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Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Just Faint on the Cross

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NOTE: Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter last week, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we began a six-part series on these events by Dr. Peter Kreeft in which he examines each of the plausible theories attempting to explain what happened to Jesus at the end of his life, particularly whether he rose from the dead.

Part 1 - 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus
Part 2 - Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Faint on the Cross
Part 3 - Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
Part 4 - Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True
Part 5 - Real Visions: 13 Reasons the Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
Part 6 - (Coming soon!)
 


 
Last week, we introduced five possible theories attempting to explain the resurrection accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. Today we'll examine what's often called the "swoon theory," which suggests that Jesus never really died on the cross—he simply fainted, or swooned, and was presumed dead.

Nine pieces of evidence refute the swoon theory:

(1) Jesus could not have survived crucifixion. Roman procedures were very careful to eliminate that possibility. Roman law even laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion. It was never done.

(2) The fact that the Roman soldier did not break Jesus' legs, as he did to the other two crucified criminals (Jn 19:31-33), means that the soldier was sure Jesus was dead. Breaking the legs hastened the death so that the corpse could be taken down before the sabbath (v. 31).

(3) John, an eyewitness, certified that he saw blood and water come from Jesus' pierced heart (Jn 19:34-35). This shows that Jesus' lungs had collapsed and he had died of asphyxiation. Any medical expert can vouch for this.

(4) The body was totally encased in winding sheets and entombed (Jn 19:38-42).

(5) The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even "doubting Thomas," that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conquerer of death.

(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 there 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 (we'll deal with this theory in a couple days.)

(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 the 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.

On Wednesday, we'll deal with the slightly more popular "conspiracy theory" alternative.
 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Passion of the Christ film)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

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Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • Zeus Thunderbolt

    So a Roman guard falling asleep is "unbelievable", yet a bodily resurrection accompanied by angel(s) is believable. Got it.

  • David Nickol

    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).

    I have paid very little attention over the years to theories that Jesus survived the crucifixion, but if any "swoon theorists" don't challenge the Gospel accounts, they are biblical literalists, and why would biblical literalists accept all four Gospel accounts (including earthquakes, the rending of the temple veil, and the resurrection of "saints") but maintain the single point about which the Gospels are wrong is that Jesus died?

    • Doug Shaver

      Exactly, David. There should be a name for this position, and I think "naturalistic inerrantism" would be a good one. It holds that the gospel authors made no mistakes in anything they said, with the sole exception of when they attributed something they were reporting to divine intervention. Everything they reported happening really happened, but anything the seems like a miracle wasn't really a miracle, and all we need to do is figure out what it was instead.

      That is why I've never been even tempted to go with the swoon theory: It presupposes this naturalistic inerrancy, and inerrancy of any sort is indefensible in my judgment.

  • David Nickol

    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.

    But in two of the four Gospels (Mk 16, Lk 24), the women bring spices to the tomb in order to anoint Jesus's body. This certainly implies they expected somehow to have the stone removed.

    • Loreen Lee

      Well, if they weren't part of the burial procedure, maybe they didn't assume there was a stone before the crypt in the first place. So, maybe it was the Roman conspiracy theorists who put the stone there? Just to prevent any possibility that angels would resurrect him!!!!! (That would solve the possibility that Jews might have actually been working 'late' and into the Sabbath) I do like to speculate. .

      • Doug Shaver

        Well, if they weren't part of the burial procedure, maybe they didn't assume there was a stone before the crypt in the first place.

        The author of Mark believed that they were expecting to find stone there:

        When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:1-3, NIV)

        • Loreen Lee

          Yeah! At least I understand better now, the difference between my imaginatively based speculations of Monday, and the strict comparison of Gospels within 'hermeneutics'. Great opportunity though to think 'story'.

    • Randy Carson

      If the women knew there were Roman guards posted, perhaps they planned on asking the guys politely for some help.

  • GCBill

    Look, I think the swoon theory is bogus. But it's somewhat inconsistent that you're ruling it out in part due to its medical implausibilities, when your favorite alternative theory involves resurrection from the dead. Before other considerations, dying and rising in pristine condition is more unlikely than surviving something like crucifixion. I hope that you address this issue in your final installment.

    • Michael Murray

      The whole thing is on his blog if you don't want to wait.

      http://www.peterkreeft.com/top...

    • Roger

      I don´t see it as inconsistent as he is right to say that assuming a swoon theory within a naturalistic context, the medical implausibilities do speak against it. Your criticism would stand if the alternative he was giving involved a naturalistic resurrection from the dead, which is certainly not the case. As he described in the intro, the objective here is to show the implausability of naturalistic explanations that could explain the resurrection. It is true that even if all these possible explanations are shown to be implausible, a naturalist would still deny the supernatural resurrection from the dead, but I do not think the objective here is to change the mind of a naturalist since by defenition, they reject all possible supernatural events.

      Hell, the belief that this was a hoax manufactured by powerful aliens from another planet is a better explanation for the naturalist than the supernatural one, however, this misses the point.

