Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 17: Follow Up Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics Peter Kreeft raises 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory in an attempt to DISPROVE or REFUTE that skeptical theory.  Kreeft thinks he can prove the resurrection of Jesus by disproving a few skeptical theories about the resurrection of Jesus, such as the Hallucination Theory.
Kreeft’s first three objections focus on the idea of the credibility of eyewitness testimony in support of the resurrection of Jesus.  These objections evoke the centuries-old idea of a court trial providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.
In recent posts, I have provided powerful evidence in support of two important factual claims:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.
  • In Part 13 of this series, I provided evidence showing that human memory is UNRELIABLE.
  • In Part 14 of this series, I provided evidence that very young children (ages 2 to 3 years old), and young children (ages 4 to 10 years old) are DISHONEST and that teenagers are also DISHONEST.
  • In Part 15 of this series, I provided evidence that college students are DISHONEST.,
  • In Part 16 of this series, I provided evidence that adults in general are DISHONEST.

Taken together, Parts 14, 15, and 16 provide solid evidence showing that humans are in general DISHONEST.
These empirical FACTS about human memory and human behavior provide good reasons for skepticism and doubt about eyewitness testimony.  So, these FACTS undermine the first three objections by Kreeft against the Hallucination Theory.
I also began to challenge the idea that a court trial could provide powerful evidence that proves the resurrection of Jesus.  This challenge is in relation to the alleged 500 witnesses who supposedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus.  This claim about the 500 witnesses constitutes Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.
I have challenged this objection by carefully considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper modern criminal investigation, such as might now be conducted in the case of a serious crime, like murder, rape, kidnapping, or armed robbery.  In Part 12 of this series, I considered the basic tasks and procedures for conducting a “Preliminary Investigation” of a crime scene and of witnesses present at the crime scene.  The conclusion I reached was this:

First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.

Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.

Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.

Such a proper “Preliminary Investigation” is crucial for the prosecution to build a strong case that could potentially prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular person committed the murder (or other serious crime) in question.
In this current post, I will continue this line of thought by considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper “Follow-up Investigation” into a murder (or other serious crime).
 
A. PREPARATIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to prepare to interview witnesses to a crime (from p.21 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-A1. Did a follow-up investigator review available information about the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of witnesses BEFORE interviewing those witnesses?
First of all, it is very unlikely that there was any preliminary investigation into this event, and it is extremely unlikely that there was a preliminary investigation that was done carefully and properly in accordance with modern procedures and standards.  Furthermore, most people in first century Palestine and the surrounding areas were illiterate, and could not read or write.  So, even if there was a generally proper initial investigation of this event, this probably would NOT have produced a full and accurate written record of the information gathered in that preliminary investigation.  So, the best that a follow-up investigator could do (assuming that the follow-up investigator was not the same person as the preliminary investigator) would be to discuss the event with the preliminary investigator to find out verbally what the preliminary investigator had discovered.  Such a verbal transmission of information would provide an INCOMPLETE and BIASED and INACCURATE collection of information relative to what was actually discovered by the preliminary investigator.
Second, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event (even if we count an investigation that happens weeks or months after the event as being a “follow-up investigation” without there having been any “preliminary investigation” within hours or days of the event).  Even if there had been a follow-up investigation, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so an investigator probably would not have bothered to carefully “review available information” about the alleged appearance of Jesus prior to interviewing alleged witnesses of this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses carefully reviewed the available information about this event prior to interviewing the alleged witnesses.
FI-A2. Did a follow-up investigator conduct interviews with these hundreds of witnesses as soon as these witnesses were physically and emotionally capable?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of people.  Second, there is no immediately obvious motivation for an investigation to occur immediately after the alleged event (i.e. within hours or a few days), so even if there was an investigation of this event, it probably would have taken place weeks or months or years after the event allegedly took place.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses of this alleged appearance of Jesus as soon as the witnesses were physically and emotionally capable of being interviewed (i.e. an hour or a day after the event).  This means that IF any such interviews took place weeks or months or years after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between witnesses and with people who were not present during the event, as well as simply by the passage of time and the natural fading of memories.
FI-A3. Did a follow-up investigator select an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those witnesses? 
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so even if there had been a follow-up investigation of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is unlikely that an investigator would have put any thought or effort into finding an environment that would minimize distractions while maintaining the comfort level of the alleged witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator selected an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those alleged witnesses.
FI-A4. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses and for accurately recording or documenting the interviews of the hundreds of witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus (e.g. notepad, tape recorder, cam corder, interview room)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so nobody had an idea of what is required for a proper interview of a witness.  Third, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator could read and write, because most people in first-century Palestine and surrounding areas were illiterate, and even if the investigator could read and write, there would be little motivation to carefully produce a full written record of the interviews of hundreds of alleged witnesses, because most people would be unable to read those documents.  Also, there was no such thing as a tape recorder or video camera in the first century, so such standard ways of accurately preserving the contents of an interview were unavailable in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator of the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses ensured that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and for accurately recording or documenting those interviews.
FI-A5. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stay separated from each other prior to being interviewed (so that they would not discuss this event with each other)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, because there were no professional detectives in the first century and because psychologists have only very recently discovered how easily memories of eyewitnesses can become corrupted or how easily completely false memories can be implanted in the mind of a witness, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have been concerned about keeping the witnesses separated from each other.
Furthermore, even if by some miracle there was an investigator of this event, and the investigator requested and advised all of the hundreds of alleged witnesses to NOT discuss the event with each other, it is highly unlikely that the witnesses would have complied with this request.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator ensured that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stayed separated from each other (so that they did not discuss the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other) prior to being interviewed.  This means that IF any follow-up interviews of the witnesses took place some days, weeks or months after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between the various witnesses.
FI-A6. Did a follow-up investigator determine the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted the preliminary investigation (into this alleged event where hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus)?
It is not clear to me what the purpose or motivation is for this task.  Perhaps this is just one way to establish rapport with the witness.  Perhaps the motivation is to find out if the previous interaction between the preliminary investigator and this witness was congenial and whether the witness was cooperative and forthcoming with the previous “preliminary” investigator.
However, recordings or complete notes from the preliminary interview of that witness should contain information about whether the witness was congenial, cooperative, and forthcoming during the preliminary interview, so this step seems redundant and superfluous.
In any case, it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, it is unlikely that the follow-up investigator would ask questions about how the previous preliminary interview went.  For one thing, it is very unlikely that there would have been any preliminary investigation to look back upon.  For another, concerns about the congeniality and cooperation of a witness in a previous interview would probably be of little interest to a first-century person who has never seen or thought about a professional detective or professional investigation into a crime or important event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator determined the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted a preliminary investigation of this alleged event.
CONCLUSION ABOUT PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS BY A FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATOR
In the case of EACH ONE of the six key tasks concerning preperations by a follow-up investagator for follow-up interviews of the hundreds of witness who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is extremely unlikely that these key preparation tasks were performed, because it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and because even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of the event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have attempted to do these key tasks.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of human memory in the first century, and there was no such thing as tape recorders or video cameras in the first century, and because very few people were able to read and write in the first century.
 
