• Review: The Case for Christ Movie Edition

    I have published a long and highly critical review of The Case for Christ movie edition. The book only has 18 reviews, so head on over to amazon and uprate my review so it will be the most visible. 😉

    Lee Strobel’s case for Christ is thoroughly extinguished by New Testament scholar and theologian Dr. Robert M. Price in The Case Against The Case For Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel. Seriously, Price handles every point well, with facts that can be independently confirmed.

    There is only one thing about Price’s book that I found unsatisfactory, and that is his treatment of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, which he thinks is an interpolation. Though he does outline some good reasons for being suspicious of the passage, I will assume the passage is authentic and argue that even then it provides no warrant for believing in a miracle. Here is why: Given that there were about 120 followers of Jesus after his death (Acts 1:15), and that 14% or more of grieving people have a visual hallucination of their deceased loved one, it is not surprising that a couple dozen of Jesus followers would have seen him alive after his death, even though he was not resurrected [I’ll be posting references aplenty for this and other things in the comments section]. Add to this the scientifically-confirmed fact that new religious movements attract frequently-hallucinating individuals like a magnet, and it is a foregone conclusion that the appearance traditions are worthless for proving the miraculous.

    Vaughn Bell, “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased” December 2, 2008, Scientific American [Available Online]. “One study found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement”

    W.D. Rees “The Hallucinations of Widowhood” British Medical Journal (1971) 4:37-41. Page 38 shows that 14% of widows and widowers had a visual hallucination of their spouse. Though Jesus was not married, we can assume at least some of his followers would have had a similarly close relationship with him, and as the Scientific American article demonstrates, hallucinations are known from a broad variety of relationships, not just marriages.

    S. Day and E. Peters, “The Incidence of Schizotypy in New Religious Movements,” (1999) Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 27 (1), 55–67. Establishes that normally functioning people who hallucinate more often than most people (“schizotypes”) are found in new religious movements at a higher rate than in the general population. When Christianity started it was a new religious movement, therefore we can expect it would have had a disproportionate number of functional but frequently hallucinating members.

    Roughly 25 years after Emperor Constantine’s conversion, Eusebius wrote that the cross had appeared to Constantine in the sky in front of his entire army! But we know this is a myth because we have a report from Lactantius, an adviser to Constantine, who wrote only three years after the conversion, says only that Constantine had a dream about the cross the night before the battle! Eusebius’ mass vision story is a complete myth. Now think about: Eusebius wrote 25 years after Constantine’s vision, Paul wrote about 25 years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and most scholars agree that the appearance to the 500 is Paul’s addition to the list (thus it does not date back to within 3 years of Jesus’ death as other parts of the creed may), so it isn’t reliable evidence of anything. The Constantine example also completely destroys Strobel’s assertions that it takes two generations or more for legends to grow up. Not so: in 25 years you can turn a dream into a mass vision.

    Even if the appearance to the 500 is not entirely legendary, it’s still poor evidence of a resurrection. Anthropologist Bruce Grindal recounted an incredibly spooky experience he had among the Sisala people of northwest Ghana: A drummer boy had died, and many of the people gathered to sing songs and dance around the corpse. All of a sudden, Grindal witnessed the corpse rise up and dance to the beat! Grindal, by his account, had slept poorly and eaten little prior to this event, and his weary state certainly could be partially responsible for his hallucination (as well as the hypnotic rhythm of the music being played). When presented with evidence of mass hallucinations like this one, apologists often reply, “Well, how do you know it’s a hallucination? Maybe something supernatural really happened!” In this case we have a really excellent reason to believe this was a hallucination. Grindal reports the conversation he had with a tribesman the next morning, in which the tribesman reveals that “Some did and some didn’t” see the resurrected drummer boy (see p. 69 of Bruce Grindal’s paper “Into the Heart of Sisala Experience: Witnessing Death Divination” Journal of Anthropological Research Vol. 39, No. 1, Spring, 1983, pp. 60-80). Think about it: if we have known examples of group hallucination but no known examples of resurrection, what is more likely?

