If Jesus was replaced, then WHO rose from the dead?
by Scott Cherry—
In this article I will talk about a famous event of history without naming the person to whom it is attributed. At least for a while. The event is a resurrection, or THE Resurrection. In theory, a resurrection is when a dead person comes back to life. THE Resurrection is when a particular dead person was purported to have come back to life. But who? Was it the Buddha? Was it Muhammad? How about Achilles? Could it be Osiris? Abraham Lincoln? Or maybe Superman?
2000 years later, billions of people believe this event while other billions don't. It is the defining event of a major religion, but only one. No other religion or movement owes its existence and its theology to the resurrection of its founder. None. No claimed in advance he would die and rise from the dead, and no other religion believes that about its central figure. Among those who reject this Resurrection there are two or three general camps: One rejects it on the basis of a philosophical presupposition--that miracles can't happen or that they can never be validated, by definition. Resurrection is a miracle by definition.
One of the best-known proponent of this view is Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). His position states essentially that if the likelihood of a miracle having occurred exceeds the likelihood of a false report, then one can believe it. Otherwise not. In simpler terms, Hume allows no instance of a miracle, because another explanation is always preferable. By this logic Hume rules out miracles a priori because they are always highly unusual—even if he were to witness one himself. But he also rules out the believability of any highly unusual event. C.S. Lewis puts it this way (1898-1963):
Of course, we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles--i.e. that they have never happened--why then they never have. [However], we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we know all the reports are false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.
But this kind of skepticism is not my primary focus so I shall leave it.
A subgroup of this camp would hold that miracles including resurrections are possible but the evidence is lacking, especially for this Resurrection. I will address this form of skepticism only indirectly.) Another system is the one I am most concerned with. This one does not reject miracles at all, rather it heartily embraces them. But it rejects this Resurrection. Or rather, it ignores the most famous Resurrection on the basis of a different so-called revelation stating that the person in question did not die, so he could not have risen from the dead. This is the Muslim religion. Islam. The reason Islam rejects the death of this person is for one verse in the Qur'an in Surah 4:157 as follows:
"And they did not kill him ...but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.”
That's it. But for a Muslim it's enough.
Even though this verse contradicts the primary first-century accounts of this world-renowned execution--600 years earlier--this one verse in the Qur'an is believed by Muslims over the 7 whole chapters and the 200+ verses describing this execution in explicit details by eyewitnesses or 2nd-tier reporters who had direct access to the eyewitnesses. Virtually all historians believe this execution happened, even the skeptics. Ahh, but Muslims believe it too! The Qur'anic verse does not say the execution did not happen, only that the victim was not who everybody thought it was. It was a replacement, a fill-in, an imposter, someone made to look exactly like JESUS. There, I finally named him If you are not a Muslim does this seem reasonable to you? Meanwhile, according to Muslim beliefs, the real Jesus was rescued. Allah rescued him. He rescued him to save him from the severe dishonor of that kind of death. For now, let’s just go with that. Let’s suppose that the crucified really was replaced.
The rest of this talk is devoted to the man who was actually crucified. Supposing it was not Jesus, then who rose from the dead? Indeed, did anybody rise from the dead? This is where we must turn to one of the narratives of the death and resurrection of the man who "looked like Jesus" and fooled everybody. (Most Muslims have not read them.) All four of the New Testament's gospels, or biographies, contain a similar account. However, they each have some differing details that show the writers are independent and did not collude. Let's use the one from the Apostle John because he is actually placed at the several scenes.
Matthew 28:1-15 and John 19:38-42 thru 21:14
"After these things [the crucifixion] Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, …asked Pilate [the Roman governor] that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
So she [and the other women] ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed…Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
Here I posit 10 observational questions from these narratives:
1) Joseph, a wealthy advocate of Jesus, was so convinced it was really Jesus that he stuck his neck out for the body and placed him in his own new tomb. As a first-century Jewish equivalent to Abu Bakr, why would God deceive Joseph?
2) Nicodemus was in a similar class to Joseph, so we ask the same question about him.
3) The empty tomb: Since the tomb was dramatically vacated by its sole dead occupant, why would God raise an imposter and (a criminal?) back to life?
4) Thomas doubted in the first place. If the risen man was not Jesus then he was right to disbelieve all along. Under the circumstances, was he deceived all the more?
5) The Guards: Matthew's account tells us that their experience of an earthquake and lightning-bright angels (28:2-4), the guards were terrified and became like dead men. And for their failure to safekeep the body they were surely executed. Would God perform all that for a mere lookalike?
6) Speaking of angels, would God send angels to attend to the tomb of a fake Jesus, dead or alive? Were even they deceived by a divine ruse?
7) Would God deceive Mary Magdalene and the other women, as well as Jesus's closest disciples, Peter and John, collectively the first to visit the tomb?
8) Would a resurrected fake Jesus talk to Mary outside the tomb and continue the charade?
9) Would God send a resurrected fake Jesus to appear to the disciples on at least three later occasions and continue to deceive them?
10) Would the all-merciful God allow six centuries of this deception of a fake Jesus?
Finally, consider these realated passages from the New Testament (Injeel):
1 Corinthians 15
20 “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have [died]. He is…the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col. 1:18)
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ's achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the 'first fruits,' the pioneer of life,' He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.”
C. S. Lewis