As we have gone over, there is no reliable evidence either way to prove if Jesus really lived, died and came back to life, or not. Common sense tells us it isn’t true; society as a majority tells us it is. Well, believe it or not, there’s another theory out there which stands in the middle to explain and harmonize these two conflicting schools of thought: the theory that Jesus was never killed on the cross, he faked it, which falls into the realm of conspiracy theory just as deep as any New Testament interpretation, but a theory that’s actually backed up by some rational lines of thought. While I don’t prescribe to the theory — mainly because its evidence is circumstantially obtained from within the pages of the historically unreliable gospels — it is, nevertheless, a reasonably thought out hypothesis in its presentation, and interesting food for thought if nothing else; and as you will see, it’s not a new theory, either. Islam as well as early Christians have documented writings that Jesus faked his death.
First of all we should ask: exactly what is a crucifixion?
Simply put, it’s a form of torturing someone slowly to death as a method of capital punishment — a method principally used by the Romans, Persians, Seleucids, and Carthaginians from around the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD — Constantine finally abolishing the cruel and unusual punishment in 337 AD in honour of his Christian followers*.
The most commonly used method of crucifixion in Rome first involved the condemned man taking a series of lashes to his bare back. His flesh would be quickly torn to shreds, leaving the meat underneath his skin to sustain the whips. Afterwards the bloody victim was made to carry a heavy crossbeam to the place of his mortal punishment, where the upright shaft already stood fifteen feet out of the earth and waiting. When he got there, the subject would be stripped of his clothes and thrown onto his back by his killers, at which point his wrists would be tied and mercilessly nailed to the crossbeam with a spike and mallet. Then, as if that wasn’t enough already, using a system of ladders the victim was carried three metres in the air up the upright shaft where the crossbeam was fixed to it. At this point the victim‘s feet were crossed and his ankles were nailed to the upright beam; and then presto: a man nailed to a cross.
Aside from the agonizing pain of the wrists and ankles, the difficulty to breathe in this horrendous position would be nearly impossible; the weight of the body would make air flow to the lungs only achievable by the victim constantly pushing his body up by his feet to straighten his knees, in turn straightening his torso and allowing air in — and causing even more unbearable pain on the victims ankles. After exhaustion kicked in the victim would no longer be able to push up and support his own weight. The resulting death would occur by means of asphyxiation. This process, as history tells us, took no less than three days, unless the victims were assisted, whereas the Romans would break the crucified man‘s legs, speeding up the process of lung collapse. This is where we run into our first problem:
“The Jews therefore… so the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath… asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man that was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” –John 19:31-33.
“Saw that Jesus was already dead?” How? If it took three days to kill a man by crucifixion, as all historians, most notably Josephus’ documents, tell us — Josephus actually writes about taking a man down off of a cross after 3 days and the man surviving** — then how does Jesus die after only a few hours? They didn’t break his legs, it says so in the above verses; and in every other book of the Bible Jesus dies within under a day’s-time, as well. How does Jesus, a supposed god, die so soon? That’s the theory: he couldn’t have, so maybe he didn’t.
Hugh Schonfield, author of the Passover Plot, makes a case for Jesus being drugged on the cross to appear as if he were dead. He gets his ammunition from this verse:
“Jesus… said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of sour wine on a branch of hyssop, and brought it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His Spirit.” -John 19:28-30.
He drinks and then dies? What was this “wine” on a stick and sponge that seems to have instantly killed Jesus? A drink would no doubt replenish a person undergoing extreme exhaustion, as Shonfield points out, not kill them instantly. But as any CIA agent will tell you, narcotics that replicate the effects of death could do that very thing. Co-author of the monumentally successful novel Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Michael Baigent, states in his book The Jesus Papers:
“It was known [at that time in the Middle East] that a sponge soaked in a mixture of opium and other compounds such as belladonna and hashish served as a good anesthetic. Such sponges would be soaked in the mixture, then dried for storage or transport. When it was necessary to induce unconsciousness — for surgery, for example — the sponge would be soaked in water to activate the drugs and then placed over the nose and mouth of the subject, who would promptly lose consciousness. Given the description of the events on the cross and the rapid apparent “death” of Jesus, it is a plausible suggestion that this use of a drugged sponge was the cause.”
Baigent goes on to argue an anesthetic would greatly reduce the traumatic effect of having to experience a crucifixion, even if only a brief crucifixion, and would increase the chances of survival. In this respect I can’t help but to agree with his reasoning. People in car accidents, for example, are more likely to survive the crash if they were drunk than if they were sober; the liquor acting as a nerve-calming agent and loosening the person’s joints and muscles, thus decreasing the chance of vital body parts being damaged.