  • Loreen Lee

    This just came in via New Advent: a synopsis of the events taken from data in all four gospels, and other New Testament scripture. Please know I enjoy Monsignor Pope's posts.
    http://blog.adw.org/2015/04/the-resurrection-appearances-chronologically-arranged-2/

    However, I too continue to find 'contradictions' even with this attempt to find a synthesis. Why for instance did the powers to be find the need to place guards at the tomb entrance in the first place. Possible reasons: 1. Of course, the disciples could steal the body. Were there conspiracy theorists even back then? The possibility that the apostles could make it seems that Jesus had arisen? 2. But then where would this idea come from? a) the believe already accepted within the Second Temple teachings which had changed belief in a Buddhist like incarnation, or simply earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, to a theory of resurrection at the end times, as spoken about even in the story of Lazarus..3. Indeed even on this website I remember reading of many instances of at least rumors of various 'messianic' prophets rising from the dead. Seems to have been a recurring 'mythos'. And of course the 'mythos' was there already in the mystery religions, for example.
    The question is: did the expectation of both end times, and resurrection account for the development of this 'word made flesh'. Did the mythos become a 'reality' of not? And even then, what IS reality?

    • Loreen Lee

      Just been doing a little 'self-critical' analysis of the above comment. I presume that asking the question about the need to guard the tomb assumes I don't buy the (even Islamic) version that there was no 'death' of Jesus. But then I related the idea of asking questions rather than making argument to a possible comparison with what Heidegger says on the subject (i.e. that we have to learn to ask questions) and something I have always wondered about Jesus: i.e. whenever it seems someone asks him a question, he seems always to answer - you have said so. So just wondering: perhaps the 'asking of a question' is sufficient. I don't believe my question ; what IS reality, is for instance a stance of complete skepticism, but hopefully the overcoming that a definitively know something, and the possibility of living in a Kierkegaardian (even) faith, where I can simply keep the possibilities 'out there'. The 'word made flesh' of course is related to the distinction between 'seeing is believing' and 'believing is seeing'. Just a question I have- do we not very often regard what we say as real in the sense of putting flesh even on old bones.....How often in the past have the rumors of war proceeded another apocalypse!

      • Loreen Lee

        I also like Rabbi Shapiro. https://t.co/N2ECb1KrXX
        His views on things like choiceless awareness, (asking questions rather than 'making' argument?); religions (and individuals) assuming the authority of g/Gods, the idea from another post that the sacrifice of Christ created another form of scapegoating towards Judaism, and other comments, not all of which I agree with of course. Just in case you're interested. The point is: we will never have a 'complete answer' or 'absolutely correct interpretation' of this topic. The difference between symbol and parable, for instance, the difference between transcendental realism and transcendentalism idealism. (Do multi-verses really exist?) And when it comes to his discussion of 'tribalism', is it not possible that even 'atheism' can become another 'tribe'. The best to you all. Hopefully, I can continue to be 'non-denominational' with respect to all dogmas and ideologies.. That's what I believe the Rabbi is attempting.

  • Rudy R

    Such an amatuerish and epic failure to refute the swoon theory. An elementary school child could drive holes in this logic.

    Roman law even laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion. It was never done.</blockquote. Capital punishment doesn't deter crime. People commit capital punishment crimes all the time. It never was done? Is the author a clairvoyent too?

    Quoting the Gospel of John is not proof of reliable evidence. The author of John is unknown, written in 90–100 AD, and was not written by direct witnesses to the reported events.

    Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it, for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed

    It wasn't in the best interest of followers of Jesus to have the tomb empty? Without the empty tomb, you can' start the resurrection myth.

    If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go?

    Jesus went to all the places described in the Gospels...he was just not resurrected, but recovered from the crucifixion.

    ...the swoon theory necessarily turns into the conspiracy theory or the hallucination theory...

    Paul himself admits having "known' Jesus through revelation, which is probably code for hallucination.

    • Papalinton

      "Quoting the Gospel of John is not proof of reliable evidence. The author of John is unknown, written in 90–100 AD, and was not written by direct witnesses to the reported events."

      Indeed. Quoting John as the source for verification of the event has about the same evidentiary value as quoting from the Harry Potter series about the veridicality of the death of Voldemort. Quoting from John is fundamentally problematic and irreconcilably flawed when his account is juxtaposed against that of Mark, two diametrically different accounts of the same event. I'm sorry to say there is just a little too much apologetically motivated interpretive massaging by Dr Creeft to deem his version any credibility.

    • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

      If none of the disciples understood that Jesus intended to rise from the dead, they would have had no reason to steal the corpse. Having scattered at the arrest, and observing the crucifixion from within the crowds, would they have had the temerity to even approach the tomb with Romans guarding it? Would thy have risked becoming ritually unclean by breaking the Sabbath AND the Passover both, AND by touching a ritually unclean corpse when they continued to uphold so many of the important rituals of Judean life of the time?

      • David Nickol

        If none of the disciples understood that Jesus intended to rise from the dead, they would have had no reason to steal the corpse.

        But we have Matthew 27: 62-65:

        The next day, the one following the day of preparation,* the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.”

        If we are to accept that as historically accurate—many exegetes today would assume it is after-the-fact-apologetics—then we'd have to conclude that if the idea of stealing the body and claiming resurrection could occur to the chief priests and the Pharisees, it could have occurred to the followers of Jesus, as well.

        . . . would they have had the temerity to even approach the tomb with Romans guarding it?

        When Pilate responds to the request for guards by saying, "The guard is yours," the NAB in a note leaves open the possibility that the guards were not Romans:

        The guard is yours: literally, “have a guard” or “you have a guard.” Either the imperative or the indicative could mean that Pilate granted the petitioners some Roman soldiers as guards, which is the sense of the present translation. However, if the verb is taken as an indicative it could also mean that Pilate told them to use their own Jewish guards.

        • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

          You do raise some excellent points. I have never been able to figure out why Simon Peter would have been carrying a sword in the first place. My own supposition was that it was taken from one of the guards,and that it was a pretty sloppy attack, for him to have sliced off the ear while missing the neck and the arm, both logical targets in a defensive maneuver.

          Others have cautioned me about using the footnotes in the NAB, saying that they are not always as accurate as some other translations.

          For the Pharisees and chief priests to have gone to Pilate on the Sabbath was itself a violation of the Law. They would have remembered this claim of a Resurrection by Jesus because that was a significant part of their case against Him. Zealots would have scattered in disappointment as His Death, while the Apostles were nursing their grief in seclusion.

      • Rudy R

        Assuming there was a body in the tomb to guard by the Romans.

        • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

          Rudy, isn't that what the whole series is about?

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Presumably they would have waited until after the Sabbath and Passover: Sunday morning. This is when swoon theorists would say that Jesus left the tomb.

        The women in Mark 16 did not have a problem with approaching the tomb and planned to anoint Jesus' body. I don't whether anointing the body would be considered "unclean" but it seems to suggest that getting into Jesus' tomb was not expected to be too difficult.

        • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

          Based on what we do know of the religious practices of first century Judea, the women would not have been at the actual burial but instead preparing for the Sabbath, which included all meal preparations for the next day. They may not have known of the guards. Waiting and wailing at the site until enough people arrived to open the tomb would fit the customs of the day.

          And yes, touching the blood and corpse would render them "unclean" but there were prayers and procedures of purification which would allow them to become "clean" again. Included in the purification rites were a series of ritual bathing and the burning of all cloth and clothing which might have come in contact with the deceased. These procedures are spelled out in Mosaic law.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Interesting, but I think you miss my point. Some swoon theorists will claim that the disciples could have moved the stone. You countered this by saying that visiting the tomb on Saturday would be breaking Sabbath and Passover rules, which is true. But if they visited the tomb on Sunday, then your statement no longer applies.

            And yes, I agree, touching a corpse would make you unclean, but as you correctly say, they could go through the purification rites in order to undo that. If the women were willing to risk touching a corpse and go through the purification rites, couldn't the disciples have been willing as well?

            So when you say that the disciples would not want to visit the tomb because of the risk of breaking Sabbath, Passover, or becoming unclean, it seems that there are easy ways for them to avoid these problems.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Yes, it is possible, but my point is that it is very unlikely. My point is that there were many more personal and religious reasons for them to stay away from the tomb than there were for them to go and "rescue" Jesus. Swoon theory doesn't work because His Body was dead.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I agree. The swoon theory is unlikely. And the disciples would probably have wanted to lay low for a while if their leader had just been crucified. I think that is reason enough to suspect that the disciples stayed away from the tomb without bringing in religious reasons.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            In trying to understand ancient cultures, many westerners try to downplay, or even ignore the religious perspective. This can be a serious flaw. Cultural anthropologists now argue that religion may have developed before government did as a way to create a cohesive clan or tribe response to threats. What we may see now as superstition was once an attempt to explain cause and effect. The beliefs of the disciples MUST be taken into consideration, whether we agree with them or not. Their beliefs influenced their reasoning, just as our beliefs influence our reasoning.

            No, I am not talking about Faith. They believed that Jesus was dead. They believed that their own lives were in danger for the same reasons. They believed that going up to Jerusalem at that time would be dangerous. They may have been armed, but not proficient with those arms.

      • Loreen Lee

        Excellent. Thank you.

  • Zeus Thunderbolt

    Seems strange to deem a Roman guard falling asleep as "unbelievable", yet a bodily resurrection accompanied by angel(s) as perfectly believable.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse?

    Well, if you were guarding the tomb of someone you though was dead, and then the presumably dead guy comes out of the tomb, you'd be understandably freaked out. I imagine they could run away in fear.

    Like others, I don't buy into the swoon theory, and I think that Dr. Kreeft's point #1 is enough to show it is implausible (though less plausible than a resurrection?). But I was hoping for a bit better. Hopefully, the following articles do a better job.

  • Raymond

    "Who moved the stone if not an angel?"

    Can't argue with that "logic".

    • William Davis

      Who put the stone there to begin with, an angel?

      • Loreen Lee

        Ah! I didn't see this before I wrote the above comment. You're ahead of the 'game' as usual!!!!

      • Loreen Lee

        Also - just reading tomorrow's Gospel: John. The 'Mary's' ask the 'angels' where they have put their Lord. Like conspiracy theories on all sides: Jewish, Roman, and now the ladies all acting out of suspicion of the others' motives?!!. (I am doing this interpretation based on character and sub-text possibilities, something I learned at Theater school). So what I left out, was the possibility that the angels who moved the stone to block the crypt, could have been the Jews or the Romans. Who 'knows'. I like the comment I read which made the point that these arguments should not be approached separately. May I also suggest that a simple analysis of narrative does not take into consideration different motives of particular individuals, and different understandings in the case of each character. So the logic is great from a generalizing perspective, but doesn't such 'formal treatment' of text, also assume that the same explanation applies to each and every individual and circumstance?

        • William Davis

          Yeah, what happened could have been a mix of all these ideas, or none of the above. The number of possibilities are infinite.

