According to Paul, the Jews of Asia Minor did not need to see a resurrected body with their own two eyes, or poke their fingers into nail holes, to believe that Jesus had been bodily resurrected, they just needed to “search the Scriptures” and hear someone else’s “eyewitness testimony” (Paul’s) to believe.
This fact totally debunks the claims by NT Wright and by Dr. Bombaro and Dr. Francisco in The Resurrection Fact that first century Jews would not have believed in the bodily resurrection of one individual unless they had visual and tactile evidence of a bodily resurrection.
It is therefore completely plausible that the Christian Resurrection belief began when just one disciple, probably Simon Peter (based on the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15), experienced an hallucination, either due to mental illness or due to a non-psychiatric health condition such as sleep deprivation or severe emotional stress, in which he sincerely believed that the resurrected flesh and blood body of Jesus appeared to him. He then reported this experience to the other disciples, who believed the Resurrection claim for the same reasons that the Jews in Asia Minor would believe Paul’s claim only a few years later.
This scenario is much, much more probable to explain the early Christian Resurrection belief than a once in history, literal, bodily resurrection/reanimation of a dead, first century corpse.
What objections will Christians raise to this theory:
“The concept of one person being resurrected prior to the general resurrection at the end of the age would have been inconceivable to first century Jews. People don’t hallucinate concepts they have never heard or thought of.”
This is true. But then why were the Jews in Asia Minor able to find just such a concept in the Scriptures??? So the concept of one individual’s resurrection was present in first century Judaic thought. But then there is this: If the Gospels as literally read are correct, Jesus had been telling his disciples for some time that he would be killed and that on the third day he would rise from the dead. Therefore this concept would have been well established in the brains of the disciples, even if they didn’t understand it or believe it at the time.
Now, I am aware that some clever Christians believe that the multiple passages in the four Gospels in which Jesus prophesies his death and resurrection are FAKE…excuse me…literary inventions. Jesus never said them. New Testament scholars such as NT Wright refer to them as vaticinia ex eventus (Latin for “fake prophecies”). However, these Christians can’t be 100% percent sure of this. So it is still possible that Jesus was telling his disciples that he would rise from the dead shortly after his death, therefore it would not have been a novice concept and therefore not an implausible subject for one of them to hallucinate.
“Peter would have realized he had not really seen the resurrected Jesus after his hallucination had ended.”
Wrong. People who experience hallucinations believe that they are real. Typically, they do not realize later that they were not real. In their minds, their hallucinated experience remains as real as any other real experience.
“But that doesn’t explain the appearances of Jesus to groups of people; to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road; to the Ten in the Upper Room; to Thomas as part of the full Eleven in the Upper Room a week later; and to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. Groups of people cannot have the same hallucination.”
I agree one hundred percent. Groups of people cannot have the same, exact hallucination. However, I believe, as do many scholars, that these detailed appearance stories are literary embellishments. They were not real historical events. They never happened. They are just as non-historical as “Matthew’s” story of dead saints being shaken out of their graves to roam the streets of Jerusalem on the day of the crucifixion. Most scholars, including evangelical scholar, Mike Licona, believe that the Dead Saints Roaming the Streets Story is a literary invention. It didn’t happen. The detailed appearance stories most probably did not happen either.
“What about the appearances to groups listed in the Early Creed in First Corinthians 15?”
Note that the passage in First Corinthians chapter 15 does not list any details about the form in which Jesus allegedly appeared to the people in this list of alleged witnesses. Therefore, for all we know, Jesus appeared to everyone on this list in the same form he appeared to Paul as stated in Acts chapter 26…as a bright light.
“Why won’t you skeptics just accept the story that exists: The bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? This is the story that was originally told. Why make up conspiracy theories?
If your neighbor told you that last night he was awakened by three tiny green Martians with long antennas on their heads, flying a saucer-shaped space ship, who beamed him up to their space craft, and then flew off with him to the Red Planet for six hours, the first thing that would come to your mind would not be: I should just believe my neighbor’s story because it is the only story that exists! The first thing that would come to your mind would be: what natural explanations are there that would explain why my neighbor would arrive at such a very extraordinary (crazy sounding) story?
And that is why skeptics do not take the Christian reanimation-of-a-dead-first-century-corpse story seriously. To us, there are many, many much more probable, natural explanations why uneducated, superstitious, ancient peoples would arrive at such a (crazy sounding) story. We don’t believe these people were lying or dishonest. We believe they were simply mistaken. And unless Christians can rule out all the much more probable, natural explanations, we skeptics are NOT going to buy your crazy sounding reanimated dead corpse story. Period. It isn’t that we are biased, we are just using common sense. The same common sense that you use to evaluate every other odd claim presented to you in life.
I believe that unless one assumes the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh (which I believe most Christians do in these discussions, and that is why they always conclude that the evidence favors a never-heard-of-before-or-since bodily resurrection), no rational, educated person can say that the evidence favors the probability of a once in history resurrection of a dead corpse over multiple possible natural explanations for the development of this first century belief.
Why can’t Christians see this?