The resurrection of Jesus - Part 4

SERMON TOPIC: The resurrection of Jesus - Part 4

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 4 June 2023


Sermon synopsis: Adherents of the Swoon Theory claim that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but merely fell unconscious or ‘swooned’. After being placed in a damp tomb - bleeding and without food or water for three days he then revived. He somehow unwrapped the grave clothes, rolled away the two-ton stone, overpowered the guards and went on to convince others that he had risen from the dead.

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The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the belief that Jesus returned to life on a Sunday three days after he was crucified. A central tenet of Christian faith, it forms part of the early Nicene Creed: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures”.


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the belief that Jesus returned to life on a Sunday three days after he was crucified. A central tenet of Christian faith, it forms part of the early Nicene Creed: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures”.


Historicity of Jesus

Stolen body theory

Wrong Tomb theory

Hallucination theory

Spiritual resurrection theory

Swoon theory

Swoon theory

Swoon theory

Adherents claim that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but merely fell unconscious or ‘swooned’. After being placed in a damp tomb - bleeding and without food or water for three days he then revived. He somehow unwrapped the grave clothes, rolled away the two-ton stone, overpowered the guards and went on to convince others that he had risen from the dead.

This hypothesis has not been widely held by scholars besides the controversial German theologian Karl Friedrich Bahrdt (1741–1792) who suggested it. *

A professor at Leipzig, Bahrdt was dismissed in 1768 for immoral living. At the same time, he abandoned the orthodox standpoint, which he probably never had held seriously. With reckless brutality he later attacked every kind of belief in revealed religion. **

* He proposed that Jesus deliberately feigned his death, using drugs provided by the physician Luke to appear as a spiritual messiah and get Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah… Jesus was resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathea, with whom he shared a connection through a secret order of the Essenes—a group that appear in many of the ‘swoon’ theories. - http:// wiki/ Swoon_hypothesis ** http:// ccel/ schaff/ encyc01.html? term=Bahrdt,%20Karl%20Friedrich

This attributes incompetence or stupidity to many people.

An entire squad of Roman executioners, who were the most knowledgeable military men in the ancient world and experts at “killing people”, couldn’t tell whether their prisoner was really dead.

The Romans and Jewish leaders all failed to discover the deception.

The disciples were stupid enough to believe that Jesus had raised himself from the dead.

The reality is that Pilate was so thorough that he would only release the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea once the centurion in charge had certified that Jesus was in fact dead.

Mark 15:43-45 (NIV) Joseph of Arimathea… went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.


The Swoon Theory has been criticized by many medical experts who, based on the NT eye-witness accounts, conclude that Jesus was definitively dead when removed from the cross. 1 A number of articles have been written on the topic by medical doctors, including: Dr. C. Truman Davis, 2 Dr. Dan Bowden, 3 Dr. David Terasaka 4 and Dr. Mark Eastman. 5

1 http:// physician.html 2 http:// focus/ news/ 1115727/ posts 3 http:// 2011/ 11/ 29/ a-medical-doctors-view-of-the-crucifixion 4 http:// jesus/ medical.html 5 http:// articles/ 1998/ 113

Let’s briefly consider Jesus’ medical state on the cross.

Earlier, at the Sanhedrin they “struck him with their fists. Others slapped him…” (Matt 26:67) and “the guards took him and beat him” (Mark 14:65).

Pilate “had Jesus flogged” (Matt 27:26). Those who were flogged would often go into hypovolemic shock, a term that refers to low blood volume. In other words, the person would have lost so much blood he would go into shock. *

* http:// blood-water-Jesus.html

According to Medical Dr. Mark Eastman, “scourging was an extreme form of punishment.” The flogging Jesus received “typically involved a whip with numerous leather thongs, 18-24 inches long, with bits of metal, bone or glass embedded in the leather. At times they would use an iron rod to beat the prisoner. According to Jewish custom, a prisoner was usually flogged 39 times… The skin on the victim’s back was usually shredded, thus exposing the underlying muscle and skeletal structures… Many victims died from such scourging.” *

*http:// articles/ 1998/ 113

There was further blood loss when the Roman soldiers “twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head” (Matt 27:29).

This was followed by further medical trauma when they “took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.” (27:30)

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment. *

John 19:16-17 (NIV) Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull…

* https:// topic/ crucifixion-capital-punishment

Simon of Cyrene was commandeered to carry the cross later (Matt 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26), so some have speculated that Jesus may have collapsed due to exhaustion.

