RESPONDblogs: Was Jesus’ Tomb LOST rather than EMPTY?

thelosttomb

During Easter this year, there was a startling claim made by Israeli Geologist Doctor Aryeh Shimron – “the Son of God was buried with nine other people, including Judah, son of Jesus and his wife, named Mary.” In other words – Dr Shimron is claiming that scientific methods have been used to refute and dismiss the 2000 year old Christian claim that God raised Jesus of Nazareth physically from the dead following his crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities during the AD 30s.

 

This is fascinating – but when one looks at what he is saying – the case he proposes is pretty weak to me.

 

The tomb in question is not a new discovery at all. The Talpiot tomb was unearthed during the 1980s. And the original case for identifying the Talpiot tomb as the permanent resting place of Jesus of Nazareth and his wife and children took quite a stretch of the imagination.

 

This case was made back in 2007 when movie director James Cameron (I’m a big fan of his movies) made a big media splash claiming that the final resting place of Jesus had been identified…his documentary entitled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” focussed on the Talpiot tomb. This became a great exercise in film making and marketing – but according to Doctor Gary Habermas…there wasn’t much solid history being done.

 

Cameron’s excitement was down to the discovery of Ossuaries bearing names. First century Jewish custom was to return to the grave a year after your loved one’s interment; at this point the burial clothes only contained their bones. The bones were retrieved from the tomb and placed in an Ossuary which then usually remained in the tomb. In the Talpiot tomb, various Ossuaries were discovered bearing familiar names, including Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus son of Joseph), Maria (Mary), Yose (Joseph/ Jose), Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus) and Mariamene e Mara (Miriam and Martha).

 

Could this represent evidence that Jesus of Nazareth died a normal human death? There is a box with his name on it containing bones, after all. What of the claim that Jesus of Nazareth married Mary Megdelene (Mariamene) and bore a son named Judah? Is this a reasonable inference based on the available evidence?

 

The majority of scholars who work in this field of history claim no it is not – many problems and unwarranted assumptions are being made by the filmmaker and his team. So what historical problems and assumptions exist with the 2007 case that James Cameron made?[1][2]

 

1 – Studies by scholar Richard Bauckham demonstrate that these names were VERY common in this region during the first century. There were lots of men named Jesus, women named Mary, Josephs, etc. In fact, the name Jesus has been found on 22 Ossuaries in 99 tombs. Joseph appears on 45 Ossuaries. And Mary is THE most common female name in the ancient Jewish world.

 

2 – The Jesus in the tomb was clearly known as “Son of Joseph”. But we know from the New Testament record that the earliest followers of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t call him that.

 

3 – The Talpiot tomb has been identified as an expensive one. Jesus of Nazareth and his family were not wealthy at all; they were the equivalent first century peasants.

 

4 – It is highly unlikely that the family tomb for Jesus of Nazareth would be found in Jerusalem as his family was not from Jerusalem originally.

 

5 – The ancient Jewish custom involved reuse of these bone boxes over time. An archaeologist who oversaw the original Talpiot tomb find estimated that ten Ossuaries contained the remains of seventeen people and that the surrounding tomb contained the remains of another thirty people. Of course, there is no way to tell if the bones in the box correspond to the name on the box. But it is very straightforward to tell that there are probably multiple remains, presumably of people bearing the same common name, in a single bone box.

 

6 – The introduction of DNA evidence in the case certainly brings an air of authority and “statement of fact” to the proceedings! Scientists are certainly considered the thought leaders of our day. Yet a valuable scientific method is being used here to produce data which must be reasonably and honestly interpreted. This interpretation is vulnerable to presuppositions. Such is the case in the Talpiot tomb.

 

The DNA evidence shows that there are no positive connections between anyone found in that tomb. This lack of a DNA match is used by Cameron’s team to infer a marriage relationship between Jesus and Mariamene. But this inference is unwarranted. No shred of evidence for this relationship exists. This lady could have been married to anyone in this tomb…or she could have been a daughter or lived decades after the Jesus named on the Ossuary. There is no way to be sure, particularly given the Jewish habit of burying extended families in shared tombs.

 

 

In summary – the scholarship of today is not impressed by Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. So I propose that we should be wary of its conclusions too.

 

jesus_ossuary2_sm

Coming back to the new case being proposed by geologist Doctor Shimron, what about the case he is proposing? Is it stronger? Perhaps he has uncovered more data linking and identifying the remains in some way?

