Did Jesus’ Resurrection Really Happen? Part 5

Spiritual Resurrection Theory

There are two Spiritual Resurrection Theories. One claims that Christ’s body decayed in the tomb and His resurrection was only spiritual. The second theory asserts that God destroyed Christ’s body in the tomb and that His resurrection was only spiritual, and not physical.[1] Both theories maintain that the end result was only a spiritual resurrection and not a bodily resurrection. In other words, those who perpetuate either one of these theories, claim that witnesses didn’t see Jesus’ risen, physical body, only His ghost.

This theory has some sizeable problems. First, by definition, a resurrection must include a physical body or it’s not a resurrection. It’s resuscitation. There’s a difference. A resurrected body is enhanced. A resuscitated body is the same body that has been brought back to life that will die again, such as the body of Lazarus. Either Jesus resurrected or He didn’t. The evidence in the gospels in favor of the resurrection is so profound, that one would have to completely ignore the writings of the gospel eyewitnesses and the writings of first century historians outside the gospels, such as Josephus and Tacitus, to continue to peddle this claim. N.T. Wright explains that in first-century Judaism, resurrection always meant “re-embodiment.”[2] If Jesus had been raised without a body, they would not have called it a resurrection.

Second, Jesus completely debunked this theory in Luke 24:39 when He said, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Then he ate with them! A spirit doesn’t eat. In Matthew 28:9, the day Jesus had risen, He met His followers who took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. One doesn’t grab the feet of a spirit!

Last, some object to a physical resurrection because in 1 Corinthians 15:50, Paul says that, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” So they surmise that Jesus body had to be immaterial so He could be in Heaven.[3] Theologian, author and apologist, Norman Geisler’s response to this is that the phrase ‘flesh and blood’ means mortal flesh and blood, a human being.[4] Matthew 16:17 supports Geisler’s notion. In the verse, Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”[5] The Spiritual Resurrection Theory falls flat on its face because it ignores this information and rests entirely on a preconceived notion.

Muslim Substitution Theory

Because Jesus was said to have been a servant of Allah, The Qur’an claims that Jesus wasn’t crucified on the cross, but Allah saved him by crucifying someone else in His place that was made to look like Jesus. Judas Iscariot is said to have been Jesus’ replacement. Jesus is said to have ascended to Heaven where He is now until His return.

There are several problems with this theory, making it hardly plausible. First, there are historical problems. The McDowells contend that:

The Old Testament predicted the Messiah’s death in Isaiah 53:5-10, Psalm 22:16, Daniel 9:26 and Zechariah 12:10. In addition, when Jesus died, he fulfilled the New Testament prophecies in Matthew 4:14, 5:17-18, and 8:17 and in the gospel of John 4:25-26 and 5:39. There are no predictions in the Old Testament that someone would be substituted for the Messiah; all references indicate that he would die personally.[6]

With all this biblical evidence to refute this theory, one must ask where the evidence can be found to support it. Second, Jesus predicted His own death more than once (John 2:19-21, Matthew 12:40 and Mark 8:31) and never predicted that another would die in His place. All of the predictions regarding Jesus’ resurrection in the Old and New Testaments are based on the fact that He would personally die. Not a substitute.

There are moral problems with the Substitution Theory. First, the idea that one would be substituted for Jesus would make God out to be a moral monster for several reasons. First, why would God have allowed an innocent person to be tortured and crucified? If God wanted to raise Jesus to Heaven without crucifying Him, as this theory claims, then why would it be necessary to crucify anyone? Second, if someone else was crucified in Jesus’ place, why would God let Jesus’ mother Mary, his disciple John, and all his other followers watch in horror, all the while thinking Jesus was the one being crucified? Third, the entire Christian faith is based on the belief that it was Jesus who died on the cross. If Jesus was spared while another died in His place, then God would be responsible for one of the most pernicious lies in history.[7]

It appears here that the Substitution Theory accomplishes nothing more than trauma to followers of Jesus and a religion based on false claims, which leads me to one last question. If Muhammad regards Christ as a prophet, and Christ predicted His own death, if He did not die a violent death, wouldn’t that make Him a false prophet and Muhammad and the Qu’ran incorrect? The Substitution Theory exposes the Muslim religion as the false religion that it is.

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. None of these resurrection theories presented here can explain every detail that is historically known about the resurrection. History within the Bible and outside the Bible shows that Christ was crucified on a cross, died in our place and was buried. On the third day He rose again with a new resurrected body and was seen by hundreds of witnesses that were still alive when the gospels were written, making them refutable if they weren’t true. Since the aforementioned theories do not adequately explain all parts of the biblical testimony, the traditional hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is still the most plausible theory.

            [1]Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection: What it Means to Your Relationship with God, (Wheaton, Ill., Tynedale House Publishers, 1996) 201

[2] N.T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection as a Historical Problem, (Sewanee Thrological Review, vol. 41:2 (Easter) 1998) 111

            [3] Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, 206

            [4] Ibid.

            [5] Ibid.

            [6] Ibid. 211

            [7] Ibid. 212