Jesus and Near Death

Van Talmage
4 min readJan 26, 2024

What if Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified by Pontius Pilate, suffered a near-death experience, awoke, survived for a few more weeks then died.

First, this is very plausible.

Second, this would have resulted in the same thing that actually happened: his disciples thought this was a miracle and started talking about it. In short order, a serious fanatic came forward (Paul) and started spreading the word. It was a timely and popular message that found and ever increasing number of adherents. There were/are cultural forces at work to enable this movement of ideas to the larger audience.

Before looking at the plausibility and post-risen repercussions, let’s consider why this is problem for Christianity: It makes Jesus human, not divine.

If Jesus acted like a human in a near-death experience, if, in fact, Jesus was/is human, what about the virgin birth, the Son of God, the Messiah? What if Jesus was just a human who turned out to be a radical preacher who wanted to feed the hungry and helped the oppressed. A human.

But,of course, it did not turn out that way.

Back to the beginning: Jesus was supposed to have died, descended into hell, and then arose again from the dead after three days. The whole Easter thing is based on this. “Christ has Risen”. This proved his divinity so that he was able to ascend to Heaven and sit on the right hand of God. The Resurrection is fundamental to the Christian theology and it certainly influenced the move away from Judaism.

If the resurrection was just from a mortally wounded human, it certainly would not carry the weight it does within the Christian religion. Jesus “dying for our sins” is the reason he is Savior. Near death does not count. Or does it?

So let’s look at plausibility issue. It is 2000 years ago and crucifixion is a cultural choice for execution. Jesus obviously offended the powers at be. He was a radical preacher with a following and a reputation and his message was anti-establishment. He was hung on the cross to die. This was a punishment for a political enemy.

For the record, I accept that Jesus was a historical character. I am just looking for a natural explanation of what happened.

Eventually he is taken down and a follower takes the body for burial in a cave/tomb. How do we know that he was dead? There was no doctor certifying anything. We have a Centurion (trained guard) and a follower. Maybe a coma and not death? Maybe they took pity and took him down when not dead, reasoning he would die anyway. They easily could have put Jesus in the tomb while in a coma (either unnoticed or expected to die).

The example of a near death coma and a subsequent arising comes from battlefields where soldiers left for dead get up a walk or stumble away. Or it comes from survivors who were given up for dead in storms on Mt. Everest only, to come back from near death to wander back to help. Or it comes from the many near death experiences that have been documented. The human body does not want to die, especially a young man in his prime (early 30’s).

So it is very possible that Jesus could have been near death and then arose. Think again about the culture of 2000 years ago. No real medical knowledge, no understanding of how this was understandable in a natural way. To anyone at that time, it was a miracle. Returning from a near-death situation is always a miracle. 2000 years ago, in this religious setting, it certainly would have been considered a “miracle”. News of this happening would have spread and with it enabled the theory that Jesus was divine.

Here’s the overview:

· Disciples got excited and became firmer believers

· They built a larger audience, the story grows, the legend grows

· Years later, the oral/memory stories are written down, with the best message and true intent. But obviously stories get embellished over time, and there is little chance that Jesus sayings (in the Gospels) are accurate quotes.

· Human observers massage the story as it is passed on orally

· The audience grows and some converts become more fanatical than others

· A see-the-light and accomplished follower (Paul), starts spreading the word to a much larger audience, establishes a missionary type goal and “spreads the good news”.
(Master communicator for that era).

· Theology and meaning evolve as with any spread of ideas amongst human communicators. New ideas, different interpretation, different religions and factions.

· 2000 years and for most of the time (since Constantinople in 330 AD), the Christian Church has been a power player in politics.

· Religions and Christianity in particular have survived for two reasons:
a. Until Science came along, it was the best explanation for our existence
b. It provided positive benefits to believers (hope and salvation)

So what does it mean if a there is a plausible and reasonable explanation for the legends, and the star is a human and not divine.

It is clear that you could still have Jesus as your role model, your savior. You could still follow him and try to emulate or understand him. But would it be same if he was a radical preacher role model rather a divine being of virgin birth?

It calls into question the “died for your sins” and the “son of God” and sits on the “right hand of God”.

It actually blows apart much of the Christian doctrine and theology.

Again, religion gets to continue. It can have followers and offer hope and salvation. But the understanding of what is going on has to change. Maybe we get a better version of religion and its relation to civic governance. Maybe we get the evangelical Right our of our politics. Maybe we get less drama as we accept that religion is a choice of personal habits and works for some and is not needed by others. Maybe, we as humans advance in knowledge and understanding.

Or those, who are threatened theologically, could just double down.