Who Were the Apostles: Part III- Lunatics?

The next on our list of options is that the apostles were being honest but were mentally unhinged in some way that resulted in their having delusions and/or hallucinations that account for the miraculous elements of their testimony. The thought is that the disciples were so grief-stricken at the death of Christ that it moved them to hallucinate his resurrection. This option, too, fails to hold up to scrutiny.

Argument 1:

1) The disciples, as we’ve already established, were not dishonest story-tellers or con men. They truly believed what they testified to was accurate, to the point of being willing to die rather than give up their conviction of what they witnessed.

2) Granting mass hallucinations on the part of the disciples post-crucifixion still does not explain why they attributed many miracles to Christ before the crucifixion. Surely they did not hallucinate both present events and past events, rewiring their own memories about Christ’s life.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 2:

1) Hallucinations are individual events, not group events. There are no known examples of large groups of people having exactly the same hallucination.

2) The apostles all reported the exact same story, so if they were hallucinating they must have all had the same hallucination. There are many scattered groups that are said to have witnessed Jesus over a period of time after his crucifixion. That they all just happened to witness the same thing is not a reasonable conclusion.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 3:

1) By their own admission, the apostles did not understand Jesus’ message about his resurrection until after it happened. This means they would not have been predisposed to have a false, wishful-thinking induced vision of Jesus come back from the dead.

2) The Jewish understanding of the day (and the apostles were Jews by both blood and culture) was that Messiah would come and conquer Israel’s enemies and immediately usher in the Kingdom of God. They saw only what they wanted to see in the prophecies, and conveniently ignored the prophecies (like Isaiah 53) that indicate Messiah would suffer and be humiliated. Since the apostles had this false expectation of Christ’s first coming, they were distraught and demoralized when Christ was crucified, rather than crowned king. Since the resurrection was contrary to their own understanding, it is unreasonable to think they all would have hallucinated this very thing and suddenly changed their whole way of thinking about Messiah.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 4:

1) Hallucinations are generally vague, fuzzy experiences, and not typically drawn out over long periods.

2) The apostles report the opposite: very specific, detailed experiences of Christ over a multi-week period of time.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 5:

1) Because of the nature of hallucination, people suffering from them can generally be convinced that their experience was not real by people who did not share the experience. They may even come to doubt it was real of their own accord.

2) People do not lay their lives on the line and eventually submit to torture and death for claims they are not really sure about.

3) The apostles did submit to torture and death without recanting, thus showing that they were in no way uncertain or doubtful about their experiences.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 6:

1) These hallucinations would have to have come about as a result of the intense personal desire to see Jesus alive, to the point of imagining it really happened.

2) Not everyone who experienced these sightings was disposed in any way to this, yet they record it nonetheless. Thomas was intensely skeptical and would not believe it when told by others. Paul, formerly Saul, was a radical anti-Christian pharisee who was killing and persecuting Christians actively at the time of his encounter with Christ. He couldn’t have been any further from desiring to see Jesus alive.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 7:

1) If all the experiences of the risen Christ were delusions only, then Christ’s tomb could not really have been empty.

2) As noted in an earlier part, there were many powerful people in the area of Jerusalem who were highly hostile to the message of Christianity from the beginning.

3) Christianity as a religion got its earliest start in Jerusalem. If the tomb were not empty, it would have been easy for the enemies of Christianity to simply go and get the decomposing body of Christ to prove he had not risen from the dead- or at the very least point out that the boulder had not been moved and the tomb was not empty. That alone would have crushed the movement at its source, yet this did not happen.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

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