Jesus’ resurrection and mass hallucinations2009 August 16more by Nicholas Covington
By Nicholas Covington
Article ID: 1334
Abstract: This article is a rebuttal to Gary Habermas, who defends the Jesus’ resurrection appearances against the hypothesis that these appearances were simply hallucinations. A plausible natural explanation of the facts concerning the origin of Christianity is presented and compared to the traditional Christian explanation (that Jesus was raised from the dead). It is shown that the acceptance of the empty tomb, appearances of Jesus to his followers, conversion of the Jesus’ skeptical brother James, and the conversion of Paul as fact does not warrant the conclusion that the resurrection occurred.
Gary Habermas is perhaps the most articulate defender of the historical fact of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. He wrote an article which attempts to defend the resurrection appearances against the explanation that they were simply hallucinations. What follows is a rebuttal to the points Habermas makes (his words are in italics):
“[T]he chief examples of ‘collective hallucinations’ provided by Zusne and Jones were group religious experiences such as Marion apparitions. But these citations simply beg the question regarding whether such experiences could possibly be objective, or even supernatural, at least in some sense. In other words, why must a naturalistic, subjective explanation be assumed? This seems to rule them out in an a priori manner, before the data are considered.”
Habermas’ objection is correct: We must not assume that the miraculous is impossible. However, there is good evidence that group hallucination may be caused by suggestion. To give one example, there was a report of a man who found a group of people gazing upward. When he inquired what they were looking at, he was told that there was a crucifix in the sky. He walked up to another person in the group, shook his arm, and told him that there was no cross. The individual appeared to “wake up” from some trance-like state, and agreed with him, and that there was no cross. This would probably not happen if what the group was seeing was at all objective. In this case, it was not.
“Further, the collective hallucination thesis is unfalsifiable. It could be applied to purely natural, group sightings, simply calling them group hallucinations, too. On this thesis, crucial epistemic criteria seem to be missing. How do we determine normal occurrences from group hallucinations?”
That would be quite easy: By determining whether the group was exposed to emotional excitement, expectation of seeing something, hypnotic suggestion, hallucinogens, etc. In the case of Jesus’ followers, it is plausible that they were exposed to all (except, perhaps, hallucinogens).
“Even if it could be established that groups of people witnessed hallucinations, it is critical to note that it does not at all follow that these experiences were therefore collective. If, as most psychologists assert, hallucinations are private, individual events, then how could groups share exactly the same subjective visual perception? Rather, it is much more likely that the phenomena in question are either illusions — perceptual misinterpretations of actual realities — or individual hallucinations.”
No one says that the group has to see precisely the same thing. For example, let’s take Jesus’ appearance to the five hundred reported in 1 Corinthians 15. We don’t have reports of individuals, but it is completely possible, for example, that some saw Jesus in white linen with a pure, unblemished body, and that others saw him in black with pierced hands and a wound in his side, and others saw Jesus in yet another form. It simply is not established that Jesus was seen exactly the same way by everyone present. Furthermore, it is not clear that everyone present at that instance saw the risen Jesus, since those present in a hallucinating group who do not share the experience will often not speak up.
Zusne and Jones argue that ‘expectation’ and ‘emotional excitement’ are ‘prerequisites’ before such group experiences will occur. In fact, expectation ‘plays the coordinating role.’ But this scenario contradicts the emotional state of the early witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Even psychologically, the early believers were confronted face-to-face with the utter realism of the recent and unexpected death of their best friend, whom they had hoped would rescue Israel. As those recent events unfolded in a whirlwind of Jesus’ physical beatings, crucifixion, and seeming abandonment, the normal response would be fear, disillusionment, and depression. To suppose that these believers would exhibit ‘expectation’ and ‘emotional excitement’ in the face of these stark circumstances would require of them responses that would scarcely be exhibited at a funeral! All indications are that Jesus’ disciples would exhibit the very opposite emotions from what Zusne and Jones convey as the necessary requirement.
I believe Zusne and Jones refer to ‘emotional excitement’ in the broad sense which includes fear and anxiety (not simply the type of ‘excitement’ one gets from going to a music concert). Emotional excitement (in the broad sense) is known to increase one’s suggestibility, opening one up to hallucinatory experiences. Now, as for expectation: It is often asserted that Jesus’ followers never expected him to rise from the dead. This completely ignores the fact that the gospel of Mark records Jesus predicting his resurrection (Mark 10:32-34)! In a debate with Gerd Luedemann, William Lane Craig attempted to answer this objection by pointing to Luke 18:34, which says that the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant when he said this. Yet Luke is certainly later than Mark, so Luke’s account should not take precedence over Mark. Moreover, even if the disciples really did not understand what this meant, they may have come to understand it after his death.
(1) Even individual hallucinations are questionable for any believers who felt despair at the unexpected death of Jesus just hours before. Their hopes and dreams had suddenly been dashed. Extreme grief, not exuberance, would be the normal response.
No one is arguing that the disciples were “exuberant” after Jesus’ death. Here Habermas has again confused “emotional excitement” as including pleasure, which is not always the case.
