The swoon hypothesis is any of a number of ideas that aim to explain the resurrection of Jesus, proposing that Jesus did not die on the cross, but merely fell unconscious ("swooned"), and was later revived in the tomb in the same physical body.[1] According to the proponents of the swoon hypothesis, the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples following his physical resurrection from the dead three days in the tomb were merely perceived to be resurrection appearances by his followers; proponents of the swoon hypothesis believe that Jesus allegedly fell unconscious ("swooned") on the cross, survived the crucifixion, and then regained enough strength to appear before them while he was still alive.[1]

This and other similar theories about the resurrection of Jesus and witnesses to his resurrection became popular in the Western world after they were first proposed by some 18th–19th century Western authors and philosophers, including Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Schleiermacher; however, since the last decade of the 19th century, all of them have been discarded as baseless and unacceptable by the majority of biblical scholars and academics.[1] This 200-year-old hypothesis continues to be the subject of debate in popular circles, but the scholarly literature considers it uncontroversial that Jesus died during the process of crucifixion.[2]

18th and 19th centuries

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Early proponents of this hypothesis include German Karl Friedrich Bahrdt, who suggested in around 1780 that Jesus deliberately feigned his death, using drugs provided by the physician Luke to appear as a spiritual messiah and get Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah.[citation needed] In this interpretation of the events described in the Gospels, Jesus was resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathea, with whom he shared a connection through a secret order of the Essenes.

Around 1800, Karl Venturini proposed that a group of supporters dressed in white—who were, with Jesus, members of a "secret society"—had not expected him to survive the crucifixion, but heard groaning from inside the tomb, where Jesus had regained consciousness in the cool, damp air. They then frightened away the guards and rescued him.[citation needed]

A third rationalist theologian, Heinrich Paulus, wrote in works from 1802 onwards that he believed that Jesus had fallen into a temporary coma and somehow revived without help in the tomb. He was critical of the vision hypothesis and argued that the disciples must have believed that God had resurrected Jesus. Friedrich Schleiermacher endorsed a form of Paulus' hypothesis in the early 1830s.[citation needed]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement, proposed a hypothesis in his 1899 book Jesus in India[3] that Jesus traveled to India after surviving the crucifixion.

20th century

Though abandoned by modern scholars as a fringe theory, the hypothesis has remained popular in various works of pseudohistory, such as Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln's 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Barbara Thiering's 1992 Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Michael Baigent's 2006 The Jesus Papers. A fuller list of proponents of various swoon hypotheses:

Name Date Book Reference
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad 1899 Jesus in India [4]
Henry Leffmann 1904 The Mental Condition and Career of Jesus of Nazareth [5]
Ernest Brougham Docker 1920 If Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross [6]
Harvey Spencer Lewis 1929 The Mystical Life of Jesus
Werner Hegemann 1933 Christ Rescued [7]
Sufi M. R. Bengalee 1946 The Tomb of Jesus [8]
Khwaja Nazir Ahmad 1952 Jesus in Heaven on Earth
Robert Graves and Joshua Podro 1957 Jesus in Rome [9]
Hugh J. Schonfield 1965 The Passover Plot [10]
Raymond W. Bernard 1966 The Secret Life of Jesus the Essene
Aziz Kashmiri 1968 Christ in Kashmir
Donovan Joyce 1972 The Jesus Scroll [11]
Andreas Faber-Kaiser 1977 Jesus Died in Kashmir [12]
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln 1982 The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail [13]
J.D.M. Derrett 1982 The Anastasis: The Resurrection of Jesus as an Historical Event [14]
Paul C. Pappas 1991 Jesus' Tomb in India: The Debate on His Death and Resurrection [15]
Fida Muhammad Hassnain 1994 A Search for the Historical Jesus
Holger Kersten 1994 Jesus Lived in India [16]
Barbara Thiering 1994 Jesus the Man [17]
Kenneth V. Hosking 1995 Yeshua the Nazorean: The Teacher of Righteousness [18]
Abubakr Ben Ishmael Salahuddin 2001 Saving the Savior: Did Christ Survive the Crucifixion? [19]
Lena Einhorn 2007 The Jesus Mystery [20]
Johannes Fried 2019 Kein Tod auf Golgatha [21]

Rajneesh movement

Indian Philosopher Rajneesh has also argued that Jesus survived the crucifixion and his argument is similar to the swoon hypothesis.[22]

Islamic perspectives

See also: Islamic views on Jesus' death

A big proponent of the swoon hypothesis in the modern era would be Muslim preacher Ahmed Deedat of South Africa, whose book Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction has been widely printed and distributed all over the Muslim world.[23][24][25][26] He takes a critical look at the events in the four Gospels and theorizes an alternative scenario of what really happened, a scenario very similar to the swoon hypothesis.

