What was a vision in the first century? Was it a vivid dream? Was it an hallucination?
If the Bible is correct, Peter and Paul were both men given to trances and visions. I believe that both these men probably suffered from some form of mental illness, possibly Bipolar Disorder. Check out what one famous NT scholar says about this possibility:
7 thoughts on “Is the Resurrection Belief based on the Visions of just Two Men?”
If the visions of Our Lady aren’t just by two men, it’s easy to think that the visions of Jesus weren’t either. Almost all of the 1st-early 2nd c. records of visions of Jesus are by others than or more than Peter and Paul. It’s typical for them to say He appeared to His disciples.
FYI, here is my list with dates of possible 1st c. works by or about Christians:
80-120 Epistle of Barnabas (Clement Alexandrine & Origen used it, Jerome considered its authorship genuine & Eusebius didn’t, Vulgate used it as apocryphal)
80-140 1 Clement
90-218 4 Esdras (Vulgate) / 2 Esdras (Protestant) / 3 Esdras (Slavic) including Chp 7 w/ NSRV verses 35-105
95-160 2 Clement
100-150 Apocalypse of Peter (Most of it extant. Muratorian canon has it but says some ban it from reading in church, Accepted by Clement Alexandrine, not counted genuine by Eusebius)
100-160 Shepherd of Hermas (included in Codex Sinaiticus; Muratorian fragment says it “ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly”; Clement Alexandrine uses it but notes “many people despise it”)
Fragmentary, Status Unknown, or Acceptance Varied
1st-4th c. Epistle to the Laodiceans (Maybe multiple versions eg. Paul’s vs. Marcion’s; Vulgate version: Apocryphal in Vulgate Bibles, St. Gregory the Great accepted it, Jerome said “All reject it”)(researched it) http://www.orthodox.cn/patristics/apost … odicea.htm
70-120 Egerton Gospel (could be fragments from a rejected gospel that we only have in fragments like g.Peter)
70-200 Fayyum Fragment (too short to tell what writing it belongs to)
80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews (Fragments. Used by Origen, Jerome, Didymus Blind, Papias, Hegesippus; rejected by Pseudo-Cyril Jerusalemite & Philip Sidetes as heretical)
100-150 Preaching of Peter (Fragmentary. Accepted by Clement Alexandrine, not counted as genuine by Eusebius)
100-160 Gospel/Traditions of Matthias (EW dates it to 110-160 ntcanon.org/Traditions_of_Matthias.shtml dates it to 100-150)(Clement Alexandrine respects it & Codex Baroccianus lists it as canonical; Eusebius & Gelasian Decree consider it heretical)
100-400 Gospel of Bartholomew / The Questions of Bartholomew (maybe the same work. Rejected by Gelasian Decree. Not sure what heresy, if any, it falls under)
Likely Christian influenced works about the OT period but not in Biblical apocryphas. Listed by theme:
100-400 Testament of Adam http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/testadam.html
1st to 2nd c. Testament of Abraham
100-400 Testament of Isaac
2nd-3rd c. Testament of Jacob
70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
100-200 Odes of Solomon
Early 1st to late 5th c. Lives of the Prophets
1st c. to 300 Apocalypse of Elijah http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/apocelijah.html
1st to early 3rd c. Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/ascensionisaiah.html
1st c. – 300 3 Baruch
1st c. -300 4 Baruch http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/4baruch.html
100-500 Apocalypse of Sedrach http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/apocsedrach.html
100-900 Greek Apocalypse of Ezra
100-400 Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers (found in James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha)
100-150 Apocryphon(Secret Book) of James (Nag Hammadi. Work supports James & Peter but dissents from other disciples. Cerinthian? Cerinthus the gnost required Torah observance & conflicted w St.John who was 1 of 3 church pillars)
100-160 Gospel of the Nazarenes/Nazoreans (Torah-observant, theologically orthodox Christian Nazarene sect; Jerome used it; 7th c. Trullo council banned Christians from praying in synagogues)
100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites (Is it gnostic?)
Celibate / Encratitic?
80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians (Clement Alexandrine quoted it as having real Jesus sayings, Origen called it heretical)
Docetist (eg. Jesus only appeared to suffer)
50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel [maybe the Gospel of Peter]
70-160 Gospel of Peter (Ever accepted? Rejected by Serapion Antiochene & Philip Sidetes)
50-140 Gospel of Thomas (was the Greek one gnostic? Is it Matthew/Matthai’s sayings gospel?)
50-150 Apocalypse of Adam (gnostic, Nag Hammadi. Is it Christian?)
50-150 Eugnostos the Blessed (Nag Hammadi)
50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ (Nag Hammadi)
80-250 Christian Sibyllines
100-200 Gospel of Eve
100-230 Thunder, Perfect Mind
100-300 Coptic Apocalypse of Peter / “Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter”(Wikipedia dates it to 100-200 AD. What dating is best?)
NonChristian Jews writing on Christianity
93 Flavius Josephus
70 – 100 Birkat Ha Minim by Shmuel ha-Katan
Pagans writing on Christianity
Pliny the Elder 23-79 AD (remarks about the tetrarchy of the Nazareans)
Phlegon (on the eclipse http://www.textexcavation.com/testimonia.html)
Thallus (on the eclipse http://www.textexcavation.com/thallustestimonium.html)
Seneca on Anger http://www.textexcavation.com/seneca.html (maybe not about Jesus?)
73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
The point of the post is this: Many conservative Christians doubt that first century Jews would confuse a vivid dream with reality. They also doubt that all the disciples had hallucinations. Therefore, they believe, the appearances claims must have been real.
I am suggesting an alternative.
I am suggesting that Peter suffered from some form of mental illness which caused him to occasionally experience hallucinations. Shortly after Jesus’ death, the guilt of his denial and the great sorrow of the loss of his friend and leader lead to a mental breakdown and an hallucination in which he sincerely believed he saw and heard Jesus appear to him. He reported this appearance to the other disciples. This appearance claim caused hysteria among the followers of Jesus. They once again had hope and purpose! Jesus HAD risen from the dead, just as he had promised! Soon the other disciples were “seeing” Jesus. Most of these experiences were probably vivid dreams, false sightings, or misperceptions of natural phenomena, but some of them could have also had hallucinations. Mentally healthy people can have hallucinations. This can occur when they are seriously ill, such as with a high fever, with liver disorders, when intoxicated, and even when sleep deprived. It is very possible, that in the hysteria of Peter’s resurrection claim, other disciples could not sleep, and in their sleep-deprived state, they too “saw” Jesus in hallucinations.
But what about the “group” appearances?
I believe that the most accurate account of the appearances is to be found in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15. In this passage, there are no details about these appearances. For all we know, Jesus appeared to these groups in the exact same manner that the author of the Book of Acts chapter 26 says that Jesus appeared to Paul: as a bright light.
You’re absolutely right, Gary. Paul, by his own admission experienced a bright light – in his head. That’s what he says in Galatians 1.16 – his ‘revelation’ was ‘within’ him. He then implies the experience others had was exactly the same.
So, in actual fact, Christianity was founded on ONE man’s ‘vision’ – Paul’s. His is the only first-hand account we have of a supposed encounter with ‘the life-giving spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15.45) and Paul admits clearly enough it was in his own head.
There is no reason to suppose that the other accounts (like the 500) are anything other than hearsay or, in the case of Peter and Mary’s ‘sightings’, later invention.
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So, in actual fact, Christianity was founded on ONE man’s ‘vision’ …
Along with his personal interpretation of what that vision meant.
The only thing I would point out is that, at least according to Paul, Christians existed prior to his conversion. Did these Christians believe in a Resurrection? If the Early Creed predates Paul’s conversion, they did. If that is the case, whose name is at the top of the “witness list” of the Early Creed; who was the first person to “see” Jesus back from the dead?
Answer: Cephas/ Simon Peter
Or were pre-Paul Christians simply those who believed that the Son of Man (it’s difficult to tell whether they thought this apocalyptic figure and Jesus were one and the same) would soon be returning to usher in the Kingdom on Earth? Though written after Paul’s death, that remains the central message of the synoptic gospels.