The Skeptics’ Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus – Part I

  • One of the common arguments raised against the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “Conspiracy Theory” option. This argument posits the idea that Jesus’ disciples made the whole story up. There was no resurrection, Jesus died, was buried, and the disciples simply began promoting the claim that he had risen.
  • In response to this charge, one must ask, what would be the disciples’ motivation for inventing such a story? In a hostile, 1st century Jewish religious culture, paired with the political oppression of the Roman Empire, the disciples had nothing to gain by advancing the resurrection story and everything to lose. In fact, all but one of the disciples would be martyred for their profession that Jesus was the risen Lord.
  • The conspiracy theory option must also explain the radical transformation evidenced in the disciples’ lives shortly after Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. The Gospels report that when Jesus was arrested the disciples fled, went into hiding, and denied knowing him, fearing they might be next (Mark 14:50, 66-72). And yet, shortly after Jesus’ execution, the disciples are boldly and publicly proclaiming him to be the risen Lord (Acts 2:14; 4:8). What could inspire this dramatic change if Jesus had not truly risen?
  • Along with the above problems for the conspiracy theory option, the skeptic who holds this position must also explain why Jesus’ tomb was empty, the eyewitness testimonies of the risen Jesus, the rapid spread of the early church in a hostile 1st century context, and the conversion of hardcore skeptics and persecutors of the Christian faith like Saul (Paul). We’ll explore each of these problems for the various skeptics’ accounts of the resurrection in our upcoming Fast Facts.

For more information on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, please check out Jason Carlson’s chapter, Jesus: Risen for a New Generation in the book Apologetics For A New Generation, available in our online store.