          • Loreen Lee

            Ah! That is precisely the point I am attempting to make. It is like the story of my life. On looking back, after finding new evidence, or insight, the text has to be adapted within another interpretation. But then, with each 'transformation' I could even say 'artistically' or even 'religiously' that I, to use a metaphor, am born 'anew'! This need for 'reinterpretation' used to happen even when rereading a novel. But if you're looking for dystopia, the bible can compete with any modern fiction, and so is at the moment my literature of choice. . And of course, the genocides continue. Such possibilities are/were obviously not confined to the stories of the Old Testament.....!!!!!

      • Randy Carson

        Presumably, several of the men who were part of the burial party. It was a "large" stone, and it may have required more than one man to move it.

        • William Davis

          Sure. The point is that a few of the disciples could have moved it. Not saying that is what happened, but it didn't take an angel.

          • Randy Carson

            In which case, you're not dealing with a swoon but with a conspiracy...which Dr. Kreeft will cover later in this series. ;-)

          • William Davis

            Jesus swooned, was put in the tomb, and was discovered when the women went to anoint his body. The disciples were there to move the stone (how were the women supposed to anoint his body with the stone there). Kreeft tries to control the situation by saying there are only a limited number of possible explanations, but this simply isn't the case. There are an infinite number of possibilities, and odds are that every theory we suppose is wrong.

          • Loreen Lee

            Why was he put in the tomb if hemerely swooned? Did that guard not put a puncture with the help of his sphere into the 'heart' of Jesus? Was Jesus capable of fooling people that he had died? Would this behavior be consistent with the character, Jesus, in even an artistic sense, as portrayed in the scripture? If you're going to look on these texts within the context of character and 'sub'text, you not only have to use your imagination, you have to do a bit of research into yourself as well as even seemingly unassociated events. In this regard, I understand that not only the Kaballah, but orthodox Jews make it a point to identify not only with Moses for instance but with the Pharaoh. .Most readers of narrative, fiction, take only a limited perspective in this regard, rather than playing the detective and attempting to see the point of view of each of the characters represented, and to take it further seeing that one could within the realm of possibility act the role of each and every character. I can very easily look down upon a prisoner, but whose to say that some day I too could find myself behind bars? Come to think of it, a little bit more of this 'method acting' technique might even be a useful and productive means of improving social relationships generally. After all, there's the saying that you never can know another unless you walk in their shoes. Can those 'mirror neurons' help in this regard. Whatever your language is, I believe I can still say, that there can be no empathy without a genuine identification of the self with the other, through imaginative and cognitive thought processes. And sometimes it takes living through a bit of pain to find a deeper understanding of the meaning of 'love'.

          • William Davis

            Why was he put in the tomb if he merely swooned?

            We're using the term "swoon" loosely, but it could have been a coma. In Mark's gospel, Jesus wasn't stabbed, he gave up his last breath on the first day which is unusual for crucifixion (usually it takes several days). If he had been beaten severely he could have gone into a coma which looks a lot like death. To this day, people mistake a deep coma for death, so this isn't a stretch really. Everyone was relying on the word of the centurion, Mark 15

            42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time.

            All that is required is for the centurion to mistake a coma for death, it isn't far fetched :)

          • Loreen Lee

            Oh! This is excellent as far as it goes. But what about the soldier who put spear into the side of Jesus. Wouldn't that have killed him. (P.S. I'm rooting for you to come back with a reply that would support the posi

          • William Davis

            The spear was only in John's gospel, which was the last. Perhaps adding the spear to the story was an early attempt to defend against swoon theory. Isn't it suspicious that it isn't in the other 3 gospels?

          • Doug Shaver

            But what about the soldier who put spear into the side of Jesus. Wouldn't that have killed him.

            You tell us. Are you under the impression that people who are stabbed in the side always die?

          • Loreen Lee

            You tell me. Did he get any medical aid? Was he really stabbed in the side? Why not the heart? Do you know one way or another better than anyone else. We're all doing imaginative, speculative, literary interpretations here, according to the criteria with which I would classify a lot of these comment? I don't know about you guys, but I'm just 'having fun'. So as a retort: Are you under the impression that people who are stabbed in the side always live? Boy, whose going to start asking for evidence on this one?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you know one way or another better than anyone else?

            I know, as well as everyone else here, what the stories say and what they don't say.

          • Randy Carson

            People in comas still have to breath. The only way to breath during crucifixion is to raise the torso up, and the only way to do that is to pull up with the arms and push up with the legs. The reason legs were broken would be to eliminate that ability and cause asphyxiation.

            Now, do you really think that a person in a coma could continue to raise himself up to breathe? And do you think that the Roman soldiers did not notice that Jesus was still rising up to breathe? The reason they did NOT break his legs was because they had observed him in the "down" position for a long time...and that means no breathing due to death having already occurred.

          • William Davis

            Do I believe swoon theory? No, but I can argue for it's plausibility. There is no reason to think all crosses were made perfectly, so there could have been some curvature to take the pressure off of Jesus's chest. People in a coma sometimes breath very shallowly, and the centurion may not have put much of an effort into checking, who knows. Your assumption that being down for a long time means he wasn't breathing shallowly isn't warranted.

