Did Jesus Actually Die On The Cross?

As we approach Easter, I thought it would be beneficial to look at the theories surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. So, for the next few weeks we will look at the major theories that have been proposed to explain Jesus’ whereabouts after His death and then we will conclude on Easter. As we do, let’s keep in mind the central role that the Resurrection plays in Christianity according to the Apostle Paul. Everything hinges on the Resurrection.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.”                                                                                           -1 Corinthians 15:14

Apparent Death Theory

The first theory we will look at is “The Apparent Death” theory. This theory attempts to say that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. He was taken off of the cross seemingly dead, but was actually just unconscious. After being placed in the tomb, His wounds somehow healed, and He somehow freed Himself from His burial cloths and the tomb itself. Thus, when He appeared to the disciples, it wasn’t because He had risen from the dead, but because He had never died in the first place. This theory also assumes that Jesus would allow this lie to continue and that no one would expose this lie until the 18th century by some liberal German theologians. So, did Jesus only seemingly die, or did he actually die?

Crucifixion Kills

Crucifixion originated with the Babylonians, but it was perfected by the Romans. The odds of survival are not good. A criminal condemned to crucifixion is nearly guaranteed to die of asphyxiation. With hands and feet nailed to the cross, Jesus would hang in a position that makes it hard to breathe. In order to catch a breath, He would have to push up on the nails to a position that makes it easier to breath, but obviously, excruciatingly painful. He couldn’t stay in this position for very long and would have to release Himself back down to the position that is hard to breathe. Eventually, He would be too exhausted to push Himself up for another breath, and would suffocate. If this isn’t enough, the historical record says that the guards penetrated His side with a spear for good measure.

The odds of surviving this are not good. The most likely scenario is that Jesus died on the cross. Even if he had been buried barely alive, the most likely scenario would then be that he would die in the tomb. The odds of healing from these normally fatal wounds, and escaping the tomb unnoticed by the guards before Mary and the rest of His followers came to visit must be fantastically improbable. So at the very least, this theory is improbable, if not, impossible.

The Stone

When the women approach the stone they ask, “Who will roll away the stone?”(Mark 16:3) This at least shows that moving the stone from the outside by a few healthy women would be difficult, if not, impossible. How then could Jesus, one man, who had just taken the beating of a lifetime, roll away the stone from the inside? This would seem to require a miracle, which is what this theory is trying to avoid.

The Soldiers

The soldiers who put Jesus to death on the cross were good at their jobs. They were good because their lives depended on it. History says that the soldiers at the tomb ran to the chief priests in fear after they realized the body was missing from the tomb. Imagine if these soldiers had failed to crucify Him in the first place! For a soldier to unsuccessfully crucify a condemned criminal would be a death sentence itself. This is why they made certain their criminals were dead before taking them down.

The Disciples

When Jesus appeared to the disciples they were amazed. They responded with worship; recognizing Him as Lord. Now, if Jesus had showed up in the condition that this theory would have Him in, no one in their right mind would think He had risen from the dead. He wouldn’t appear as a conqueror, but as weak and defeated. Even less likely is that the disciples would give their lives for such a person. They might consider Him lucky to have survived, but they would not have thought Him to be the resurrected Lord.

Conclusion

Given the nature of crucifixion, the perfectionism of Roman soldiers, and the tomb in which He was placed, it is highly improbable, if not altogether impossible, that Jesus not only didn’t die on the cross, but somehow escaped the tomb a few days later. The evidence for Jesus’ death is strong. And the fact that he died is part of our argument for the Resurrection. After all, in order for a resurrection we must first have a death. And I think it is safe to say that Jesus died. The question is: did he stay dead?

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16 Replies to “Did Jesus Actually Die On The Cross?”

  1. Christ died a horrible death for my sin, yet death could not hold a sinless God-man, Jesus. For the wages of sin is death.

  2. I’ve heard all of these defenses before and agree with them, but particularly liked the one about the disciples worshipping him as Lord. Yes, I absolutely agree that had he been in the condition of a survivor rather than as the risen Lord, we absolutely wouldn’t be having this conversation. Excellent point. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for your site, I’ve only read one post so far and the sincerity that your site conveys is genuine. May God Bless your site, your readers, and may His will be done with the site. Believe it or not, the enemy will do, and does every day things to prevent Gods work from being done. Even placing virtual online obstacles attempting to block readers from discovering sites, which are founded through the knowledge of Gods light which resides in the hearts of honest and upright men. May all those obstacles be removed so that readers worldwide have wide open access to the sites that well help them get to know who God is. The enemy is always busy developing strategies rooted in manipulation and cleverness, but hear this.. They shall be swallowed whole by the creation of their very own devices, the ones they themselves designed to serve as obstacles shall now be rendered powerless and shall no longer serve them, but the servants and children of God. Amen!

