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

Don Stewart :: Is It Possible There Was Some Sort of Conspiracy to Pretend Jesus Had Risen?

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Is It Possible There Was Some Sort of Conspiracy to Pretend Jesus Had Risen?

Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus – Question 14

To be thorough, we must also consider the possibility of some sort of conspiracy theory in the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This could encompass a number of possible theories or combinations of them.

Basically, it assumes some sort of plot to deceive the people into thinking that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. This could include someone dying as a substitute for him, or some imposter, or look-alike appearing after He actually had died. Imaginations have run wild in attempting to argue that Jesus’ resurrection was one big hoax. Yet, many assume this is what actually happened.

Things That Conspiracy Theories Cannot Explain

All conspiracy theories run into the same problems. No matter whether someone wants to argue that Jesus did not die on the cross or that some imposter appeared in His place, there are innumerable problems. We will mention only five.

1. The Changed Lives of Jesus’ Disciples

Jesus’ disciples fled when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. They were nowhere to be found when He was crucified. However, fifty days later, they were boldly proclaiming that Christ had risen from the dead. They went out and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ. Something changed their lives. If one assumes it was some type of conspiracy then, it has to be explained how these disciples could have been fooled.

If they were part of the conspiracy then what motivated them to spend the rest of their lives knowingly promoting this fraud? Especially when preaching about the risen Christ resulted in their persecution and eventual death. It does not make any sense.

2. Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven

The gospels tell us that Jesus Christ left the earth after His resurrection by ascending into heaven. We read the following explanation of what happened in the Book of Acts:

After he had said this, he was taken to heaven. A cloud hid him so that they could no longer see him. They were staring into the sky as he departed. Suddenly, two men in white clothes stood near them. They asked, “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking at the sky? Jesus, who was taken from you to heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11 God’s Word)

How could something like this have been faked? Who were these angels which suddenly appeared? Were they too part of the fraud?

3. The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus

Saul of Tarsus was a great enemy of the Christian faith. Yet he became a converted man on the road to Damascus while in the process of arresting Christians. This conversion is recorded in the Book of Acts on three separate occasions. We are told that the risen Christ spoke to Saul from heaven. This convinced Saul that Jesus had indeed risen and that He was indeed the Christ. Saul then became the Apostle Paul; the greatest missionary the Christian faith has ever known.

Something happened to this man that totally changed his life. There is no reasonable explanation that explains Saul’s conversion in purely natural terms. Indeed, the only explanation which fits all the facts is that he encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

4. The Conversion of James

James, the brother of Jesus was not a believer in Him during His earthly life. Indeed, we are told that none of Jesus’ brothers believed in Him. John wrote,

For not even His brothers believed in Him. (John 7:5 HCSB)

However, he, and at least one of Jesus’ other brothers, believed in Him after His resurrection. We find them with the other believers waiting for the Day of Pentecost to come. The Book of Acts explains it in this manner:

All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. (Acts 1:14 HCSB)

What changed their lives? What caused the brothers of Jesus to believe in Him after His death?

5. The Miracles of Jesus’ Disciples

The Book of Acts records that disciples of Jesus were performing miracles after Jesus’ resurrection. It says,

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. (Acts 5:12 ESV)

They had supernatural power to perform many signs and wonders. Where did this ability come from? This has to be explained.

What Would Be Their Motivation?

A final matter which needs to be addressed concerns the motivation of those who concocted any conspiracy. Why would they do such a thing? There was certainly nothing to be gained by doing this. In fact, there was everything to lose for claiming Jesus had risen. Indeed, those who proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection were rejected by their own countrymen as well as persecuted wherever they went. It is hard to see why they would continue with such a hoax given the results that it produced.

Therefore, any conspiracy theory that one may come up with actually causes many more problems than it solves. The evidence points to an inescapable fact; Jesus has risen from the dead.

Summary – Question 14
Is It Possible There Was Some Sort of Conspiracy to Pretend Jesus Had Risen?

Some have argued that the account of Jesus’ resurrection, as recorded in Scripture, is nothing but a hoax. It was a result of an elaborate conspiracy. A number of conspiracy theories have been put forward to explain what “really happened.” These theories come in various forms.

Some of these theories have Jesus not actually dying on the cross. They claim that it was either a substitute who died instead of Him or else He was taken down from the cross before He really died.

Other theories have Jesus actually dying on the cross. These theories say an imposter appeared in His place.

Whatever the case may be, each of these theories denies the clear teaching of the New Testament that Jesus has risen from the dead.

The problem with these conspiracy theories is that they do not begin to explain all the evidence. While they may explain one or two things they fail to explain so many others. They confirm that the only explanation that fits the facts is the one the New Testament writers give; Jesus has risen from the dead.

For example, any conspiracy theory cannot explain the changed lives of the apostles. Something turned them from cowards into martyrs, from those who hid from the religious authorities to those who boldly proclaimed Christ had risen in front of these same authorities. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul must also be explained. Why was this man, who hated Christians, converted after the death of Jesus? Why did he testify that the risen Christ spoke to him on the road to Damascus?

The conversion of James, the Lord’s brother, must also be accounted for. Before Jesus’ death James, as well as Jesus’ other brothers, were unbelievers. However they became believers in Him after His death on the cross. Why? Jesus’ ascension into heaven must also be explained. The Book of Acts, as well as the Gospel of Luke, tells us that this took place in full view of Jesus’ disciples. How is that event explained?

The fact that Jesus’ disciples were able to perform miracles after Jesus ascended into heaven also needs some type of explanation. No type of conspiracy theory can explain the miraculous events that followed.

There is also the motivation for such a theory. What caused these people to arrange such a hoax? Of what possible benefit could they expect to achieve? Conspiracy theories are desperate attempts to deny the obvious. Jesus has risen from the dead!

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