If Jesus was God’s sinless envoy and died, would God have reason to soon resurrect him from death?

  • Our question

    Is Jesus someone whom God would plausibly raise from the dead soon after his execution? If you heard a guy say that his random and uninteresting next-door neighbor levitated, flew in circles, and spit fire while morphing into a banana, you would be skeptical. And simply saying, “Well, God did this to him,” likely would not help much. Why? Because it strikes us as very unlikely a priori that an all-good and all-knowing God would choose to do such a pointless thing. So even if there is a God, there are things God obviously is unlikely to do, and these are things for which we'd require extreme evidence. That is to say, even assuming God exists and Jesus is a real historical figure, why think this miracle of raising Jesus is any less random? Look around; it’s a fact that God just does not raise people from death, just like he does not morph people into bananas. What sense is there to it? Consequently, why not judge the idea of God choosing to spontaneously raise Jesus in the middle of human history as so hopelessly absurd that no realistic evidence would ever be able to compensate for it?

  • Resources

    See Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne's The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford, 2003). He covers this question in-depth and concludes that becoming incarnate and resurrecting is a kind of thing God might plausibly do if God existed.

“Yes, after all…
  • God could vindicate Jesus+Gospel via resurrection

    God could simultaneously vindicate both Jesus and the Gospel Jesus preached by both raising Jesus and seeing to it that Jesus appeared to the apostles.

    This page analyzes 4 arguments:

    This helps suggest that God would have reason to raise Jesus from death because we stipulated that Jesus was God's sinless envoy, and before Jesus's death he had just been preaching the so-called “bad news” (for us) of God's impending judgment on sinners for their sins, and the “good news” (for us) of one way God will offer forgiveness and cleansing to the repentant (i.e. the “Gospel”). God would plausibly want to vindicate Jesus and this gospel to core evangelists so they could spread it through evangelism. (There are philosophical/theological reasons for why God would want the Gospel to spread this way.)

  • The irreversibility of death was designed just for sinners

    A box with two halves. On has a head with a halo, the other has a skull with a snake coming out of it.

    God wants the sinless to live forever, and so plausibly (and reportedly) set up righteous humanity originally to either be invincible or to regenerate when facing any fatal circumstances. His purpose for introducing irreversible death (plausibly and reportedly [Genesis 3:19]) is to limit and punish wicked sinners.

    This full page analyzes 2 reasons to agree:

    • Biblically, God does resurrect sinless persons, and this fits well on the hypothesis that final (unreversed) death was simply not intended to apply to those who are righteous.
    • God would resurrect sinless persons for the same reason he created them in the first place. God intends to fill the world with his image- bearers doing image-bearing kinds of things (as stewards), and if God would preserve/restore them in fatal circumstances, then ultimate death was not intended as their ultimate destination.

    This purpose of ultimate/irreversible death (for sinners) factors into the discussion because Jesus was sinless (we stipulated). That means death as an irreversible/final state would hold no relevance for him. If humanity was originally immune to death (e.g. through natural regeneration), then this is how we might expect Jesus to be in virtue of his sinlessness.

“No, after all…
  • Dead people have always stayed dead

    two zombies with a ghost-buster cross-out over them

    All throughout human history people have been dying, and these dead people always stay dead. This is relevant because if God lacked sufficient reason to raise virtually everyone else from death, we can assume (by extrapolative inference) that God almost certainly would lack sufficient reason to raise Jesus from death. It is obviously not the kind of thing he chooses to do.

    But no…

    So? Plausibly…

    • God has special reasons to uniquely raise Jesus soon after his death. (See all three reasons given by green above which uniquely apply to Jesus.)