Can The Swoon Theory Explain The Resurrection

In my previous post, I explained why the challenge that “Jesus was just a legend” does not fit the facts surrounding the event.  We looked at our list of 12 minimal facts surrounding the resurrection and determined that the legend theory explains none of the agreed upon facts.  Let’s now look and see if the Swoon Theory can explain the resurrection.

What is the “Swoon” Theory?

While the “Legend” theory seems to be the most popular among atheists, the next theory we are going to talk about is a close second. It too has little explanatory power but is never the less a popular alternate explanation for the facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

Does the Swoon Theory Explain The Resurrection?

The swoon theory claims that Jesus never actually died at all.  He was simply in shock from the beating and crucifixion.  His heart slowed down from the loss of blood and he only appeared dead to those around him.  Once he was placed in the cool of the tomb he recovered.  He got up and removed his bandages and left the tomb. Once outside, he visited his Disciples and convinced them he had risen from the dead. There you go.  Case solved!

While this theory may sound plausible at the outset, it suffers from some serious flaws.  Let’s again look at our 12 minimal facts as assembled by Dr. Craig Hazen from Biola University:

Reviewing the Facts

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 faint 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. 

What Does The Swoon Theory Explain?

First, let’s look at what this theory DOES explain.  It explains #4, the tomb being empty.  There, that’s it.  It explains 1 of the 12 facts.

Does the Swoon Theory Explain The Resurrection?

The swoon theory misses the mark on perhaps the most obvious fact, that Jesus died by crucifixion. People did not survive crucifixion. The Roman execution squads were trained killers.  They knew when someone was dead.  And they made sure they completed the task given them.  Because to do otherwise and let someone live meant they would pay with their own lives.  

Would People Have Known If Jesus Wasn’t Dead?

Also the people that prepared his body for burial would have known he was still alive.  It’s easy in our culture to think that someone could be mistaken about this.  We don’t deal with dead bodies very often.  If someone dies, we have professionals come and take the body away.  We don’t normally interact with them.

People in the time of Jesus were used to dealing with their own dead.  They would bury the bodies themselves.  Everyone was familiar with the signs to look for to tell if a person had or had not died.  Surely Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have noticed while they were preparing the body.  The women who assisted them also would have known.  

Does the Swoon Theory Explain The Resurrection?

But let’s suppose for a moment that Jesus did in fact survive.  He would still be in massive shock from loss of blood. The spikes that were driven through his wrists at the crucifixion would have rendered his hands useless.  And yet He was supposedly able to roll a heavy stone away from the doorway sealing his tomb?  Not likely. 

What State Would Jesus Have Been In If He Survived?

Let’s go further. Even if He does somehow escape the tomb, he’s still going to have all the scars and wounds from the crucifixion. He’s bloody, beaten and broken.  Is the sight of him in this condition going to inspire the Disciples? Are they going to go out and risk life and limb to proclaim his resurrection?  I don’t think so.  

Does the Swoon Theory Explain The Resurrection?

The swoon theory also would not have inspired James or Paul to convert.  Neither of these two men believed in Jesus’ message before the crucifixion.  Seeing a broken and beaten Jesus would not inspire them to abandon their beliefs and follow him.  There would be no reason to.  

Wrap Up

I think we can see that the swoon theory doesn’t hold water.  It may look compelling initially.  But when you start to look at the facts of the case, it loses its luster.  The theory simply doesn’t account for the facts. The swoon theory fails to account for all but one of the 12 facts.  

In my next post, I’ll discuss another popular alternative explanation for the resurrection.  This theory is known as the “Twin” theory.  Proponents of this explanation claim that Jesus had a twin brother that assumed his identity after the crucifixion.  The brother then convinced everyone that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead.  How well do you think this theory fits the facts?  Read our next post to find out!