Another contemporary Muslim scholar, Zakir Naik, also used these hypotheses in a debate with Pastor Ruknuddin Henry Pio.[27]

The actual Islamic position on the subject of crucifixion more closely resembles the Substitution hypothesis, highlighted in verse of the Qur'an: "and for their saying, 'We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.' But they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it was made to appear to them so. Even those who dispute about it are in doubt; they have no certain knowledge other than conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him."[28]

Ahmadiyya perspective

According to the late 19th century writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, the theological basis of the Ahmadi belief is that Jesus was only "in a swoon"[29][full citation needed] when he was taken down from the cross. Ahmad argued that when Jesus was taken down from the cross, he had lapsed into a state similar to Jonah's state of "swoon" in the belly of a fish. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad interpreted the phrase in Deuteronomy 21:23: kī qilelat Elohim taluy, "… for a hanged man is the curse of God", as suggesting that "God would never allow one of His true prophets to be brutally killed in such a degrading manner as crucifixion". Following his ordeal, Jesus was cured of his wounds with a special 'ointment of Jesus' (marham-i ʿIsā)."[30][full citation needed][31][32]

Supporting arguments

Short stay of Jesus on the cross

It was uncommon for a crucified healthy adult to die in the time described by the Gospels; the Gospel of Mark reports that Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and died at three in the afternoon, or six hours after the crucifixion. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon (Mark 15:44). The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is claimed by some to have been observed to be 2–4 days; moreover, the 17th century philosopher Justus Lipsius claims that victims of crucifixion survive for as long as 9 days.[33]

The precise duration of crucifixion until death occurs would depend on the type of crucifixion, the amount of blood loss already inflicted from the flogging and scourging performed beforehand, and the general physical health of the individual being executed.

Modern scholarship has also cast some doubt on the generally agreed depiction of Jesus being nailed to a cross, as opposed to the more common method of having a victim's hands and feet being tied to a cross. This skepticism arises from the fact that the none of the gospels make any mention of Jesus being nailed to the cross, but it is assumed that this is what transpired, based on the reporting of wounds in the hands of the risen Jesus. The mention of the wounds itself is only found in the Gospel of John.[34]

Lack of eyewitness accounts of Jesus' dead body

Jesus' body, as per the Gospel narratives, is not seen by eyewitnesses nor reported upon as such after his death. No elaborate funeral arrangements and no public viewing of the corpse are recorded to have taken place. Jesus' body is removed from the cross into the custody of his executioner, Pontius Pilate. Soon thereafter, Jesus' body is given by Pilate to a member of the Jewish council, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man and a secret follower of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea, along with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, wrap Jesus' body in linen and transport the body to a nearby, stone-covered burial chamber.[35]

Jewish religious law (halacha) forbids embalming, and therefore Jews generally bury their dead as soon as possible: "Jewish burials take place as quickly as possible, following a principle of honoring the dead (k'vod hamet).[36]

The transfer of Jesus' body by the local authorities into the hands of a rich influential follower and execution of a quick burial lend support to the swoon hypothesis, allowing a swooned Jesus to be removed from the cross, quickly hidden away from public scrutiny with room to recover from his ordeal in an above ground burial chamber on private property.[25]


In contrast, modern skeptics of swooning claims, such as diagnostician Dr. Alexander Metherell, assert that Jesus having survived crucifixion is "impossible" and "a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact."[37] Further example may be found in a thorough analysis conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded Jesus was very probably dead even prior to the spear being thrust into his side, and that any swoon hypothesis is entirely irreconcilable with contemporary medical science.[38]

Jesus' state of health

The swoon hypothesis has been criticized by many, including medical experts who, based on the account given in the New Testament, conclude that Jesus was definitively dead when removed from the cross.[39] Many others consider it unlikely that Jesus would be capable of inspiring faith in those who saw him after barely surviving a crucifixion, including the 19th century rationalist theologian David Strauss, who wrote: "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill and wanting medical treatment... could have given the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life: an impression that lay at the bottom of their future ministry."[40]

Medical arguments

Medical authorities W. D. Edwards, W. J. Gabel and F. E. Hosmer offered the following analysis in regard to the New Testament Greek and the medical data:

Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus' death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier's spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.[41]

