How Do We Know Jesus Died?

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (I Peter 3:18).

How do we know that Jesus actually died on the cross? Aside from what the Bible says in I Peter 3:18, and elsewhere, what evidence do we have for Jesus’ death? Or to put it another way, what are the alternative arguments for Jesus “not” dying on the cross and are they at all plausible?

First of all, there is the Swoon Theory. This point of view teaches that Jesus didn’t die but simply fainted. The cool air of the tomb later revived him. He then lived many years thereafter and died a natural death. This is refuted …

  • By the soldiers. In John 19:31-37, the soldiers broke the legs of both of the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus for the purpose of hastening their death. This was so their bodies would not remain on the cross during the Sabbath. However, when they got to Jesus they saw that He was already dead so they did not break His legs. They also stabbed Him in the side just to make sure that He was indeed deceased.
  • By Joseph of Arimathea. All four gospels (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42) record Joseph of Arimathea, along with Nicodemas and other women, carefully anointing Jesus’ body for burial, binding it in strips of linen with spices and laying His body in a new tomb. Surely they would have noticed if He was still breathing.
  • By Nicodemas. (See previous point).
  • By Pilate. Mark 14:42-47 reports that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had already died after only being on the cross for six hours. Sometimes death by crucifixion could take up to six days. Therefore, Pilate had the centurion in charge of the execution verify that Jesus was indeed dead. The centurion did so.
  • By Jesus. If Jesus had simply fainted, and later regained consciousness, this would mean that Jesus would have been a part of a fragrant lie by pretending to have risen from the grave when He would have known that He had not. He would therefore neither be good, nor a moral teacher who should be followed but rather a liar to be rejected.

As the late Paul Little explains, “It is impossible that One who had just come forth from the grave half dead, who crept about weak and ill, who stood in need of medical treatment, of bandaging, strengthening, and tender care and who at last succumbed to such great suffering on the cross could ever have given the disciples the impression that He was the conqueror over death and the grave; that He was the Prince of Life.”

More to come!

Soli deo Gloria!


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