B. CONTACT WITH WITNESSES FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for contact between a follow-up investigator and a witness just prior to conducting a follow-up interview of that witness (from p.22 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-B1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus develop rapport with each of the hundreds of witnesses prior to interviewing each witness?
FI-B2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event inquire of each witness about the witness’s prior contact with any initial investigator(s) of this event before interviewing each witness?
FI-B3. Did a follow-up investigator refrain from volunteering any specific information about this alleged event or about the identity or activity of the person who allegedly made an appearance before the crowd of witnesses to each of the hundreds of witnesses before interviewing each witness?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation or conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Even if there was someone who conducted an investigation of this alleged event, it is very unlikely that this investigator followed the guidance indicated in item B1, or in item B2, or item B3.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, there was no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that there was a follow-up investigator who interviewed hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and who followed these three guidelines just prior to interviewing each of the witnesses to that alleged event.
 
C. CONDUCTING FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to conduct follow-up interviews of witnesses to a crime (from p.22-23 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
 
FI-C1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus encourage each of the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person would have encouraged the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to volunteer information about the event without prompting.
FI-C2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.  This is unlikely because there were no professional detectives in the first century, no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century, and because recording or documenting all of these details reported by hundreds of witnesses would have been extremely difficult in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into this alleged event encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.
FI-C3. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event ask open-ended questions and augment those with close-ended specific questions about the event when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C4. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event avoid asking the witnesses leading questions when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed hundreds of witnesses in accordance with these two guidelines. (See my comments in Part 12 of this series on the same questions concerning a preliminary investigation).
FI-C5. Did a follow-up investigator caution each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person cautioned the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd).  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator cautioned each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event.
FI-C6. Did a follow-up investigator ask each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to mentally re-create the circumstances of the event when the follow-up investigator interviewed these witnesses?
FI-C7. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to use non-verbal communication to describe the event (e.g. drawings, gestures, objects) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C8. Did a follow-up investigator avoid interrupting each of the hundreds of witnesses to the alleged event when the investigator was interviewing these witnesses?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed each of the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event and followed the guidelines stated in items C6, C7, and C8 (for the same reasons I have given in relation to the previous five guidelines).
FI-C9. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to contact follow-up investigators when additional information about this alleged event is recalled?
FI-C10. Did a follow-up investigator instruct each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged event with other potential witnesses?
FI-C11. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts concerning the alleged event [or:] to avoid telling the story about the event to others who were not present during the event, and to avoid listening to others who were not present talk about the event?
Concerning guidelines C9, C10 and C11, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews of the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in accordance with these guidelines (see my comments in Part 12 of this series about similar guidelines concerning preliminary interviews of the witnesses).
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF THE HUNDREDS OF WITNESSES
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the first century and did so in accordance with the 11 guidelines for follow-up interviews that I have discussed above.
 
