The explanations to what happened to Jesus body are numerous. In this essay I intend to examine some of those theories and their credibility. In addition I will try to anayalse how Luke presents these theories. For this we may turn to Corinthians again and consider what Paul writes of resurrection body, “So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
With these thoughts in mind we can therefore consider some of the more dramatic events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. From the Gospels it is of course quite clear that the body of Jesus had undergone a quite remarkable change. Consider the closing verses of Luke’s Gospel, the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus came and walked with them but they didn’t recognise him. And at verse 31 we read, “then their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight. ”
And later at verse 36, “while they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you. They were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them,” Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have. ” Contained here again is this description of a real body of flesh and bones, yet one that is difficult to recognise. And nothing that is said here in anyway contradicts itself once we understand that Christ’s body is different. It is a transformed and glorified human body. It is a body endowed with new and eternal qualities suited to the heavenly environment.
It is shown to the disciples not only as a proof of the power of God but also to demonstrate very clearly what lies ahead for all believers. For such a body and spirit are promised to us. This change in body and spirit is promised to us by Christ himself the life giving Spirit. A theory given by some scholars is that the body was stolen however 1Campbell this seems unlikely since a dead body would be of no use to anyone. Furthermore, even if the disciples had found a reason to steal the body, psychologically they could not attempt such a plan – they were afraid and defeated.
By the time of the crucifixion they had almost given up hope. More significantly 2Drane states that even if they wanted to steal the body, they could not because it was under Roman guard. To break open the wax seal would have been punishable by death. Most evidently if they had somehow convinced others that He was alive, why did they then go on to die for a belief they knew to be totally false? Furthermore Peter states that he saw the linen wrappings that Joseph and Nicodemus had used to coat the body. Peter probably saw the wrappings in the shape of a body without a body inside.
But he also saw the head cloth, “rolled up in a place by itself. ” No one stealing the body would have had time to roll up the face cloth and carefully set it aside. This is a curious detail that caught Peter’s attention. But this was only a foreshadowing of what was to come as Peter and the others personally experienced Jesus Christ in the succeeding days. Hence it appears very unlikely that body could have been stolen. According to 3Wilson the resurrection was no more than a series of hallucinations iniated by their grief.
By this means he could have effectively conditioned them to hallucinate to pre arrange cues” Wilson advocate the position that if one can not believe in the resurrection then the only plausible theory remains is the hallucination. However this is questionable. As 4Guy states that if the resurrection stories are a result of mass-hallucination or wishful thinking, it is a strange psychological phenomenon so unlike any other ever recorded that you really need to propose some unique cause to justify this unique effect. Secondly, over 500 people had an experience of Jesus. This is strange in itself.
There is no other incident in history where 500 people have hallucinated about the same thing! The hallucination theory does not fit what we know of the disciples’ expectations. As said earlier, the disciples were not expecting Christ to rise from the dead. They had no concept in Judaism of the Messiah rising physically from the dead with the same body, a body they could touch and interact with. What they experienced was concrete. They could recall and explain it clearly. And because many of them experienced the same thing, separately and together, they could confirm their experiences with each other.
The hallucination theory also fails to explain one other fact, which is the empty tomb. It has been claimed that Jesus did not actually die on the cross at all. However scholars such as 5Morris and 6Drane have largely disputed this. Firstly, Jesus was almost dead when He was put on the cross. The beating He had received was one that could kill a man, and He was so damaged by it He was unable to carry the cross all the way. It was impossible to survive the crucifixion, and Jesus was already nearly dead before He was put on the cross. Secondly, the Romans were professional executioners.
They could clearly identify a dead body. Furthermore, a soldier would be killed for failing to kill someone as ordered – it was not something that they took chances with. Thirdly, this was a high profile political execution. The supposed criminal was a popular leader and had been tried in front of both the Roman and Jewish authorities. The Jews and the Roman authorities would have been sure that this political threat would surely meet his end. Fourthly, the evidence is that He was really dead. When the spear was pushed into His side, out came blood and water – plasma.
