Thursday, January 5, 2012

Garald O'Collins on Dale Allison

Theologian Gerald O'Collins has very recently written a critique of Dale Allison's hypothesis that the visionary experiences of the disciples could be explained away as typical bereavement visions. In his paper, he claims that the similarities between bereavement visions/apparitions and the resurrection appearances are too few to be significant, and are therefore useless in explaining away the resurrection appearances. Misfortunatley, Gerald's essay is unavailable on the web (unless you pay a fee), so I cannot comment on it or it's arguments. If you know of any of his arguments, comment on this post immediatley!

Fortunately, Mike Licona's (Pg's 623-641) and JP Holding's (Pg's 317-318) books on the resurrection briefly mention a few of O'Collin's criticisms of Allisons theory. Misfortunatley, the issues they bring up are quite easy to rebut. For instance, in Holdings book, Jonathan Kendall asserts (Pg 318) that in order for the Apparition theory to be viable, the visions would have had to have stopped immediately after 40 days. This criticism is exceptionally weak when we look at cases in "Resurrecting Jesus"- especially in Allison's own case in which:

"Of the reports I received of apparitions of my late father, half came during the week immediately following his death, and all came during the following months; and nothing has happened since"
So, at least we know that in some cases, people have apparitional experiences within the first week of the persons death. Isn't that enough? As Allison suggests in his essay- The disciples could have easily interpreted early Apparitions as "appearances" and later ones as "visions from heaven". I see no reason why conservative Christians can't at least acknowldge this scenario as a possibility. Also, Licona states in his book that, according to O'Collins, Apparitional experiences would not be a good explaination since they never cause their recepients to start a new Religion (Pg 636). To this criticism I am shocked. Who's saying that visions alone changed the disciples lives? Let us not forget the empty tomb and pre-easter expectations, which I thick would certainly get them exited. I don't think I need more examples to prove my point.

On a final note, in another essay  "Doubt and the resurrection of Jesus" (which can also be found here), the author claims that Gerald isn't the only person who has critically evaluated Allison's Apparition theory.
"There has been a concerted effort recently to show the similarities between postdeath apparition experiences and Jesus' resurrection appearances"
Misfortunatley, the snipit that I aquired had little information on exactly how much interest has gone into this, or how many scholars have actually listened to it. Considering the poor responses from Habermas and Craig, I doubt that these critiques of Allison have garnered much popularity. Still, a part of me wants to know what kind of critiques these are, and how serious they are to Allisons theory. After all, if I am wrong about the Resurrection, I would certainly like to know about it. So, once again, if any of my readers knows anything about this, I would be very grateful.


  1. I've got access to the full pdf through my university. Would you like me to e-mail you a copy?

  2. I would've loved a copy, but I already asked O'Collins for one, and got it. The only criticism he made that really struck me was the one where he cited that, unlike Allison claims, 60% of bereavement experiences last for several years, and most of them start a few weeks after the event- not a few days.

    I asked O'Collins whether there were any other criticisms of Allisons (and Ludemann's) bereavement theory, and he said that, as far as he was aware, he was the only person to criticise it.