Paul’s Personal Physician Clarified that the Damascus Road Experience Was an Hallucination

Marcus Welby, M.D. Season Two : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video
The doctor knows best!

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, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 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!

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End of post.

9 thoughts on “Paul’s Personal Physician Clarified that the Damascus Road Experience Was an Hallucination

      1. Not to split hairs in the least, but for necessary background, context, etc, for the Writer(s) of Acts, many (most?) biblical scholars date the Book of Acts to 85-95 CE, some around 90-110 CE… the latter falling into your “post-100.” But I am a bit curious SocraticGadfly as to reasons you think its authoring was after 100 CE.

        To explain my curiosity, I am a HUGE proponent of complete exhaustive context surrounding individual biblical characters, the canonical and non-canonical manuscripts, the sociopolitical landscape they lived and wrote within, and the cultural-religious climate of the time—from the pre-origins, roots on thru the landscape’s close and final consequences. If you can elaborate a bit, I’d gladly read. 🙂

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        1. I don’t think Luke was written until approximately 95 CE, and ergo, Acts likely wasn’t written until post-100. I date ALL the gospels late, starting with thinking Mark may not have been written until early 70s.

          Under the traditional two-document hypothesis, you then have to, beyond development of young Jesus legend in Matthean and Lucan special sources, have to allow enough time, by ancient-world standards, for Mark (and Q) to be known by both Matthew and Luke.

          John, with its massive back and forth edits on Gnosticizing and anti-Gnosticizing battles? The 1:19-chapter 20 core (minus also 7:31-8:11) probably was started in the 90s, but last edits weren’t done until the 120s, at which point the Logos hymn start gets added. John 21 came along for the ride somewhere in the edits process.

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          1. So in light of this fine explanation SG, I have a hunch that with all four (errant) Gospels—John being the worst, most errant, Matthew next, and Luke about the same perhaps a tiny bit more reliable, but Mark being the earliest Gospel following Yeshua’s execution—even a more presumed “reliable” earliest known yet ambiguous Gospel of Mark can NEVER escape the fact that the oldest, complete copy of Mark for humanity’s posterity 🙄—Codex Sinaiticus c. 330-360 CE—stops, halts at 16:8 with only the two Marys and Salome (three women total) at a vacated/empty tomb. A strange man in a white rob, quite common at the time, is there telling the women not to be alarmed, he wasn’t the Nasoraean. But in fear and surprise flee and do not utter a word to anyone about the vacated tomb, probably out of embarrassment to the public and/or risk of arrest by Roman authorities. And that’s it! Stop, nothing more! No wild, crazy resurrected Zombie man floating around and up to heaven as (much) LATER (retrofitted?) recorded in older ambiguous Gospels.

            Hence, it could be well argued that of all the unreliable four Gospels, even the presumed “oldest” (more accurate?) Gospel has absolutely NO RESURRECTION story at all. Nothing of the sort as done much later in three retrograded, modified, and more errant Gospels! Peculiar, very highly suspicious to put it mildly, huh?

            Thoughts SG?

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            1. Resurrection legends, like infancy narratives, were part of a process of “accrual.” The birth and infancy narratives could be chalked up to standard human nature. The resurrection narratives, though, are more narrowly evangelistic, and their different reflects local theological concerns of each of the gospelers, as does the John 21 “add-on” in that gospel. (Again, this isn’t only Xn though. The gospel of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, has something, that’s not a resurrection per se but parallels Lukan post-resurrection appearance stories. And, the earlier gospel from which Philostratus cribbed may well have had a more basic version of this.)

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  1. I say: Trust the doctor!

    Lol… I know what you mean Gary. As far as a scaling of reliability—10 being the highest and 0 being the lowest—of Late Second Temple Judaic/Messianic authors, historians, poets/playwrights, etc, of 1st-century Syro-Palestine and Nabataea, both Jewish and Pagan, like for instance Justus Tiberius, Petronius, Pliny the Younger, Dion Pruseus, Damis, Theon of Smyrna, or Favorinus to name 7 of at least 40-45 known writers of that century and region of the Roman Empire, a seemingly ‘good doctor’ is generally a more reliable narrator than a mentally-ill person with manifested disorders and TPL epilepsy. This assumes of course “Luke” was indeed as highly esteemed as many modern “doctors” of national or international stature (e.g. Nobel Prize Winners?), yes? 😉

    However, within non-Christian scholarship there really isn’t much debate about WHO of these two persons was the most intelligent, mentally-emotionally stable, religiously sound, and more highly regarded. Heck, even Saul/Paul in his own words talks about how despised he was by both mainstream and outlying, unconventional Jewish Sects/Synagogues throughout Syro-Palestine. 😄 He never had ANY warm welcome and as you likely know Gary, he almost lost his life a couple of times! 😉 😛

    Yeah, DEFINITELY “trust the doctor more than the bat-sheet crazy man from Tarsus!“

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  2. Galatians 1.16: ‘God revealed his Son in me’. In me? What can this mean other than an innervision, a revelatory experience inside Paul’s head? There’s no resurrected body here.

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