Was the Resurrection a Hallucination?
The next resurrection theory we will examine is the Hallucination Theory. This theory attempts to say that a plausible explanation for the resurrection of Jesus is that the disciples hallucinated the whole thing.
Worth noting is that this theory admits a few points that are necessary for making a positive case for the Resurrection.
- Jesus lived.
- Jesus died.
- The disciples really believed that they had seen Jesus after His death.
In order to make the case for a hallucination theory, these things must be admitted.
Argument From Silence
Severely lacking in this argument is any evidence from history. At least the Stolen Body Theory could say that the early Jewish leaders claimed that the body was stolen. But as far as we know, no one tried to say that the disciples had hallucinated. Therefore, this argument is pure speculation without a shred of historical evidence. It comes from necessity. Critics of Christianity must have a natural explanation for the firmly established fact that the disciples truly believed that they saw Jesus, so they reach into their naturalistic explanation hat and pull out a hallucination, or two, or 500!
6 Reasons a Hallucination Theory is Unlikely
- Hallucinations don’t happen en masse. It would be one thing if Christianity began on the witness of one person who had a resurrection experience. However, Jesus appeared to all twelve disciples at one time (John 20:19). As if that isn’t enough, 500 people saw Him at one time (1 Cor. 15:3-8). There is simply no evidence that a “group” hallucination like this is even possible. Even if it were, how would you establish that it did happen in this case?
- Hallucinations are brief. A hallucination is normally very brief. Yet, Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days teaching them about the kingdom of God after His death (Acts 1:3). What hallucination lasts 40 days? Not only that, but this hallucination would be a group hallucination lasting 40 days.
- Multiple people having multiple hallucinations. Jesus appeared to the disciples during the 40 days on multiple different occasions. This means that multiple people would’ve had to have multiple hallucinations over a period of 40 days.
- The disciples touched, ate with, and spoke to Jesus. Except for in the most severe cases, a hallucination does not involve touching, eating, or speaking. Not only this, but again, 12 people would’ve touched Jesus, spoke to him, and ate with Him at the same time. Thomas was even skeptical when he did see Jesus. Once he touched Jesus, he was convinced that it wasn’t a trick, or a hallucination.
- The Jewish leaders could’ve produced the body. If the disciples had truly hallucinated and then began to spread what they had seen as true, the Jewish leaders, who wanted to stop this message from spreading, would have just produced the body and that would’ve been the end of it. However, the Jewish leaders spread the message not that the disciples were hallucinating, but that they had stolen the body. This indicates that the body was indeed missing.
- Paul and James’ conversion. Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, were not believers during Jesus’ ministry. Paul even persecuted Christians. Both of these skeptics would’ve needed hard evidence to be converted. Their conversions are similar in that they both were convinced that Jesus was Lord when they experienced Him after His death through what they believed to be a bodily resurrection. The Hallucination Theory would have to purport that James and Paul, skeptics, would have had the same hallucination as the disciples and the 500. This is a lot of hallucinations around the same time concerning the same person, Jesus.
The Hallucination Theory is based on pure speculation. It is not as if those who hold to this theory do so because the historical witness demands it. What demands this theory is philosophical naturalism. Under this philosophy, all phenomena have a natural explanation. Therefore, concerning the Resurrection, you must inject some sort of explanation like this into the historical data. The original natural explanation was that Jesus’ body was stolen. Once this claim has been defeated, you must reach for something like the Hallucination Theory. But, as has been shown, this theory is found severely lacking of any credible evidence, or reasoning.
If it can be established that Paul, James, the Disciples, and the 500 truly believed they had seen Jesus after His death; and that a hallucination theory is improbable, what is the best explanation?