    The familiar apologetic for the empty tomb is that women discovered it, therefore it couldn’t have been made up. However, Mark places a young man at the tomb. Mark’s ‘young man’ may as well be the witness (assuming a witness is intended, which Mark does not make explicit either for the women or the young man). Luke and John both have male disciples go and verify the tomb is empty. The one gospel that doesn’t have male witnesses of the empty tomb is the gospel of Matthew. There’s a reason for that: Matthew is the only gospel that goes to great lengths to fend off the charges that MALE DISCIPLES stole the body. Thus, the popular apologetic has absolutely no basis, and few have realized it all these years.

    Secondly: Paul calls on every Tom, Dick and Harry who saw the resurrected Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 to prove the resurrection. He does not mention any discovery of an empty tomb. The silence is deafening. Practically every Christian apologist on the face of the planet mentions it when arguing for the resurrection, so if Paul had known about it the chances he wouldn’t have mentioned it are near zero… Unless it was a legend that sprang up later! I don’t accept silly arguments that the empty tomb is “implicit” in Paul’s narrative, because Paul only tells us Jesus was “buried” but for all we know he could have simply meant Jesus was buried in the ground, as most poor convicts were back then (think of Potter’s field mentioned in Acts 1:18-19 and Matthew 27:6-10).

    Thirdly: Empty grave stories were common in antiquity. For example, Herodotos tells us about the god Aristeas: “They say that Aristeas, who was in birth inferior to none of the citizens, entered into a fuller’s shop in Proconnesos and there died; and the fuller closed his workshop and went away to report the matter to those who were related to the dead man. And when the news had been spread abroad about the city that Aristeas was dead, a man of Kyzicos who had come from the town of Artake entered into controversy with those who said so, and declared that he had met him going towards Kyzicos and had spoken with him: and while he was vehement in dispute, those who were related to the dead man came to the fuller’s shop with the things proper in order to take up the corpse for burial; and when the house was opened, Aristeas was not found there either dead or alive. In the seventh year after this he appeared at Proconnesos and composed those verses which are now called by the Hellenes the Arimaspeia, and having composed them he disappeared the second time.” (Herodotus, History, Book 4, 14-15)

    If you won’t believe Aristeas is the risen Lord because of his post mortem appearances and writings, what about the empty shop? For more parallels to ancient greek gods, I would highly recommend Richard C. Miller’s article “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity,” Journal of Biblical Literature, v. 129, no. 4 (2010) which is also available cheaply on iTunes.

    Last but not least: the resurrection as a shared delusion accounts for far more than the reality of resurrection would. First: After Jesus was resurrected, where did his body go? The accounts in the new testament have Jesus flying into heavens post mortem, but clearly we cannot believe Jesus flew into outer space. We also cannot believe that the ascension was meant metaphorically, because Hebrews 8-9 lays out in great detail that, after his death, Jesus went into the heavenly tabernacle (the ‘more perfect’ tabernacle ‘not made with hands’ Heb. 9:11 – unlike the earthly tabernacle that could *only* have been made with human hands) to offer his blood sacrifice. If all this is a mere metaphor, what is it a metaphor for, and where is it indicated in the text that it is metaphorical? Nowhere. Jesus flying up to the outer space temple to offer a heavenly sacrifice is just the metaphysics of ancient middle eastern people. This poses a dilemma for apologists: can they maintain both that it was possible for early Christians to make up an ascension story but impossible to invent a resurrection story (even accidentally via hallucinatory experiences?).

    Second: The resurrection, in ancient context, only makes sense if the early Christians believed the end of the world was near. The general resurrection was, according to ancient belief, set to take place at the end of time. Sure enough, the earliest Christians believed that the end of the world was near. Christ was “the firstfruits” of those to be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20) which implies the general resurrection is at hand, since the “first fruits” come in a matter of days, weeks or months before the rest, and two thousand years certainly don’t fit the metaphor. Mark 13:30 has Jesus saying “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” in reference to his apocalyptic predictions made earlier in the same chapter. Hebrews 9:26 says “But now, once at the end of the ages, He [Jesus] has appeared…” Revelation ends with Jesus saying, “Surely I am coming quickly!” Most tellingly of all, after carefully telling the Corinthians that virgins commit no sin by getting married, Paul says, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none” (1 Corinthians 7:29). Point blank: there is no way he could have said such a thing unless he believed the end of the world was coming within the generation. Preterist-type explanations for the New Testament’s apocalypticism can be of no help here, because why would it make sense to avoid marriage if the “end” that Paul spoke of was just some type of spiritual return of Jesus that would not culminate in the end of the world? Thus, the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection actually disproves Christianity, since the end of the world never came. Ironic, yes, but true.