 

It appears not.

 

Doctor Shimron’s case relates to a separate Ossuary known as the James Ossuary; it has an inscription on it which reads “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”. Doctor Shimron is attempting to prove that this Ossuary originated in the Talpiot tomb. This is significant to Shimron because, if he can do this, then he can bolster Cameron’s case. The New Testament documents record that Jesus of Nazareth had a brother named James. Given all the names found in the Talpiot tomb, if there was also a box labelled James there…then the evidence begins to stack up!

 

Doctor Shimron is trying to prove the link between the James Ossuary and the Talpiot tomb by comparing the muck and dust (patina) encrusting the Talpiot Ossuaries with the James one. If it is the same muck, then the Ossuaries must have originated in the same tomb. Right?

 

While scholars are interested by Shimron’s methods, it appears that his conclusions are again unwarranted and join Cameron’s claims as being unlikely at best.

 

1 – The James Ossuary had been in circulation during the 1970s, many years before the Talpiot had been excavated. How can an artefact originate in a location which is currently undiscovered and unopened?

 

2 – The dimensions of the James Ossuary are very different from the dimensions of the discovered Talpiot Ossuaries. It would not have fitted physically into the available space in that tomb.

 

3 – The James Ossuary is viewed with some suspicion by historians. Its origin is unknown. It was not excavated by an archaeologist; it appeared on the antiquities market during the 1970s. This means that the inscription on the Ossuary might be a forgery, added to increase the value of the item to potential buyers.

 

 

Has Doctor Ayreh Shimron finally made a convincing case that Jesus of Nazareth was married, had a child and died a natural death? Based on the evidence provided, no he has not.

 

But what is compelling (I would suggest) is the 2000 year old evidence that undergirds the Christian claim that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

  • The original first century tomb wasn’t mysterious at all; it was well known and owned by Joseph of Arimathea who was a Jewish leader.
  • As soon as the Christian preaching of a resurrected Christ began, all it would have taken to stop this movement would have been to open the tomb and retrieve the body.
  • And the content of the early Christian preaching was surprising and unlikely in itself. They spoke of a crucified Messiah who had been raised from the dead right there at their time. This is so far outside the construct of ancient Judaism, that something incredible must have happened to provoke it within Jesus’
  • All the historical sources agree that very soon after Jesus’ internment, the tomb was empty.
  • The sources also agree that he appeared physically to up to five hundred people during a short period following his crucifixion at the hands of Roman executioners.

 

 

Are we ever going to find the tomb containing the bones of Jesus of Nazareth? I think not, because…

 

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” Matthew 28:6, NLT

[1] Gary Habermas, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Response to the Discovery-Channel Documentary Directed by James Cameron,” Dr Gary R. Habermas Online Resources, Information, Media, accessed April 16th 2015, http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/The_Lost_Tomb_of_Jesus/losttombofjesus_response.htm.

[2] Gary Manning Jr, “New Claims Regarding the ‘Family of Jesus’ Tomb,” The Good Book blog, accessed April 16th 2015, http://www.thegoodbookblog.com/2015/apr/13/new-claims-regarding-the-family-of-jesus-tomb/.

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RESPONDblogs: But the Tomb Was Empty

Image

It stands unique and alone across all of human history.

Many important people have come…and gone.

  • Some have started religious movements
  • Some have been business leaders or political touch stones
  • Others have been celebrities who dominate popular culture

Yet they all have something in common – one day they all died. The time came when a decaying corpse was all that was left of them.

And then there’s Jesus. What did he leave behind?

AN EMPTY TOMB.

Contemporary Roman and Jewish history recounts the events surrounding the empty tomb.

About this time there was a wise man whose name was Jesus and he was known to be good and do works of justice. Many people among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who would become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he appeared to them on the third day returned to life. Accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians so named after him have not disappeared to the present day.

Josephus, 1st Century Roman Historian

Neither the governments of Rome nor Israel counted Jesus as a friend. They conspired to get rid of him. But they could not honestly ignore the result of their attempt.

AN EMPTY TOMB.

Some have examined the evidence and put forward “common-sense” explanations:

“His tomb was empty because…he didn’t die on the cross. He walked out of the tomb alive.”

This would be miraculous in itself, given Jesus’ expert Roman executioners whose own lives were on the line if he survived his execution. Have you ever seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”? There’s just no way he walked out of that tomb alive.