The Latin word for cross is CRUX from which the English word EXCRUCIATING (intensely painful) is derived. Why was crucifixion so painful? The victim was forced to push themselves up the cross, a distance of about 12 inches, in order to breathe. The process of respiration caused excruciating pain, mixed with the absolute terror of asphyxiation. Added to this was the dehydration, wound infection, and shock from blood loss.

Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. *

* https:// topic/ crucifixion-capital-punishment

At the crucifixion site, the crossbeam was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it.

Stripped of their clothing they were bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. *

Once the crossbar was in place, the feet may be nailed to either side of the upright or crossed.

* Ibid.

The nails were long and square (about 15cm long and 1cm thick).

In some cases, nails would be driven through the heel bones, and in other cases, one nail would have been hammered through the metatarsals in the middle of the foot. *

The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. **

Photo Credit: Pen News/Aryeh Shimron * Ibid. ** http:// jesus/ medical.html

Some tried to question whether victims were actually nailed or simply tied with ropes. But in 1968, archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis excavated some 1st century AD Jewish tombs in Jerusalem and came across the remains of a man who seemed to have been crucified. *

Furthermore the New Testament writings confirm that Jesus was indeed nailed to the cross.

Photo credit: Israel Museum. * His name, according to the inscription on the ossuary, was Yehohanan ben Hagkol.

Acts 2:23 (NIV) This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Dr Mark Eastman says that with crucifixion: “As the strength of the legs gives out, the weight of the body must now be borne by the arms and shoulders. The result is that within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, the shoulders will become dislocated. Minutes later the elbows and wrists become dislocated.” *

* http:// articles/ 1998/ 113

One of the effects of crucifixion was severe dehydration and thirst because of the loss of body fluids through perspiration and open wounds. That’s why Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’”

People who were crucified would push themselves up with their legs to prevent suffocation. (This is why their legs were broken to hasten death.) However, if the person fell unconscious they would die in around 20 minutes from the accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

So if Jesus did only swoon, he could have only lasted on the cross for about 20 minutes without the support of his legs.

Jesus is reported as having died at about the ninth hour (Matt 27:50). He must at least have slipped into unconsciousness at this point.

However, he was not brought down from the cross immediately. Instead there was time for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate and beg the body of Jesus from him (Mark 15:43; John 19:38).

There was then a further delay while Pilate summoned the centurion to verify that Jesus was dead. (Mark 15:44,45)

Even then Jesus was not removed immediately; Joseph first went to buy some fine linen to act as grave clothes (Mark 15:46).

It is highly unlikely that this set of events could been completed in the 20 minutes that would be needed for Jesus to remain alive on the cross. *

* http:// dbb/ 4-3-4-1swoon_theory.htm

Death “could be hastened by shattering the legs (crurifragium) with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.” **

This custom … was common with the Jews. In this way it was possible to take down the corpse on the very evening of the execution. *

* (Tert., “Adv. Jud.”, x; Isid., V, xxvii; Lactant., IV, xvi) https:// encyclopedia/ cross-and-crucifix-the ** https:// topic/ crucifixion-capital-punishment

John 19:32 (NIV) The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.


The soldiers on duty at the cross certified Jesus as dead, and as such did not break his legs:

John 19:33 (NIV) But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

John 19:34 (NIV) Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

Dr. C. Truman Davis writes, “Apparently to make sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and blood from the interior of the heart. We, therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that our Lord died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.” *

* “The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View”


The spear thrust resulted in blood and water flowing from Jesus’ body.

The water can only have been from the lungs or pericardium. Thus the spear thrust was a deep one. As Jesus was lifted up on a cross at the time this thrust must have come from below as well as to the side. Because of this it would need to pass through the diaphragm to reach the lungs, and through either the spleen or the liver. This would have been enough to ensure the death of Jesus even if he had been in full health. If the spear pierced the pericardium then this would also have killed Jesus. Incidentally both the spleen and the liver bleed after death… *

* http:// dbb/ 4-3-4-1swoon_theory.htm

hypovolemic shock

With the blood loss from the flogging and the further loss from the stab wound, Jesus would have gone into hypovolemic shock (shock from extremely low blood pressure caused by bleeding). Without a transfusion and with nothing to stop the internal haemorrhaging he would have died within minutes. Prior to the stab wound, the blood loss alone would have killed him in a few hours. *

* http:// perspectives/ the-swoon-theory-did-jesus-die-on-the-cross

With the internal bleeding and build-up of fluids Jesus would have died from congestive heart failure. Pathologists generally agree that this was a contributing cause of Jesus’ death. *

* Ibid.


