Because of some recent interest in Jesus and His resurrection, I think I’ll do a bit of a series on the topic, highlighting a few of the most persistent attempts to refute the historicity of Jesus’ death and resurrection. To that end, I want to comment on post that appeared just a bit ago. I think it was written by the same goof who wrote a post saying that Jesus never claimed to be God. Anyhow, this guy said that Jesus never died on the cross. In fact according to the writer of this blog, Jesus survived the cross and went to live in China. That’s right - not India but China.
The evidence for the death of Jesus on the cross is so strong that it seems impossible that anyone would dare to say otherwise. Yet, it happens, and it happens because if it’s said some people will believe it. So, once again, I’m drawn to post a refutation of this statement, even though to say that Jesus survived the crucifixion requires as much ignorance of the historical events or as purposeful and deliberate a lie as when he said that Jesus never claimed to be God in human form.
To be fair:
. While some people died, many people were known to survive a Roman flogging, and
. There is a record of three individuals who survived a Roman crucifixion. (These were people who had been mistakenly sentenced to death and who were taken from the cross early when the error was discovered) - However
*** There are no records of anyone surviving a flogging AND a crucifixion.***
So how can we be sure that Jesus died on the cross? How do we know that He didn’t just faint or pretend to be dead?
First of all, there is no evidence, as is sometimes suggested that Jesus was drugged by friends or anyone else. He turned down the only painkiller that was offered. Nor was this a swoon which trained killers (Roman soldiers) somehow failed to notice. Remember, as the soldiers were breaking the legs of the men being executed that day, these executioners did not break the legs of Jesus because it was clear to them that He was already dead.
Anyone who makes the claim that Jesus survived the cross is also implying that He pretended to not be breathing after hanging on a cross for six hours and after being thrust through with a spear. These people are saying the Jesus spent three nights in a cold tomb and then He unwrapped (from the inside) about a hundred yards are burial wrapping, which enclosed 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. He then rolled back, singlehanded mind you, a 1 to 1.5 ton stone. He overcame the guards who themselves were under pain of death if they allowed a prisoner to escape, and He fled from the scene only to appear like a victorious Saviour who had just overcome death. According to the people who propose the cross survival theory, Jesus’ appearance was so convincing that His disciples went to the end of their own lives believing and proclaiming that they had witnessed something miraculous.
Save for the lunatic fringe, as is evidenced by the blog in question, even modern enemies of Christianity admit to the historical factuality of Jesus’ death on the cross. A question that needs to be asked, If Jesus didn’t die on the cross Why would Cicero, Josephus, Matthew, Tacitus, Mark, Lucian of Samosata, Dr. Luke, Mara Bar-Serapion, John, The Babylonion Talmud and John Dominic Crossan of the “Jesus Seminar” all attest that Jesus’ crucifixion is historical fact? And why would that be when all but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are non Christians? If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, why would these historians and scholars write that He did? Why would they simply invent these stories? There was / is absolutely nothing of earthly value to be gained by concocting this as a lie.
The facts that we have, and again these are facts that even learned historical scholars who are also sceptics agree to, point to the factual death of Jesus on the cross are as follows:
. The flogging by Roman soldiers would have almost but not quite killed Jesus. Flogging was a torture that historical records indicate laid bare the bowels, tendons and bones and created an enormous loss of blood. Couple that with six hours on the cross and there is no way that Jesus could have survived.
. Crucifixion was so painful, that in order to describe what it was like, a new word, “excruciating” or “off the cross” was invented. Much of this pain came about because the median nerve in both arms, the largest nerve running to the hands would have been crushed by the spikes. The same would have happened as His feet were nailed to the cross. The intensity of this pain has been described as that which would happen if someone took a pair of pliers and squeezed and twisted, for hours on end, the nerve that is housed in your elbow - “funny bone.”
. Both of Jesus shoulders and probably his elbows would be been pulled out of their sockets. It was not uncommon for arms to be stretched several inches so that the person was hanging by only tendons and muscles.
. Because of the injuries to the feet, Jesus would not have been able to push up to relieve the suffocation that He was experiencing by the position of the upraised arms. Death would have come by asphyxiation and / or cardiac arrest brought on by respiratory acidosis.
. It appears from available forensic evidence that hypovolemic shock from severe loss of blood prior to the crucifixion brought on heart failure, which resulted in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called a pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion.
. Jesus was pierced clear through the chest cavity by a spear. From the evidence we can know that this thrust pierced Jesus’ lung as well as the protective sack surrounding the heart. This created a huge wound out of which pleural fluids (which the medically uneducated writer, John, described as water) and blood poured. This evidence alone shows beyond any doubt that Jesus was dead at the time of the spear thrusting into His chest. However, had Jesus not already been dead, this wound would in and of itself have been fatal.
. After all this, Jesus spent between 60 - 70 hours in an ice-cold cave, plus He was embalmed in 75 pounds of spices, plus He was wrapped in many yards of burial cloth. And this brings me to what for me is the most interesting part of the discovery of the empty tomb. When Peter and John went to the tomb, and when they looked in, what they saw was described this way “He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up on itself, separate from the linen.” Jn.20: 3-7.
Did you get that? Jesus hadn’t regained consciousness and then fought his way out of a hundred yards of linen wrapping that was stuck together with 75 pounds of gooey myrrh and aloes. This extensive wrapping wasn’t strewn about the tomb as would be the case if he had unwrapped himself (which is ludicrous to even suggest). Nor was it strewn about as it would have happened during a rushed tomb robbery. The burial wrapping which was given shape and form from the myrrh and aloes was collapsed in on itself. The head was always wrapped separately from the body and that is exactly how is was still lying sans the head and body of Jesus. Jesus simply left the wrapping, “like an empty chrysalis of a caterpillar’s cocoon” when the butterfly has emerged. No wonder, “John saw and believed.” Jn. 20:8.
Again, the question needs to be asked. If the accounts of what the disciples taught about Jesus’ resurrection weren’t true, Why would Origen write, “Jesus, who has both risen AND led His disciples to believe in His resurrection and so thoroughly persuaded them of its truth that they showed to all men by their suffering how they were able to laugh at life’s troubles beholding to life eternal and a resurrection clearly demonstrated to them in word and deed by this one Jesus.”
Without the resurrection being historical fact, it doesn’t make any sense that Origen would write that.
So what we have from those who propose that Jesus simply fainted or pretended to be dead is:
. After a severe beating that alone killed many of its victims
. After hanging on a cross for six hours,
. After being pierced almost through by a Roman soldier’s spear
. After recovering from a faint caused by sever blood loss OR after simply faking death by holding his breath to fool His professional executioners who themselves, under Roman law would have been executed for allowing a prisoner to escape,
. And after spending three nights in a cold tomb,
Jesus came hobbling into town on feet pierced through by nails, beaten and bloodied, literally from head to toe and barely alive, and it was this Jesus who inspired hundreds of people to go to their deaths proclaiming Jesus’ victory over death and proclaiming that someday we too would possess a superlative resurrection body just like the one Jesus showed His followers after His rise from the dead.
Sceptics would have you believe that the Gospel accounts were written by New York Times best selling authors who wrote a fiction so refined and so diabolical that billions of people have been duped.
Reality is, the writers were not refined or gifted authors. They would have never thought of some of the things that I’m describing in this series of posts if they hadn’t taken place.