Critics like H. E. G. Paulus and Friedrich Schleiermacher held to this view. Some Muslim thinkers postulate that perhaps Jesus swooned on the Cross. This means that Jesus didn’t really die, but he merely went into a deep comatose state near death. However, after he was laid in the cool, dark tomb, Jesus regained strength and came back to life. Does this theory explain the historical data surrounding the resurrection?
In addition to the voluminous evidence for Jesus’ death mentioned earlier (see “Execution”), a number of further arguments can be made against the swoon theory:
First, it would make Jesus a deliberate deceiver. Arguably, one of the world’s greatest teachers would turn out to be the world’s most impactful liar and deceiver. This has all the makings of a great conspiracy theory, but it doesn’t fit with what we know of Jesus of Nazareth’s pristine character.
Second, Jesus couldn’t have moved the stone in such a state. After a full day of torture, flogging, and crucifixion in the hot sun, can we really believe that Jesus had the strength to move a two-ton stone to escape the tomb? Could a perfectly healthy man accomplish such a feat?
Third, Jesus couldn’t have evaded the guards surrounding the tomb. Matthew records a guard at the tomb of Jesus (Mt. 27:62-66; 28:4, 11-15). Scholars debate whether or not this was a Jewish or a Roman guard. Either way, in such a bloodied and beaten state, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to evade a guard of children, let alone trained soldiers.
Fourth, this would not have convinced Paul to come to faith in Christ. Perhaps Jesus’ closest disciples would’ve continued to follow Jesus despite all evidence to the contrary… but Paul? Could this mutilated man have really convinced such a zealous persecutor of Christianity? Could Jesus have conned such a prized intellectual as Paul?
Fifth, Jesus couldn’t have appeared to his disciples as the risen, victorious Messiah in such a state. This is perhaps the most damning argument of all. If the disciples found Jesus in such a mutilated state, they wouldn’t have called him the Messiah; instead, they would’ve called him a doctor! Moreover, they surely wouldn’t have been excited to get a “resurrected” body of their own! (c.f. 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:42-44)
Today, critical scholars have almost universally abandoned this theory. The 19th century critic David Strauss argued against this view in a devastating way:
It is impossible that a being who had stolen half dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill and wanting medical treatment… could have given the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life: an impression that lay at the bottom of their future ministry.
After Strauss’ critique, few have picked up the mantle of the “swoon theory.” Habermas comments, “Every once in a while, the swoon theory appears again. But it has not really been very popular since Strauss’s devastating critique in 1835. By the turn of the century, it was declared to be only a curiosity of the past.” Likewise, Craig writes, “Strauss’s critique really put the nails in the coffin for the apparent death theory. Again, I want to emphasize that no contemporary scholar would support such a theory; it has been dead over a hundred years.”
 Strauss, David. The Life of Jesus for the People. Volume One, Second Edition. London: Williams and Norgate. 1879. 412.
 Habermas, Gary. “The Late Twentieth-Century Resurgence of Naturalistic Responses to Jesus’ Resurrection.” Trinity Journal 22NS (2001) 190.
 Craig, W. L. (2000). The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (p. 40). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.