          • Loreen Lee

            OMG why do you argue for such a theory that you don't accept? A person of lesser intellectual competence in logic, like myself, might actually be convinced by your argument. It's almost like you're being a kind of 'devil's advocate'. grin grin.. As time goes by I feel I could become more and more 'vulnerable' with respect to Jesus being a prophet, but not Lord. Mohammad would love you. So would Newton, and Andrew Jackson, I believe. After all this whole 'atheist' collusion with the devil began quite a while ago. Ask the Rollin' Stones..Have a bit of sympathy with the naturalists at least.

          • William Davis

            Belief in the resurrection was always supposed to be by faith, not proof. Modern apologists try to use rationalism and proofs, but it just doesn't work, historical events can't bee proven in any meaningful sense. I'm arguing for that ultimate idea, you can't really refute imaginative theories because you can always invent new explanations for any objections. It's just creative writing, which is mostly what the gospels are themselves. Creative writing is very useful and adds meaning to our lives, but let's not get hung up on a couple of stories ;)

          • Loreen Lee

            Well at least creative writing and the approach to story can highlight a major distinction between the gospel stories, and what happens within the arguments 'selected' for adjudication within courts of law. My point is that the gospels are not as simple in content or structure, as what is generally expected, and even possible with the formal constraints of argumentation. Perhaps that's why so many people feel that 'justice is never found'. and the person's 'case' is never 'heard'. when similar structures are used sithin a court of law.....
            Indeed, Kant's argument against proofs distinguish reason from faith precisely on the criteria you are suggesting. The antinomies show that reason in such instances is beyond understanding, even if only because of the innumerable possibilities of interpretation, even within the context of simple day to day social relationships, where even the exchange we are having now, a little 'faith' is required. Is this not particularly true if one goes into detail in attempts to explain such things as finding purpose, or oontradictions found within ongoing conflicts.. Such are the paradoxes of life.

            But creative writing does not depend on imaginative theories in the sense of inventing new explanations. Creative writing is such because it imitates life in the sense that it at least attempts a representation of the true complexity involved.within an interactive social framework. There's an irony here though in that some life situations have also been portrayed artistically as art imitating life! What is the difference then between the word of god from the word of the creative artist? .Will it help perhaps to make a distinction between the priority of God's art or act of creation to life within 'divine revelation', in contrast to the creative mimetic imitation of life, which is reflected in art even when such secondary creativity is understood to be an artistic revelation.

            It was Spinoza's venture into hermeneutics which began not only the revolution within the tradition of biblical interpretation, but also set the standard for the literature which followed his example.. It is true, that since then there has continued to be a relationship between the two disciplines.. I would love to have the artistry to be a unbeatable logician, and since the plot of a literary work is called its 'argument', I would like also to have the reason required to create both a good life story and a work of art. . But obviously, this cannot be achieved within the context of this forum. .For there are also, my persoal limitations in distinguishing between truth and beauty; argument and art., good and .....so we are beginning again another 'experiment'..

            .Good heavens. may these comments not be cause for my banishment from this virtual reality. Surely this formum can be described as a paradise comparable only to what was the original garden. For before either S-i-N and E-i-N existed, before there was found to be a general confusion inherent in language, before there was a distinction between what was merely strange and what was also estranged, surely there could be found within the interaction of such notions a reflection of was pristine, pure, and powerful.

            Surely there awaits the possibity of reasonable rhetoric, of artistic argument. Would this not please both Aristotle and Blake; Aquinas and Neitzsche. Within a poetic context it would be called the marriage of heaven and hell, a marriage of art and argument. The relationship of religion and naturalism would at last be placed within a context that was as far 'beyond' good and evil as mythos is beyond mathematics, as fiction is beyond fact. True beauty would at last be given her place within the art of discourse.......

            what? Who's there? What's that you are saying? That if there is nothing, it is not anything that is beyond something? .That this expression of my art is but a fallacy of composition? No. Surely not. You do not understand the logic of art.

            Oh, I see. You have proof that there is no beyond any thing. You will not accept the argument of my story unless you can see the proof? What kind of proof are you talking about? Oh! a logical proof. That's not what I thought you meant. I thought wanted to know if my story had been made into a book?

            What? There can be no beyond. because my story can never be fiinished. It can only be abandoned? No. My story will never be abandoned. It will live on beyond good and evil, beyond space the time. The essence of my story is it's existence. My argument is my art; my story is the history of the universe. What? You say that there is no unity. I will listen to you no more. Let it be known that I shall never accept what you say as truth, unless
            you can give to me through the evidence of revelation as well as through reason that you are either God
            as Intelligible Logos, the Creative Will or the Power of the Cosmos.

            What? Now I find that you have extended reason to include a multiverse. Can it be proved that this is possible? What is the argument? On one side the reason is a God of unity. On the other side, a materiality of poesis that produces a plurality. But it is now your existence, your materiality, that is the primary thing that matters to me. I need a theory that can explain everything. For if everything is matter, then even such things as small matters mght also indicate what might be the matter with what you are. But then, is it also possible that everything that matters is surely only matter?.

            Yes, I will prove the multiverse, through mathematical theory, and reasoned proof . Let the arguments begin.

            Surely I will not require evidence because I shall present a true,and rational argument which will constitutes a cosmological proof for the existence of the multiverse. (Check up on the proof. . and therefore it has nothing to do with an intelligible God... .

            .

          • Randy Carson

            Plausibility? How about probability?

            Is it probable or not that professional Roman soldiers who are charged with carrying out a crucifixion would, under penalty of death themselves, allow a condemned man to survive?