“His tomb was empty because…his disciples stole the body and disposed of it privately.”

Yet this does not fit the psychological profile of the defeated and rejected friends of Jesus…mourning his passing one day…and then suddenly becoming world changing action men the next. People who go to their graves spreading the exciting news that Jesus resurrection means hope for us all!

“His tomb was empty because the Jewish or Roman authorities stole the body and disposed of it privately.”

This is the oldest explanation – it’s mentioned in the New Testament account itself. Yet why would Jesus enemies inflame a growing legend about the troublesome Jesus? They wanted him disposed of…not proclaimed from the street corners. Any conspiracy around Jesus remains would have resulted in his corpse being produced to quell the growing excitement around his resurrection. And yet no historic account of such an event exists. Why? Because they had no body to produce.

“His tomb wasn’t empty. People just forgot where he was buried…they went to the wrong tomb.”

His friends knew very well where he was buried. There were Roman Guards posted at the tomb. And anyway – if the outpouring of grief at his death had confused his friends as to the whereabouts of his remains…the Jewish authorities would have had no such confusion. They would have hauled out his remains for all to see given the first opportunity. But they couldn’t. Because they had no body to produce.

No. Jesus’ tomb…the one loaned to him for a short while by Joseph of Arimathea…

  • Contained his corpse on the first Good Friday
  • Was empty by the first Easter  Sunday.
  • And his subsequent appearances, alive and well, during a brief window of time have been recorded for us in the pages of history.

Archaeologists have unearthed the unsettled reaction by the Roman Government at the time.

An edict from the Roman Emperor – warning that anyone found tampering with tombs in and around Jerusalem – would themselves be subject to the death penalty. 

Unsettling as it was, Jesus wasn’t naturally raised from the dead. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead at that specific point in human history. There was purpose behind it. All the authorities could do in the face of such a seismic event was to pass a pointless law to prevent “bodies from ever getting stolen again”.

Too late.

The Resurrection had already occurred.

And our world would never be the same again.

RESPONDblogs: Is the Christian Claim of Jesus’ Resurrection Just Wishful Thinking?

i_want_to_believe

In 1961, the first big Alien Abduction claim hit the public consciousness. Barney and Betty Hills, from Portsmouth New Hampshire, reportedly had a Close Encounter with…something. It has cemented them and their claims firmly in pop culture.

 

And this raises a question for me. As I raise my eyebrow at the Hills’ outlandish claim, I wonder whether the New Testament’s report of Jesus physical return from the dead is any less outlandish and fanciful?

 

Let’s go back for a moment to the cold war tensions and paranoia of 1961. It wasn’t just a new decade marked by musical brilliance and Moon shots. Aliens were also reportedly doing medical procedures on unfortunate folks who were going about their daily business!

 

What exactly was Barney Hills claim?

 

Driving home one evening, they thought they saw something unusual in the night sky. Actually – many people including the US Military later agreed that something weird was happening that night. They reportedly stopped the car and took a good look. But the bright lights – and the erratic behavior of the object – began to freak them out. So they hurried back to their car and drove on. Before long – it became apparent they were 35 miles further down the road than they should have been. They appeared to have lost time!

Many weeks later, following a period of disrupted sleep and nightmares, they reportedly went thru regression hypnosis. And this brought out vivid details of little bald grey captors, operating tables and medical procedures.

Actually this is only the first well documented case of Alien Abduction – throughout the next 20 years, a number of similar claims were made by apparently ordinary people with no apparent reason to lie.

 

The New Testament contains 2000 year old eyewitness reports from apparently ordinary people too.

  • Reports of the death of Jesus of Nazareth, followed by the grief and shock of his friends.
  • Reports that these grieving people then subsequently encountered their friend back from the dead at various different times and places over a 40 day period.

 

Sounds pretty unlikely – right? Dead people don’t come back. Aliens don’t abduct people driving home in their cars.

 

Whatever historical event you are trying to verify – whether mundane or fantastical – historians apply 5 criteria to test the solidity of the report.

A solid Historical claim will:

1 – be supported by multiple, independent sources

2 – be attested to by enemies (hostile witnesses) as well as friends

3 – include embarrassing admissions which reflect honest reporting rather than creative storytelling

4 – be supported by direct eyewitness testimony

5 – be supported by early testimony making legendary development impossible

 

The problem with the Barney and Betty Hills Alien Abduction claim is – by the criteria laid out above – we do not have a solid Historical report.

