There probably isn’t a more important question to ask about the Bible, given that the resurrection of Jesus is the central event in the Gospel.
The question could refer to two theories, the first being one of those sometimes put forward by some questioning the the resurrection – the so called “swoon theory” whereby Jesus did actually die on the cross, and the spear thrust through his side by the Roman soldier either never happened or did not successfully guarantee the job. This is so far out of the realms of possibility with a Roman execution that it was not raised at the time, and there seems no point discussing it here.
The second question – more common and more in keeping with later developments in Christian tradition such as the doctrine of the Trinity and traditional beliefs about immortal souls – is whether Jesus’ “soul” survived the crucifixion of the body and whether Jesus, either as Third Person of the Trinity, and/or as a “soul”, was conscious and went to another place.
To answer this second question would require first having an understanding of:
- The Trinity – see How did the doctrine of the Trinity arise?, and Is God a Trinity?
- The soul – see What happens after Death? and Does our soul sleep after death until the return of Jesus?
Jesus’ own statement:
However, to sum up quickly here. The statement recorded by John from Jesus himself “I was dead”, indicates that Jesus did not claim to have been alive or conscious during the three days:
Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (NIV)
That is rendered “I died” in some versions (ESV etc), but the Greek egenomen nekros clearly means “I became dead, I was dead”, and by “I died” (ESV etc) other versions do not mean to imply “my body died, I did not die”.
See also : What does it mean that Jesus preached to the “spirits in prison” 1 Peter 3:19