    One more thing I might add about this book is how badly out of date much of it is. Yamauchi’s interview references Thallus as proof of a supernatural darkness at Jesus’ death, but the two most recent scholarly publications both confirm how worthless this is (I have left the references to both of these publications below). Herodotus mentions an unnatural darkness at King Phraortes’ death when “Day was turned into night” (History, 1.103), so it was a common mythological theme back then, and we have no good evidence from Thallus or anyone else that it actually happened.

    Richard C. Carrier “Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011-2012): 185-91.
    Jobjorn Boman, “Comments on Carrier: Is Thallus Actually Quoted by Eusebius?” Liber Annuus Volume 62 (2012): 319-325.

    In closing, I’ll mention that again, I felt Dr. Price’s previously mentioned Case Against the Case for Christ mightily refuted pretty much everything in the book. However, I’d also add that can you can find many additional arguments against common Christian apologetics (including ones I did not address here for concerns of space) in my book Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. A very extensive case for a ground burial of Jesus, with an abundance of ancient and scholarly references, can be found in Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box? Matthew Wade Ferguson, a history student, published a very readable and well referenced summary of why the gospels are anonymous “Why Scholars Doubt the Traditional Authors of the Gospels” which you can find on the website Internet Infidels for free. Last but not least, one of the strongest offensive cases against Christianity (as opposed to the usual purely defensive arguments of atheists that simply point out that the apologetic arguments are unconvincing) is John W. Loftus’ The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails.

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    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.

    29 comments

    1. It’s interesting that, if post mortem appearances of the deceased was very common in the ancient world, that such appearances of Jesus would have been interpreted to suggest that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

      From beginning to end the purpose of the movement was to sell the new religion to the world:

      (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

      (B) The Great Commission

      16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

      (C) Sending out Emissaries

      Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be “conquered,” so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously). (see Luke 10:1-3, 17-30)

      (D) For Paul, Jesus resurrection is understood as the “first fruits” of the general resurrection, and so was a selling point for the new religion: “The end of the world is at hand, so you better join the winning team.”

      Christianity was all about winning converts and spreading the word, so it is no surprise that they succeeded doing just that.

    2. It would be interesting to ask Paul exactly what he mean by the resurrected Jesus being the “firstfruits” of the general “harvest” of souls at the end of the age. We certainly know some early Christians thought this meant bodies emerging from tombs. For instance, Matthew characterizes the first stage of the general resurrection of souls and Christ as the firstfruits as:

      “The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.… (Matthew 27:52-53)”

      I imagine it would be a far more impressive recruiting tool to claim that Jesus physically left the grave rather than just that some people had visions of him.

    3. If 120 people were in the Jesus movement communicating with each other so that the two dozen who had hallucinations of Jesus knew of each other, wouldn’t the many in the movement who had bereavement hallucinations of lost loved ones before, or heard about them from others, have also communicated this, along with their conclusion from these previous experiences that these visits are just tricks of the imagination or visits by the dead person’s spirt? Seems more likely to me that the resurrection belief came first and then the hallucinations followed. Thoughts?

      1. It’s interesting that you should mention that, because in L. Michael White’s book “Scripting Jesus” he discusses the possibility that the appearance traditions would have been countered by non-Christians as a ghost sighting… Which, White speculates, led to the empty tomb story.

        But to answer your question, you may be correct in some sense that the resurrection belief came first. It was believed that the end of the world (and the resurrection with it) was on its way, and I think that could have played a huge role in causing the appearances to be understood as resurrection appearances instead of just ghostly apparitions, as they often were in antiquity.

        But the above reasoning only holds under the assumption that Jesus was historical. If he was not, then the resurrection story may have come about because Jesus would have been constructed as a sort of “model type” for Christians to emulate. Indeed, the gospels, in particular the gospel of Mark, can be read as a sort of model-life for Christians to follow, it begins with a baptism and ends with a resurrection, which is the life every Christian would have.

