I have written many articles examining different theories to explain the resurrection as a non-historical event. In this article, I will examine two other theories that skeptics have put forward to say that Jesus was never resurrected: 1) that the appearances of Jesus after his death were cases of mistaken identity; and 2) that Jesus had an evil twin brother who pretended to be Jesus.
The Evidence for these Theories
Atheist Robert Price believes that the appearances of Jesus after his death may have been nothing more than mistaken identity. He notes that Luke 24:13-35 says that the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first, but only after they had spoken with him. He also mentions that Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at the tomb thinking that he was a gardener (John 20:14-15), and that the disciples did not recognize Jesus when he was standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:4). Price says:
“All this non-recognition business, which we should have never expected, inevitably invites the suspicion that the Easter encounters were actually sightings of, encounters with, figures only later identified with Jesus, and then as a means of escaping grief and despair…It is like when someone gives directions to a lost person who looks familiar but cannot be placed, and later a friend tells him, ‘I heard so-and-so celebrity was in town today, unannounced.’ And then one thinks, ‘That must have been him! If only I’d realized it then! I could have asked for an autograph!’ But what the heck, it’s still pretty exciting. And, of course, it might not have been the celebrity, and since you can no longer verify it one way or another, you can still tell the story, the element of uncertainty only enhancing it.”
Price also notes that even Mark 6:14; 8:28 tells us that some people thought that Jesus may have been John the Baptist who was dead. This is a clear case of mistaken identity right there in the Bible. And it doesn’t stop with Price’s theory. Robert Greg Cavin goes even further and says that Jesus had an evil twin brother who took advantage of the situation after Jesus’ death. This brother stole Jesus’ body and impersonated Jesus. Cavin believes that Jesus was not the son of Mary, but of an unknown woman who had given birth to twins. One of the twins – Jesus – was switched out for another baby. Cavin says:
“The chance of accidental switching is non-negligible in modern hospitals – indeed, reports of such incidents crop up in the news periodically – and in the absence of precautions exercised there, even in greater in ancient times.”
There are some serious problems with both of these theories. First, concerning Price’s arguments of mistaken identity, on none of these occasions mentioned in the Bible (the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Mary, etc.) did the disciples leave with any kind of doubt “that it was really the same Jesus they had known intimately for years who was appearing to them in physical form. Their doubts were only initial and momentary. By the time the appearance was over, Jesus had convinced them by his scars, his ability to eat food, by their touching him, by his teaching, by his voice, and/or by miracles that he was the same person with whom they had spent over three years.”
Second, mistaken identity does not explain the empty tomb. If the disciples were seeing someone else instead of Jesus, someone could have easily gone to Jesus’ tomb and showed the body to the disciples to refute their claim. “Instead, the disciples were absolutely convinced they were encountering the same Jesus in his same resurrected physical body whom they had known so closely all those years.”
Third, it is not very likely that so many people could be fooled so many times. Jesus appeared to over five hundred people on eleven different occasions over a period of forty days. Fourth, how did a mistaken identity convert skeptics like James, Jesus’ own brother, and Paul? And lastly, why would the disciples mistake someone else for Jesus being alive again? In the culture that the disciples lived in no one believed that any person would be resurrected before judgment day. They would not have mistaken anyone for Jesus because they believed that he was dead (no matter how saddened they were for his death).
What about the evil twin hypothesis? There are many problems with this as well. First off, switching babies shortly after birth would have been nearly impossible in the ancient world. A switch is sometimes made in hospitals today because infants are sometimes held together in a special hospital unit. However, births took place in the home in ancient times, not in hospitals. It would be very difficult to switch babies in this context.
It is also worth pointing out the fact that how could this “evil twin” keep his identity a secret while following Jesus around (how did he know Jesus was his switched twin brother?), move the stone at Jesus’ tomb, remove his body, get away with it, and trick the apostles that he was the resurrected Lord? I have already noted that the body could not have been stolen, so Cavin’s theory has a huge problem there. Also, Jesus convinced the disciples because of the miracles that he performed and the fact that he still had the wounds from his crucifixion. Did the evil twin have the same crucifixion wounds and did he perform miracles as well? And how did the twin explain the body that would have still been in the tomb (remember he could not have stolen it)?
To put it very simply, the mistaken identity and evil twin theories have numerous problems and should not be accepted. They are only put forth because skeptics need a way to explain the birth of Christianity without Jesus being who he said he was.
What do you think? Are skeptic’s theories getting a little too weird? Leave a comment below and pay us a visit on Facebook.
 Robert Price. “Explaining the Resurrection Without Recourse to Miracle.” In The End of Christianity. John Loftus ed. (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2011.) Pg. 229.
 Price, 229.
 Robert Greg Cavin. Miracles, Probability,and the Resurrection of Jesus. Ph.D dissertation. (University of California-Irvine, 1993).
 Cavin, 322. Quoted in James Patrick Holding. Defending the Resurrection (Xulon Press, 2010). 409.
 Norman Geisler. “Alternate Theories of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ/Part 2.” http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Alternate_Theories_of_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ/Part_2. Accessed July 31, 2013.
 Holding, 409.