Forensic pathologist Frederick T. Zugibe has described the swoon hypothesis as completely unfounded and contradicted by medical evidence.[42] According to Zugibe the long spikes that penetrated Jesus' feet would have caused massive swelling and severe pain beginning in the first hour on the cross and over the next few days would have been massively swollen and infected beyond any immediate healing capability.[42] Jesus would not have been able to stand or walk on his feet for at least a month or longer. Zugibe argued that it was not possible for Jesus to have survived his crucifixion and no drugs or medications of the time would have been able to stop the pain Jesus had experienced or put him into a deep sleep to feign death.[42]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Stevens, Jennifer (2010). "The Fifth Gospel of Oscar Wilde". The Historical Jesus and the Literary Imagination, 1860–1920. Cambridge and Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 160. doi:10.5949/UPO9781846316159.006. ISBN 9781846316159. JSTOR j.ctt5vjbx8.9. Theories proposing that Christ survived the crucifixion and regained enough strength to appear before his disciples were several and varied. [...] While by the last decade of the century such theories were no longer regarded as academically respectable by the theological establishment, those set on discrediting the Gospels continued to exploit them with some abandon.
  2. ^ Bergeron, Joseph W. (April 2012). "The crucifixion of Jesus: Review of hypothesized mechanisms of death and implications of shock and trauma-induced coagulopathy". Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Elsevier on behalf of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 19 (3): 113–116. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2011.06.001. ISSN 1878-7487. OCLC 612913525. PMID 22390994. S2CID 8094030.
  3. ^ Jesus in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
  4. ^ O'Collins, Gerald; Kendall, Daniel (1996). Focus on Jesus: Essays in Christology and Soteriology. Fowler Wright Books. p. 169. ISBN 0-85244-360-9
  5. ^ Leffmann, Henry (1904). The Mental Condition and Career of Jesus of Nazareth Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge. Philadelphia.
  6. ^ Zugibe, Frederick Thomas. (2005). The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry. M. Evans & Company. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-59077-070-2
  7. ^ Jocz, Jakób (1981). The Jewish People and Jesus Christ After Auschwitz: A Study in the Controversy Between Church and Synagogue. Baker Book House. p. 234. ISBN 0-85244-360-9
  8. ^ Bengalee, Sufi Matiur Rahman (1963 edition). The Tomb of Jesus. Ahmadiyya Muslim Association.
  9. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 157–158.
  10. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 158–159.
  11. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 161–164.
  12. ^ Burke, Tony. (2017). Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions: Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha. Cascade Books. pp. 276-277. ISBN 978-1-5326-0374-7
  13. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 164–166.
  14. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 167–169.
  15. ^ Pappas, Paul Constantine (1991). Jesus' Tomb in India: Debate on His Death and Resurrection. Asian Humanities Press. ISBN 978-0895819468
  16. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, p. 169.
  17. ^ O'Collins & Kendall 1996, pp. 171–173.
  18. ^ Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9
  19. ^ Salahuddin, Abubakr Ben Ishmael (2001). Saving the Savior: Did Christ Survive the Crucifixion?. Jammu Press. ISBN 978-0970828019
  20. ^ Einhorn, Lena (2007). The Jesus Mystery. The Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-59921-148-0
  21. ^ Fried, Johannes (2019). Kein Tod auf Golgatha. Verlag C.H. Beck. ISBN 978-3406731419
  22. ^ "Jesus". OSHO – Transform Yourself through the Science of Meditation.
  23. ^ "Who moved the Stone" (PDF).
  24. ^ "Resurrection or Resuscitation" (PDF).
  25. ^ a b "Was Jesus Crucified" (PDF).
  26. ^ "Crucifixion or Crucifiction" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2016. by Ahmed Deedat
  27. ^ "Debate: Was Jesus Christ (PBUH) Really Crucified? Dr. Zakir Naik debates Pastor Ruknuddin". HasbunAllah. 2 April 2013. Archived from the original on 13 May 2019. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  28. ^ "The Holy Qur'an - Chapter: 4: An-Nisa'".
  29. ^ Faruqi 1983, p. 98
  30. ^ Schäfer & Cohen 1998, p. 306
  31. ^ "Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross".
  32. ^ "Jesus in India - Tomb of Jesus - Where Did Jesus Die - Jesus in Islam - Al Islam Online".
  33. ^ "Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ". Archived from the original on 29 January 2011.
  34. ^ "Was Jesus Christ really nailed to the cross?". The Independent. 21 March 2016. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022.
  35. ^ "Could Jesus Have Survived the Crucifixion?".
  36. ^ "Jewish Funeral Customs: Saying Goodbye to a Loved One". Archived from the original on 25 May 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013. by Lisa Alcalay Klug at the Jewish Federations of North America.
  37. ^ Strobel, Lee (1998). The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9780310610038. Once a person is hanging in the vertical position, crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he'd have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn't be able to push up and breathe anymore... [Jesus] was already in hypovolemic shock from the massive blood loss even before the crucifixion started. He couldn't possibly have faked his death, because you can't fake the inability to breathe for long. Besides, the spear thrust into his heart would have settled the issue once and for all. And the Romans weren't about to risk their own death by allowing him to walk away alive.
  38. ^ Edwards, M.D., William; Gabel, M.Div., Wesley; Hosmer, M.S., Floyd (21 March 1986). "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ". Journal of the American Medical Association. 255 (11): 1455–63. CiteSeerX doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370110077025. PMID 3512867. Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  39. ^ Edwards, William D (1986). "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ". Journal of the American Medical Association. 255 (11): 1455–63. CiteSeerX doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370110077025. PMID 3512867.
  40. ^ David Strauss, The Life of Jesus for the People, vol. 1, 2nd edition (London: Williams and Norgate, 1879), p. 412.
  41. ^ On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ Archived 26 January 2022 at the Wayback Machine, by William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI (whole JAMA article in PDF file format).
  42. ^ a b c Zugibe, Frederick T. (2005) The Crucifixion of Jesus, Completely Revised and Expanded: A Forensic Inquiry. M. Evans & Company. pp. 161-162. ISBN 978-1-59077-070-2

Works cited