            It's also plausible that Jesus was beamed aboard the Enterprise which had traveled back in time by about 4,000 years or so through a worm-hole. There, he was revived by Dr. McCoy (or Dr. Crusher depending on your age and the characteristics of the worm-hole), but it's not very probable.

            I appreciate that you are not a "swoon theorist", but at some point in a thread like this, arguing just for the sake of arguing becomes silly.

            Let's agree to move on, shall we? :-)

          • William Davis

            Swoon theory is improbable, but much more probable than a miraculous resurrection, at least by my intuitive calculus. Sure we can move on, better theories to come :)

          • Randy Carson

            More plausible? In the absence of eyewitness testimony, perhaps, but we have eyewitness testimony that Jesus died on the cross and that he was seen alive later. Consequently, the plausibility of a resurrection has shifted dramatically.

          • William Davis

            We have anonymous stories, the first of which was written around 30-40 years after the fact. Justin Martyr is a big reason (and many others) to believe they were anonymous, as he simply calls them Memoirs of the Apostles. This is a far cry from eye witness testimony. I'd prefer to save this discussion for future installments if you don't mind :) I've got a lot to say about the gospels and authenticity, and if we have anything that is historical in any way, it is the gospel of Mark.

          • Randy Carson

            We can discuss this later, if you wish, but no...the gospels are not the products of anonymous authors. There is ample support for the traditional attribution. Matthew and John wrote eyewitness accounts while Mark was the record of Peter's eyewitness testimony. Similarly, Luke investigated the matter and composed a very accurate account based upon the information he received from eyewitnesses.

            You disagree, so we will have much to discuss when the topic comes up later in this series from Dr. Kreeft.

          • William Davis

            If you have time in the interim, try reading up on the subject. Essentially no scholar now thinks they are independent accounts, the synoptics simply cannot be because of the synoptic problem. This link is long but goes over a lot of the issues here, Dan Wallace is a bright evangelical scholar who takes the authenticity of the Bible more seriously than any Catholic, the whole sola scriptura thing.

            "It is quite impossible to hold that the three synoptic gospels were completely independent from each other. In the least, they had to have shared a common oral tradition. But the vast bulk of NT scholars today would argue for much more than that.3 There are four crucial arguments which virtually prove literary interdependence."

            https://bible.org/article/synoptic-problem

            It would be better if you read up on this to be able to argue with it in mind :)

          • William Davis

            P.S. It's a good mental exercise to defend a position you do not hold. I do it a lot, and it helps you explore and issue from different directions. I did not hold my current views until I explored the position thoroughly, with an open mind (as much as that is possible, we can't help but to be somewhat biased).

          • Doug Shaver

            Did that guard not put a puncture with the help of his sphere into the 'heart' of Jesus?

            The story doesn't say the heart was punctured.

          • Loreen Lee

            But it did draw blood and water, I understand, which would make it at least a very serious and traumatic injury, if there is not enough evidence given within the account for you to assume death as a consequence. He would at minimum require medical treatment, and this would be at best difficult to obtain without drawing attention to any possible reality of a continuation of a life which ha been condemned to death. (Excuse my verbosity).

          • Doug Shaver

            if there is not enough evidence given within the account for you to assume death as a consequence.

            On the assumption that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person, I have no problem whatsoever assuming that he actually died as a result of being crucified. I am not attempting to argue that there is anything unlikely about that. I am attempting only to rebut the assertion that no other outcome was even possible.

          • Doug Shaver

            But it did draw blood and water, I understand, which would make it at least a very serious and traumatic injury,

            Serious and traumatic injuries are not invariably fatal. As long as it is possible for him to have survived, the swoon theory cannot be conclusively refuted.

          • Randy Carson

            Have you read the AMA report?

            When the pericardium was pierced by the lance (as evidenced by the flow of blood and water), the fact that Jesus was ALREADY DEAD was confirmed.

          • Doug Shaver

            Have you read the AMA report?

            It had three authors. All were Christians, but only one was a physician. One of the others was an artist, and the other was a clergyman.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks for seeing it as a story, rather than a context for an argumentative debate that limits the possibility of extraneous alternatives or demand a required limitation on possibilities.that will be admitted. I am really enjoying this 'anything goes' atmosphere. Oh! but the story also didn't say that the heart 'wasn't' punctured. I love it when the devil is in the details, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure what he's up to.!!!

    • Loreen Lee

      How did they have the time to do all this before the beginning of the sabbath- between when they say he 'died', (assuming this) at 3:00, going to the authorities for permission, bringing him to the tomb, and then rolling what I take to be a huge stone placed before the crypt, if these actions were considered 'work' and thus would be going against the dictates of the holy day?. And, perhaps they would have needed the strength of an angel to do this in any event. Unless they had some knowledge which is now lost, which they learned possibly, if they as laborers had anything to do with the building of the pyramids.

    • Randy Carson

      Jesus didn't need the stone to be moved in order to get out. He later entered a room whose door was locked, remember? No, the stone was rolled away so that the disciples could see IN and know that the tomb was empty.

      • Raymond

        That is totally a side issue. Since the stone was rolled back, according to the Gospels, it's a reasonable question to ask how it happened.

