A New Argument That Collective Hallucinations Do Not Adequately Account For The Group Appearances Of Jesus In The Gospels -- By: Zachary Breitenbach

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:2 (Jun 2019)
Article: A New Argument That Collective Hallucinations Do Not Adequately Account For The Group Appearances Of Jesus In The Gospels
Author: Zachary Breitenbach


A New Argument That Collective Hallucinations Do Not Adequately Account For The Group Appearances Of Jesus In The Gospels

Zachary Breitenbach*

* Zachary Breitenbach is a Ph.D. student at Liberty University, 105 Ecklin Lane, Cary, NC 27519. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: The sincere belief of the Twelve that Jesus appeared to them alive after his death is widely accepted as historical bedrock by almost all scholars, so any viable hypothesis concerning the fate of Jesus must account for this fact. One naturalistic hypothesis for explaining it that has regained some popularity in recent decades is to suggest that the group appearances were collective hallucinations. In order to account for why the group appearance narratives in the Gospels do not fit with collective hallucinations, some proponents of the collective hallucination hypothesis have suggested that the original group appearance traditions resulted from hallucinations but then were modified by the time the Gospels were written. This paper makes a case against this hypothesis by showing how several themes prevalent in the Gospels’ group appearance accounts cannot be accounted for well by this hypothesis; in fact, the hypothesis seems to give rise to an intractable dilemma.

Key words: resurrection of Jesus, group appearances, collective hallucinations, Bart Ehrman, Gerd Lüdemann

The sincere belief of the Twelve that Jesus appeared to them alive after his death is widely accepted as historical bedrock by almost all scholars and is a key fact in what Gary Habermas calls a “minimal facts argument” for the resurrection of Jesus.1 In 1 Cor 15:3–8, the apostle Paul quotes a creedal statement that is recognized by virtually all scholars as relaying information that he received within just a few years of the death of Jesus.2 This early tradition affirms that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, was buried, was raised from the dead, and appeared to a variety of individuals and groups that includes the Twelve. Paul had contact with members of the Twelve (e.g. he mentions meeting Peter in Galatians 1–2) and could verify that they believed they saw a postmortem appearance of Jesus. Also, various appearances to the Twelve are mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew (28:16–20), Luke (24:36–49), and John (20:19–23, 26–29; You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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