(2) The wide variety of times and places when Jesus appeared, along with the differing mindsets of the witnesses, is simply a huge obstacle. Men and women, hard-headed and soft-hearted alike, all believing that they saw Jesus, both indoors and outdoors, by itself provides an insurmountable barrier for hallucinations. The odds that each person would be in precisely the proper frame of mind to experience a hallucination, even individually, decreases exponentially.
Jesus’ earliest appearances come from Mark, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 (I reject the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John due to the fact that they were most likely written much later than the first sources, and clearly show a great deal of embellishment). According to these sources, the women saw an angel in the tomb and subsequently Jesus appeared to Peter, James, the five hundred, and Paul. Essentially, we have a handful of private appearances and one mass appearance. These are not difficult to explain psychologically, as we shall see.
(3) Generally, hallucinations do not transform lives. Studies have argued that even those who hallucinate often (or perhaps usually) disavow the experiences when others present have not seen the same thing. Critics acknowledge that Jesus’ disciples were transformed even to the point of being quite willing to die for their faith. No early text reports that any of them ever recanted. To believe that this quality of conviction came about through false sensory perceptions without anyone rejecting it later is highly problematic.
We do not know if anyone else had a different hallucination when Jesus appeared, or if they would have spoken up to dismiss the Jesus hallucination. Furthermore, the culture we live in today is much different than first-century Palestine. One study showed that widows and widowers often hallucinate about their dead spouse, and yet very seldom tell anyone about the experience. This is understandable, as the widow or widower might fear being branded with the stigma of mental illness. However, in the ancient cultural context we know that this was not the case. The Apostle Paul reports that he received his gospel from the personal revelation of Christ himself (Gal. 1:11-12). There are many other examples in the early church in which visions and such were taken as communication from the divine. The point here is not what the early Christians hallucinated, but that those having hallucinations (especially with holy subject matter) would probably have been encouraged to do so, and would’ve been admired for their “abilities”. The acceptance of their peers also meant that such experiences would be taken seriously.
“(4) Of course, if the appearances were hallucinations, then Jesus’ body should have been located safely and securely in its grave just outside the city of Jerusalem! That body would undoubtedly be a rather large disclaimer to the disciples’ efforts to preach that Jesus was raised! But hallucinations do not even address this, so another naturalistic thesis is required.”
Although there are naturalistic hypotheses to account for the empty tomb, we need not bring them up here. Habermas has not in this article presented any evidence for the empty tomb, and the usual list of evidences for an empty tomb have been adequately rebutted elsewhere. Furthermore, even if we did have to add another naturalistic hypothesis to account for the empty tomb, this would not show naturalistic explanations of the evidence untenable.
“Still other issues also impede the hallucination hypothesis. While these are perhaps not as weighty, they still count: (5) Why did the hallucinations stop after 40 days? Why didn’t they continue to spread to other believers, just as the others had?”
These experiences did not stop. Visions of Jesus occur throughout church history, and still occur today.
“(6) The resurrection was the disciples’ central teaching, and we usually take extra care with what is closest to our hearts. This is what drove Paul to check out the nature of the gospel data with other key disciples on at least two occasions, to make sure he was preaching the truth (Gal. 1:18-19; 2:1-10). He found that they were also speaking of Jesus’ appearances to them (1 Cor. 15:11). “
I do not doubt that there were early Christians who genuinely believed they saw Jesus, and I do not see this as a problem for naturalistic explanations of what happened then.
“ (7) What about the natural human tendency to touch? Would no one ever discover, even in a single instance, that their best friend, seemingly standing perhaps just a few feet away, was not really there?”
I don’t believe that any of the early reports (Mark and Paul’s letters) say anything about touching or attempting to touch the risen Jesus. In any case, one study has shown that one-third of grief hallucinations include seeing, hearing, and speaking with the deceased, so being able to touch as well would not be much of a stretch.
An alternative account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
To be clear, let me explain what I am proposing as a natural explanation of William Lane Craig’s “four facts”:
FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.
Think of the situation the disciples faced after Jesus’ crucifixion:
1. Their leader was dead. And Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to throw off Israel’s enemies (= Rome) and re-establish a Davidic reign—not suffer the ignominious death of criminal.
2. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him out to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God (Deut. 21.23). The catastrophe of the crucifixion for the disciples was not simply that their Master was gone, but that the crucifixion showed, in effect, that the Pharisees had been right all along, that for three years they had been following a heretic, a man accursed by God!
3. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world. All the disciples could do was to preserve their Master’s tomb as a shrine where his bones could reside until that day when all of Israel’s righteous dead would be raised by God to glory.”
I have no problem accepting facts 1 and 3. I question fact 2, although I will accept it for the sake of argument and remain agnostic about which naturalistic explanation for it is correct. I disagree with fact 4, on the grounds that:
- Jesus himself never said he was going to establish a kingdom on earth, quite the contrary (John 18:36). Whether one takes the saying in John as original to Jesus or not, it cannot be denied that the earliest Christians may have come to understand Jesus’ kingdom in such a way.
- Cognitive Dissonance may explain why the disciples still believed that Jesus was the messiah, even after his death. As one psychologist described it:
“Cognitive Dissonance Theory has shown how individuals cannot easily dismiss a belief or attitude they hold, even when the attitude is directly contradicted by evidence or events. People will sooner adopt farfetched ideas to explain events than relinquish their preconceptions.”
