J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

Rapid Response: “I Think the Disciples Lied About the Resurrection”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “I can’t trust what the New Testament says about Jesus. I think the disciples (or whoever wrote the Gospels) lied about Jesus and the Resurrection.” How would you answer such an objection? Here is a conversational example of how I recently responded:

“When I was an atheist, one of the reasons I rejected the claims of the Gospels was a similar distrust in the testimony of the authors. I rejected anything supernatural, so when I simply concluded the disciples were lying about the Resurrection. But then I began to investigate conspiracies for a living as a detective. I understand, now, what is required for a successful conspiracy, and typically, there are five things that I find missing in the lives of the disciples.

The first thing you need to successfully conspire about a claim is the lowest number of co-conspirators. It’s a lot easier for two people to tell a lie and keep a secret than it is for twenty-two, or two hundred and twenty-two. Similarly, successful conspiracies are usually held for the shortest possible time. It’s a lot easier to tell a lie and keep a secret for a day than for a week, a month, or a year. Thirdly, successful conspiracies require the best possible communication between co-conspirators. If I separate two conspirators, and ask one for great detail related to the claim, the other conspirators need to know exactly what the first one said, in all its intricate detail, if they want to be consistent. That requires excellent communication between conspirators to make sure everyone knows what the others are saying. In addition, close relationships are critical. If a mother and son are involved in a conspiracy, for example, there’s a good chance no one's going to want to talk to you at all. Finally, low pressure, very low pressure on a conspiracy is crucial. If no one’s asking any questions, there’s a much better chance for the conspiracy to succeed.

As you look at these five attributes of conspiracies, you quickly recognize that none of them are present in the alleged ‘Christian conspiracy’. According to Paul (in his letter to the Corinthian church), hundreds of people saw Jesus after the Resurrection, all on the same day. There were over one hundred eligible eyewitnesses in the upper room, for example, in Acts chapter one. There are way too many conspirators, holding the lie together for nearly six decades, separated by thousands of miles, without any way to communicate back and forth to one another, under incredible high 24 pressure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to pull off a conspiracy, but only if the attributes I’ve described are present. If, for example, you know of a conspiracy, even an historic conspiracy, it wasn’t successful, by definition. Successful conspiracies are unrevealed, and the claim of a successful ‘Christian conspiracy’ is unsupported. None of the co-conspirators ever changed their story about Jesus.

It really comes down to motivation. Let me explain that. When investigating a potential lie, we have to ask: ‘Why would this person (or persons) lie?’ Lies are always driven by the same three motivations; it always comes down to money, sex, or power. If I'm trying to gain something in one of those three areas, I may be motivated to do something I should not do or say something I shouldn’t say. So, if the disciples are lying, what is motivating them to do so? Did they gain something in any of these three areas? We have no other ancient record related to the 12 apostles, for example, describing as gaining some advantage in these three areas. Instead, every ancient record we have describes them being martyred for what they said they saw. I think those two things: a lack of motive and a lack of the essential attributes of a successful conspiracy, lead me, as a skeptic to conclude the claims of the apostles were not part of an elaborate conspiracy. It’s just not reasonable."

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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About J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, Christian case maker and author. J. Warner was a conscientious and vocal atheist through his undergraduate and graduate work in Design and Architecture (CSULB and UCLA); he always considered himself to be an “evidentialist”. His experience in law enforcement only served to strengthen his conviction that truth is tied directly to evidence. But at the age of thirty-five, J. Warner took a serious and expansive look at the evidence for the Christian Worldview and determined that Christianity was demonstrably true. After becoming a Christ follower in 1996, Jim continued to take an evidential approach to truth as he examined the Christian worldview. He eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. J. Warner served as a Youth Pastor for several years, then planted a church in 2006. Along the way, he created and built the Cold-Case Christianity website, blog and podcast as a place to post and talk about what he discovered related to the evidence supporting Christianity. Jim has appeared on television and radio, explaining the role that evidence plays in the Christian definition of “faith” and defending the historicity of Jesus, the reliability of the Bible and the truth of the Christian worldview. Jim also speaks at churches, retreats and camps as he seeks to help people become confident Christian case makers. J. Warner’s first book, Cold-Case Christianity, provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts. In his second book, God’s Crime Scene, he investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence. J. Warner’s professional investigative work has received national recognition; his cases have been featured more than any other detective on NBC’s Dateline, and his work has also appeared on CourtTV and Fox News. He also appears on television as an investigative consultant and had a role in God’s Not Dead 2, making the case for the historicity of Jesus. J. Warner was awarded the Police and Fire Medal of Valor “Sustained Superiority” Award for his continuing work on cold-case homicides. Relying on over two decades of investigative experience, J. Warner provides his readers and audiences with the tools they will need to investigate the claims of Christianity and make a convincing case for the truth of the Christian worldview. You can follow J. Warner Wallace on Twitter @JWarnerWallace

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