The only witnesses were the alleged abductees. There are no independent sources or witnesses – either friendly or hostile – to the Hill’s claim.  While other people agreed something strange was seen in the night sky that evening in September 1961, no other witness to the alleged Close Encounter exists. We’re right to be skeptical – their case is historically unverified.

 

So – what about the Bible’s claim that God raised Jesus from the dead? (Acts 2:24) Well – a historical case based on a minimal set of data does exist. What is this data and how solid is the case?

 

DATA POINT 1 – The Death of Jesus By Crucifixion

This fact is attested by every Gospel, and many non-Christian sources too. For example – Roman historian Josephus, Tacitus, the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata as well as the Jewish Talmud itself.

Jesus crucifixion meets the historical criteria of multiple independent eyewitnesses, early sources and enemy attestation.

Some have proposed that – maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross. He merely swooned, was then buried and was then revived in the cold tomb.

But this doesn’t work.

  • Roman executioners were excellent torturers and executioners
  • Jesus faking his resurrection goes against his moral teachings
  • There are no early reports he was wounded and not killed
  • A half dead Messiah could not serve as the foundation for a belief in the Resurrection. If his friends had encountered him bloodied and bleeding…they would not have called him the Lord of Life. They would have called him a doctor!
  • Jewish thinking said, only once at the end of human history would the dead be raised. This means that – on encountering Jesus alive again after his crucifixion –his followers would naturally have just assumed he didn’t die. Yet this is not what they claimed. It is highly culturally unusual for the Jewish early Church to proclaim him as Christ crucified and raised from death.

 

DATA POINT 2 – The Empty Tomb

All naturalistic theories that attempt to explain away the Resurrection presuppose the empty tomb. The body was reportedly gone.

From the beginning, the hostile Jewish authorities claimed that Jesus’ followers had stolen his body to fake his resurrection. But this claim gives no reason WHY they would have done so.

Further – the claim that the disciples stole the body does not work within Jewish culture at that time. There was no expectation of a Messiah who would become the suffering servant; who was executed shamefully by the Gentiles, and then raised bodily before the general resurrection at the end of time. Rather – Messiah’s were ten a penny in ancient Jerusalem. If your Messiah got themselves killed – you either gave up and went home, or you hitched your wagon to a different one. But the idea that Jesus followers stole his corpse and faked his resurrection just wouldn’t have entered their minds at that point in Jewish history.

Finally – if the disciples stole the body – this doesn’t explain the conversion of Christianity’s 1st century enemy turned Apostle – Saul who became Paul.

Surely if someone had managed to produce his rotting corpse and deposit it in the middle of Jerusalem for all to see….that would have been an end to it. But they could not.

DATA POINT 3 – The Post-Resurrection Appearances

Scholars cite 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as the earliest snapshot of Christian belief about Jesus. Paul claimed to receive this creed from the original Apostles many years before he wrote his letter. Scholars date the creed to within months or weeks of the crucifixion itself.

Three of our four minimal facts are recorded there as an early statement of belief – Christ died, his tomb was discovered empty and he was seen by his closest friends. And then more than five hundred people saw him at once.

The early date of this creed rules out legendary embellishment because there simply wasn’t time for legends to develop. And besides – the eye witnesses were still alive at the time this was passed on.

Yet over hundreds of years some legends did develop; they are referred to as the 3rd century Gnostic Gospels. In comparison to the New Testament’s stark and excited eyewitness reporting, the Gnostic Gospels are full of bizarre and fanciful imagery.

 

Some have suggested hallucination as an explanation for the appearances. People saw what they wanted to see. But Psychologists have ruled this out. Hallucinations are private experiences yet crowds of eyewitnesses reportedly witnessed the risen Jesus. Remember, Jews would not expect to see a raised Jesus anyway. And finally – hallucination does not explain the empty tomb itself or indeed Saul’s conversion to Christianity.

 

DATA POINT 4 – The Origin of the Christian Faith

Within one generation of Jesus crucifixion, “the Way” had spread to Europe, Asia and Africa. If Christianity is the effect – then what was the cause?

Well – surely the most obvious cause is the Apostles belief that God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead. And this belief transformed people’s lives. The cultural worship practices of Jewish people changed. Church moved to a Sunday.

Could the Disciples have stolen the body and made it all up? No lie or shared conspiracy or mistaken observation has the explanatory power to ignite the Christian church in human history.

 

IN SUMMARY

Jesus resurrection is based on historically verifiable evidence – it meets the 5 requirements outlined earlier in this blog. However unusual the event, there is powerful evidence of the event’s historical reliability. Even though we don’t understand how it happened – this does not preclude us from historically accepting that it did happen.

 

Really?

You’ve got to be gullible to believe Alien abduction reports – right? In the same way, dead men do not rise!

Hold on a minute –

The historical basis of the resurrection is incredibly strong. And no one claims Jesus was raised from the dead by natural means. Christians simply repeat what the Bible eye witness accounts say – that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Besides – you don’t have to understand something to accept the truth of it. Ask any Scientist to explain human consciousness; where does it come from? Then ask them what energy really is. They don’t really know. If Scientists can accept these things even though they don’t understand how and why they work – can’t we accept Jesus’ Resurrection as true based on observable and historically verifiable evidence?

RESPONDblogs: An Unexplained Darkness During Jesus’ Crucifixion

CaptureIn my experience, one of the first questions that Biblical sceptics ask about the miracle claims in the Bible is this – “Is there any evidence for this event outside the Bible?” I think this is a very reasonable question.

 

During the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible records a miraculous sounding turn of events. The Synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew 27:45; 51-52, Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44-45) all record an unexpected period of darkness which occurred while the crucifixion was progressing. Matthew goes further to give it a duration – 3 hours – and also claims it was accompanied by something like an earthquake.

 

Is there any evidence outside the Bible for this surprising turn of events? If it really happened then surely it would have been a source of shock and surprise to the wider population of Jerusalem that day? The gospel account does not give any clue as to how large an area was affected by the claimed darkness. Was it restricted to the areas surrounding Jerusalem in some way? Was it felt by people living elsewhere on the planet? The text does not tell us. Again – we can assume it…but we don’t know from the Gospel texts themselves.

 

Well – a very ancient extra-Biblical account of the 3 hour long darkness and rock splitting earthquake – does in fact exist. To find it we need to read reports from one pagan Roman historian who was a contemporary of Jesus living in Palestine, one pagan Roman historian who lived later in the 2nd century and another who lived one hundred years later in Jerusalem.

 

Thallus, est. AD50:

Roman historian Thallus, believed to be a Samaritan, recorded strange events during Tiberius Ceasar’s reign around Jerusalem. We know from Thallus’s colleague Suetonius (also a Roman Historian) that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified during the reign of Tiberius. And Thallus is mentioned by various historical sources including his colleague Josephus.

Thallus describes an “eclipse of the sun”; he gives a naturalistic explanation of an event which is dated to the time period of the crucifixion.

 

Phlegon, est. AD137:

Phlegon was believed to have been born around the time of Jesus crucifixion, and wrote an account later in the 1st century. He too mentions the darkness and even records the time and duration of the event; and it lines up with Matthew’s report – between the 6th hour and the 9th hour. He also mentions the earthquake affecting Bythinia and part of Nicea (hundreds of miles north of Jerusalem). I will quote a surviving fragment of his “The Olympiads” at the bottom of this blog post.

Neither Thallus or Phlegon appear to have made any attempt to link the events specifically to Jesus’ crucifixion. Why would they? Yet a later 3rd century historian – Julius Africanus – did just that.

 

Julius Africanus, est. AD230:

He researched the earlier Thallus and Phlegon reports…and he added some commentary of his own. I will quote Julius Africanus at the bottom of this blog…but let me pull out some threads of what he is saying – and what he is not saying – in his account.

 

1 – A Disturbing Darkness. He points specifically to the darkness, it was a well-known historical event. The three hour darkness and its associated earthquake clearly affected a large region because many people got caught up in the discussion about it afterwards. Just how large the region was, though, is hard to tell.

2 – It Could Not Have Been an Eclipse. Julius quotes Thallus’ historical mention of the darkness. But he challenges Thallus’ reasoning for its occurrence. How can this have been an eclipse of the sun when the dates and times were all wrong? There was a full moon at that point in the Jewish calendar, and an eclipse of the sun would have been impossible.

