We know that in our own time, numerous individuals have experienced hallucinations in which they believe that Jesus has appeared to them. Likewise, numerous individuals and groups have claimed to have “seen” Jesus (and his mother Mary) in cloud formations, reflections, and even stains on a wall (illusions)! How possible is that the earliest “appearances” of the risen Jesus can be explained by one of these phenomenon or a combination of both?
If the dating of the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15 is correct (within three years of Jesus’ death), this means that very early on, it was claimed that individuals and groups of individuals had received appearances of Jesus. The million dollar question is: What did an “appearance” of Jesus involve? Were they appearances of a walking, talking flesh and bones body or were they something else?
Yes, Christians are correct that resurrection, as defined by the pharisees of Jesus time, meant a physical body, not a ghostly body, but how do we know that the persons who originally claimed to have received a Jesus appearance believed that they had seen a resurrected body? Isn’t it possible that the original “receivers” of these appearances simply believed that they had seen something that signified to them that Jesus was back from the dead (risen)? Is it possible that a first century person who had seen a bright light, or a shadow, or a cloud formation, or a stain on a wall would believe that they had seen Jesus, or, would they have said, “I saw a stain on a wall that looked like Jesus”?
If people today can see a stain on a wall and say “It’s an appearance of Jesus” why is it impossible that someone living two thousand years ago would do the same?
Is it possible that some of the original “eyewitnesses” saw an illusion such as a bright light, a shadow, or a stain on a wall and sincerely believed that Jesus had “appeared” to them?
How probable is the following scenario: One disciple (maybe Simon Peter) has an hallucination due to extreme emotional trauma combined with a lack of sleep or a high fever from an illness. Medical experts tell us that mentally healthy people can have hallucinations under certain conditions such as sleep deprivation, severe emotional trauma, high fevers, etc.. If the tomb of Jesus really had been found empty, this hallucination would explain the empty tomb: God (Yahweh) had raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus has appeared to Peter and told him to spread the Good News of the coming Kingdom to all the world.
The small band of Jesus’ followers is electrified by this news! Their timidity and fear is gone. They now boldly preach the news of a risen Jesus and a coming end to Roman rule: the Kingdom of God is nigh!
But if the New Kingdom is to begin, the righteous dead must be resurrected. Maybe…Jesus was resurrected as the first fruits of the resurrection of the righteous dead??? The remainder of the righteous dead are going to be resurrected from their graves at any moment! God has raised Jesus first to demonstrate that Jesus was telling the truth. Jesus was the messenger of God…Jesus was the Messiah! Although the Old Testament prophecies never mention a dead Messiah, God’s ways are not our ways! God works in mysterious but wonderful ways!
Soon groups of disciples are seeing Jesus in cloud formations, reflections, and even stains on walls.
The Resurrection belief is born!
But there had been plenty of other messiah pretenders and when they died, people stopped believing in their messiahship. Why was it different with Jesus?
Answer: Jesus was the only messiah pretender whose grave was found empty!
End of post.