        • Randy Carson

          Sure. Either and angel or God moved the stone...but that was so that "WE" could see in...not so Jesus could get out. ;-)

  • Doug Shaver

    As I've noted in another post, I don't give the swoon theory any credence at all. However, Kreeft's evidence does not refute it. The theory is certainly improbable, but it's far from impossible.

    Roman law even laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion. It was never done.

    It was done at least one time, according to Josephus: https://clas-pages.uncc.edu/james-tabor/archaeology-and-the-dead-sea-scrolls/josephus-references-to-crucifixion/

    the soldier was sure Jesus was dead.

    And that soldier could not possibly have been mistaken?

    Any medical expert can vouch for this.

    Then let's see a medical expert's testimony.

    A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conquerer of death.

    The story does not say he was half-dead and staggering. He'd had two days to rest up and start healing. Is there any proof that no human being has ever had that sort of recuperative power?

    How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse? Or by unarmed disciples?

    Last I heard, the swoon theory makes no specific claim about who did what to the guards. And who says the disciples were unarmed? According the gospels, at least one of them was armed when Jesus was arrested. Remember that bit about someone attacking the high priest's servant with a sword?

    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?

    Why not the same people who overpowered the guards?

    Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives.

    If we're supposed to believe every word of the story, then we're supposed to believe that, just because the Jewish authorities told them to, they went around afterward telling everyone they had fallen asleep.

    If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go?

    Nobody knows. But, he was still under a death sentence, and he would have known that, and so would his disciples and anyone else sympathetic to him. (And the stories do indicate that he never appeared to anyone except certain of his followers.) If he survived the crucifixion, it doesn't exactly strain credulity to suppose that he would have spent the rest of his life in hiding.

    the disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.

    Then apparently that is what they really believed. The swoon theory doesn't claim that his disciples knew he hadn't really died.

    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.

    OK, the swoon theory does presuppose a version of inerrancy, so you can try to rebut it by quoting scripture. I think I've show that that doesn't work. That's why the first people to propose the swoon theory back in the 19th century were Bible-believing Protestant Christians who just happened not to believe in miracles.

    • Papalinton

      I think the 'swoon' theory says much more about the believers in resurrection than it does about Jesus's state of health.

      • Doug Shaver

        I have seen some really wacky ideas proposed by skeptics. But in all the years I've been reading material arguing both for and against Christianity, I've never seen the swoon theory actually advocated by a single unbeliever, as best I can remember.

        • Loreen Lee

          It is number six because it is the most unlikely of all the theories as stated in the post. Possible agreement on all sides here - unbelievable development within the history of these debates...grin grin.

          • Doug Shaver

            Possible agreement on all sides here - unbelievable development within the history of these debates...grin grin.

            I've noticed that about Christian apologists. Some of them spend a great deal of time disproving hypotheses that no skeptic is actually advocating.

    • Randy Carson

      >>>Then let's see a medical expert's testimony.

      From the Journal of the American Medical Association:

      On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ
      http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/deathjesus.pdf

      • Papalinton

        It's heartening to see the use of science in explaining the death of Jesus. Now all that is needed is the scientific evidence for the resurrection and the scientific evidence for the ascension. Job done.

        • Randy Carson

          One step at a time, bro.

          :-D

          • Doug Shaver

            And Lord knows you folks who think science has all the answers would never forgive us if we skipped a step.

            I don't think for a minute that science has all the answers. But will you agree that it has some answers? And can you tell me why I should think religion has any answers?

          • Randy Carson

            Sure, science has answers. Lots of them. But there are some subjects to which science cannot speak. But it cannot answer all of them: How much does God weigh? If an angel is pure spirit without a physical body, how can he hear sounds transmitted via a medium such as air or water?

            As for religion having answers, that would depend on the questions, wouldn't it? :-)

          • Doug Shaver

            But there are some subjects to which science cannot speak.

            Who does speak to those subjects, and why should I believe what they say?

            As for religion having answers, that would depend on the questions, wouldn't it? :-)

            I realize there are questions that religion claims to answer, but why should I believe those answers? Can religion answer that question?

          • Randy Carson

            >>Who does speak to those subjects, and why should I believe what they say?

            Philosophers and theologians? Because their answers are compelling?

            >>I realize there are questions that religion claims to answer, but why should I believe those answers? Can religion answer that question?

            Again, you should believe the answers provided by theologians if their answers provide the best explanation for the question under consideration.

          • Doug Shaver

            Because their answers are compelling?

            Meaning what? Is an answer compelling just because lots of people agree with it?

            you should believe the answers provided by theologians if their answers provide the best explanation for the question under consideration.

            By what criteria should I judge which explanation is best?

        • William Davis

          What he presented was a theory, no evidence. For evidence we would need the cross, the body of Jesus, eye witnesses to cross examine, all kinds of things. Theories are not evidence, and all the evidence is long gone ;)

          This is why we have a statue of limitations

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

          After a certain period of time it is safe to say all evidence is either gone or tampered with, 2000 years is pretty far past the normal time.

      • Doug Shaver

        I was referring to this statement:

        (3) John, an eyewitness, certified that he saw blood and water come from Jesus' pierced heart (Jn 19:34-35). This shows that Jesus' lungs had collapsed and he had died of asphyxiation. Any medical expert can vouch for this.

        The JAMA article does not corroborate it.

