Resurrection: Appearances

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re going to be continuing our study of the resurrection and looking at the appearances. This is the second item that we are going to list as our historical bedrock.

When I speak of the appearances, I am speaking of the times that the disciples claimed to see the risen Christ. Now whether or not they saw the risen Christ is disputed of course, but there is little doubt that they experienced something that was to them an appearance of the risen Christ.

The creed in 1 Corinthians 15 lists appearances to Peter, James, the twelve, more than 500 at a time, and then Paul includes himself. We will be focusing more on Paul tomorrow. While I believe the same happened to James, that will not be included under historical bedrock.

Our evidence again is that the gospels, aside from Mark, speak of this event, as does the Acts of the Apostles, and this creed in 1 Corinthians 15. Various church fathers refer to the appearances too. This event is what enabled the apostles to go out and start claiming Christ was raised.

Of course, there are those who say that this was not an appearance of the risen Christ. A common theory that is given in response is that the apostles were hallucinating. Many of us have experienced these. When I was eight, I had eye surgery and for a time, I looked at my mother and couldn’t tell which one she was, because when I saw her, I saw two of her.

There are a number of problems with the apostles hallucinating however. While mine was medical, we have no reason to believe the apostles were on any mind-altering drugs or had medical surgery of some sort recently. Thus, if there was one, it would be for psychological reasons.

Psychology is tough enough when the patient is sitting right across from someone. It’s much harder when we start using psychology on ancient figures that we really have little information of. It’s not totally invalid, but theories should not be built upon psychological speculation.

To begin with, the disciples were not in the mindset to experience a hallucination of Jesus as risen. If they were grieving, any hallucination would have been of Jesus in Abraham’s Bosom. It would not be of Jesus being alive and well and appearing among them.

Second, this would not explain the group hallucinations. It would be difficult to find a valid example of such an event. Sometimes, groups of people can see something by being made prone to that. For instance, one person says he sees such and such and another person says the same and before too long, those in the back who can’t see as well think they see the same thing. An appearance to the twelve would not be like that. This is especially the case with one that would happen indoors such as in John 20.

Also, some might point to visions at Fatima. My thoughts on that matter is that I’m not ready to rule out a group appearance. Gary Habermas recommends keeping in mind the distinction between hallucinations and illusions as well. Illusions are misrepresentations of natural phenomena, like what a magician does. Hallucinations are all in the head with nothing outside of the person to figure into the hallucination.

Hallucinations cannot be shared. I could not go to sleep one night and be dreaming of Hawaii and wake up my wife and ask her to join me in the dream. One person would not hallucinate Jesus and then have the others join in. That would be an illusion instead of a hallucination.

Finally, hallucinations would not explain the empty tomb. If anyone had shown the body of Christ, the game would be over. There would be no basis for saying he was risen if the corpse was there. Do note the disciples never went for a spiritual resurrection. (We will look at material in 1 Corinthians 15 later) They went all the way the hard route with a physical resurrection.

Could it be they did that because what they claimed happened? The risen Christ did appear to them?

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