    4. If you are entertaining the possibility that Jesus existed, and if you are entertaining the possibility that Jesus’ followers thought he was raised bodily (i.e., not a ghost), then let’s go back to your 120 followers of Jesus scenario. You suggest about two dozen think they really saw Jesus alive again after his death, which means around the same number more or less would have been reporting to the others that they had seen or heard of this phenomena before and it is just a quirk of the imagination or a visit by the dead person’s spirt. But you say they thought the end times was near. If so, wouldn’t they look around and see that nobody else was resurrecting from the dead and conclude that the end times had not arrived? It seems unlikely Jesus’ followers would conclude he was raised from the dead with this kind of nebulous and negative evidence, unless you propose that Jesus taught them before his death some kind of first fruits theology, but even then, bereavement hallucinations rarely have any significant interaction with the percipient, so they must all have been wondering why Jesus did not say anything relevant to his resurrection or the recent events that had transpired, and they must also have been wondering why the experiences were so similar to the quirks of imagination or visits by spirits experienced by so many of the other followers of Jesus. Do you still think your hallucination scenario is plausible?

      1. “But you say they thought the end times was near. If so, wouldn’t they look around and see that nobody else was resurrecting from the dead and conclude that the end times had not arrived?”

        No. As Paul himself says (I Cor. 15:22-23) “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” He thought the resurrection of other people hadn’t yet happened, but would happen in the future.

        On a related note, a belief that the end was at hand is probably why Matthew invented the story about the holy people who came back to life at Jesus’ death and “appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-53) (Contradicting Paul, I might add!) and also the reason that some Christians, condemned in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, were teaching that the resurrection had already taken place!

        “bereavement hallucinations rarely have any significant interaction with the percipient”

        There are tactile hallucinations, that is, hallucinations of touch, that occur sometimes, as the bereavement article I cite notes. Even that aside, I see no significant reason that an expectation of the end couldn’t have caused the visions to be interpreted as appearances of a resurrected body. That’s what would have been different about Jesus as opposed to other deceased persons who appeared to people: unlike them, Jesus would have been an end times prophet in a cultural context where resurrection was a part of “the end.”

        “so they must all have been wondering why Jesus did not say anything relevant to his resurrection or the recent events that had transpired”

        I’m unsure what you mean here, or why you think. The gospel of Mark says Jesus predicted his resurrection. Also, as I pointed out in my review, it was common for ancient heroes and gods to be thought resurrected.

        “they must also have been wondering why the experiences were so similar to the quirks of imagination or visits by spirits experienced by so many of the other followers of Jesus.”

        That gives them way too much credit. UFO cults, for example, are not bothered by the fact that other UFO sightings are known to be due to non-extraterrestrial causes. People who believe the Virgin Mary appeared to them are not bothered by the many other appearances that are probably due to hallucination or other causes. I might add that Paul doesn’t evince any kind of skepticism even though, by his own confession, the only evidence he had was appearances. He mentions nothing else, nothing at all; and it’s extraordinarily dubious to cook up speculations that he had some much better type of evidence but for some strange reason didn’t mention it, even though he seems to be going to great lengths to prop up the resurrection with everything he can find, like the appearance to the 500.

    5. Unless you think Jesus’ resurrection predictions in the gospels are historical (do you?), it seems like the hallucinator would have initially looked around expecting to see the general resurrection beginning, found nothing, and then had to weigh whether to invent a “first fruits” type theology or conclude that his mind just played a trick on him (or Jesus’ soul just paid him a visit). So I think the lack of a general rez would have been a hurdle that had to be overcome, not something that fit within an already established first fruits theology.

      Again, unless you think Jesus’ resurrection predictions in the gospels are historical, it is virtually certain that the hallucinated Jesus said nothing about his recent crucifixion/resurrection, assuming he said anything at all. Most bereavement hallucinations say nothing, and those that do usually say a word or two, like “don’t be sad”, or “I’m ok”. Wouldn’t a ten second image of Jesus that said “don’t be sad” and then disappeared leave the percipient wondering why Jesus did not stick around and why he did not say anything relevant? Seems unlikely to lead to a resurrection belief or even the belief that Jesus could still be the Messiah.

      Tactile hallucinations in conjunction with visual hallucination are rare (so your probabilities drop), but they usually involve just a brief touch. Do you feel like you need to have the hallucination be tactile for your hypothesis to work? If so, I’ll go down that road with you.

