There have been many theories attempting to explain away the facts of Jesus’ empty tomb, including the following:
- The Swoon theory—Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross and He resuscitated in the cool tomb. His disciples then deceptively proclaimed His resurrection;
- The Conspiracy theory—the disciples stole the body and deceptively proclaimed his resurrection;
- The Jewish authorities removed the body unbeknownst to the disciples, who mistakenly thought He had resurrected;
- The Wrong Tomb theory—the women and the disciples went to the wrong tomb and mistakenly thought He was resurrected;
- The Legend Theory—the disciples left Jerusalem for a long time and much later returned to propagate an imaginary myth of resurrection;
- The Hallucination Theory—the disciples had hallucinations in which they imagined seeing the resurrected Jesus. They then proclaimed His resurrection.
There are several problems which destroy most of these arguments. For example, these theories accept some aspects of the historical record while arbitrarily and inconsistently rejecting other parts. All but the legend and hallucination theories have been abandoned by most contemporary historians and theologians.
Some, like Muslims, deny that it was Jesus Himself who was crucified. They maintain that it was someone who looked like Him or it was Simon the Cyrenian (Luke 23:26) or otherwise. Others maintain that Jesus had a twin who pretended to be the resurrected Jesus after the crucifixion. Still others simply reject the resurrection by maintaining that Jesus’ body was dumped outside the city walls and eaten by wild dogs.
All these views fail when we remember that the Gospel records are eyewitness accounts and their teaching about Jesus was accepted by many Jews in Jerusalem who were in the best position to know whether or not they were telling the truth—and had a great deal to lose if they chose to believe it and follow Jesus. The fact that they did so in spite of the risk is powerful testimony that it must have been undeniably true.
Consider the disciples. Why would they be willing to die for their faith (most became martyrs) if they knew the resurrection to be a hoax? If Jesus’ enemies stole His body, all they would have had to do to discredit Him and His followers would be to produce it.
They did not do this, however, because they could not: they did not have His body. He rose from the dead, appeared repeatedly before many eyewitnesses, and after forty days, bodily ascended to heaven in front of several witnesses.