accounts historically and accurately as a way to spread the knowledge of true biblical events. Acknowledging one’s mistakes does not therefore falsify their claims, rather it makes their honesty all the more evident.
The hallucination theory is basically that all of the post-mortem appearances of Jesus were simply hallucinations, while this theory has become fairly popular with modern skeptics it cannot be defended properly with any historical or scientific evidence, therefore it remains a shell of an argument rather than a proper one with any weight on the matter at hand.
In objection to this argument I would like to point out that the biblical writers seemed to be quite particular in how they addressed the appearances of the resurrected Christ. Firstly, it is evident that in both the gospel of Matthew and Mark, they mention that Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the risen Jesus. This is not something that they would have expressed in an attempt to justify the witness account to the Jewish leaders of that day, because they believed women to be insufficient witnesses to events. Secondly, in several recorded instances we see physical attributes applied to Jesus’ post-mortem body. These instances being, the marks/scars on his body, him dining with the disciples, and allowing his disciples to touch the evidence of his prior wounds. Thirdly, if all of his appearances were hallucinations, that does not explain how several people gathered together would share the same exact hallucination experience, let alone all claiming to dine together with said hallucination.