Essay Sample on Easter: What Is Known About the History of Easter?

Posted on April 2, 2010

This is an essay example on history of Easter. The evidence that Jesus was alive after the crucifixion is overwhelming, and scholars hardly ever argue otherwise. Jesus was seen in many different places and at different times after the crucifixion (John 20, 1 Cor. 15, Mark 16.7, etc.) Some people attempt to explain this by arguing that Jesus never died in the first place, and therefore never really resurrected as Christians claim. This theory is know as the Swoon Theory or the Resuscitation Theory, and was put forth by the German rationalist Venturini sometime in the eighteenth century. Even though there are presently an infinite amount of variations to this theory, they all basically hold that instead of dying, Jesus merely fainted or “swooned” from exhaustion. Jesus then resuscitated thanks to the effects of the cool damp grave he was placed in, and was finally able to present himself before His disciples as a “risen king”. In this essay I will explain the basis for the concoction of such a theory and the evidence that might support it, as well as give evidence, such as medical and historical facts, that will completely discredit it.

Even though the Swoon theory contains very little facts that support it, there are a few events that happened in the crucifixion stories that are used as attempts to give it credibility. A German scholar by the name of Paulus Уpoints out that crucifixion was usually a slow, protracted dying Jesus “died” in an amazingly short time (Mark 15:44),” therefore, he claims, Jesus was not really dead, but that he was in “a death-like trance.” Paulus also claims that Jesus only received a surface wound from the spear thrusted into his side, not a deathly one. Finally, he suggests that the aromatic spices and cool grave would have been influential enough to wake him up from this “trance”.

Another argument is that the Bible contradicts itself and therefore should not be believed word for word. This is based on the fact that there are some variations in the stories of the crucifixion in the different gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars that support the Swoon Theory also use as evidence the date that the gospels were written. They believe that the gospels aren’t reliable because “they are not eyewitness accounts.” Mark, the earliest of the gospels probably wasn’t written until 60 AD, “a full generation after the events of Jesus’ life.”

Yet another excuse, or should I say “piece of evidence” used to defend this theory, is that the people back then were simply “mislead because medical knowledge was not great at that time,” so that “the disciples, mistaking Him for dead, buried Him alive.” This “excuse” would have also been sufficient to explain why the executioners confirmed Jesus dead (Mark 15.45).

Even though the Swoon Theory has some evidence to back it up, there is much more evidence that discredits it. This theory is greatly flawed because it ignores a great part of the story. “It is a classical example of approaching the evidence with a preconceived theory and selecting only those facts which support your view and rejecting all others.” Some examples of ignored facts are that there were four highly trained executioners that verified JesusТ death (John 19.32) and who’s mistakes would have probably cause them there lives; another ignored fact is that the stone that covered the tomb was way to heavy for Jesus to roll away on His own, and even if He would have been able to, the tomb was heavily guarded (John 19.38) so that there was no way Jesus could have snuck out unnoticed. This list of ignored facts could go on and on for quite a while.

With all the medical and scientific evidence that we have present today, confirming the events story of the crucifixion, as written in the Bible, and that Jesus did really die, is not very hard. “Even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two million years ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution.” Jesus’ death was the result of the contribution of many different events. Each event can be proved credible as follows. The first event took place in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26.6 describes Jesus as sorrowful and deeply distressed as He prayed to His father. There is no doubt that Jesus knew what was going to happen to him the next day. In fact, it scarred Him so much, that He began to “sweat blood” (Luke 22.44). Many skeptics have claimed this physically impossible and used it to argue against the credibility of the Bible. But, according to Alexander Metherell, M.D, P.H.D, “this is a know medical condition called hematidrosis associated with a high degree of psychological stress.” He also claims that it would have made Jesus’ skin extremely fragile making him very sensitive to the floggings of the following day.

Historians have concluded that Roman floggings were horribly brutal. “Jesus would have been stripped of his clothes” and then whipped with a flagrum” that consisted of “a sturdy handle to which were attached long leather thongs” that had “sharp jagged pieces of bone and lead woven into them.” According to Dr. C. Truman Davis, this would have resulted I Jesus’ back, shoulders, and legs looking like an “unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue, with skin hanging in long ribbons.” After this, according to Roman tradition, a prisoner such as Jesus would have been mocked by the Roman soldiers. We can witness this in Mark 15.16-20. Verse 20 also says that a crown of thorns was placed on His head and verse 19, that he was beaten with a reed. According to Metherell, these events alone would have been enough to kill a man. But Jesus did not expire, not yet at least. He went on to endure much greater torture.

Although not dead, Jesus did not walk away unharmed. Metherell says that Jesus would have faced the crucifixion while already in hypovolemic shock, meaning that He was “suffering the effects of loosing a large amount of blood.” Some of these effects described by Metherell are described in the gospels: “blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse” – we see in Mat. 27.32 that Simon had to carry the crossbar for Jesus because He collapsed and could not carry it any further. “Person becomes thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume”. In the John 19 we read about Jesus saying, “I thirst” and then being offered sour wine. “Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”

For many years critics argued that nails weren’t used to crucify a person, but that instead ropes were used. It wasn’t until1968 that the Archaeologist V. Tzaferis discovered four cave-tombs just north of Jerusalem that put an end to these critics’s argument. In one of these tombs, well-preserved bodies containing nails that pierced their wrists and ankles were found. These nails would have been driven through some major nerves and caused Jesus unbearable pain, so unbearable in fact, that a new word had to be invented to describe it: “Excruciating” – meaning out of the cross. Metherell says that because of the way Jesus was hanging, His shoulders would have become easily dislocated therefore fulfilling the prophesy in Psalm 22.14.

Usually the final thing that kills a person being crucified, including Jesus in this case, is asphyxiation “Crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death of asphyxiation” – leading to a heart attack. When a person is hanging on a cross, in order to exhale, an individual must push up on his feet to release the tension on his muscles. Eventually this person would be to exhausted to do this, which would prevent him from breathing. “As a person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis causing the acidity of the blood to increase, and leading to an irregular heartbeat.” Eventually this person would have died of Cardiac arrest.

The biggest piece of evidence that Jesus truly died is that blood and water were seen flowing from Jesus when He was stabbed in the side (John 19.34). The idea that water flew out is completely rejected, but Metherell claims that this fluid only appeared to be water, but was actually pericardial and pleural effusion. These clear fluids surround the heart (peri) and lungs (pleural) in great quantities when there is heart failure so that when ruptured by the spear they would have gushed out. They would have appearing as water, and then would have been followed by a lot of flowing blood. This gives John great credibility as an eyewitness, and proves that Jesus was in fact dead.

Even if we “pretend” that Jesus was able to survive through all this abuse, assuming that a cool tomb would resuscitate Him rather than just finish Him off is assuming too much. Also, one has to take in account that Jesus would have had to escape his linen wrappings (Mat. 27.59), roll the huge rock away from the tomb entrance, and get by the guards (as mentioned before), all on pierced wrists and ankles.

I conclude by confidently saying that the Swoon theory is completely flawed and must be discredited. “It ignores the deadly character of the wounds inflicted upon Jesus, the frightful lacerations of the hands and feet, the loss of strength through the ebbing away of blood, the hopelessness of human aid during the critical moments when it would be most needed, the tight-drawn bandage of the grave, the heavy stone.” But even if Jesus did accomplish all of this, there is no way that the disciples would have claimed Him the Risen Lord and Conqueror of death while seeing Him in the pathetic conditions he was left in. Instead, they would have felt sorry for Him.

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