A good example of Cognitive Dissonance can be found amongst the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” who predicted that the world would end in 1975; This year came and passed, but did not convince many within the group to abandon their religion.
Perhaps an even more damning counterpoint to this defense is provided by Rodney Stark:
“…Nor would the Jews have been so easily put off by the facts of the Crucifixion. Indeed, the cross was a symbol used to signify the messiah in Hebrew manuscripts prior to the Crucifixion.”
Mark 6:14 undercuts Craig’s third point, which states that some believed Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead! It is hard to see how our earliest gospel could attest to this had the concept of a single resurrection before the general resurrection been unthinkable to first century Jews.
Let me now return to explaining the individual and collective appearances to Jesus, attested by Mark and 1 Corinthians 15. I contend that these may easily be explained by the examples of hallucinations (both individual and collective) which I previously cited. Although the works I cited dealt with grief hallucinations of widows and widowers, we must not forget that Jesus probably held a place in the heart of his followers that was similar to that of a spouse.
Alternately, we could understand the post-resurrection appearances in the following way: Studies have shown that individuals who join cults often have schizoid tendencies, and that schizoid personalities (which make up more than one-half percent of the population) are more prone to hallucinations and “anomalous perceptual experiences”. Therefore, the early Christians would have been prone to hallucination, like hallucinating Jesus.
Other facts relevant to this discussion are the conversion of James (who was supposedly skeptical of Jesus’ claims during his lifetime, see John 7:5) and the conversion of Paul. William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas often argue in their debates that James would not have thrown off his initial skepticism unless he really did see Jesus, and furthermore that he would not have hallucinated Jesus because he had no subconscious desire to see Jesus. Yet this does not take into account how Jesus’ gruesome death may have emotionally affected James. Perhaps seeing Jesus’ gruesome death made James more open to belief in Jesus’ divinity.
As for the conversion of Paul, there is some evidence that he was epileptic. According to D. Landsborough, there is a personality type which occurs more frequently in epileptic individuals:
“This personality structure includes increased concern with philosophical, moral and religious issues; increased and extensive writing on religious or philosophical themes, lengthy letters, diaries, poetry; diminution of sexual activity; aggressiveness. Paul’s personality would seem to bear some resemblance to this description.”
Comparing the two explanations of Jesus’ resurrection
I propose that all of the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection may be explained with one or both of these hypotheses:
- The individuals attracted to early Christianity were analogous to those joining cults and fringe religious movements in the present day.
- If one accepts the empty tomb, then a second hypothesis may be needed to explain it, some of which I have previously listed: Jesus’ body was stolen, the women went to the wrong tomb, or Joseph of Arimathea moved the body before the women came to the tomb.
By contrast, the proposals of William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas require more hypotheses, all of them requiring more extreme assumptions, including:
- God exists.
- God intervenes in the world.
- Raising Jesus from the dead would be something that God would have been inclined to do.
Obviously, each of these hypotheses is highly contentious in the spheres of philosophy and religion, for even if one believes in a God who intervenes in the world, one may not believe that God was inclined to raise Jesus from the dead. For example, if one believes that God does not perform miracles to or through false prophets, and that Jesus was a false prophet, then one will not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
My theory is simpler and more plausible – I explain things through known phenomena that both theists and non-theists can agree exist. Therefore, I conclude that it is most probably correct.
 “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories” Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 23, no. 4, 2001
 Page 90, Charlie Broad, Religion, Philosophy and Psychical Research Routledge, 2000.
 Jesus, in his cultural context, played the role of a shaman. See:
Page 104, JJ Pilch, “Altered States of Consciousness in the Synoptics” published in The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2002.
Shamans usually understand very well how to use the power of suggestion:
Page 137, DC Dennett, Breaking the Spell, Penguin, 2006.
Suggestion may induce hallucination:
Page 111, DH Radcliffe, Illusions and Delusions of the Supernatural and Occult, Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
After Jesus’ death, it is possible that Peter or James took over his role, and also acted as the shaman (thus accounting for the appearance to the five hundred mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11).
 See Page 117, Leonard Zusne and Warren Jones, Anomalistic Psychology: A Study in Magical Thinking, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1989.
 Page 111, DH Radcliffe, Illusions and Delusions of the Supernatural and Occult, Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
 WD Rees, “The Hallucinations of Widowhood” Br Med J 1971;4:37-41 (2 October), doi:10.1136/bmj.4.5778.37
 See Pages 114-115 and 214, Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak Vol. 2, ACU Press, 2002.
 For instance: Jesus’ body was stolen, the women went to the wrong tomb, or the Joseph of Arimathea moved the body before the women came to the tomb.
 See Jeffrey Jay Lowder, “Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig” Published in “The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave” Ed. By Robert M. Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder, Prometheus, 2005.
 See Pages 114-115 and 214, Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak Vol. 2, ACU Press, 2002.
 A. Grimby, “Bereavement among elderly people: grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and quality of life” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica VL: 87 NO. 1 72-80 (1993)
 The “four facts” presentation is taken verbatim from:
 Page 152, Marc Galanter, Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion, Oxford University Press, 1989.
 Page 62, Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, HarperOne, 1997.
