Friday, February 3, 2012

Skeptic magazine defends Hallucination Hypothesis

You can read the article here. I have to admit, I am somewhat envious of this guy for being able to defend the hallucination hypothesis from a psychiatric perspective. I am happy that he avoids speculative group hallucinations, and uses the empty tomb to strengthen his case. Furthermore, I am happy that he decimates the often poor criticism of Evangelicals like Craig and Habermas. The problem with them, as I've stated elsewhere, is that they rely on outdated scholarship that knew next to nothing about hallucinations. Now adays, we know that hallucinations occur commonly to normal, sane people experiencing bereavement.

The thing, however, that impressed me most was his proposal that the disciples may have believed in the physical resurrection theologically and not on the basis of evidence. In other words, the disciples could have believed that Jesus could be touched and seen by many people, without actually having been seen/touched by many people at once. As an example, lets just say that the disciples were all sleeping together. One of them gets up and hallucinates Jesus. Another wakes up and also hallucinates Jesus. When the rest wake up, he disappears. Only two of them see Jesus- yet, only two of them were in a position where they could see him. This could lead an ancient to conclude that, had they all been awake at the same time, they could have all seen Jesus. But it doesn't follow that, because they all could have seen Jesus, they all did. This is an important point which hasn't been properly critiqued, in my opinion anyways.

One thing that did irritate me, however, was the authors denial of William Lane Craig's favorite argument- that there was no precedent to individual resurrection in the ancient world. Although it is true that, according to the gospels, Jesus raised the dead- these were viewed as resuscitation's, not resurrections. The formerly dead would not stay alive forever; Resurrected people, however, would enjoy eternal life. I can't fault this essay too much for this inconvenience, however, since many evangelicals agree with me. Habermas himself admits that he puts little stock in the argument since, according to many, prophecies of a dying and rising messiah can, in fact, be found within the old testiment.

Despite the small flaw, this essay is a very impressive one. I hope that eventually, serious biblical scholars will take notice.

HT to John Loftus

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