This happens after death, when the blood has ceased to circulate, and the red cells have separated from the blood plasma. Most significantly it has been argued that, the body was bound in grave cloth wrapped tight – and left sealed into a cold and damp tomb. A healthy person in that situation would die of cold and thirst – it is certainly not the conditions to bring about revival from close to death. It is apparent that a bleeding, crucified and stabbed body could not revive in the cold, dark whilst unwrapping itself from the grave clothes, and then finally pushing away a stone that several healthy women could not move.
It would then be absurd to suggest that after his lucky escape he could convince all His followers that He was risen from the dead after suffering from this severe trauma. The final theory about what happened to Jesus’ body is probably the most popular one. Stanton suggests that the resurrection cannot be verified since there is not enough historical evidence however he does not cover alternative theories in detail. In addition 7Drane argues that the resurrection was a “theological creation” The Old Testament expresses a very negative attitude towards resurrection and many Jews simply did not believe it was possible.
It is also difficult to see how the idea of the resurrection could have come from an interpretation from the Old Testament expectations since the stories lack reference to previous scriptures. It has also been argued that resurrection was later added idea. Furthermore it was scientifically impossible to actually die and then come back to life. However if we consider the Gospels as historical document since Luke suggest he only used eyewitnesses to present his information. Then we can be sure that the resurrection took place. Campbell advocates that if the resurrection were a myth then it would have been far more glamorised.
However the entire passion narrative appears to be sad and distressing. If the disciples had made this up they could have done it in much more convincing way. Instead they appear rather reluctant to believe that Jesus is alive. Jesus has to eat fish and allow for physical contact in order to prove himself. See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flash and bones as you see that I have. (Lk 23:36-39) Furthermore it was the women who found the empty tomb.
The women would have had no legal rights in a Jewish court therefore their story would not have been believed. This is an indication that the historical facts are being presented by Luke rather than a concorted story by Luke. The most evident part of this theory appears to be the way in which lives of the disciples changed after they had seen the risen Jesus. The disciples became the forerunners of a new movement that swept the world.
They spoke out and were persecuted for the message and they ultimately gave their lives it: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Reliable historical sources tell us that all twelve of the disciples except John died as martyrs. This is of crucial importance. If they had pulled off a hoax, why would they go to their graves proclaiming that it actually happened? And because of what they believed they saw, these men who were meek suddenly became powerful spokesmen for Jesus Christ. Peter who denied Christ a few weeks earlier preached to over three thousand people in Acts 2.
Finally 9Campbell highlights that Jesus was born in a unique way and therefore died in a unique way. If Jesus did not resurrect then God would have been defeated by evil, which proves more difficult to believe in than the resurrection itself. However his theory is very much dependant on faith than on physical facts. Finally, the resurrection of Christ is central to the Christian faith. Without it, there is no Christianity. Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” In conclusion it is important to consider Luke’s understanding of the event.
According to Scott Knight Luke and Acts is a transitional piece. The text focuses on the distinction between reality and doubt. The evidence is always met with doubt. Luke appears to be pointing out that no amount of evidence will be convincing until your heart is opened and you have faith. According to Conzleman Luke uses he key term remember to link the past, present with future. This is device for the reader’s faith to awaken. Luke presents his information in a historical way. He names key witness and places. This emphasises the reality of the resurrection.
Luke constantly tries to show the reader the divine intervention that is taking place during the passion narrative. It is impossible to recognise Jesus until he approaches you. 24:10. “They were blind… then they could see”. Finally although no one theory has been able to provide sufficient detail in order to cover all aspects it appears that Luke is most certainly trying to portray that Jesus has risen from the dead. The gospel is written as a theological account therefore to a large extent the answer to what happened to Jesus’ body is dependant on faith.