Daily Archives: April 17, 2014

Holy Week, Day 5: Thursday

Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with scholars Doug Moo, Nick Perrin, and Paul Maier, focusing on the background of the Passover, why Jesus and the disciples reclined at the Last Supper instead of eating at a table, and why the Jewish officials had to get Pontius Pilate involved after beginning their judicial proceedings against Jesus.

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Easter: What Is the Hallucination Theory?

 

For almost two thousand years opponents of the Christian faith have proposed various theories in an attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the “stolen body theory” proposed by the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew’s gospel to the”swoon theory” advanced by the 19th century critic Friedrich Schleiermacher, skeptics have stopped at nothing to explain the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus without recourse to the supernatural.

While most of these naturalistic explanations have been rejected as implausible by contemporary critics of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, one particular theory has begun to gain traction in skeptical circles. This hypothesis is known as the “hallucination theory.” The hallucination theory attempts to account for the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus by claiming both auditory and visual hallucinations on the part of Jesus’ disciples. Proponents of this view claim that Jesus’ disciples really did “see” Jesus, but that these sightings were merely hallucinations in the minds of Christ’s followers, not genuine encounters with a resurrected man. The hallucinations, or sightings, are claimed to have happened repeatedly and are said to have been so vivid as to convince Christ’s followers that Jesus actually had risen from the dead.

The advantage of this proposal is two-fold. First, the proponents of this theory need not engage the impressive evidence for the life-changing transformation of the disciples based upon their newfound belief in the Christ’s resurrection. Rather, the skeptic can grant that there were “appearances” of some sort without conceding the occurrence of a miracle. The second move is to then explain these “appearances” as subjective hallucinations, events that took place only in the minds of the disciples.

From the outset, the Hallucination Theory is beset with problems. First, we now know that anticipation and expectation play a crucial role in the occurrence of hallucinations. This, by itself, makes the disciples poor candidates for such experiences. The disciples were understandably depressed, sorrowful, and deeply grieved as their beloved leader had been violently taken from them and executed. All four Gospels describe the disciples as not expecting to see Jesus resurrected. In fact, some doubted even after Jesus appeared to them (Matthew 28:16–17)! It does not seem that any of Jesus’ disciples were in the proper mindset to be likely candidates for hallucinations.

Second, the diversity of the appearances makes hallucinations an unlikely explanation. Jesus appeared to numerous individuals under various circumstances and locales. He appeared both indoors and outdoors. He appeared not just on one particular day but over a period of weeks. He appeared to people of different backgrounds and personality types.

Probably the most formidable obstacle for the Hallucination Theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people. As clinical psychologist Gary A. Sibcy has commented, “I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.” Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.” And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals, but to groups as well-and on numerous occasions (Luke 24:36–43, Matthew 28:9, John 20:26–30; 21:1–14, Acts 1:3–6, 1 Corinthians 15:5–7)!

Still more problems remain. Jesus not only appeared to His disciples but to His skeptical brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), as well as Saul of Tarsus (later to become the Apostle Paul), a self-professed enemy of the Christian faith. How likely is it that these two would also have individual hallucinations of a resurrected Jesus of whom they had no previous commitment?

Even if all of these obstacles could be overcome, a further problem remains for the Hallucination Theory: the empty tomb. If all of the disciples of Jesus had simply been the victims of numerous individual and group hallucinations, the body of Jesus of Nazareth would have remained where it was, interred in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. How likely is it for the disciples of Jesus to have gained converts—after preaching a bodily resurrection in the very area where Jesus was buried—if His tomb were in fact occupied with a recently crucified man? The critic who appeals to hallucinations must then combine this theory with another hypothesis to explain why Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Hallucinations, by themselves, cannot begin to explain all of the data. When all of these factors are taken into account, the Hallucination Theory crumbles under the weight of the facts. The Christian can remain confident that Christ has risen![1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Easter: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? – William Lane Craig

 

To answer our question from a historical standpoint, we must first determine what facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth can be credibly established on the basis of the evidence and second consider what the best explanation of those facts is. At least four facts about the fate of the historical Jesus are widely accepted by NT historians today.

Fact 1: After His crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb. This fact is highly significant because it means that the location of Jesus’ tomb was known in Jerusalem to Jews and Christians alike. New Testament scholars have established the fact of Jesus’ entombment on the basis of evidence such as the following:

1.   Jesus’ burial is attested in the information (from before a.d. 36) that was handed on by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5.

2.   The burial story is independently attested in the source material that was used by Mark in writing his Gospel.

3.   Given the understandable hostility in the early Christian movement toward the Jewish national leaders, Joseph of Arimathea, as a member of the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus, is unlikely to have been a Christian invention.

4.   The burial story is simple and lacks any signs of being developed into a legend.

5.   No other competing burial story exists.

For these and other reasons, the majority of NT critics concur that Jesus was in fact buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

Fact 2: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of His women followers. Among the reasons that have led most scholars to this conclusion are the following:

1.   In stating that Jesus “was buried, that He was raised on the third day,” the old information transmitted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5 implies the empty tomb.

2.   The empty tomb story also has multiple and independent attestation in Mark, Matthew, and John’s source material, some of which is very early.

3.   The empty tomb story as related in Mark, our earliest account, is simple and lacks signs of having been embellished as a legend.

4.   Given that in Jewish patriarchal culture the testimony of women was regarded as unreliable, the fact that women, rather than men, were the chief witnesses to the empty tomb is best explained by the narrative’s being true.

5.   The earliest known Jewish response to the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection, namely, the “disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping” (Mt 28:12–15), was itself an attempt to explain why the body was missing and thus presupposes the empty tomb.

