Friday, October 3, 2008

Did Jesus Really Die?

In the last post, we looked at the impact of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and how these events separate Him from every other religious leader. Now, that is assuming one believes in the reality of the resurrection. Did Jesus really rise from the dead three days after his death? Let's look at the evidence in the same way as we did for the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible.To determine if it is possible to raise from the dead, we need to determine first if He was really dead. Again though, lets first see exactly what Jesus suffered before and during His crucifixion. He was scourged, which means He was stripped and whipped with what was known as a flagrum. A flagrum had a long handle in which long leather thongs of different lengths were attached. Woven into the ends of these thongs were jagged bits of bone and lead to tear the skin with every lash given. Jesus was given at least 40 lashes. A medical description just of the lashes given are described this way: The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again, across the person's shoulders, back and legs. As it continues, the skin is broken, then with each lash, the gashes get deeper and the skin and underlying tissue is bruised. After a while, the skin is hanging in torn ribbons, the entire area is unrecognizable, pouring and spurting arterial blood, leaving the person near death.So, Jesus was most likely near death at the end of the scourging He received. After this, a crown of thorns was placed on his head, to mock Him as the "King of the Jews". I don't know what kind of thorns these were, but I once or twice got "poked" by bougainvillea thorns which can be as long as an inch, and very pointy. It hurt like crazy, and I could not imagine having something like this being pushed hard into my scalp.He was forced for a while to carry His own crossbar, which was a long piece of wood called a patibulum - also used for barring doors. These weighed about 110 pounds, and was strapped to the victim's shoulders.The actual crucifixion involved nailing a victim's hands and feet ( in one tomb discovered back in 1968, there was a crucifixion victim found with a 7 inch spike driven through the heal bones, and both legs fractured.). During a crucifixion, the victims legs were broken to speed up the death or terminate the torture. They were broken by using a club below the knees. Doing this prevented the victim from trying to push himself up, relieving the tension on upper body muscles. Once the legs were broken, and the victim could not pus himself up, suffocation or heart attacks would follow, putting the victim out of misery.It is interesting to know that Old Testament prophecies showed that Christ would not have a broken bone - and as Jesus was already dead by the time the Roman guard broke the legs of the other two men who were crucified beside Him, they did not need to break His legs, so prophecy was fulfilled here.Another way the guard determined if Jesus was really dead, was to drive a spear into His side- which spilled blood and water. The water was fluid which had leaked from the sac surrounding the heart, which shows that He died by shock and constriction to His heart.Only after the guards had determined He was dead, and a certification telling this was given to Pilate, was Jesus taken down from the cross. Crucifixion was a well known form of execution in the time of Jesus, so this is evidential fact pointing to the crucifixion.Now, when Jesus was buried, He was placed in a tomb, which was hewn out of the solid rock of the hills. The New Testament shows that Jesus' burial followed strictly the customs of the Jews. After He was "prepared and laid in the tomb, the Sabbath had come, which meant no more physical labor, even a burial could be done, so Jesus was left in the tomb. The tomb was then sealed, by rolling a large boulder in front of the opening. This "stone" would have been at least 1- 1/2 tons. The burial tombs often had a groove built in which the stone covering would rest until it was time to seal the tomb. Once it was ready to close, the wedge to hold the stone was removed, the stone was pushed and gravity would then roll it along the groove until it was firmly in place. Now, there were also guards stationed at the tomb, because Roman and Jewish leaders were afraid that Jesus' disciples would come and "steal" the body. If a Roman guard was stationed at the tomb along with the Jewish Temple guard, there would have been plenty of people- upwards of 20 guys, armed and ready, is someone would try to take the body. The Temple guard were forbidden to sleep or even sit down or lean against something if he were on duty- by threat of a severe beating. The Roman guard were just as strict. Along with the Roman guard, there was also a Roman Seal placed on the tomb stone. This was to prevent anyone with tampering with the stone, by order of the Roman Authority. Something did happen though. Something big enough to change the course of History. The tomb was empty days later.The consequences of breaking the Roman Seal that had been placed on the tomb would have been severe, meaning execution by crucifixion. It would make sense then, that most people would shy away from knowingly breaking the seal. Even the disciples hid when they found out Jesus wasn't there.The stone was rolled away- which would mean someone had to roll this stone, over 1 ton, back up an incline. The only thing here is, when the women found the tomb, the stone was rolled away. Rolled away, means it was separated from the tomb, and set a distance apart from it. The words that John used were Greek for "Picked up and taken away". For one thing, the whole guard regiment would not be deaf if enough people would come to move the stone, and the stone would not have been able to be picked up anyway. Now someone or something must have moved that stone- someone which frightened the Roman Guards so much that they fled from their post. Desertion from one's post meant death. Death in these cases would be being burned alive, so it would not make much sense for the guards to just get up and go home. You couldn't get me to do something like desert my post with that kind of death threat over my head.
Ok this is kind of long, so in the next post, we'll look at the rest of the resurrection, and how it changed the lives of many of His followers.

No comments: