When skeptics suggest that the disciples of Jesus probably had vivid dreams which gave rise to their belief in his resurrection, Christian apologists reply that first century Jews would know the difference between a dream and reality. But is this true?
Let’s look at two accounts in the Bible:
And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”…
In this passage, a devout, God-fearing, first century Jew has a dream in which a supernatural being “appears” to him and tells him that his fiancée, who is pregnant by someone other than himself, has conceived a child fathered by the Third Person of the Christian Trinity (an entity which he probably had never heard of). But this devout Jew believes this “appearance in a dream” to be reality and marries a pregnant woman based on his belief that an angel truly had “appeared” to him!
And here is another passage:
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.…
Here we have another example, involving the same devout, God-fearing, first century Jew, in which a supernatural being again “appears” to him in a dream, warning him that his family is in mortal danger…and based on this “appearance” in a dream, this devout Jew uproots his family and moves them to a foreign country: obvious proof that he believed the supernatural appearance to have been a reality.
These two passages are absolute proof that first century Jews could have dreams involving supernatural beings and believe them to be reality. The fact that the passages in the Gospels regarding the alleged appearances of Jesus to his disciples do not contain the word “dream” is irrelevant. The stories involving Joseph come directly from the author of the book in which it is written, not from “eyewitnesses”. The story about the appearances of Jesus to his disciples allegedly came from the disciples themselves. How would the disciples be able to distinguish between a dream and non-dream reality if they believed that in both situations a supernatural being had truly “appeared” to them?
The apologists’ claim that the appearances of Jesus could not be based on vivid dreams is proven false by the Bible itself!