 Day, S., & Peters, E. (1999), “The incidence of schizotypy in new religion movements”. Personality and Individual Differences, 27, 55-67.
 Torgerson S, Kringlen E, Cramer V, “The Prevalence of Personality Disorders in a Community Sample” Arch Gen Psychiatry, Vol 58, 590-596
 McCreery C. and Claridge G. (1996), “A Study of Hallucination in Normal Subjects-I. Self-Report Data” Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 739-747.
 D Landsborough, “St. Paul and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1987;50:659-664
 The predominant view in New Testament scholarship today is that Jesus predicted that the end of the world was to come in his day. See Bart Ehrman, “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium” Oxford University Press, 2001.
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Other articles related to this topic:23 Comments2009 August 24
I enjoyed reading your analysis. You are going to have to provide evidence to support your premises. Your premises are not supported by the facts. You simply try to provide a naturalistic explanation that appears to be based on guesses rather than any evidence.
The evidence for the resurrection is based on eyewitness accounts that are multiple and each appearance has an independent context. The evidence is extremely strong given the data and I can’t really see how you can escape the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead based on the data provided in Scripture.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. Jesus hypothesis became true when he resurrected. Jesus presented himself to multiple witnesses in several different independent context.
Don’t you find it strange that the Bible illustrates the scientific method before the method was even articulated. It appears that Scripture anticipated the scientific method before it became popularized by modern science.
How did non-scientific people depend on the scientific method in order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead? I find this to be the most fascinating aspect of the resurrection.2009 August 25
It is good to demand that one’s premises be supported by facts. You seem to disregard your own advice however.
“ The evidence for the resurrection is based on eyewitness accounts that are multiple and each appearance has an independent context”
No, the evidence is based on stories told to others, the exact opposite of eyewitness testimony. You would care deeply about this distinction if you found yourself on trial in a court of law.
“I can’t really see how you can escape the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead based on the data provided in Scripture.”
All you are saying here is that if you believe “the data” of the Scripture, you can come to no other conclusion. But of course the accuracy ”data” is exactly what we are trying to establish here. This makes your reasoning circular. Evidence, to be accepted by others, must be objective, that is, giving the same result regardless of belief.
And if scriptures are the only source, what to make of the evidence provided by the oldest surviving copy of the Gospel of Mark: no resurrection is mentioned at all, only a missing body? Surely you would agree that a missing body is much less compelling evidence for divinity.
“Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead”
But can one trust the word of Jesus? In Matthew 24 (and repeated in other Gospels) Jesus very clearly stated the the time (within a few years), place, and manner of his return. It never happened. Is the Bible in error? Or Jesus? Regardless, it is a fatal flaw to the logic of using the Scripture as an unimpeachable source of evidence.
“Don’t you find it strange that the Bible illustrates the scientific method before the method was even articulated”
Science is based on objective evidence, in which everyone, following the same protocol, gets the same result. No such methodology is available for knowledge to gained from the Bible (which has led to centuries of conflict). While you may find your limited scientific knowledge confirmed by scripture, more scientifically literate individuals find just the opposite. Confirmation bias is a poor basis for evidence when making an argument.
“How did non-scientific people depend on the scientific method in order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead? ”
Now we know your premise to be false, we can see the absurdity of this question. A more interesting question would be “Do scientific people today, when applying the scientific method, have evidence that the resurrection of Jesus is a myth?”. The answer to that question is of course, yes.2009 August 26
“You are going to have to provide evidence to support your premises. Your premises are not supported by the facts. You simply try to provide a naturalistic explanation that appears to be based on guesses rather than any evidence.”
At this point all we can do is make guesses that fit the reliable data we have. My guess does that and appears to be more plausible than the guess that Jesus rose from the dead supernaturally (as I discuss in the end of the article).
“The evidence for the resurrection is based on eyewitness accounts that are multiple and each appearance has an independent context.”
No. We have the letters of Paul (not an eyewitness, he never met Jesus except in his vision on the road to Damascus) and we have the gospels. The gospels were originally anonymous. We know this because the titles of the gospels are different on different manuscripts. If the original document had been titled, all the titles of the manuscripts copied from it would be virtually the same. For more on this, I would see “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium” by Bart Ehrman. Furthermore, it appears that the other gospels are based on Mark, so they’re not independent testimony.
“Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. Jesus hypothesis became true when he resurrected. Jesus presented himself to multiple witnesses in several different independent context.”
Jesus’ prediction also might have contributed to his followers’ expectance of a resurrection and would therefore made them more likely to hallucinate him (see the work I cited in my article for more on this). As for Jesus presenting himself to multiple witnesses in different contexts: There may have been some type of appearance to the five hundred. I’ll grant you that. I also grant you that Paul and perhaps a few of the first disciples (and also perhaps female followers). But those can all be easily explained naturally.
“Don’t you find it strange that the Bible illustrates the scientific method before the method was even articulated. It appears that Scripture anticipated the scientific method before it became popularized by modern science.”
I’d love to see the passages for that. I think you may be alluding to the verse that says “Test all things”. If you are, I would refer you to the work of Richard Carrier:
“How did non-scientific people depend on the scientific method in order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead? I find this to be the most fascinating aspect of the resurrection.”
