He Is Risen Indeed

Textual analysis of the gospels and an understanding of the first-century world point to the reality of Jesus' resurrection.

Continued from page 1

Perhaps here is the place to say something about the mass vision or hallucination theory. The suggestion that the disciples were victims of a hallucination, or their experience was the ultimate example of wish projections, or they merely saw visions has several problems. First, on all accounts the disciples doubted, deserted, and denied Jesus at the end, with the possible exception of some of his female followers and perhaps the Beloved Disciple (a Judean disciple). They were hardly in a psychological condition to produce a fantasy about a risen Jesus. Their hopes had been utterly shattered by his crucifixion less than three days before. Second, it will not do to suggest a mass hallucination, because all the traditions we have suggest that Jesus appeared at different times and places to different persons, last of all to Paul. I know of no basis for the notion of a contagious hallucination. Third, it is hardly believable that the earliest Christians would have made up the notion that Jesus appeared first to some women. We find no extended discussion in the Gospels of a personal appearance first to Peter or to James the brother of the Lord, but we do have stories about the appearance or appearances to the leading female disciples. Given the patriarchal world of the earliest Christians, it is not believable that a missionary-minded group would make up such a story. Nor is there any basis for the suggestion that these appearance stories were largely generated out of the Old Testament, which hardly mentions the notion of resurrection from the dead. In other words, the evidence as we have it strongly resists attempts to redefine "resurrection," if, that is, we wish to preserve any continuity with the historical Christian witness on this matter.Whether we are comfortable with it or not, Christianity does indeed stand or fall on certain historical facts--not merely historical claims, but historical facts. Among these facts that are most crucial to Christian faith is that of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The Christian faith is not mere faith in faith--ours or someone else's--but rather, a belief about the significance of certain historical events. Paul was quite right to say that if Christ was not raised, Christians are the most pitiable of all human beings. They are believers in a lie if Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, it also changes the way we may look at God.

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