Baigent goes on further and refers to John 19:34, when one of the Roman soldiers pierces Jesus’ supposed dead body in the side with a spear:
“…and immediately there came out blood and water.”
The sudden loss and heavy flow of blood, Baigent argues, are clear signs of a person who is alive, not dead, as blood doesn’t rapidly flow in dead people. Though Baigent has a small point on this when coupled with his better points, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that a spear in the side of a dead person would still spew a boatload of blood, especially under the effects of total vertical gravity. Either way, right after this gruesome scene comes Jesus’ burial; also a curious moment.
The Bible tells us a “secret” disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea — “a prominent member of the [Jewish] council” — asked Pilate if he could take the body. Mark 15:44 relates:
“And Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.”
Pilate — a man who would have witnessed dozens of crucifixions — appears to be very surprised by the haste of Christ’s death, summoning a centurion to verify the unbelievable claim. To him it’s impossible and needs to be double checked. After the centurion says Jesus is dead, Pilate grants the body to Joseph of Arimathea for burial.
In his book we quoted earlier, The Jesus Papers, Michael Baigent explains another interesting point on this last interaction between Pilate and Joseph:
“If we look at the original Greek text, we see an important point being made: when Joseph asks Pilate for Jesus’ body, the word used for “body” is soma. In Greek this denotes a living body. When Pilate agrees that Joseph can take the body down from the cross, the word he uses for “body” is ptoma (Mark 15:43-45). This means a fallen body, a corpse or carcass. In other words, the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel is making it clear that while Joseph is asking for the living body of Jesus, Pilate grants him what he believes to be the corpse.”
Joseph then brings the body to a vacant tomb by the place of crucifixion — a tomb he most likely owned to be throwing a body inside of — which also puts the crucifixion on or beside his property.
After this, a man named Nicodemus arrives at the tomb with “a hundred pounds” worth of myrrh and aloes. This is also very peculiar. Who are these men with the money for extremely expensive medicinal herbs — in vast amounts — and contacts that reach as high as face-to-face time with the Governor? What were these herbs really used for? One thing is for certain, myrrh can be used as a medical agent to stop bleeding and also as a stimulant***. Could these rich and powerful strangers have been waking Jesus up and fixing his wounds? What else were the herbs used for? Could it be possible that Jesus faked his own death? A verse explaining his crucifixion sheds light on this last question:
“And all the multitudes who came together… And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee, were standing at a distance, seeing these things.” –Luke 23:48, 49.
Luke, as we can see, claims the people who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion stood at a distance, implying the crucifixion was on private property, and that they weren’t close enough to reasonably judge if Jesus was alive or dead. This would make it very possible to stage a crucifiction.
Maybe he did fake it. Maybe Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man with inside connections to people who could cover up a fake killing; or maybe it wasn’t even Jesus on the cross to begin with — which brings us to our next theory. Another variation of this argument states it wasn’t Jesus on the cross, but a replacement.
Luke 23:49 (every witness stood at a distance) is a major proponent of this theory; as well as a verse out of the Koran stating:
“They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: ‘We have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.” –The Koran, 4:157. Excerpt from “The Koran: translated by N.J Dawood”; 1956.
Adding substance to the above quote, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth — a book from the Gnostic Gospels found in Nag Hammadi — has Jesus saying:
“I was in the mouths of lions… I did not succumb to them as they had planned… I was not afflicted at all… For my death, which they think happened, [happened] to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death… It was another… who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.” –The Second Treatise of the Great Seth 55:9-56:19.
So, according to some ancient Gnostic followers, Jesus wasn’t crucified, it was another person, Simon, who took his place. Right there we have proof that not only Muslims, but large communities of the earliest Christians believed Jesus faked his death!
The burning question then is: who was this Simon who took his place? In the synoptic gospels (the 4 from the Bible), Simon of Cyrene was the man who carried Christ’s crossbeam on the way to Golgotha, the place where he was crucified. Could they have made a switch, Jesus for Simon? According to the above gospel, they did. If so, Jesus could have fled to the tomb when they got up the hill to Joseph of Arimathea’s property and hid for three days. Hauntingly, Jesus is professed to have said:
“…for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” –Matthew 12:40.