I’ve never read anything in the gospels about any scientific tests being performed to show that Jesus really resurrected. Did they check is pulse and breathing to make sure he was dead? Did they make him walk through fire to show that he had a brand new immortal resurrection body?
Thanks for commenting Z, I appreciate it.2009 August 26
Whoops! I forgot to leave a link to Richard Carrier’s book:2009 August 26
DB: At this point all we can do is make guesses that fit the reliable data we have. My guess does that and appears to be more plausible than the guess that Jesus rose from the dead supernaturally (as I discuss in the end of the article).
ZD Response: The gospels including the works of Paul, Peter and John are records of history. You would have to demonstrate they were not records.
DB stated: No. We have the letters of Paul (not an eyewitness, he never met Jesus except in his vision on the road to Damascus) and we have the gospels. The gospels were originally anonymous. We know this because the titles of the gospels are different on different manuscripts. If the original document had been titled, all the titles of the manuscripts copied from it would be virtually the same. For more on this, I would see “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium” by Bart Ehrman. Furthermore, it appears that the other gospels are based on Mark, so they’re not independent testimony.
ZD: Actually, Paul was speaking with the eyewitnesses when he advised that only some had fallen asleep. John also wrote a book and he was a direct eyewitness. Matthew and John were also eyewitnesses. Your appeal to higher criticism assumes the same guess work in the above argument. Only Mark and Luke were clearly not direct eyewitnesses; however, Paul wrote that witnesses were still alive which Mark and Luke had access to.
ZD Argued: “Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. Jesus hypothesis became true when he resurrected. Jesus presented himself to multiple witnesses in several different independent context.”
ZD Comment: (This is the scientific method being applied to history).
DB stated: Jesus’ prediction also might have contributed to his followers’ expectance of a resurrection and would therefore made them more likely to hallucinate him (see the work I cited in my article for more on this). As for Jesus presenting himself to multiple witnesses in different contexts: There may have been some type of appearance to the five hundred. I’ll grant you that. I also grant you that Paul and perhaps a few of the first disciples (and also perhaps female followers). But those can all be easily explained naturally.
ZD Response: Of course anything can be explained naturalistically because you can believe whatever you want; however, this is your guess once again without evidence.
ZD Argued: “Don’t you find it strange that the Bible illustrates the scientific method before the method was even articulated. It appears that Scripture anticipated the scientific method before it became popularized by modern science.”
DB Stated: I’d love to see the passages for that. I think you may be alluding to the verse that says “Test all things”. If you are, I would refer you to the work of Richard Carrier:
ZD Response: I am not referring to a verse. The scientific method is being demonstrated for historical facts in the accounts with multiple witnesses in a number of different context confirming the validity of the resurrection.
ZD Argued: “How did non-scientific people depend on the scientific method in order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead? I find this to be the most fascinating aspect of the resurrection.”
DB Response: I’ve never read anything in the gospels about any scientific tests being performed to show that Jesus really resurrected. Did they check is pulse and breathing to make sure he was dead? Did they make him walk through fire to show that he had a brand new immortal resurrection body?
ZD Comment: Yes, the Roman’s made sure he was dead. Jesus did not have to walk through fire; however, the disciples did see him ascend into heaven in Acts. In addition, Jesus showed the holes in his hands to the disciples and Thomas specifically.
Message to DB: Keep on thinking…I think you are heading in the right direction. I have read just about everything the liberals could come up with including that Jesus body was eaten by dogs. One common theme amongst all liberals is that they never had any proof for their premises. I found this to be true in your case!
Thanks for the blog and keep on thinking!2009 August 26
“Peter and John are records of history. You would have to demonstrate they were not records.”
I agree that we have the works of Paul, but as I said, he is not an eyewitness. He may have known eyewitnesses, but that doesn’t change the fact that what we are getting is still second hand, and therefore more prone to distortion and exaggeration (not that first hand accounts are totally exempt from this). But even if we take Paul at his word, that he believed he had a vision, and had heard accounts of the appearance to the 500+ (apostles and other folks), those can easily be explained naturally, and those are the only appearances Paul told us about (correct me if I’m wrong).
The burden of proof is not on me when it comes to Peter and John. It’s pretty much for granted in scholarship that we don’t have anything that Peter or John actually wrote. If you want to learn why scholars hold this, you would be well advised to research those topics individually to see if the opinion of academy holds up.
“Actually, Paul was speaking with the eyewitnesses when he advised that only some had fallen asleep. John also wrote a book and he was a direct eyewitness. Matthew and John were also eyewitnesses. Your appeal to higher criticism assumes the same guess work in the above argument. Only Mark and Luke were clearly not direct eyewitnesses; however, Paul wrote that witnesses were still alive which Mark and Luke had access to.”
I’ve already addressed some of this, but here’s the thing: You didn’t even touch my argument that the gospels were originally anonymous. And you say that’s speculation, but why is that anymore speculative than your bald assertions that Matthew and Luke were eyewitnesses? In fact it is less speculative since I actually provided argument for my position.
“ZD Argued: “Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. Jesus hypothesis became true when he resurrected. Jesus presented himself to multiple witnesses in several different independent context.”
ZD Comment: (This is the scientific method being applied to history).”
