The Resurrection Of Jesus: A Theory, Myth Or Mystery?

The death, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus undoubtedly are central tenets of the Christian faith. They form the foundation of Christianity, providing the reason for the hope, assurance, and confidence in what Christians believe. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 clearly states that “Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Atheists, in an attempt to water down this celebration, have proposed numerous false theories over the years to explain the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. These theories vary in their complexity and plausibility, but all seek to provide alternative explanations for what is typically viewed as a mysterious, miraculous, and supernatural event in Christian theology. They have argued that the resurrection of Christ is nothing but a theory and mythology and must not be accepted. This article seeks to examine a detailed account of some of the most prominent false theories on Jesus’ resurrection and try to set the records straight.

1. THE SWOON THEORY: One of the earliest and most enduring alternative explanations for Jesus’ resurrection is the swoon theory, which suggests that Jesus did not actually die on the cross but merely lost consciousness and later revived in the tomb. This theory became very popular in the Western world after it was first proposed by some 18th–19th-century Western authors and philosophers, including Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Schleiermacher. According to the proponents of the swoon hypothesis, Jesus’ death was not fatal, and he allegedly fell unconscious (“swooned”) on the cross, survived the crucifixion, and then regained enough strength to appear before his followers while he was still alive. They argue that the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples following his physical resurrection from the dead after three days in the tomb were merely perceived to be resurrection appearances by his followers. This over 200-year-old theory continues to be the subject of debate in popular circles. However, since the last decade of the 19th century, all of these theories have been discarded as baseless and unacceptable by the majority of biblical scholars. This is because of the eyewitnesses’ account of Jesus’ death and burial in the tomb. On the evening of the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body, and after Pilate granted his request, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb. According to Acts 13:28–29, he was laid in a tomb by “the council as a whole”. This debunks the swoon theory that Jesus didn’t die.

2. THE STOLEN BODY THEORY: Another popular theory proposes that Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb by his disciples in order to perpetuate the belief in his resurrection. This theory has existed since the days of early Christianity. Matthew’s gospel raises the hypothesis only to refute it; according to it, the claim that the body was stolen is a lie spread by the High Priests of Israel. According to this theory, the disciples secretly removed Jesus’ body and then claimed that he had risen from the dead in order to gain followers and promote their own agenda. While this theory has been used to explain the empty tomb in the Gospel accounts, it fails to account for the numerous eyewitness testimonies and historical evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

3. THE HALLUCINATION THEORY: Some critics of the resurrection have suggested that the appearances of Jesus to his disciples were merely hallucinations or visions brought on by grief and emotional turmoil. Gerd Lüdemann, an atheistic German New Testament scholar, is one of the proponents of this theory. According to this theory, the disciples were so overwhelmed by the loss of their leader that they began to experience shared hallucinations of Jesus appearing to them after his death. While this theory may offer a psychological explanation for the post-resurrection appearances, it fails to address the physical evidence of the empty tomb and the multiple eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. Richard Bauckham, in his book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” provides many arguments to support the claim that there is eyewitness testimony behind the Gospel accounts and that the events described in the Gospels were not corrupted by the interests and biases of the early Christians. There is nothing hallucinatory about the resurrection of Christ.

4. THE MYTHOLOGICAL THEORY: Another alternative explanation for the resurrection of Jesus is the mythological theory, which posits that the story of his resurrection was a later embellishment or fabrication added to the gospel accounts by early Christian writers. According to this theory, the resurrection of Jesus was a literary invention designed to enhance his divine status and promote the spread of Christianity. While some scholars have questioned the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts, most agree that the resurrection of Jesus was a central belief of early Christian communities and not a later addition to the biblical narrative.

5. THE SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION THEORY: Some critics of the resurrection have proposed a spiritual interpretation of the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. According to this theory, the resurrection of Jesus was not a physical event but a symbolic or metaphorical expression of his continuing influence and presence among his followers. This theory views the resurrection as a spiritual experience rather than a literal resurrection from the dead and relies on allegorical interpretations of the biblical texts to support its claims.


In the midst of all the controversies and heresies circulating around the death and resurrection of Christ, the records must be stated clearly. Below are some facts to note:

RESURRECTION IS NOT IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL: Greek philosophers saw the body as the prison house of the soul. The material world was considered corrupt, fallen, and evil. Thus, the goal of salvation was to escape the physical realm and to be freed from its shackles. But in Hebrew thought, the material world is considered good. The soul without the body is incomplete. A human being is a body and soul in unity.

RESURRECTION IS NOT REINCARNATION: Eastern religions teach reincarnation, the rebirth of the self (consciousness, soul, mind, etc.) after the death of the body. Reincarnation is considered a curse, not a blessing. Depending on the specific tradition, the goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnation and experience nirvana or personal annihilation. In contrast, the biblical view is that human beings live one life and then are raised to be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27).

RESURRECTION IS NOT RESUSCITATION: As mentioned by the skeptic in the opening story, the Bible records many instances of people coming back to life. Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). Peter raised Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42). Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). But here is the difference between these people and Jesus: They would each die again, but Jesus was raised to immortality and glory.

RESURRECTION IS NOT TRANSLATION: The Bible records at least two instances where people were taken directly to God without dying. Enoch lived 365 years and then was taken up directly to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). The prophet Elijah was taken to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). These are not examples of resurrection because there is no evidence that they have both experienced death.


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central belief of the Christian faith that refers to Jesus rising from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. According to the Gospels in the New Testament as discussed, Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but on the third day, he was raised to life, conquering death and sin. The significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is profound and carries several key implications for Christians.

VICTORY OVER DEATH: The resurrection demonstrates Jesus’ victory over death and sin, offering hope and the promise of eternal life to believers. It affirms the belief in life after death and the resurrection of the dead.

FOUNDATION OF FAITH: The resurrection is a foundational belief in Christianity and serves as evidence of Jesus’ divinity and messianic identity. It confirms, establishes, and validates his teachings, miracles, and claims about himself as the Son of God.

RECONCILIATION WITH GOD: The resurrection is seen as the ultimate act of reconciliation between humanity and God, providing a way for forgiveness of sins and restoration of the relationship between God and His people.

EMPOWERMENT AND TRANSFORMATION: The resurrection of Jesus empowers believers to live in the power of his resurrection, transforming their lives and enabling them to experience new life in Christ. It offers hope, strength, and a new perspective on life’s challenges and struggles.

COMMISSION FOR MISSION: After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and commissioned them to spread the good news of salvation to all nations. The resurrection serves as the foundation for the Christian mission to share the message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection with the world.

In conclusion, it must be noted that Jesus’ resurrection was never a myth or theory as propounded in the various theories but a mystery that keeps unfolding year by year. Jesus was not resuscitated, reincarnated, or translated in any way, and his soul did not escape to an immaterial realm. Jesus was resurrected and will never die again. And since Jesus is the first fruits of those who are yet to come, if we trust in Christ, we too will one day have transformed, resurrected bodies and be able to experience eternity with Christ.

Written by Pastor Prince Augustine Ababio

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