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Handling an Old Resurrection Objection

Down through the years a wide variety of challenges have been raised regarding the Biblical claim that Jesus of Nazareth was ever truly resurrected from the grave on the third day after His crucifixion and burial. Each of these challenges attempts to demonstrate, in one way or another, that the resurrection was, in fact, a fraud. Among the various scenarios posed are the Resuscitation Theory, the Wrong Tomb Theory, the Bribed Guards Theory, the Legend Theory, and the Passover Plot. Perhaps the conjecture advanced most often, in one form or another, is what is known as the Hallucination Theory. In this month’s Proclamation we are providing what we believe to be evidence that should effectively dispel the notion that all of the many individuals and groups claiming to have seen the risen Christ were really only hallucinating.

Hallucinations defined

The American Heritage Dictionary defines an hallucination as “1) a false or distorted perception of objects or events with a compelling sense of their reality, usually resulting from a mental disorder or as a response to a drug. 2) a false idea; a delusion.”

Contrary evidence

On what basis do we discount the allegation that all those who claimed to see the risen Christ were really only hallucinating? Here are a few salient points that constitute evidence to the contrary:

Not everyone hallucinates

Most authorities agree that only certain types of individuals are prone to hallucination, including especially those diagnosed with paranoia and schizophrenia. In his book Scaling the Secular City (©1987, Baker Book House), Dr. J. P. Moreland says that “hallucinations happen only to those persons who are high-strung, highly imaginative, and nervous.” Yet the New Testament account refers to a wide range of people with many varying back-grounds who were all witnesses of the risen Christ.

No prior disposition

In a paper published just last December (1994), my friend Greg Rossano refutes the contention that the disciples’ personal hopes and expectations somehow triggered hallucinations of the risen Christ. He points out that, in fact, the disciples were “discouraged by Jesus’ death, not hopeful for His return.” Rossano writes that “…the entire concept of a dying and resurrecting Messiah was foreign to (the disciples’) Jewish heritage. Though Jesus had predicted His resurrection, His disciples never seemed to understand what He was talking about.”

Widespread detailed reports

Josh McDowell says that hallucinations are typically very private events and very subjective experiences. In his book The Resurrection Factor (©1981 Here’s Life Publishers) McDowell says: “An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you, and cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will.” He goes on to state that it is also quite unlikely that more than two persons would ever have the same hallucination at the same time. Nor is it typical that two or more individuals’ accounts of a particular hallucination would correlate in matters of great de-tail. In fact, the greater the detail the more likely the case for reality. Yet very detailed, corroborating accounts, by up to 500 people at a time (I Corinthians 15:6), were just exactly what began to pour in from the vicinity of Jerusalem and Emmaus in the period directly following Jesus’ crucifixion. Dr. Henry Morris (Many Infallible Proofs, ©1974 Master Books) points out how Jesus even invited the disciples to touch and recognize the wounds in His hands (John 20:27; Luke 24:39). Dr. Morris refers to the Hallucination Theory as “an absurd hypothesis… the last resort of cornered foes!”

The case and the conclusion

The case for discounting the Hallucination Theory is furthered by additional factors, such as the typical restriction in timing and locale of actual hallucinations, the credibility lent the word of a risen Christ by other ostensibly objective reporters, and so many other matters still left unaccounted for, e.g. broken seal, empty tomb.

All things considered, the Hallucination Theory hardly even weighs in against the overwhelming evidence and testimony of history in favor of an actual resurrection event.