      Your UFO and Virgin Mary examples of people ignoring unfavorable evidence are good, but I’ll bet most/all of those examples entail the negative evidence coming from people *outside* a given group. In your scenario, if two dozen out of 120 Jesus followers had a hallucination of Jesus, there should have been around the same number of people (plus or minus), *within the same believing group*, who had experienced bereavement hallucinations beforehand and knew they were not bodily visits by dead people. The fellow Jesus followers who hallucinated Jesus would likely listen to them don’t you think and take that into consideration before concluding that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead?

      1. “Unless you think Jesus’ resurrection predictions in the gospels are historical (do you?),”

        Under the assumption that the gospel stories arose from at least some type of historical core, it would be plausible that he did say that. If he did not, that place another black mark on the historical value of the gospels, and it would serve as yet another example of very early legendary embellishment. So a Christian apologist could dispense with that remark as an attempt to make it harder for an atheist to explain the resurrection, but dispensing with it comes with consequences… I’ll make a more substantial response later.

    6. I don’t really care about the apologetics. I do not think Jesus’ predictions are historical. If there are historical, then I think your hypothesis is plausible; if not, then not. No need to continue unless you think your hypothesis is plausible without Jesus predicting his resurrection.

      1. “No need to continue…”

        Listen, this is my blog, and you damn well won’t tell me whether to continue or not. Understood?

        In my book I cite an article published in The Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus by Michael Licona arguing the predictions were historical. Licona makes a plausible case for this using the standard criteria of Jesus studies. The only criticism I can make of it is the criteria he uses (early attestation, looking for Aramaisms, etc.) simply don’t allow us to establish a probability >50%. But then those criteria are some of the only things we have for deeming anything in these books historical at all, so if they go out the window, so does everything else in the tradition.

        As far as the hallucination hypothesis goes, I don’t find your imaginings remotely credible. You naively assume that the earliest Christians would have been treating the resurrection as a scientific hypothesis and carefully considering all available evidence. Cults don’t behave that way. And the hallucination hypothesis is the besta available explanation for what Paul tells us. Paul does NOT say, “After Jesus was resurrected, he met up again with Peter, then went and ate a fish dinner with Thomas and James…” or anything equivalent. Paul says “He appeared… He appeared… He appeared” which is far easier to account for under the hypothesis that these were private revelatory experiences than sightings of an actual resurrected man.

        As far as the “first fruits” theology goes, under the assumption that this came after (and not before) belief in Christ’s resurrection, (and closing a blind eye to Jesus’ predictions of his resurrection as well as Herod’s comment that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead, which if true would entail a pre-existent tradition of a singly raised person) it is still feasible that visions could be interpreted as a resurrected body: Cults often engage in “cognitive dissonance reduction” when their beliefs are disconfirmed, and creating the belief that Jesus was the first person to be resurrected would have been a great way to harmonize their beliefs. Yes, their messiah had died, but he had been resurrected and ruled the universe in heaven, and his resurrection furnished ‘confirmation’ that the end was indeed nigh.
        https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html

        1. I’m secular, but one quibble I have with the hallucination hypothesis is that if postmortem “experiences” of a loved one being grieved were common in ancient times (as they are today), why would a vision of Jesus make Cephas et al think he had been resurrected? I tend to think they were making up the resurrection appearances rather than that they all had hallucinations as implied by 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.

          1. Well that’s what I had tried to answer above: there are a variety of plausible scenarios that would cause that interpretation.

            1. I think that if there was a historical Jesus he was ‘deified’ by his followers. Maybe some of them had ‘mystical visions’ or something like that, I think they were a pretty intense apocalyptic bunch and it’s not unusual for cults to have ‘visions’. In those times people would deify great or important people. They would come up with mythological motifs to add to the person’s life to show he was great and ‘divine’. This happened to roman emperors, Alexander The Great, and the Egyptian Pharaohs were given mythological miraculous birth stories and then ascended to heaven after they died. It was a way of deifying someone. By the time you get to the gospels Jesus has been turned into a deified king of the Jews savior god/hero.

            2. I still think the first Christians might have been inventing the resurrection appearances to lend clout to Jesus message after he died and keep the movement going. Messianic movements usually died out after the leader died. Analogously, Joseph Smith was a liar.

