Islam and Jesus' Resurrection Body - Luke 24:39

Question
Islam argues that Jesus really did not die but was merely resuscitated. They base this on their reasoning that resurrected bodies are not solid. Was Jesus merely resuscitated?
Answer
Luke 24:39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
Islam argues that Jesus really did not die but was merely resuscitated. They base this on their reasoning that resurrected bodies are not solid as Jesus' was in Luke 24:39. They claim that the resurrection body is more angelic in nature.

Jesus' Crucifixion

According to both Scripture and history, Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and then was resurrected. Scriptural evidence abounds on this point (e.g. Matt. 27:50-53; 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Rom. 1:4-5; 6:8-11; Phil. 3:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:3). This is also covered in various other answers concerning Islam on our website, so I will not repeat here.

However, history does reflect the truth concerning the crucifixion. Titus Flavius Josephus, also called Joseph ben Matityahu, (37-100 AD), also a Jew, is a literary source for the practice of crucifixion in Palestine during the Greco-Roman period (Life 76; Antiquities 12: Chapter 5; 13: Chapter 14; 17: Book 10; 20: Chapter 5; Jewish War 4: Chapter 5; 5: Chapter 6, 11). He specifically refers to the crucifixion of Jesus saying in Antiquities 18: Chapter 3 (Testimonium Flavianum):

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, [if it be lawful to call him a man;] for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher [of such men as receive the truth with pleasure,] He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. [He was the Christ.] And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; [for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.] And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
In 127 words, Josephus confirms the miracle of Jesus, (1) his existence, (2) his "more than human" status, (3) his miracle working, (4) teaching, and (5) ministry among the Jews and the Gentiles, (6) messiahship, (7) his condemnation by the Jewish priests, (8) his sentencing by Pilate, (9) his death on the cross, (10) the devotion of his followers, (11) his resurrection on the third day (12) post-death appearances, (13) the fulfillment of divine prophecy, and (14) the successful continuance of the kingdom of God. This is a testimony of an orthodox Jew and trusted historian of that era!

So, evidence biblically and historically abounds for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Regarding whether Jesus was resurrected or merely resuscitated, perhaps if we studied his literal death a little closer from a doctor's perspective, it would help. Here is an article from the Department of Pathology, Mayo Clinic in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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.

Jesus died and was not merely resuscitated. He had to have been resurrected.

Jesus' Resurrection

First, your question infers that Jesus had a "solid" resurrection body. Yes, Jesus' resurrection body was able to speak and to be heard (Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:19-23, 26-29; 21:4-22). He could be seen (1 Cor. 15:5-8). People could recognize that it was really him (John 20:28; 21:27; Rev. 1:10-18). He literally ate food (Luke 24:42-43; Acts 10:41; note, even angels had physical forms at times and ate - Gen. 18:8). And in John 2:19-22 we read:

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Did you see that? Jesus spoke of his literal body! His literal body was raised up. Then in John 20:25-29 Jesus is seen as having the same physical body as at the crucifixion. Thomas was asked to touch Jesus' nail-scared hands and reach into Jesus' side that had been pierced with the Roman spear. He is REAL and, he is RISEN from the dead!

Second, a physical rising from the dead is not beyond God's power. God himself says, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?" (Jer. 32:27). Paul asks "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" (Acts 26:8), and in Romans 1:3-4 he states his cause ". . . regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." The resurrection, not a mere resuscitation, proved who Jesus was. It fulfilled prophecy in the Old Testament. It fulfilled the Davidic covenant that promised an eternal descendant was to sit on David's throne (Psa. 89:29-37; Isa. 9:6; 53). The God of Christianity is sovereign and strong. He fulfilled his promise (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Psa. 92:15; Rom. 3:4; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18).

Third, after Christ's resurrection, literal bodies came out of their graves (Matt. 27:52). A Christian's latter physical resurrection is rooted in the former, making them both of the same nature (2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 48; Phil. 3:21). Paul maintains, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11). At the resurrection, our bodies are raised from the dead! We are mortal and die, but when raised this mortality will be swallowed up by immortality. Will they be somewhat different? Yes. (1 Cor. 15:36-41). They'll be imperishable, glorious, powerful, immortal. We will eat physical food (Matt. 26:29; Rev. 22:2). We will have flesh, as Job says in Job 19:25-26, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God."

Scripture never denies that it is a material body, rather explains that it is one that is changed. Jesus was the first fruits of resurrection.

Please see Christianity and Islam Contrasted

Reference

William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M.Div; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1986; 255:1455-1463.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).