Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Resurrection of Jesus: Skeptic Brings Back the Old Hallucination Hypothesis

Noel Coypel: The resurrection of Jesus (1700). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

In the 19th century, German theologians in particular attempted to explain all supernatural elements in the Bible by natural causes. At that time, sceptics attacked Jesus’ miracles and especially the resurrection.

However, relying on rationalism also had its drawbacks. The French physicist Jean-Baptiste Pérès (1752–1840) used the same methods that the German theologians had embraced and succeeded in ”proving” that Napoleon had never lived but that he was an allegorical figure developed from ancient Greek mythology.

Recently, Gary Whittenberger brought back these old rationalistic arguments. He attempted to prove that after the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples might have seen hallucinations.

This view is not credible. It would be very strange if the New Testament writers had based their accounts on hallucinations. After all, the apostles had lost all hope when Jesus was put to death and they did not expect to see Him alive.

It is not possible to explain the change in the apostles by appealing to hallucinations. After Jesus’ death they were in hiding, afraid to speak about their Master. After seeing the resurrected Lord, they were ready to speak out.

For instance, it would be exceedingly difficult to explain away the account in John 21 as a mere hallucination. Jesus and the apostles ate real fish and not imaginary ones. The other post-resurrection accounts also have details that show that they are eyewitness accounts of real events (and not dreams or hallucinations) that happened to real people.

Perhaps the major reason why sceptics are reluctant to believe in a real resurrection is that they do not want Christianity to be true.


Whittenberger, Gary J. 2012. On Visions and Resurrections. E-skeptic (1 February).

How Napoleon Never Existed, or The Great Error, Source of an Infinite Number of Errors To be Seen in the History of the Nineteenth Century.