    7. Paul’s conversion experience and vision reports are very suspicious to me. What could do a better job of attesting to the “truth” of a new religion than having one of its chief persecutors switching sides and start having tons of confirming visions from God? Too good to be true? Regarding Paul’s conversion story, Dr. Barrie Wilson, Author of “How Jesus Became Christian,” argues “Paul’s story is clearly made up, to give himself credibility. What people don’t realize is that, if true, it would undermine the whole point of Jesus’ mission. If all it took was a vision, why waste time with a 3-yr mentoring process?” Dr. Wilson points out that another example of a highly dubious vision is Peter’s setting aside the Kosher laws.

      Paul would have been aware of the power of telling a story about himself of God intervening and changing the mind of someone doing bad things to God’s chosen people, such we also find in 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus, which, as the great Tübingen critics already saw, is the model for Luke’s description of Paul’s conversion story in Acts. Dr. James Tabor has also pointed out in a blog post that Paul’s reported ascension to heaven experience was a common reported phenomenon at the time: see https://jamestabor.com/if-i-ascend-to-heaven-pauls-journey-to-paradise/ .It’s very suspicious that Paul’s visions were types of ones that were common at the time, and hence would have had supreme persuasive and didactic value. There are too many coincidences here with Paul.

      I don’t know if it is as helpful as most people think to turn to the writings of Paul to learn about Jesus.

      Paul was quite clear that he was “something like” an accomplished liar, or at least a good chameleon, modifying his message about Jesus to cast Jesus in the most “sellable” light possible, depending on whether Paul was presenting the message to Jews, or to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). Since Paul was modifying the message depending on whether it was going to Jews or Gentiles, and he was trying to present the most tempting Christ possible to win the most converts, who knows what he thought about the actual historical Jesus? And Paul boasts that he was able to deceive: “Be that as it may, I was not a burden to you; but crafty as I am, I caught you by trickery (2 Cor 12:16).”

      And there is possible reason to suspect that Paul was lying, since he was constantly protesting that he wasn’t lying (a possible sign of guilt). Paul wrote:

      “I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie (Galatians 1:20)”
      “I speak the truth in Christ; I am not lying, as confirmed by my conscience in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).”
      “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:23).”
      ” The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is forever worthy of praise, knows that I am not lying (2 Corinthians 11:31).”

      As Shakespeare wrote, methinks Paul “doth protest too much.” Paul seems to present himself as a liar who is worrying about getting caught. Paul also seemingly “lies” to support his arguments. For instance, Paul claims the risen Christ appeared to “500 of the brothers AT ONCE (1 Corinthians 15:6).” That’s ridiculous! Paul is perhaps making stuff up to persuade his readers that Christ really rose, unless he was just uncritically accepting second hand information to bolster his argument.

      1. I think there are many respectable theories of Christian origins, and I’d include the “Noble Lie” theory among them. However, I myself feel that the “Grief Hallucination” theory is among the most defensible, at least given a historical Jesus.

        1. And I’d just like to add that, as Carrier says, the “Noble Lie” theory of Christian origins is just as possible under the historical Jesus hypothesis as it is under the mythical Jesus hypothesis. As per the pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed, it is just as likely that the apostles were making up stories about visions of their former master, as it was a group of idealists made up stories about visions of a mythical being.

    8. No disrespect meant when I said, “No *need* to continue unless…”. I was just trying to save you time if you were answering my questions just for me. If you want me to continue with you, are you ok presupposing no resurrection predictions by Jesus and very little reliable history in the gospels? Also, just to clarify where I am coming from, I do not think there were “sightings of an actual resurrected” Jesus, i.e., I do not think Jesus was resurrected from the dead; I think he died and decayed like we all do/will (i.e., normal human being).

      Yes, Paul says, “He appeared… He appeared… He appeared”, so we can’t tell from this if the hallucinations caused the resurrection belief or if the resurrection belief came first and then the hallucinations happened. He doesn’t say either way.

      I agree “first fruits” theology could have come from cognitive dissonance rationalizing after the hallucinations (so I guess cognitive dissonance rationalizing is part of your theory) . But for anyone who hallucinated Jesus (or fellow Jesus followers who heard their story), I still think it would have been really weird to them that Jesus just stared at them for a few seconds and then left (and maybe said something like, “don’t be sad” or “I’m ok” or some remembered phrase from his teachings). This would not be what a resurrected messiah visiting from heaven right after his crucifixion would do/say, and it would not take a critical thinking Jesus follower to recognize this. Granted, sightings of the Virgin Mary entail the same lack of interaction and they are believed, but in these cases Mary is *already* considered a revered figure in heaven. In your scenario, Jesus was at this point a disproven messiah wannabe.

