21st Century Christian Apologists on the Swoon Theory – Part 4: Gary Habermas & Michael Licona


I am in the process of reviewing objections to the Swoon Theory found in four books published by Christian apologists in the 21st century. I am trying to determine how many of these objections correspond to the nine objections against the Swoon Theory raised by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (published in 1994, hereafter: HCA) and how many of them are different objections than the objections presented in HCA.

In this current post, I will examine objections to the Swoon Theory presented in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, which was published in 2004.


Habermas and Licona only write about three pages on the Swoon Theory. The discussion starts with a couple of sentences at the bottom of page 99; there is a full page of text on page 100; there is less than half a page of text on page 101 (a diagram takes up more than half that page); page 102 has a full page of text, and then the conclusion of the discussion takes up about one-half a page on page 103.

They organize their criticisms into three objections, but they clearly make more than just three points, and some of the points, in my view, should be understood as separate objections.

Their first objection is, I believe, their main objection:

“First, such an occurrence seems highly unlikely, given the nature of scourging and crucifixion.” (p.100)

They do not clearly specify what they mean by “such an occurrence”, but a reasonable guess is that they mean the claim that Jesus survived his crucifixion. Given that interpretation, this point corresponds to Objection #1 (Deadliness of Roman Crucifixion) in HCA.

However, in HCA, Kreeft and Tacelli argue for the deadliness of Roman crucifixion based on the motivation of the Roman soldiers and the (alleged) excellence of Roman crucifixion procedures (for accomplishing the goal of killing the victim of crucifixion). Habermas and Licona have a different focus. They emphasize the severity of the wounds inflicted on Jesus by means of scourging and crucifixion and the alleged physiological impacts of those wounds according to medical experts and analysis.

They make a few points in support of this first objection (summarized in my words):

  • Jesus was severely scourged prior to being crucified. (p.100)
  • Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to the cross. (p.100)
  • People who were crucified died from asphyxiation. (p.101)
  • Death could be confirmed by observing that the crucified person has stopped repeatedly lifting themselves up higher on the cross in order to exhale. (p.101 & 102)
  • Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, and blood and water flowed out, indicating that the spear had pierced Jesus’ heart. (p.102)

The last bullet should probably be taken as a separate objection, in which case it corresponds to Objection #3 (Blood & Water) in HCA by Kreeft and Tacelli.

The second objection by Habermas and Licona also involves more than just one point, and I will suggest that we look at this second objection as actually containing at least three separate objections:

“…Strauss wrote that it was not plausible that, having been scourged and crucified, Jesus pushed the heavy stone away from the tomb with pierced hands…” (p.102)

This corresponds to Objection #7 (Who Moved the Stone?) in HCA.

Another objection is raised in the same sentence:

“…Strauss wrote that it was not plausible that, having been scourged and crucified, Jesus…walked blocks on pierced and wounded feet.” (p.102)

We saw this “Wounded Feet” objection in Evidence for the Resurrection by Sean and Josh McDowell, but this is NOT an objection that was presented in HCA by Kreeft and Tacelli.

Habermas and Licona also make the most familiar objection from David Strauss:

“…when he appeared to his disciples in his pathetic and mutilated state, would this convince them that he was the risen Prince of life? Alive? Barely. Risen? No.” (p.102)

This corresponds to Objection #5 (Sickly Jesus Objection) in HCA.

The objection that Habermas and Licona present as their “third” objection is given in a single brief paragraph. It is about the conversion experience of Paul:

[The Swoon Theory] “cannot account for Paul’s dramatic reversal of worldviews. Paul claimed that his conversion was the result of experiencing a glorious appearance of the risen Jesus. A swooned Jesus, even if healed, would not appear gloriously.” (p.103)

This does not seem to be a strong and solid objection, but it is an objection that is NOT found in HCA by Kreeft and Tacelli.


I see more than just three objections against the Swoon Theory in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. There are at least four objections corresponding to objections that were raised by Kreeft and Tacelli in HCA:

  • Objection #1 (Deadliness of Roman Crucifixion)
  • Objection #3 (Blood & Water)
  • Objection #5 (Sickly Jesus Objection)
  • Objection #7 (Who Moved the Stone?)

In addition, there are a couple of other objections that were NOT presented in HCA:

  • Wounded Feet: Jesus could not have walked for blocks on wounded feet.
  • Paul’s Conversion: A swooned Jesus would not appear gloriously.

So, there are at least six different objections to the Swoon Theory presented by Habermas and Licona in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.