  4. Theory one is made me laugh. Not you work, what made me laugh are these men who pull these theories out of thin air, foolishly believing they are wise. Their academic achievements and recognition serve to boast their egos, and boost the illusion that their intellect is sharp, but all the wise who have become wise through close communion with God clearly see their intellect is in fact dull and powerless. They cannot even cut a sliver off a stick of warm butter. God alone is wisdom and a fountain of knowledge to those searching for Him.

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog. When I saw “apologetics”, I thought immediately of Ravi Zacharias–I could listen to him speak for hours. God bless you abundantly.

  6. These theories remind me of Matthew 11:25 where Jesus is thanking God because He has “hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children.” It comes down to your faith in God’s word. You either believe what it says or you don’t, but it’s dangerous to make up your own theories to justify certain texts in our own mind. Acts 2:31 says, “ he foresaw and spoke about the Christ, neither was he forsaken in the Grave, nor did his flesh see corruption.” For Christ to not be “forsaken” in the Grave (or Hades/hell) he had to be there first which proves that he died. Also, the apostle Paul shows us that blood needed to be shed in order for a sacrifice to be complete as a ransom (Hebrew 9:12-14;Matthew 20:28).

  7. There is no first hand testimony or other proof that Jesus ever lived. Much of the Christian Bible is similar to previous religious claims and stories. Yes, Christianity plays an important role to believers as does many thousands of other religions have to their believers, but Chritianity no base in factual history any more than the religions that preceded it. An objective analysis of religion’s role in human history has got to include religious wars, inquisitions, crusades, persecution, and lose of free choice. Of course supernatural beliefs can inspire and console among other benefits, but beliefs in any religion can do that. As far as a promise of an after life, that claim is totally unfounded. If you need a placebo crutch, religion does a great job and I can see why there have been hundreds of thousands of religions invented by human societies many more concepts of deities. Present me with facts and I will believe.

    1. That Jesus existed and died by cricifixion under Pontius Pilot isnt even debated amongst scholars, it is a given considering all of the extra-biblical sources and early historians that recorded this fact like Josephus and Tacitus.

      1. Haden You are correct, religious bible scholars do not debate whether Jesus existed or not, but there are no hard facts proving he was anymore than a compilation of after the fact stories that were promoted by those who believed he actually did exist. You are apparently reading only that research that substantiates your beliefs. I must suspend my belief in the legend until I find good evidence. Stay happy in your beliefs friend.

      2. Respectfully, Bart Ehrman is a leading New Testament scholar and he is also a skeptic – a non-believer. He would find the idea that Jesus didn’t exist laughable, to say the least. There’s no debate among any scholars, whether believers or non-believers, because there is ample early testimony from enemies of Christianity that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilot. I read everyone, not just the believers. No offense, but your comments reveal that you don’t. It’s you that needs to tell me, and all of these scholars, why all of the early extra-biblical sources are wrong. I hope you actually look for evidence, you’ll find it. Best of luck, stay happy in your beliefs as well, friend.

      3. Unfortunately, some secularists erroneously accept the contention that a non deity human existed by the name of Jesus, but there is no actual proof that “he” was not a compilation of legends that were written and revised many times by church fathers. Attributes of this legend were actually debated and voted upon. Even today there are so many Chistian religions with different beliefs about the Jesus person, it is difficult to know what is true or not. Religious inquisitions, crusades, reformations and many wars have occurred in his name and everyone thinks they know the truth and are acting under his blessings. Rather than believe without proof, it might be best to remain agnostic about an actual person who supposedly performed miracles and did impossible things. If a secularist scholar believes a man called Jesus ever lived, that scholar most certainly does not believe in the Jesus as depicted in the Bible. More likely they acknowledge Jesus is a legend created by those who use the church for control and power retention. There are sincere believers who need religious rules to live moral lives, but morality did not originate with religion. Forms of empathy, love, kindness, etc. are are found in other than human species; they were not invented by a fictitious god or gods over and over again. Humans are the inventors of deities and religious customs. Muslims and Jews have contrary beliefs to Christians and Christians kill, torture and war among themselves over their own beliefs. Deluded folk believe they know the truth and the rest of humanity is wrong. Simply put, a person does not need religion or a Christ to live a good life in step with his fellow humans and all other life on this wonderful earth.

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