Welcome to The Reasons to Believe podcast, episode #156. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International.
Our Reasons to Believe Scripture Passage for today is Matthew 28:11-15. It reads, “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”
Our Reasons to Believe quote for today is from Kyle Butt. He said, “It is at this point in our study that some would suggest that Hugh Schonfield’s infamous “Swoon Theory” should be considered. Schonfield (1965) postulated that Christ did not die on the cross; rather, He merely fainted or “swooned.” Later, after being laid on a cold slab in the dark tomb, He revived and exited His rock-hewn grave. Such a theory, however, fails to take into account the heinous nature of the scourging (sometimes referred to as an “intermediate death”) that Christ had endured at the hand of Roman lictors, or the finely honed skills of those Roman soldiers whose job it was to inflict such gruesome punishment prior to a prisoner’s actual crucifixion. To press the point, in the March 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, William Edwards and his coauthors penned an article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” that employed modern medical insight to provide an exhaustive description of Jesus’ death (256:1455-1463). Sixteen years later, Brad Harrub and Bert Thompson coauthored an updated review (“An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”) of the extensive scientific evidence surrounding Christ’s physical death (2002). After reading such in-depth, medically based descriptions of the horrors to which Christ was exposed, and the condition of His ravaged body, the Swoon Theory quickly fades into oblivion (where it rightly belongs). Jesus died. Upon this, we all most certainly can agree.”
Our Reason to Believe powerpoint today is titled “The Resurrection, Part 9” from “The Handbook of Christian Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli.
The authors continue with the fourth part of this chapter subtitled, “Refutation of the Swoon Theory: Nine Arguments.”
6. How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse? Or by unarmed disciples? And if the disciples did it, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, and we are into the conspiracy theory, which we will refute shortly.
7. How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb? Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it, for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed; the Jews had the stone put their in the first place, and the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body “escape.”
The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable. Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives. And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them. Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory, with all its unanswerable difficulties (see next section).
8. If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go? Think this through: you have a living body to deal with now, not a dead one. Why did it disappear? There is absolutely no data, not even any false, fantastic, imagined data, about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion, in any sources, friend or foe, at any time, early or late. A man like that, with a past like that, would have left traces.
9. Most simply, the swoon theory necessarily turns into the conspiracy theory or hallucination theory, for the disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
It may seem that these nine arguments have violated our initial principle about not presupposing the truth of the Gospel texts, since we have argued from data in the texts. But the swoon theory does not challenge the truths in the texts which we refer to as data; it uses them and explains them (by swoon rather than resurrection). Thus we use them too. We argue from our opponents’ own premises.
Lord willing, we will continue this topic in our next episode.
Now, if you are listening today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, allow me to show you how.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, my friend, please keep in mind these reasons to believe. God bless!