Even if Jesus didn’t die of:


congestive heart failure

hypovolemic shock

from the internal haemorrhaging itself

he had a large, deep, open chest wound through at least one lung and probably the heart, with internal bleeding. This would have caused internal infection and in a few days he would have died of sepsis, i.e., infection. *

* Ibid.

John 19:38-40 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus… With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus ... 

 Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

So we see that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in linen grave clothes mixed with an additional 75 pounds of spices by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

How would Jesus get out of the wrappings wound tightly about the body with 75 pounds of spices in the wrappings without someone helping unwrap him, as in the case of Lazarus (John 11)?

In fact the linen wrappings seemed to be undisturbed, as if Jesus’ body had passed through them. This accounts for the fact that Peter and John “saw and believed” when they looked inside the tomb.

John 20:7-8 (NIV) He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

The swoon theory requires Jesus to remain immobile from the Thursday evening to early Sunday morning and then to suddenly get up and feel better.

He managed to open the stone from the wrong side. The stone would have been large, at least two tons, and it was sealed. The women going to the tomb felt unable to move it without help (Mark 16:3). *

* http:// dbb/ 4-3-4-1swoon_theory.htm

In spite of Jesus’ wounds (which would have been severe) he manages to push the stone aside and then tackles a guard of the most efficient soldiers in the ancient world… *

* Ibid.

To top it all, he then walks 12.1 km (7.5 miles) from Jerusalem to Emmaus - on feet that 3 days earlier had been pierced with 15 cm long, 1 cm thick nails.

There this wounded, half-dead Jesus manages to convince two disciples that he has been supernaturally raised from the dead and now enjoys eternal life.

David Strauss (1808-1874) was a 19th century German theologian and writer who scandalized Christian Europe with his portrayal of the ‘historical Jesus,’ whose divine nature he denied. *

Surprisingly the death blow for the swoon theory comes from Strauss, who considered it unlikely that Jesus could inspire faith in people after barely surviving a crucifixion.

* http:// wiki/


Strauss wrote: “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill and wanting medical treatment... could have given the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life: an impression that lay at the bottom of their future ministry.” *

* The Life of Jesus for the People, vol. 1, 1879)

Strauss asserted that even if the swoon theory was conceivable, it still could not account for the disciples’ belief in the risen Jesus. Since they did proclaim him to be resurrected and glorified Lord, the swoon theory is not able to account for the facts. *

After Strauss’ views were circulated, the liberal “lives of Jesus” usually shunned the swoon theory. *

By the early 20th century, other critical scholars proclaimed this theory to be nothing more than a historical curiosity of the past. *

* http:// books/ historicaljesus/ historicaljesus.htm


One of the most notorious Muslims who attacked both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was the late South African, Ahmed Deedat (1918-2005) who claimed that Jesus did not die upon the cross, but survived the crucifixion.

Strangely he uses an argument held by the Ahmadiyya sect, who are regarded as heretical by mainstream Muslims.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement, proposed a theory in his 1899 book Jesus in India that Jesus travelled to India after surviving the crucifixion. *

Claiming that Jesus had died in Kashmir, he said the notion of Jesus’ return was therefore erroneous. He further declared that he had been divinely appointed as the mahdi (the second messiah), in the spirit and power of Jesus. **

* http:// wiki/ Swoon_hypothesis #cite_note-7 ** http:// / wiki/ Mirza_Ghulam_Ahmad


The Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement believe that Jesus is now buried in Kashmir, but the tomb they show is not nearly old enough to be genuine. *

* http:// dbb/ 4-3-4-1swoon_theory.htm

The Ahmadiyyas identify the holy man Yuz Asaf buried at the Roza Bal shrine in Srinagar, India as Jesus on the basis of an account in the History of Kashmir by the Sufi poet Khwaja Muhammad Azam Didamari (1747) that the holy man Yuz Asaf buried there was a prophet and a foreign prince. *

* Günter Grönbold Jesus In Indien – Das Ende einer Legende. Kösel, München, 1985

Paul C. Pappas (professor of history at West Virginia Institute of Technology) states that from a historical perspective, the Ahmadi identification of Yuzasaf with Jesus relies on legends and documents which include clear historical errors (e.g. Gondophares’ reign) and that “it is almost impossible to identify Yuz Asaf with Jesus”. 1