This verse could very much refer to a planned fake death; especially when compared with the likelihood of a literal resurrection. Realistically it would be impossible to predict your death — and especially your resurrection — but it would be easy to predict if you were planning on faking it in advance.
If this is the case, we must ask: who could have been in on it? Well, Joseph of Arimathea would be a good suspect, and there are those who believe he was actually Joseph, Jesus’ father, a rich and powerful Jewish man with inroads to Pilate; a very plausible theory. After all, Joseph of Arimathea’s not mentioned anywhere in the Bible until the resurrection when he just appears out of nowhere; secondly, he’s allowed by not only Pilate, but Mary — the mother of Jesus — and all the other disciples to take possession of Christ’s body; and thirdly, the most obvious, the two men share the same name. It would be easy to add “of Arimathea” onto the end of “Joseph” in order to hide the identity of the man who assisted in faking his son’s death. In fact, when we take into account that early Gnostics believed Jesus did avoid the cross, it’s entirely possible that “of Arimathea” was added to the synoptic gospels to thwart that very concept.
Second century church father Irenaeus wrote in detest of the Egyptian Gnostic, Basilides, for claiming Jesus wasn’t on the cross at crucifixion and preaching it to thousands; so this wasn’t a small matter in the developing days of Christianity, well before the Council of Nicaea finalized the Bible we know today — it was a valid matter to the early church to silence those believing it and prevent others from finding out about it.
Another interesting tidbit related to this theory — something we’ve already touched on earlier — is how the earliest copy of the Gospel of Mark ends. In case it slipped your mind, it ends at 16:8, with Mary and Mary running away from Jesus’ tomb, where he is not, but another man in a white robe is. With this abrupt ending, it’s more than likely another ending was removed and destroyed before the newer one (today’s) was invented and added. Maybe the original gospel of Mark was written by Jesus’ disciple, but instead of it speaking of him coming back from the dead, it spoke of him never dying. It’s definitely more possible than someone coming back to life.
To keep adding substance to this theory, there are also other accounts of Jesus surviving his horrible execution. Returning to Kashmir, where there are records of Jesus living during his teens and twenties, we find that there is a tomb that still sits today which locals claim to hold Christ’s bones:
“I have seen in a book of Hindus that this prophet was really Hazrat Isa [Isa, as you may recall, is the Arabic and Hindu name for Jesus]… and had also assumed the name of Yuz Asaf… After his departure [death] he was laid to rest in Mohalla Anzmarah.” –Mulla Nadri, Tarikh-i-Kashmir.
“Then Yuz Asaf, after roaming about in many cities, reached that country which is called Kashmir. He travelled in it far and wide and spent his life there until death overtook him… Before his death, he sent for a disciple of his, Ba’bad, by name, who used to serve him… He expressed his last will to him… He then directed Ba’bad to prepare a tomb for him (at the very place he died).” –Shahik Al-Said-us-Sadiq, from Ikmal-ud-Din.
These are both accounts from Kashmiri texts, but there are several other texts documenting Jesus’ journey back to Kashmir from Nisibis, Iran, Herat, and Taxila. These texts, of course, were written after the time of Jesus’ death and can’t be used as a source of factual history, but the hearsay they provide is more than interesting compared to the dull murder narrative of the four edited gospels; they as well reflect earlier accounts of Jesus that have died over time and been suppressed from western knowledge, true or not.
Whether Jesus faked his death, survived his death, or died on the cross is for nobody to know with the evidence we have, but one thing is almost certain, he didn’t die and come back to life three days later and then fly up to heaven, escaping the sight of the entire population of Jerusalem — unless it was the annual “don’t look up day.” As I stated in the beginning, these are just theories made by people in an attempt to explain the physical impossibilities the Bible provides us with concerning the resurrection; they are by no means useful for anything but research into what earlier humanity thought and believed about Jesus, which, as we can see, is much different than what people claim to know today. But, that’s how games of telephone work. Pass it on.
By Olan Thomas of CUT2THETRUTH.com.
*According to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
**Flavius Josephus, Vita, 5:76: “On my return I saw many prisoners who had been crucified, and recognized three of them as my former companions. I was inwardly very sad about this and went with tears in my eyes to Titus and told him about them. He at once gave the order that they should be taken down and given the best treatment so they could get better. However two of them died while being attended to by the doctor; the third recovered.”
***According to Botanical.com, the medicinal purposes of myrrh are: “—Medicinal Action and Uses—Astringent, healing. Tonic and stimulant… plaster may be made with 1 1/2 OZ.”
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