        • Randy Carson

          No corroboration? What about this:

          "Some of the skepticism in accepting John’s description has arisen from the difficulty in explaining, with medical
          accuracy, the flow of both blood and water. Part of this difficulty has been based on the assumption that the blood appeared first, then the water. However, in the ancient Greek, the order of words generally denoted prominence and not necessarily a time sequence.

          "37 Therefore, it seems likely that John was emphasizing the prominence of blood rather than its appearance preceding the water. Therefore, the water probably
          represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid,5-7,11 and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in
          volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of hypovolemia and impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of apparent water. 5,11 The blood, in contrast, may have originated from the right atrium or the right ventricle (Fig 7) or perhaps from a hemopericardium. 5,7,11

          • Doug Shaver

            What about this section near the end of the article

            What about it? I don't see "This proves he died of asphyxiation," or any words to that effect, anywhere in your quotation.

    • Roger

      ¨The theory is certainly improbable, but it's far from impossible.¨

      I believe that this is all that the author is trying to accomplish since to try to prove the swoon theory (or any other theory regarding the resurection) as impossible would be, well, impossible. The objective here is to show the incredible improbability of these naturalistic theories.

      Another thing that makes this swoon theory even more improbable is that assuming that the Romans rarely botched an execution, what are the chances of having the one that they did botch be the killing of a heretic, performing miracles and claiming to be the son of god? Talk about having ridiculously bad luck.

      • Doug Shaver

        Another thing that makes this swoon theory even more improbable is that assuming that the Romans rarely botched an execution, what are the chances of having the one that they did botch be the killing of a heretic, performing miracles and claiming to be the son of god?

        If I were inclined to suspect that Jesus didn't really die, I would not be thinking that the execution was botched. I would be taking a cue from Josephus and thinking that Joseph of Arimathea arranged for him to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. According to the gospels, Pilate didn't really want to execute him.

  • bdlaacmm

    The swoon theory is just desperation pure and simple on the part of people who actively resist believing the Gospels. (I'm not saying there aren't individuals who came by their disbelief honestly, but this particular theory involves jettisoning the last vestiges of reason.)

    I like Dr. Kreeft's justification for using argument from scripture in this specific instance. After all, to maintain the swoon theory in the first place, one has to first accept as reliable the majority of the gospel account. So it is perfectly "within the rules" to use the same standard of evidence to rebut it. In this case, the spear thrust in the side is decisive evidence against any swoon theory. That Roman soldier was going to make damn sure Jesus was dead before allowing Him off the Cross.

  • I don't think you will find much disagreement that if we accept this person was officially crucified by Roman authorities, he would not have survived the crucifixion.

    But there are a number of theological assumptions here that are not reasonable historical conclusions. One is that the Gospel of John is an eyewitness account written by the disciple John. If John was the author, it makes no sense that he would have witnessed all these things. He would not have been allowed to preset. At the trial, for example. Eyewitnesses also to not "certify" things, they provide testimony which may or may not be credible. Dr Kreeft is absolutely relying on the truth of the Gospels in this regard, as he repeatedly cites them how could he not? The Gospels are the only sources that are even claimed as dating within a century of the event.

    Next note there is a great deal of emphasis placed here on the common practices of the Romans. So this presumes the Romans were behaving normally, that this was not an exceptional situation. I would agree with that, but you cannot have it both ways. It was Roman practice to leave the bodies in the cross for many days, even weeks. There would have been no imperative to bring the bodies down the next day. Part of crucifixion was to allow the body to rot and be destroyed on the cross, left up as a warning to others. This conflicts with the Gospel account. See Bart Ehrman on this, I believe in "How Jesus Became God".

  • Ignatius Reilly

    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.

    The only data point that the swoon theory needs is the crucifixion. A swoon theorist would not necessarily consider John historical.

    • Doug Shaver

      The only data point that the swoon theory needs is the crucifixion.

      Yes, but if you can find anyone who takes the swoon theory seriously, they'll tell you that it is not the only data point they are trying to explain.

  • David Nickol

    The following has been implicit in what many have already said here, but I want to make it explicit. Although I don't believe in any version of the "swoon theory," Kreeft in effect rules out any possible version except one, which I don't think anyone has actually proposed except Kreeft himself. The Kreeft swoon theory seems to be that everything in the Gospels is true (or at least appeared to be true to the "eyewitnesses") because if not, the followers of Jesus must be lying, which then means the swoon theory doesn't apply, and events are then explained by the conspiracy theory.

    According to Wikipedia:

    Early proponents of this theory include German Karl Friedrich Bahrdt, who suggested in around 1780, that Jesus deliberately feigned his death, using drugs provided by the physician Luke to appear as a spiritual messiah and get Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah. In this interpretation of the events described in the Gospels, Jesus was resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathea, with whom he shared a connection through a secret order of the Essenes — a group that appear in many of the "swoon" theories.

    According to Kreeft, it appears that this would be a conspiracy theory, not the Kreeft swoon theory. Here's another version that Wikipedia gives in the entry on the swoon theory:

    A third rationalist theologian, Heinrich Paulus, wrote in works from 1802 onwards that he believed that Jesus had fallen into a temporary coma and somehow revived without help in the tomb. He was critical of the vision hypothesis and argued that the disciples must have believed that God had resurrected Jesus.

    This might appear to fit Kreeft's idea of an authentic swoon theory, except how can everything in the Gospels that takes place after Jesus revives from the swoon possibly be explained (e.g., the ascension in Luke and Acts)? So even this must be a conspiracy theory.