Does The Twin Theory Explain The Resurrection?

In this series, we have been discussing the Minimal Facts approach to the resurrection of Jesus.  We began by explaining that certain facts about Jesus’ life and death by crucifixion were agreed upon by a majority of New Testament scholars. Even skeptical scholars who don’t believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead agree with these facts.  So far in the series we have looked at 2 alternate explanations for the resurrection, the swoon theory and the legend theory.  In this post we’ll ask, Does the Twin Theory Explain The Resurrection?

What is the Twin Theory?

The twin theory claims that Jesus had a secret twin brother.  The real Jesus actually did die on the cross.  Shortly after this, His twin brother appeared on the scene, and convinced everyone that he was Jesus.  The Disciples were fooled into believing that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, and this is how the story was spread.  So does the twin theory explain the resurrection?

The Facts Reviewed

As with all out theories, we test them against the agreed upon facts.  For review, here are the 12 facts we are working with.  These facts were assembled by Dr. Craig Hazen from Biola University.  

The facts:

  1. Jesus died by Roman Crucifixion.
  2. He was buried, most likely in a private tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
  3. Soon afterwards, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent having lost hope.
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his burial
  5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
  6. Due to these experiences, the disciple’s lives were thoroughly transformed, to the point of being willing to die for this belief. 
  7. The resurrection message was the center of preaching in the early church.
  8. This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
  9. As a result of this preaching, the church was born and grew.
  10. Sunday became the primary day of worship.
  11. James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he believed he saw the resurrected Jesus.
  12. A few years later, Paul became a Christian believer due to an experience which he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus. 

Which facts does the twin theory explain?

So, which of these facts are explained by the twin theory?  There are a few points this theory actually does explain.  It would explain Jesus’ death by crucifixion and his burial.  It would explain the Disciples having experiences of the risen Jesus to a point (more on this later).  And it would also explain the resurrection teaching and the movement of worship to Sunday. It could even explain the conversion of Paul.  That seems like quite a lot of facts for this theory to explain doesn’t it.  So, what’s missing from the list that would keep the twin theory from explaining the resurrection? 

What facts does the twin theory NOT explain?

Two key facts from the list are not explained by this theory.  The empty tomb, and the conversion of James, the half-brother of Jesus.  

No Empty Tomb

If Jesus’ twin brother did appear to the Disciples after Jesus had been crucified, the body of the original Jesus would still be in the tomb.  As we stated before, the location of the tomb was known to the Disciples through the women that helped with the burial.  The site was also known to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.  The Jewish and Roman leadership also knew where the tomb was. They had posted guards around it to prevent the very thing that happened, rumors of Jesus rising from the dead. The Jewish and Roman leadership could have squashed what was quickly becoming a problem for them by simply taking Jesus’ body out of the tomb and exposing the lie.  

Does The Twin Theory Explain The Resurrection?

Could An Imposter Fool The Disciples?

The twin would also have to fool the Disciples into believing he was the original Jesus. Think for a moment how difficult this would have been. Sure, the brother may have looked like Jesus. But he hadn’t been crucified.  He wouldn’t have shown any marks on his body such as the ones described in John 20:27:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”[1]

To accomplish this feat, the twin would have actually had to create wounds mimicking those of Jesus.

Not only would the imposter have to look like Jesus, he would have to sound and act like him as well.  The Disciples had spent the better part of three years in the presence of Jesus.  They no doubt knew him intimately.  They would have had countless conversations that were never recorded.  Think of the communication between Jesus and the imposter that would have had to occur.  It defies reason that the imposter would know enough about what Jesus did, said and taught privately with the Disciples to fool them all.  

Could A Twin Fool His Own Half Brother?

Minimal Facts 9-12 Explained

But the real nail in the coffin of the twin theory is the conversion of James.  Being the half-brother of Jesus and growing up together, James would surely know if the twin existed.  He would not have been susceptible to any trickery along these lines.  Having grown up with the pair, this would have been his first suspicion when the twin presented himself as the risen Jesus.  James would have had nothing to gain by going along with the ruse. He didn’t believe Jesus’ message before the crucifixion.  Having a second half-brother now take up the reigns of the same message wouldn’t have produced any different reaction.

Next Time, The Wrong Tomb Theory

So, while the twin theory does account for many of the facts, it still falls short of explaining all the facts.  And that is in fact what we are attempting to do, explain ALL the facts.  

In my next post, I’ll look at another alternate explanation for the resurrection.  This challenge is known as the “Wrong Tomb” theory.  This explanation claims that the Disciples actually went to the wrong tomb and discovered it empty.  How well do you think this claim explain the facts? We’ll look at it together in the next post.  

Discuss your thoughts for this post on our Facebook Group here.  


[1]The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 20:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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