      So how in your theory do those who hallucinated Jesus get over the lack of interaction by Jesus and his such short visit, while also knowing from others that these characteristics are similar what people have experienced with other lost friends/family? Seems difficult even for cognitive dissonance rationalizing to overcome this evidence.

      1. “In your scenario, Jesus was at this point a disproven messiah wannabe. ”

        But the followers would never accept that. They would be looking for any possible way to keep on believing, to see things a different way.

        “So how in your theory do those who hallucinated Jesus get over the lack of interaction by Jesus and his such short visit, while also knowing from others that these characteristics are similar what people have experienced with other lost friends/family? Seems difficult even for cognitive dissonance rationalizing to overcome this evidence.”

        I don’t see a coherent reason that the relative brevity of this experience would be a problem. As for the commonality, I’ve tried to explain previously that the context was different for Jesus than it was for those other figures, which is why I think the appearances were interpreted one way instead of the other. Sure the early Christians might have been told that they only saw a ghost or something, they might have even wondered as much themselves. But they would have also wanted to continue believing, and to need hope more than ever. This is why a belief that resurrection was already underway would have been highly appealing, far more appealing than a belief in ghostly appearance. All somebody had to do was come up with the idea… Or borrow it (see the story of Aristeus above).

        1. “In your scenario, Jesus was at this point a disproven messiah wannabe. ”

          But the followers would never accept that. They would be looking for any possible way to keep on believing, to see things a different way.

          “Tis strange — but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction.”
          When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Prophecy_Fails

    9. It sounds like you are saying that Jesus’ followers needed so much hope after Jesus’ death, and were looking so hard for any possible way to keep on believing, that they just rationalized away the brevity and non-communicative aspects of the hallucinations of Jesus. But if they were in that much need of hope, and were looking that hard for any possible way to keep on believing, why not just say they dreamed up all on their own that Jesus was raised from the dead up to heaven, and then this led to hallucinations?

      1. Another possibility is that Paul had an empty tomb scenario in mind and just failed to mention it. It would be interesting to ask Paul exactly what he meant by the resurrected Jesus being the “firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the general “harvest” of souls at the end of the age where the Kingdom of God was imminent. We certainly know some early Christians thought this meant bodies emerging from tombs. For instance, Matthew characterizes the first stage of the general resurrection of the dead and Christ as the firstfruits as: “The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.… (Matthew 27:52-53).” If Matthew’s view of the first stage of the “general resurrection at the end of the age” was of corpses emerging from tombs (Matthew 27:52-53), and that Christ was the “first fruits” of this, and this was ALSO Paul’s understanding of the end time resurrection, then Paul might have believed in an empty tomb scenario for Christ. Paul seems to think that resurrection meant the dead waking up from their graves (see 1 Thess 4;13-18). It’s doubtful that simple postmortem appearances/hallucinations of Jesus to his devastated, mourning followers (Cephas et al) would have been enough to cause the belief that Jesus had been resurrected as the firstfruits of the general resurrection at the end of days, since postmortem “experiences” of loved ones were probably commonplace in ancient times (like today). Paul might have had the empty tomb scenario in mind, and just failed to mention it, just as he failed to mention much about Jesus’ biography (even when mentioning such details would have bolstered his argument).

        1. Per the offering of aparche i.e. “First Fruits” in ancient Greece, the aparche was a major source of funds for the temples of the Eleusinian goddesses Demeter and Kore after the agricultural offering was sold by the temple.

    10. Thanks for mentioning my article, Ryan. I also have a full-length book out that shows how stories of immortalization (often resurrection) functioned in the exaltation of ancient iconified figures. The story of Jesus was no hallucination, nor was it a hoax. The earliest readers read it within the pattern just described, namely as an honorific legendary embellishment.

      See my own: “Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity” (now in affordable paperback, Kindle, or at your local university library.

      1. “The story of Jesus was no hallucination, nor was it a hoax.”

        I agree it was not a hoax, but taking 1Corinthians 15:3-11 at face value, isnt it undoubtable that Paul was preaching the resurrection as a real event and not a mere honorific legendary embellishment?

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