For these and other reasons, a majority of scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical testimony to Jesus’ empty tomb.

Fact 3: On multiple occasions, and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death. This fact is almost universally acknowledged among NT scholars for the following reasons:

1.   Given its early date as well as Paul’s personal acquaintance with the people involved, the list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances that is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5–8 guarantees that such appearances occurred.

2.   The appearance narratives in the Gospels provide multiple, independent attestations of the appearances.

Even the most skeptical critics acknowledge that the disciples had seen Jesus alive after His death.

Finally, fact 4: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe Jesus was risen from the dead, despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Consider the situation the disciples faced following Jesus’ crucifixion:

1.   Their leader was dead and Jewish messianic expectations did not expect a Messiah who, instead of triumphing over Israel’s enemies, would be shamefully executed by them as a criminal.

2.   According to OT law, Jesus’ execution exposed Him as 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 of the dead at the end of the world.

Nevertheless, the original disciples suddenly came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for that belief.

We come now to our second concern: What is the best explanation of these four facts? In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, historian C. B. McCullagh lists six tests historians use to determine the best explanation for a given body of historical facts. The hypothesis given by the eyewitnesses—“God raised Jesus from the dead”—passes all these tests:

1.   It has great explanatory scope. It explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw postmortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.

2.   It has great explanatory power. It explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite His earlier public execution, and so forth.

3.   It is plausible. Given the historical context of Jesus’ unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection makes sense as the divine confirmation of those radical claims.

4.   It is not ad hoc or contrived. It requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists.

5.   It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” does not in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people do not rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts that belief as whole-heartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.

6.   It far outstrips any of its rival theories in meeting conditions 1 through 5. Down through history, various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered—the conspiracy theory, the apparent death theory, the hallucination theory, and so forth. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. No naturalistic hypothesis has, in fact, attracted a great number of scholars.

Therefore, the best explanation of the established facts seems to be that God raised Jesus from the dead.

We have firm historical grounds for answering our question in the affirmative. The historical route is not, however, the only avenue to a knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection. The majority of Christians, who have had neither the resources, training, nor leisure to conduct a historical inquiry into this event, have come to a knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection through a personal encounter with the living Lord (Rm 8:9–17).[1]

 


[1] Craig, W. L. (2007). Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? In T. Cabal, C. O. Brand, E. R. Clendenen, P. Copan, & J. P. Moreland (Eds.), The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (pp. 1728–1730). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Easter: Four Historical Facts that Prove Jesus Rose from the Dead (Video)

Easter 2005 presentation of the John Ankerberg Show. Dr. John Ankerberg along with some of the world’s foremost archaeologists and scholars, explore the Four Historical Facts that Prove Jesus Rose From the Dead.

Almost all secular as well as Christian scholars agree to the historical accuracy of these facts, providing convincing evidence for the resurrection

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In his own words: Barack Obama on Christianity and Islam – 40 Mind-Blowing Quotes From Barack Hussein Obama On Islam And Christianity

When someone shows you who they are, believe them

Since 2009, NOW THE END BEGINS has brought you story after story in detailed accounts of exactly how Obama feels about Islam, and how he views Christianity and the Bible. So today, in light of recent events in Washington, we feel it important that you know exactly where your president stands in regards to his faith and his god. Below are 20 quotes he has made about Islam, and 20 quotes he has made about Christianity. Nothing edited or mashed up, just exactly in the context he originally spoke them in with fully-sourced links so you can see where they come from.

If after reading this, you still think he is not a Muslim, then there is something organically wrong with your ability to reason and understand simple words written on the level of 6th grade English. You may remain ignorant, but it will be willingly so.

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How A Few Good Evangelical Men allowed Mark Driscoll to be called a Bully

It is probably no coincidence that A Few Good Men is one of my favourite movies. I think the twin competing narratives of legal justice and moral choices make it somewhat compelling.

In the film two marines fulfil an order to enact a Code Red on a substandard colleague in order to provide him with discipline. The marine dies and so the two participants are taken through the court Marshall process.

It is important to note that Code Reds are not an official navy practice and had been discouraged by the highest offices. In practice though the base commander sees them as an important tool in keeping order.

Even though the film is over twenty years old I have no wish to spoil the end for anyone who has not watched it yet (what have you been doing with your life), needless to say that the story presents the complexity of both moral/ethical issues and the nature of community hierarchies.

The issues portrayed in the film are not just relevant to the armed forces but have the potential to be found in all organisations: including the church.

The recent Mark Driscoll episode in which he has been accused of pastoral bullying by former members and leaders at Mars Hill reminded me somewhat of the storyline of the film. In essence the key leader is the culture maker and often rightly seen as the main protagonist but is supported by a whole cast of ‘enablers’.

I am not unsympathetic towards these people; I too have been part of church cultures where my support for leadership could be seen as enabling. I wonder whether the following categories might be helpful in determining whether we might be part of the problem: – Read more

As Easter approaches, Israel’s UN ambassador warns of “the Middle East war on Christians,” rising persecution in Islamic countries. Notes that Israel’s Christian population is growing.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

crossAs Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter this week, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, has written an excellent op-edfor the Wall Street Journal on the intense persecution followers of Jesus Christ are facing in Islamic countries.

He notes that there is an “exodus” of Christians leaving the Middle East today, just as Jews had to flee many Arab countries in the 20th century. That said, he also points out that Israel “is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.”

I commend the article to your attention, and encourage you to share it with others.

THE MIDDLE EAST WAR ON CHRISTIANS

Muslim-majority nations are doing to followers of Jesus what they did to the Jews.

By Amb. Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2014

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