The chart below attempts to summarise the main facts and the main theories about the events surrounding Jesus, his death and the claimed resurrection.
Are the facts adequately explained by the various theories?
|The conspiracy theory: the disciples stole the body||The apparent death (swoon) theory: Jesus revived in the tomb||The wrong tomb theory: the women went to another empty tomb||The displaced body theory: Joseph moved the body to another tomb||The hallucinations theory: the disciples saw visions of Jesus alive||The NT claim: God raised Jesus from the dead|
|Jesus was crucified & buried||Yes||Yes/No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The tomb was found to be empty||Yes||Yes/No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|The disciples then claimed to have seen Jesus alive||Yes||Yes/No||No||No||Yes/No||Yes|
|The disciples did not expect Jesus to die or be raised||No||Yes/No||No||No||Yes/No||Yes|
|The disciples became fearless preachers that turned the world upside down||No||Yes/No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Enemies of Jesus were converted to Christianity (James & Saul)||No||Yes/No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Does this theory account for all the facts?||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
 Totally opposed to the portrait of the disciples and the Jewish cultural background context – they did not expect Messiah to die and it is therefore unreasonable to imagine them coming up with this plan. Unreasonable to imagine the disciples suffering, ultimately to their death, for a lie.
 Completely implausible theory, despite seemingly answering all the facts. Jesus would not have been able to exit the tomb. Indeed, if he had, he would not convince the disciples that he had risen from the dead whilst suffering from serious crucifixion wounds. It also imagines the Romans as incompetent in doing their job.
 No accounting for the appearances unless used together with the hallucination theory. The Jews would have been happy to point out the correct tomb and display the body. For this reason alone we should discount the wrong tomb theory.
 Shares the weaknesses of the wrong tomb theory in that it does not account for the appearances.
 Hallucinations are based on pre-conceived notions. The disciples did not expect the Messiah to die, let alone be raised from the dead. Additionally, if they had simply seen visions, they would have regarded it as his ‘ghost’ (Luke 24:37), and proof he was dead!
 This explanation fits the facts best, but implies a miraculous event. However, it is the most ‘natural’ fit of all the data. For example, it would be a ‘miracle’ of psychology if all the disciples suffered and died knowing it was for a lie. The miracle of the resurrection is therefore the most believable.