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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus

Don Stewart :: Was the Real Story about Jesus Suppressed by Later Church Authorities?

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Was the Real Story about Jesus Suppressed by Later Church Authorities?

Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus – Question 4

There are many people who question the accuracy of the New Testament account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They do not believe it occurred as the four gospels so clearly testify that it did. Instead, they contend that the true story was never told because those later in power had suppressed the true facts.

Therefore, any evidence which would exist to the contrary would have either been burned, or destroyed in some other manner, in an effort to keep the truth from coming out. The authorities of the church made certain that the “real story” was never told. This suppression continues to this day. Thus, what we have in the New Testament is a fictional account of Jesus’ resurrection.

Response to the Suppressed Story Theory

While this theory is popular, it really does not account for any of the facts as we know them. There are a number of responses to the idea that the real story of Jesus and His resurrection was suppressed.

1. We Do Have Alternative Theories Listed by Early Writers

The answer to this objection to Jesus’ resurrection is simple—there were unbelievers who gave alternative theories to the resurrection. Their writings were not suppressed. We have writings from unbelievers who lived early on in the history of the church. In the early years, they all argue that the body of Jesus was stolen. In other words, they all admit the body was gone the third day. There was no attempt to suppress their ideas by those later in power. Their theories were answered by believers.

2. Early Roman and Jewish Sources Tell the Same Story

There is also the testimony of early Jewish and Roman writers who mention Jesus Christ and the beliefs of Christians. We find that the few Jewish and Roman sources that have survived tell us the same basic story as found in the New Testament.

This is extremely important because these works were written from a position of those who did not believe in Jesus and only mentioned Him, or other Christians, as an aside. They testified to the early belief of Christians in the risen Jesus as well as their own lack of belief. There was no attempt to censor their doubts by the later church authorities. There is no evidence whatsoever that these reports are inauthentic or fraudulent.

3. A False Story Would Not Convince Unbelievers

The idea that Jesus’ resurrection did not occur, but that some false story was substituted in its place, cannot account for the conversion of unbelievers of Jesus such as His brothers or Saul of Tarsus. They went from doubting Jesus’ claims to becoming avid followers of Him. Something caused this change in their lives to happen.

There is more. The rapid spread of Christianity must be accounted for. Within a short period of time, thousands of people, all of them Jewish, believed that Jesus had risen from the dead and that He was indeed the promised Messiah. These believers came from the city of Jerusalem; the same city where the events of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, transpired. A false story, from whatever source, would not cause thousands of Jews to abandon everything that was sacred to them to believe in a Messiah who was brutally executed by Rome. There was too much at stake for them to radically change their entire belief system.

4. The Stolen Body Theory Was Widely Proclaimed

The New Testament itself records the “official” explanation of what happened; the body of Jesus Christ was stolen by His disciples. The unbelievers had no better explanation than Jesus’ disciples stole His body while the Roman guard was sleeping. The Christians certainly did not suppress this popular theory by the unbelievers. To the contrary, Matthew records this theory in his gospel. We read,

While the women were on their way, some soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went into the city. They told the chief priests everything that had happened. So the chief priests met with the leaders and decided to bribe the soldiers with a lot of money. They said to the soldiers, “Tell everyone that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. If the governor hears about this, we will talk to him. You won’t have anything to worry about.” The soldiers took the money and did what they were told. The Jewish people still tell each other this story. (Matthew 28:11-15 CEV)

Matthew makes it clear that there was a story going around that Jesus’ body had been stolen. This was the story they were supposed to tell. Matthew informs us that it was still a popular theory when he wrote his gospel. Christians, which were a small minority at that time, were certainly not in any position to suppress the true story.

5. Christianity Did Not Become the Official Religion until A.D. 325

It was not until three centuries after the events in the life of Jesus that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. There is no ancient testimony whatsoever of any systematic attempt to destroy or alter the true story about Jesus once this occurred. To the contrary, the systematic destruction and burning of things pertaining to Christianity did occur a few years before the Empire was Christianized.

In A.D. 303, Diocletian, the previous Roman Emperor, ordered copies of Scripture to be destroyed, churches to be burned, and believers to lose their civil rights. Any attempt to keep the truth from coming out was done against the Christian faith; not by those who promoted it!

It is hard to reconcile the suppression idea with the spread of the teachings of Jesus. The message is that Jesus is the truth, He always told the truth, and that He commanded His disciples to always be truthful. This is hardly consistent with a continuous suppression of the real facts about Him. This theory does not really answer anything.

Summary – Question 4
Was the Real Story about Jesus Suppressed ny Later Church Authorities?

A popular response to the New Testament account of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead is that the real story was either suppressed or “covered up” by later church authorities. In other word, what truly occurred was never told to the general public.

Yet, the idea that the true story of Jesus Christ was somehow suppressed by later church leaders does not fit the facts. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so.

First, we find that there are early Jewish and Roman sources which still exist that tell us the official response to the Christians and their belief in the resurrection. There was no conspiracy of silence to keep the true story from emerging.

In addition, the gospel message was proclaimed openly in the city of Jerusalem—the very city where the events occurred. The people had a chance to see for themselves whether or not the body of Jesus was still in the tomb. Obviously, Jesus’ body was gone because the stolen body theory was the standard answer given. Far from suppressing the truth, the Christians invited people to investigate the evidence.

The result was thousands of Jews, who lived and worked in the very city where the events took place, put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah and radically changed the way they lived and believed.

The only destruction of evidence that occurred actually took place before the Roman Empire was Christianized. It was the Emperor Diocletian, in A.D. 303, which ordered copies of the Christian Scriptures to be burned. Therefore, any attempt to destroy evidence concerning what really happened came from the unbelievers, not the believers.

Doesn't The Resurrection Story Contain Mythological Elements? ← Prior Section
Did the Story about Jesus Become Embellished as It Was Told and Retold? Next Section →
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