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CSI: Resurrection
What would TV's top detectives make of Christ's resurrection? A miracle or myth? Discover the truth with our own crime scene investigation.

It's been said: crime doesn't pay. Unless of course you're talking about CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the top-rated TV show that follows the exploits of detectives at the Las Vegas police bureau, the second busiest crime lab in America. With obsessive dedication to the facts, Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and his elite team of investigators use scientific techniques to find valuable clues in unlikely sources.

CSI Team

People are fascinated by the forensic nitty-gritty of scientific detective work—in all its gruesome detail. The show has already spawned two spin-offs based in Miami and New York. What would happen if we applied the detective work of CSI to history's most controversial event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

History or hoax?

The resurrection has been the cornerstone of the Christian faith for 2,000 years. Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God, and that His death and resurrection provide salvation for those who trust in Him. If it is all an elaborate hoax, it is among the most wicked and heartless ever devised. If it is true, however, it must be the most significant event in history.

Convicted without a proper trial or evidence, Jesus was crucified, a punishment reserved only for the worst criminals. According to the Bible, death could not keep Jesus in the grave. After three days, He rose again. What really happened? Let's look at the facts of the case, CSI-style. The following theories, devised by sceptics, can all be refuted by an analysis of the crime scene.

The swoon theory

Sceptics have suggested that Jesus did not really die, but only fainted from exhaustion. Mistaken for dead, Jesus was buried and revived in the coolness of the tomb.

Problem: This theory ignores the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death. Crucifixion was the cruellest form of punishment—designed to inflict maximum suffering and result in certain death. To survive being beaten, whipped, nailed to the cross and speared through the heart, would be a bigger miracle than the resurrection.

It is unthinkable that a man in Jesus' condition could have ripped through the grave clothes, pushed aside the enormous stone blocking the tomb's entrance and fought off the guards. John, the disciple, records how the grave clothes (see John 20:5-7) lay undisturbed, exactly as they had been when around the body of Christ.

Even if Jesus had wriggled out of His bandages, He could not have appeared to His disciples without weeks of recuperation. But the Bible records that He walked seven miles with them on the Emmaus road. One look a Jesus convinced the disciples that He had conquered death.

The hallucination theory

What if Jesus' post-resurrection appearances were hallucinations? Perhaps the disciples were so disoriented by their grief that they imagined His return.

Problem: At one time, 500 people saw the risen Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). Could so many people have had the same hallucination? Psychologists suggest that only paranoid schizophrenics have hallucinations. But Christ's appearances were not restricted to people of any particular psychological makeup.

Jesus' disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection. Hallucinations usually occur in a spirit of hopeful anticipation. According to Scripture, however, Jesus' followers felt disheartened. They forsook Jesus and fled (see Mark 14:50). On the road to Emmaus they lamented: "We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel … " (Luke 24:21). The resurrection must have been more than wishful thinking to have inspired such a dejected lot.

The impersonation theory

This theory suggests that someone impersonating Christ made those appearances. This is evident, opponents say, because some people did not recognize Jesus at first.

No one could duplicate this miraculous act except the resurrected Christ.

Problem: The disciples had spent years studying with Jesus—they ate, taught, slept and travelled together. Even a master of disguise couldn't have fooled them. The disciple Thomas was so doubtful about the resurrection that he refused to believe until he put his hand into Jesus' wounds (see John 20:24-25).

When Jesus appeared to His disciples, they were gathered together in a locked room (see John 20:19). No one could duplicate this miraculous act except the resurrected Christ. Admittedly, the disciples sometimes had trouble recognizing Him. But this was a phenomenon of Jesus' glorified body, brought about for His own purposes: "They were kept from recognizing Him" (Luke 24:16).

The spiritual theory

Some believe Christ's resurrection was not physical, but spiritual—His body stayed in the grave and the biblical account is a metaphor for spiritual resurrection.

Problem: It's a historical fact that Christ's physical body disappeared from the tomb. If the enemies of Christ wanted to disprove the resurrection, why didn't they simply produce the body?

Jesus invited the disciples to touch His physical body and He even ate with them (see Luke 24:39; John 21: 12). The Apostle Paul stressed that without a bodily resurrection " … our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14), for faithful Christians have been promised the same "spiritual bodies" when they die. Although Jesus' resurrected body had unique capacities—He could pass through solid objects and appear at will (see John 20:19)—it was also a physical body of flesh and bone.

The theft theory

This theory purports that the disciples stole the body and claimed that Jesus rose from the dead. This rumour was spread by the Jewish authorities who wanted to keep Christ's resurrection a secret (see Matthew 28:11-15).

Problem: The Jewish leaders had actually requested a Roman guard to protect the tomb against theft (see Matthew 27:63-66). The soldiers who kept watch over Jesus' body would have guarded it with their lives. The likelihood of the Galilean disciples stealing the body of Jesus out from under the noses of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers while they slept (an offence punishable by death) is remote.

The tomb was also sealed with a large rock, which would have taken many men to move. The women who discovered the empty tomb when they went early Sunday morning to finish the burial preparations marvelled that the rock had already been removed (see Mark 16:3-4).

The most important evidence is the growth of the early Church. The frightened disciples, who were ready to throw away all they had believed, were transformed by their encounter with the resurrected Jesus. They went from a dejected, disorganized group to a confident mission of whom many were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. No one would die for something they knew to be a lie. They must have been convinced of the truth of the risen Christ.

Body of evidence

How do you evaluate this overwhelming evidence? What is your decision about the fact of Christ's empty tomb? The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes remarked: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Although it seems improbable, the evidence points to the fact that Jesus rose from the grave.

What difference does it make? By His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death, and opened the way for a relationship with God. Only Jesus can offer us forgiveness, joy and peace. The Bible promises those who believe in Christ will also be resurrected to spend eternity with God (see 1 Corinthians 6:14). The resurrection is our reason for hope. This Easter, celebrate the resurrected Christ. The evidence is impossible to ignore.

Geoff Moulton is a writer based in Toronto.

Originally published in Faith and Friends, March 2005.




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