3 – People at the Time Had Many Theories for Why It Happened. It seems that there were many different conflicting explanations suggested for this darkness at the time.  This is to be expected; people are curious – and inquisitive. We aren’t talking a cloudy day or a sudden rain downpour. This was a significant event that was debated amongst learned people at the time. There must have been many theories for what had happened that day! Julius is not convinced by Thallus’ naturalistic explanation. This is not just any astronomical event that is being discussed here – this is a very specific one which occurred during the reign of Tiberius Ceasar – around the time when Jesus Christ was crucified.

4 – He Corroborates Claims in the New Testament Gospels. He also points out Phlegon’s precise timing of the darkness and rock splitting event. This lines the account up with the claims in Matthew’s Gospel. He goes further and mentions the “resurrection of the dead” – a claim that Matthew’s Gospel specifically makes as having occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death. (Matthew 27:52-53). Julius is writing a hundred years after these events. But his report seems to refer to events that were known from the time.

5 – Africanus Stuck To the Facts. Julius is not specifically arguing that a supernatural event occurred that day. I will sometimes hear sceptics talk down to those who lived in 1st century Palestine. “Oh, they would have believed anything back then!” But these people were not stupid – and not as naive as many folks assume. Julius’ focus here is on recording what happened that day and when. He is also very focused on arguing what did not happen – this event could NOT have simply been a natural eclipse.

 

 

Is there a Naturalistic Explanation for the Unexpected Darkness?

By the way – people still have naturalistic theories why the darkness occurred. Most still tend to repeat the argument that Julius Africanus refuted in the 3rd century…that the unexpected darkness during Jesus’ crucifixion was simply an eclipse. And the population of the time were so gullible and naive that they didn’t realise that was what it was. But modern scientific analysis shows that this darkness CANNOT be explained away as a natural eclipse; it cannot have been either an expected Lunar or Solar Eclipse.

A Lunar Eclipse did happen in AD33 during the night time, so it would not have been visible to the population…because it was already dark by then. Check here for more information.

Two Solar Eclipses happened in AD33. Check here for more information. But neither fit the time or description or location of the events reported during Jesus’ crucifixion.

  • The first one (Cat #04856) happened on 19th March, but only people in a boat floating on the Southern Ocean would have seen it. It would not have been visible in Jerusalem.
  • The second one (Cat #04857) happened on 12th Only people in the Northern Hemisphere would have experienced a total solar eclipse on that day. Jerusalem is so far south, that a fraction of the eclipse would have been visible to them that day; probably hardly noticeable and certainly not worthy of lots of discussion and theorising by learned people of the time.

 

 

Summary

In summary, we have independent, extra-Biblical witnesses of an unexpected and specific 3 hour period of darkness on the day Jesus was crucified.  And we have historical evidence of a debate for the cause of this unexpected astronomical event.  We also have the Phlegon account of the earthquake felt as far north from Jerusalem as Nicea.

So the answer to my question is – YES. I think we DO have corroborative evidence outside the Bible for another of its miracle claims – the unexpected darkness and the earthquake that accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

 

 

References

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth–manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. (The Extant Fragments of the five Books of Chronography of Julius Africanus XVIII.1)

 

In the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great eclipse of the sun, greater than had ever been known before, for at the sixth hour the day was changed into night, and the stars were seen in the heavens. An earthquake occured in Bythinia and overthrew a great part of the city of Nicea. (The Extant Fragments of The Olympiads of phlegon)

 

 

 

 

RESPONDblogs: Was Jesus Dead When He Was Laid In the Tomb?

Nails

It is all very well presenting the historical evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection, as I did here. But if Jesus wasn’t actually dead before he was laid in that well known tomb…the conclusion is completely invalid. If Jesus of Nazareth survived his crucifixion, then there could be no miraculous resurrection…cos he wasn’t dead to begin with!
So I need to ask – is there any way of working out whether or not Jesus actually died as a result of his documented crucifixion by Roman Soldiers outside Jerusalem during the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius?

 
Alex Metherell, M.D., Ph.D. is a forensic pathologist, a medical detective who has performed countless autopsies. He has a medical degree from the University of Miami and a doctorate in engineering from the University of Bristol. He has written for publications ranging from Aerospace Medicine to Scientific American.

Alex is also a Christian and, because he is a pathologist, he has studied the historical, archaeological and medical data concerning the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Alex Metherell has studied the available data and he believes there is no possibility that Jesus of Nazareth survived the agonising experience of crucifixion. Jesus was dead when he was laid in that well known tomb.

