In his book Sherlock, Martin Fido writes, “The silhouette greets the underground traveller at Baker Street. Wear a deerstalker hat, and suck on a drop-stem pipe, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re Jeremy Brett or Lucille Ball or Fifi the Wonder Dog: you’re impersonating Sherlock Holmes.” Sherlock is a household name when it comes to murder mysteries. And we can recognize Holmes by his eccentric style: the funny hat, the pipe, and the tweed suits.
I wonder if we could channel our inner Sherlock and try to solve the mystery of the historical evidence surrounding the life of Jesus. Grab one of those funny-looking hats and let’s give it a go!
In the last blog (Which you can find here: https://www.thesolidfaith.com/post/the-resurrection-a-giant-conspiracy), we established at least five historical facts surrounding the death and resurrection claims of Jesus:
1. Jesus lived and was crucified.
2. He was buried in a tomb most likely by Joesph of Arimathea.
3. There were women who discovered an empty tomb three days after his burial.
4. Jesus' disciples claimed to see Jesus alive following his burial.
5. There must have been people who believed in the resurrection for a new religion to burst forth.
Here are a couple of the explanations that have been offered:
The Conspiracy Hypothesis - Perhaps the disciples stole the body from the tomb in order to make it appear that Jesus rose again and therefore was who he claimed to be.
New Testament scholars of every worldview (Christian, atheist, and agnostic, etc.) have entirely abandoned this explanation. You may find it on Youtube among conspiracy theorists, but those who have examined the historical evidence find this explanation to be weak in explanatory scope.
While it would explain the empty tomb, it would not explain so many other brute historical facts. Remember, Paul said there were over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ. Those witnesses remained alive and were available for questioning.
Furthermore, the disciples only had to recant their claims that Jesus rose again in order to avoid torture, banishment, and death. And yet, according to even non-biblical sources the disciples died boldly claiming Jesus rose again.
This theory fails to explain the ALL the evidence.
Another hypothesis on offer is the Apparent Death Hypothesis - Jesus survived the crucifixion and appeared again to the many witnesses.
This theory is ripe with flaws.
Roman soldiers performed were trained to kill. They could be relied on to adequately crucify their victims. To ensure the victims were dead, the soldiers pierced the side of the body with a large spear.
If Jesus survived the abuse how did he roll away the stone? Did he have help? What about the guards? Even if he managed to roll away the stone, sneak pass the guards, and re-appear, its doubtful he would be seen as the resurrected savior. Rather, Jesus would need serious medical attention.
These are just a few of the many problems with this theory.
Sherlock would have to search for a better explanation; one befitting all the evidence we have at hand.
Stay tuned this month as we examine other theories in search for the best explanation of historical evidence surrounding the empty tomb!
For more on these topics, we recommend reading The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona.
1. Martin Fido, Sherlock:The Facts and Fictions Behind the World's Most Famous Detective, (New York, NY: Metro Books, 2015), 41.