You don’t know that Jesus was resurrected, and as I’ve shown, the hypothesis that he didn’t rise from the dead is simpler and more plausible.
“Of course anything can be explained naturalistically because you can believe whatever you want; however, this is your guess once again without evidence.”
I provided citations in peer-reviewed literature that show that suggestion or expectation can contribute to hallucination.
“Yes, the Roman’s made sure he was dead. Jesus did not have to walk through fire; however, the disciples did see him ascend into heaven in Acts. In addition, Jesus showed the holes in his hands to the disciples and Thomas specifically.”
I’d like to see a citation of the verse in which the Romans made sure Jesus was dead. And don’t bother with anything but Mark or Paul because the rest are late and show clear signs of having been altered with an agenda in mind (Bart Ehrman’s books are good for a look at this). Acts may not have been written until the second century, but even if it was written in 60′s like conservatives think, thirty years is more than enough time for legend to develop. The account of doubting thomas is from a later gospel and is not trustworthy.2009 August 27
Ryan has done a good job dealing with the poor scholarship behind zdenny’s assertions, I thought I might comment on the well known tactics of Christian Apologetic’s being used in this discussion. (Ryan already noted the “reversal of the burden of truth” technique, and avoided it). I have attended workshops by evangelical churches on how to argue with an atheist, and the techniques are rather transparent at this point.
“The gospels including the works of Paul, Peter and John are records of history. You would have to demonstrate they were not records.”
I have heard the “but are the Gospels not records?” rebuttal many times. It is an attempt to move the discussion from the objective (what do we know from independent confirmation) to the subjective (what defines a record?). For the apologist, it allows them to quickly move the discussion away from the historical evidence that clearly refutes their position. While it attempts to be a thought-stopping question, in reality it is just nonsense. It is equivalent to, when challenging the assertion “2 + 2 =5″, being told “but are they not numbers?”
“John also wrote a book and he was a direct eyewitness. Matthew and John were also eyewitnesses. Your appeal to higher criticism assumes the same guess work in the above argument.”
This the apologetic’s variation of “the God in the Gaps” argument often used against science applied to the Gospels. A common apologetic technique is to pounce on any information currently beyond confirmation, and rule it in the apologetic’s favor. This assumes of course that Bayesian Logic and Occam’s Razor have been removed from consideration. We are often forced to draw conclusions when the probability of various axioms cannot be precisely stated. What the apologist wishes to ignore however is that relative probabilities can be used in the absence of absolute knowledge with good, repeatable success. We do not know who wrote the Gospel of John, but we do know many things about the Gospel (through historical and textual analysis) and who could have written it. This analysis makes the relative probability it was an actual disciple the most remote of possibilities.
“Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. Jesus hypothesis became true when he resurrected. Jesus presented himself to multiple witnesses in several different independent context.”
As I have pointed out in a earlier post, Jesus made another prediction in Matthew 24 (and other Gospels) that never came to pass. Christian apologetics is centered around this technique: like the dowser or the psychic: “only remember the hits”. The Bible contains an enormous amount of information that one can use if not bothered by context or meaning or contradiction that can be used to to create multiple “hits” in support of almost any point. And if one ignores the true meaning of the word “independent”, meaning no possible influence between the sources of data, these “hits” can be inflated in number. But when the false independence is removed, one can see multiple after the fact variations on the same theme. It becomes in effect a “fish story”, that grows more impressive with each retelling. Dowsers, Psychics, Apologetics: all from the same school of flim-flam that has existed for ages.
“Yes, the Roman’s made sure he was dead. Jesus did not have to walk through fire; however, the disciples did see him ascend into heaven in Acts. In addition, Jesus showed the holes in his hands to the disciples and Thomas specifically.”
My last comment of the strategy of Christian Apologetics: Ignore previous assertions when convenient. In this comment by zdenny, we see his previous position (the Gospels can be trusted because they were written by disciples) cleverly replaced with a new position: we can trust Acts (which is clearly not written by disciples). Both positions cannot be held at the same time: if the disciples wrote the Gospels, then the ascent into heaven should be documented there — not an event one is likely to forget! If the apologist position is that what the disciples wrote is truth, then what they omitted, if essential, did not happen. Any later works describing key events must be fabrications or embellishments. As the saying goes, truth must be consistent with itself. Christian Apologetics merges the various NT documents into one story in attempt to hide the inconsistencies.
If one has time, I recommend attending a Christian Apologetics workshop — the skeptic will be quite astounded on how knowing deception is taught without a trace of conscience or acknowledgement that in any other setting, such techniques would be seen as fraud. I always wonder “How strong is one’s faith, if the faith must be defended with deception?”2009 September 10
Gary Habermas claims it is a fact that James was converted by the resurrection of Jesus and that James was a witness to the resurrection.
14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15In those days Peter stood up among the believers….Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
So the very brothers of Jesus were believers and they weren’t even in consideration to become witnesses to the resurrection?
So how did James make the list in 1 Corinthians 15?
Why did Luke introduce the brothers of Jesus only to immediately disqualify them as even being considered as candidates for witnesses to the resurrection?
How could James have been a witness to the resurrection, when Acts says the entire church discussed the matter and chose between two other people to become witnesses to the resurrection?