A rather graphic summary (apologies!) of Alex’s evidence is listed below:

 

 

Psychological Stress as Jesus Anticipated the Cross
The Gospels record that Jesus prayed all night in the garden of Gethsemane where he began to sweat blood.
Hematidrosis is a recognised condition where capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, and sweat comes out of the skin tinged with blood.

 

 

floggingwhip
Roman Flogging of Jesus
The solider would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls and pieces of sharp bone woven in. The whip would strike the flesh on the back, buttocks and back of the legs repeatedly…39 lashes was common. What effect did this have?

  • The balls would cause deep bruises that would burst open on repeated blows
  • The skin on the back would become shredded, sometimes exposing the victim’s spine. One physician and expert on Roman beatings says the underlying skeletal muscles would be torn into producing quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh
  • “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” Roman Historian Eusebius
  • If the victim survived this flogging they would often go into hypovolemic shock. In other words, the effects of losing a large volume of blood. This means a drop in blood pressure, heart racing to pump blood that’s not there, extreme thirst as the body craves fluids to replace lost blood volume.

 

 

Approach to the Crucifixion Site
Jesus was forced to carry the horizontal beam of the cross all the way.
He struggled, and a Roman Soldier ordered a bystander (Simon) to help him
He was thirsty as he made the journey, which points to the effects of hypovolemic shock

Jesus was clearly in a critical condition before the nails were driven thru his hands and feet.
The Excruciating Agony of Crucifixion
The word excruciating was invented to describe the unique experience of crucifixion – the word literally means “out of the cross”.

Some people were tied to the cross, but the account of Jesus points to him being nailed to the cross. This was not uncommon; archaeologists have found remains buried in Jerusalem with a spike still attached to the bones of the foot with wood from the upright beam still present.

  • Romans used spikes 5 to 7 inches long, tapered to a sharp point
  • The spikes were driven thru the wrists (considered part of the hand in the language of the day) to attach him to the crossbar
  • The crushing of the median nerves would be incredibly painful
  • Once hoisted, the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake and spikes were driven thru his feet to attach him there

 

The physiological effects on his body would have been brutal.

  • Both shoulders would dislocate (which fulfils the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22)
  • Once in this agonizing position, crucifixion is a slow death by asphyxiation. The stresses on the body put it into the inhale position. In order to exhale air from the lungs, the victim has to push themselves up on his feet. Doing so would cause further tearing of the flesh in his feet. This process of dropping down again and pushing up to breathe would have been incredibly painful, and would have scraped his shredded back against the wooden upright
  • Eventually exhaustion would cause the victim to cease pushing upwards and therefore cease breathing
  • A lack of oxygen leads to respiratory acidosis – carbon dioxide in the bloodstream – leading to an irregular heartbeat. Combined with the hypovolemic shock, Jesus would most probably have died of heart failure.

 

Ensuring Jesus was Dead
The Roman soldiers who executed their victims were by no means experts on human anatomy; but they were skilled and experienced at executions. They knew how to kill people efficiently.
Often to speed up the process of crucifixion, they would use their metal spears to break the leg bones of the victim so that they could no longer push up to breathe – causing death very quickly.

In Jesus case, it is recorded that the Roman executioner was certain he was already dead. But he stuck his spear into his right side, probably between his ribs, to be sure.

  • John’s Gospel records that blood and water ran out of this wound
  • Assuming that the spear penetrated thru the lung into the heart, the pericardial effusion surrounding the heart, which was caused by the hypovolemic shock, would have burst giving the appearance of water running from the spear wound

Could Jesus have survived his crucifixion? Doctor Metherell’s conclusion is – not a chance.

 

 

reflections on Christ - crucifixion

BUT – say he did? Imagine that having experienced all that has been described, that he is revived in the cool of his tomb, rolls the stone away, evades the Roman Guards posted there, staggers away on feet that have been crushed by metal spikes. How would he have looked? The trauma would have left in in a pitiful state. His followers would not have seen him as the Lord of life who had triumphed over the grave. They would not have called him Lord…they would have called him a Doctor!

“…it’s preposterous to think that if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like this. There’s just no way.”

Was Jesus dead when he was laid in the tomb? A reasonable examination of the evidence suggests – yes, of course he was.

 

 

Adapted from:

Strobel Lee. The Case for Christ. Chapter 11 The Medical Evidence. Zondervan.