When discussing the issue of whether or not the Apostle Paul ever claimed to have seen a walking, talking corpse, Christian apologists are always quick to point out that when Paul states in Galatians, “have I not seen the Christ“, the Greek verb he uses translates as “to see literally with the eyes”. They claim that this verb cannot be translated as a mental “seeing”, such as an hallucination. This claim is disputed, as some experts believe that the Greek verb in question can mean “to see with the mind”. However, I will not contest that claim here.
Let’s assume for this discussion that Paul did claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus literally with his eyes. The problem is this: According to conservative Christians, the Book of Acts was written by the traveling companion of Paul, Luke, a physician. Now, if you have a physician traveling with you on your journeys across the known world, we can safely assume that if Paul had any medical issues, Luke would have served as his physician.
So let’s see what Luke, Paul’s personal physician, has to say about Paul’s alleged Damascus Road experience, as recorded in the second volume of his writings entitled, The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 26. Luke is quoting Paul:
I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.”
A heavenly vision! Why would a physician quote Paul as saying that he had an hallucination (vision) if he knew that Paul in fact had seen the risen Jesus literally? But Luke was not only a physician. He was also a skilled, educated writer and an apologist for the Christian faith. He claims that he only recorded the facts and nothing but the facts in his account of the life of Jesus and the missionary activities of Paul. Here is what Luke says in the foreword to the first volume of his writings, the Gospel of Luke:
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first,[a] to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
Why would any Christian apologist weaken the evidence for the alleged bodily appearances of Jesus—the core evidence upon which the Christian religion rises or falls— by including in his “orderly, truthful account” that Paul had stated, under oath, before Roman officials, that his Jesus appearance experience on the Damascus Road was only a “heavenly vision”.
Was Luke stupid??
In summary, the personal physician of Paul tells us that Paul had an hallucinatory experience on the Damascus Road. Hallucinations are not real. They are imaginary. So even if Paul did say to the Galatians that he had “literally seen” the Christ, who should we believe: A physician or his patient, a man prone to visions (hallucinations) who repeatedly felt the need to deny that he was a liar?
I say: Trust the doctor!
End of post.