If Habermas is convinced of the resurrection by the ‘fact’ that James, the brother of Jesus was converted by this alleged resurrection, why does Acts rule out every brother of Jesus as a candidate for the position of ‘witness to the resurrection’?2009 September 13
RC Moore said, “No, the evidence is based on stories told to others, the exact opposite of eyewitness testimony. You would care deeply about this distinction if you found yourself on trial in a court of law.”
Do you have any evidence of this bold assertion? It appears to be based on a liver quiver rather than an honest appraisal of the facts.2009 September 13
RC Moore said, “the historical evidence that clearly refutes their position”
What evidence? I laugh when I read this stuff. You really have to stop running so high on emotion and start looking honestly at the facts.
There is no evidence against the resurrection. There are only liver quivers which you have amply demonstrated on a grand scale. You have no evidence to support your assertion.2009 September 14
“You have no evidence to support your assertion.”
Nonsense. I have the evidence of reality, and the evidence of the Bible.
Reality: Billions of humans have lived on this planet, and none are currently here walking around and are able to prove they died and came back. You might as well claim anti-gravity exists because Jesus was said to have walked on water.
The Bible: In Mark 9, Matthew 24, etc, Jesus clearly states he will return, in a specific manner and time frame (the first century). He does not, disproving he did anything other than die and stay dead. Otherwise it would have been noted by the numerous chroniclers of the time. I have mentioned this before, you just refuse to address it, as it is inescapably damning to your argument. Even C.S. Lewis agreed to this point, saying it was an “embarrassment”.
If you have objective evidence to support such an extraordinary assertion as the resurrection, I and everyone else would love to see it. You have had 2000 years to produce it, I would think it would be easy by now.
If not, well, we then we know who gets the last laugh.
2009 September 14
“Do you have any evidence of this bold assertion?” to my claim “the evidence is based on stories told to others, the exact opposite of eyewitness testimony”
Even those slightly familiar with the history of the Gospels know that Mark wrote from the stories he was told by others (documented by Eusebius of Caesarea). This places Mark at the third remove from Jesus.
Matthew wrote using Mark as a reference — he had no better source. We know this from the corrections he made to Mark, and the large number of word for word quotations he took from Mark. This places Matthew at the fourth remove from Jesus.
Luke was even farther removed, also using Mark as a reference. And the Gospel of John is the result of multiple authors, from the very late 1st century, way after any eyewitnesses could lived.
And Paul never met Jesus, or the Apostles (other than Peter), as verified by his own writings.
I can’t believe someone such as yourself, who makes such bold claims himself, is so unfamiliar with the basic history of the early Christian writings. This is all readily available information, agreed upon by most scholars.
2009 September 14
It is not just zdenny. I have never received a response to what I consider the simple questions raised by the broken promise of Jesus to return in Matthew 24 or Mark 9.
It is quite clear to me that if Jesus could have resurrected himself from the dead, he could have returned as promised. I suppose other explanations are that Jesus lied, or the story of the second coming is a fiction.
I cannot accept as an explanation that Jesus changed his mind, or has been tied up with other duties.
The Gospel of John deals with this by just pretending the Resurrection was the second coming — until corrected in the last chapters by cooler heads who realized such a theory would fundamentally change Christianity.
Any of these explanations are a severe embarrassment for the Christian Apologist (even C.S Lewis, as I noted before). I suspect they are also an embarrassment for zdenny, thus the lack of a response.
2010 January 6Daniel permalink
I really would love to discuss this subject with you, however, I would feel like I was being redundant in doing so. William Lane Craig adaquetly demolishes (for lack of a better word, it gets the point across) the “mass hallucenation” theory. To even suggest such a thing and present it without evidence has always seemed absurd to me. You seem to like Richard Carrier, you should look up William Lane Craigs debate with him. Richard refuses to touch on subjects that Dr. Craig brings up for lack of a better answer. www.reasonablefaith.org is a good place to start.2010 January 6
“William Lane Craig adaquetly demolishes (for lack of a better word, it gets the point across) the ‘mass hallucenation’ theory.”
And his ”demolition” has itself been adequately demolished.
”To even suggest such a thing and present it without evidence has always seemed absurd to me.”
I’m confused. My first response to Habermas in my article gave evidence of a mass hallucination.
“You seem to like Richard Carrier, you should look up William Lane Craigs debate with him. Richard refuses to touch on subjects that Dr. Craig brings up for lack of a better answer.”
I’ve listened to the debate, more than once in fact. And although Richard didn’t address everything Craig brought up at the debate (which is extremely difficult to in a live debate, in any case), he has pretty well addressed everything elsewhere (see “Not the Impossible Faith” and ”The Empty Tomb”). Even if Carrier didn’t address everything, it wouldn’t matter much because other people have addressed all of Craig’s points elsewhere.
“http://www.reasonablefaith.org is a good place to start.”
I’m curious as to why you posted this link as if you thouhgt I had never heard of it. If you read my references I did in fact cite the very website you’re talking about. I get the feeling you haven’t read my article, or if you have you haven’t read it carefully. I’d like to ask you to do so next time before commenting.
Ryan2010 January 6
Is there some specific article on the Reasonable Faith site that a skeptic such as myself would find helpful? A quick perusal revealed only the usual easily refuted Christian apologetics. But it is a large site and I could have missed something.
