I had faked the Resurrection
McDowell with Bob Hostetler
I set out as a
young man to refute Christianity.
I met some young
Christians who challenged me to intellectually examine the evidence
for Christianity, and I agreed. I aimed to show them — and
everyone — that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it
would be easy. I thought a careful investigation of the facts
would expose Christianity as a lie, and its followers as dupes.
But then a funny thing happened.
As I began investigating
the claims of Christianity, I kept running up against the evidence.
Time after time, I was surprised to discover the factual basis
for the seemingly outlandish things Christians believe. And one
of the most convincing categories of evidence I confronted was
this: The Resurrection accounts found in the Gospels are not the
stuff of fable, forgery or fabrication. I had assumed that someone
— or several “someones” — had invented
the stories of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
But as I examined those accounts, I had to face the fact that
any sensible mythmaker would do things much differently than Matthew,
Mark, Luke and John did in recording the news of the Resurrection.
As much as I hated
to, I had to admit that if I had been some first-century propagandist
trying to fake the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would have
done at least 10 things differently.
I would wait a prudent period after the events before “publishing”
Few historians dispute the fact
the disciples of Jesus began preaching the news of His resurrection
soon after the event itself. In fact, Peter’s Pentecost
sermon (Acts 2) occurred within 50 days of the Resurrection. And
textual research indicated that the written accounts of the Resurrection
— especially the creedal statement of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
— are astoundingly early in origin (possibly within two
years of the event).1
Such early origins argue against any notion that the Resurrection
accounts are legendary.
I would “publish” my account far from the venue where
it supposedly happened.
Dr. William Lane Craig writes,
“One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian
belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it originated in
the very city where Jesus was crucified. The Christian faith did
not come to exist in some distant city, far from eyewitnesses
who knew of Jesus’ death and burial. No, it came into being
in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified, under
the very eyes of its enemies.”2
George O. Wood, Hal Donaldson, & Ken Horn
Walked with the Savior
here or call
I would select my “witnesses” very carefully.
I would avoid, as much as possible,
using any names at all in my account, and I would certainly avoid
citing prominent personalities as witnesses. Yet at least 16 individuals
are mentioned by name as witnesses in the various accounts, and
the mention of Joseph of Arimathea as the man who buried Jesus
would have been terribly dangerous if the Gospel accounts had
been faked or embellished. As a member of the Sanhedrin (a Jewish
“supreme court”), he would have been well known. J.P.
Moreland writes, “No one could have invented such a person
who did not exist and say he was on the Sanhedrin if such were
not the case.”3
His involvement in the burial of
Jesus could have been easily confirmed or refuted. Perhaps most
importantly, I would avoid citing disreputable witnesses, which
makes significant the record of Jesus’ first appearances
— to women — since in that time and culture women
were considered invalid witnesses in a court of law. If the accounts
were fabrications, the “women would never have been included
in the story, at least, not as first witnesses.”4
I would surround the event with impressive supernatural displays
As Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide
writes, “We do not read in the first testimonies [of the
Resurrection] of an apocalyptic spectacle, exorbitant sensations,
or of the transforming impact of a cosmic event. … According
to all New Testament reports, no human eye saw the Resurrection
itself, no human being was present, and none of the disciples
asserted to have apprehended, let alone understood, its manner
and nature. How easy it would have been for them or their immediate
successors to supplement this scandalous hole in the concatenation
of events by fanciful embellishments! But precisely because none
of the evangelists dared to ‘improve upon’ or embellish
this unseen Resurrection, the total picture of the Gospels also
gains in trustworthiness.”5
I would painstakingly correlate my account with others I knew,
embellishing the legend only where I could be confident of not
Many critics have pointed out the
befuddling differences and apparent contradictions in the Resurrection accounts.
But these are actually convincing evidences of their authenticity; they display
an ingenuous lack of collusion, agreeing and (apparently) diverging much as
eyewitness accounts of any event do.