Skeptics of Christianity must somehow explain the empty tomb without admitting that anything miraculous happened. Therefore, some have suggested that Peter and the other apostles fabricated the story about Jesus’ resurrection. Is it plausible to believe that Jesus’ disciples went about preaching something they knew to be false, the product of conspiracy?
One of President Nixon’s closest aides was Chuck Colson (d. 2012). Mr. Colson went to prison over his involvement in Watergate, and later said:
“Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aids to the President of the United States—the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned states evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, “to save his own skin”—and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on—two weeks! The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all that those around the President were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake.
But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead.
Don’t you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did.
You see, men will give their lives for something they believe to be true—they will never give their lives for something they know to be false” (“An Unholy Hoax?”).
Is it reasonable to think that the disciples could have kept from revealing their own dishonesty despite rampant persecution against them, including martyrdom? Surely not. (After all, Peter had denied the Lord three times already!) Rather, the words of Paul much more reasonably explain the disciples’ behavior:
1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.