If you have something new or compelling in its logic, I would love to see it.2010 January 9Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth permalink
So, the first Xians were schizoids! Except for me, schizotypals, become alien abductees. How about schizophreniacs?
We ought to reveal that Yeshua was a hypocritical , mean-spirited hypocrite as I do in J.Christ, jerk, @ Skeptic Society and the Buy-bull and only a man, Yeshua @ Amazon Religion Discussions. Click them directly or indirectly – skeptic griggsy.2010 January 24Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth[ Carneades] permalink
Andy, Yeshua was a shamam, so probably a schizotypal whilst his credulous followers were schioids
Qne should also enlarge on his mean-piritedness- his using a whip in clearing the temple of those money-lenders, calling the mother and her three children dogs, his hell-fire and brimstone prattle and selective healings.
I think that as far as his even existing, it would be from his earliest followers,but again it is the matter of no way to examine them.Taking the accounts then as true in his existence then, we merely find that he existed, but with all the contradictions, we find the legendary Yesshua.
I tead a preacher’s account of what the ‘good” thief on the cross might have thought, showing how the legends did happen:- another instance of a theological it must be or it may be.My taking this approach might itself be a it must be according to others.How else then to account for the contradictions? Then one account might be true. Then the matter is that of being second-hand without any substantiation. Ryan, what do you, sir, maintain on this approach? I just now developed it!
Hune’s corollary o the presumption of naturalism is that unless one has evidence for any miracle, it cannot be one otherwise as natural causes and explanations are the sufficient reason. The regularity of Nature ensues. To postulate divine teleology as behind natural events or in making supernatural ones,contradicts teleonomic causes -no predetermined outcomes. That is science does most emphatically contradict the existence of God!
This leads the Lamberth atelic or teleonomic argument: the weight of scientific evidence is that only teleonomic causes act in Existence so that any teleological argument cannot work in that they all propose divine intent, and Nature shows none whatsoever. We find no predetermied outcomes! Contradiction, then ensues by positing any teleology -intent -whether by alien beings or God. No telos.
So, is this putative God a liar by self-hiding as Schellenberg’s hiddenness problem rushes forth, letting us think that science had the last word in the form on finding no predetermined outcomes. Does then John Hick’s epistemic distance overcome that problem? That would be the new Omphalos argument. The old one still that fundamentalists use is that Yahweh made mountains, fossils and other matters appear old whilst He made the world just 6,000 years old; the new one proposes then that He made is just an appearance that Nature herself acts alone, and so teleological arguments do indeed prevail.
No, they all – fine-tuning, probability, design and from reason beg the question of Hi s intent; as Jerry Coyne expatiate in “Seeing and Believing’ and others note, had matters been different neither we nor a comparable species have evolved. In this case the latest finding is that it took the flowering plants and the cooling-off period to have occurred. He answers Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson that no convergent evolution would have made for a comparable species and we find no God operating in sub-atomic events. Amel Rossow in his essay the Yin and Yang of Miller that he takes intelligent design out the front door, ony to introduce it again by the back door.Creation evolution contradicts itself as noted in the remrarks on the new Omphalos.
For further confirmation, study Victor Stengel’s books. He musters forth sufficient examples of how science falsifies divine intent, so, science itself disconfirms His existence!
Accommodationists cannot stomach that. My FaceBook friend , Eugenis S. Scott admonishes scientist not ever to use , in effect the atelic argument, postulating that that is a philosphical approach and not a scientific one. Now, in an email to me, my internet friend, Paul Draper, notes that she is on the wrong side of demarcation. See the book ” Is This Science” to study the problem of demarcation.
And what leads to teleological argument Lamberth’s argument from pardidolia exhumes: where there are natural causes and explanatins, theists find intent and design as one finds the pareidolia of Yeshua on a tortilla. This accompanies Feurbach’s and Xenonaphes’s arguments.
Ryan yes, we new atheists rock! Please, if possible, take on Urban Philosophy on its take against the new atheism. That site, like this one, is required reading!
Besides, skeptic griggy, I appear as naturalist griggsy, skeptic griggsy, exceptico griggssy, sceptique griggsy, and now Carneades. I find that the original Carneades demolished theism eons ago! I ‘m relying on the article about him in ” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.”
Also, one might Google the problem of Heaven, the ignostic-Ockham and arguments about Him- that square circle to study how God is a non-concept for non-questions. That He cannot be the First Cause , the Supreme Designer and so forth, confirms ignosticism! There is no there there!
Yet, I insist that others can find all this defeasible -wrong- as I’m a fallbilist like Carneades and Socrates. ” Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.”
And as to the arguments from angst, and happiness-both arguments from purpose,
‘ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning.”2010 January 24Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth[ Carneades] permalink
Sorry for the typos. I really do proof-read but still need to do more here. Elsewhere, I am using the edit function. I don’t have dyslexia, but on-line it seems to be the case,alas!
Also, there is the thread @ physorg Christinsanity about Yeshua’s meanness. I do get around, hughes.net willing!
Good will and blessings to all!
Comments are closed for this entry.
So Christinsanity has no basis for its p lans of salvation! Hume and Spinoza are ever right!