1 http:// wiki/ Unknown_years_of_Jesus Jesus’ Tomb in India: The Debate on His Death and Resurrection by Paul C. Pappas 1991; page 155: “Al-Haj Nazir Ahmad’s work Jesus in Heaven on Earth, which constitutes the Ahmadi’s best historical defense of Jesus’ presence in Kashmir as Yuz Asaf, appears to be full of flaws, especially concerning Gondophares’ reign”, page 100: “The Ahmadi thesis can rest only on eastern legends recorded in oriental works, which for the most part are not reliable, not only because they were written long after the facts, but also because their stories of Yuz Asaf are different and in contradiction.”

Former Professor of Caucasian Studies (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), David Marshall Lang, presented evidence of how confusion in diacritical markings in Arabic texts transformed Budhasaf (Buddha-to-be) into Yudasaf, Iodasaph, and then Yuzasaf, and resulted in the Ahmadiyya assertions; also confusing Kashmir and Kushinara, the place of Buddha’s death. 1

1 Ibid: In The Journal of Ecclesiastical History Vol 18, Issue 02, Oct 1967, pp 247-248, John Rippon summarizes the work of David Marshall Lang on the subject as follows: “In The Wisdom of Balahvar Professor Lang assembled the evidence for the Buddhist origins of the legends of the Christian saints Barlaam and Josephat. He suggested the importance of Arabic intermediaries, showing that confusion of diacritical markings turned Budhasaf (Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be) into Yudasaf, Iodasaph, Yuzasaf and Josaphat. By a curious roundabout journey this error reappears in once Buddhist Kashmir where the modern Ahmadiyya Muslims, well known for their Woking mosque, claim that a tomb of Yus Asad was the tomb of Jesus who died in Kashmir, after having been taken down live from the cross; though the Bombay Arabic edition of the book Balahvar makes its hero die in Kashmir, by confusion with Kushinara the traditional place of the Buddha’s death.”

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (2012), where we believe the body of Jesus was laid after his crucifixion, prior to his resurrection.


In yet another twist on the swoon theory: Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, in their 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, speculated that Pontius Pilate was bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. *

But that’s exactly what this theory is as well – speculation. It ignores all the eyewitness evidence and the written record, while offering no credible counter evidence – substituting it with guesswork.

* http:// wiki/ Swoon_hypothesis#cite_note-7


So, there are multiple problems with the swoon hypothesis:

The medical state of Jesus

the nature of death by asphyxiation on the cross

the medical study of Jesus’ chest wound

getting Jesus out of the embalming clothes

moving the tombstone

getting past the guard

the disciples’ response on seeing Jesus

the whereabouts of Jesus’ body or tomb

This thesis also cannot account for the conversions of James (Jesus’ brother) and especially Paul from their scepticism to Christianity. Therefore, it is no surprise that this hypothesis is rejected today by critics. *

* http:// books/ historicaljesus/ historicaljesus.htm

B.F. Westcott (1825–1901), an English scholar and theologian, said: “raking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.” *

* Ibid.


Professor Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, said: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead. “*

* http:// d-resurrec tion-evidence-Josh-McDowell.htm

E. M. Blaiklock (1903–1983), Professor of Classics at Auckland University from 1947 to 1968 said, “I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history.” *

* Ibid.

The initial message of the resurrection was preached, not in a remote area where the account could not be verified, but in Jerusalem where all the events took place and where the story could have easily been refuted or verified. And yet the church in Jerusalem grew rapidly. On one occasion 3000 people are baptized in one day (Acts 2:41).


On another occasion 5000 people are converted (Acts 4:4).

Acts 6:7 (NIV) So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 21:17-20 (NIV) When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly… Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed…”


When Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch, he said:

Acts 13:29-39 “When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.

 They are now his witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ So it is stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

Josh McDowell (1939) was a former sceptic of both Christianity and the resurrection. He writes:

Everything that Jesus Christ taught, lived, and died for was based on His resurrection. All I had to do was prove that it never took place. But that, too, backfired on me, and in fact led to my writing The Resurrection Factor because of the evidence. *

* “A sceptics quest” https://

Our hope of resurrection and life everlasting is based, not on a philosophic guess about immortality, but an historic fact. *

Rom 1:4 (NIV) … and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Pet 1:3 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

* Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1955 edition, p.497.