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROVING THE RESURRECTION IN A COURT TRIAL
What we DON’T KNOW about the hundreds of witnesses who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus could fill VOLUMES.  We don’t know how many people were actually present during this event (500 is a very round number and was very likely a rough guess of the size of the crowd that was made weeks or months after the event by some unknown person).
We also don’t know how many people in the crowd actually experienced seeing a person that they took to be Jesus.  Paul asserts that “more than 500” witnesses saw the risen Jesus at the same time and same place, but it is very likely that he is just passing along a story that he was told about this event and it is quite possible that either he or the story teller had mistakenly inferred that ALL of the people in the crowd (perhaps a crowd of 300 or 400 people) saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, when in fact only SOME of the people in that crowd saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, perhaps only a handful of people in that crowd.
We don’t know where this event took place.  We don’t know what year this took place.  We don’t know if it took place during the winter, spring, summer, or fall.  We don’t know how Paul learned about this alleged event.  We don’t know the names of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know the race or ethnicity of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know about the intelligence or level of education of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know whether this event took place indoors or outdoors, in the early morning, in the middle of the day, or late at night.  We don’t know if the light was good or if it was dark.  We don’t know if the wind was howling or there was no wind.  We don’t know if it was raining or the sky was clear.  We don’t know if the people in the crowd had been drinking or not.  We don’t know about the quality of eyesight or hearing of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We have no information about the honesty or dishonest of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know how old ANY of the alleged witnesses were at the time of the alleged event.
Most importantly, we DON’T KNOW whether ANY of these witnesses had ever seen the historical flesh-and-blood Jesus prior to his death.  So, for all we know, EVERY one of these witnesses was INCAPABLE of identifying anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth, because none of them had previously met Jesus of Nazareth.  The testimony of these hundreds of witnesses might well be just as WORTHLESS as Paul’s testimony about his own experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
We also don’t know whether these witnesses would describe their experience as being an ORDINARY VISUAL experience, or if they would describe their experience as a DREAM or a VISION.  We don’t know if  all of the witnesses had precisely the same experience of the person who they identified as being the risen Jesus.  Would each of them describe a person of the same height?  same hair style?  same type of facial hair?  same color and style of clothing?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this event lasted.  Was Jesus “seen” for just a couple of seconds? or a couple of minutes? or a couple of hours? Did the experience last the same amount of time for every witness? or did it last for a few seconds for some, a few minutes for others, and an hour or two for others?
We don’t know if there was a careful and objective preliminary investigation into this alleged event.  We don’t know if there was a careful and objective follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  However, we have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful preliminary investigation of this alleged event that was conducted in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.  We also have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful follow-up investigation of this alleged event in which hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event were interviewed in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines that are used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.
But such careful and proper preliminary investigations and follow-up investigations are crucial to any reasonable effort by a prosecuting attorney to correctly identify the person who commited the murder (or other serious crime), to provide sufficient evidence to charge that person with murder, and to prove in a court trial that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   A prosecutor cannot simply pull a witness off the street and put them in a witness stand and hope that the witness has some credibility and some relevant knowledge about the murder or the murderer.  The use of witnesses in a modern court trial requires that there be a foundation of solid investigation and documented evidence from the crime scene, and documented properly conducted interviews of relevant witnesses.  Apart from a proper preliminary investigation and a proper follow-up investigation,  it would be practically impossible for a prosecuting attorney to put together a solid case for the guilt of any murder suspect.
Furthermore, I have argued extensively that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.

Therefore, the whole idea of there being a court trial in which witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus would provide testimony that would PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead is a RIDICULOUS FANTASY that one can only believe by completely ignoring the reality of how modern criminal investigations and the scientific study of human psychology and human memory provide the foundations for successful prosecutions of serious crimes in actual modern court trials.
In view of these various considerations, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #3, concerning the claim that “over five hundred” witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time and at the same place, FAILS.  This third objection does NOT provide a solid or strong reason to reject the Hallucination Theory.  This is a very weak objection that is grounded primarily in WISHFUL THINKING and FANTASY.

This article is archived.

Comments

  1. Here is a modern day version:
    I know that Elvis is alive and well because somebody told me that their sister’s hairdresser’s cousin’s poolboy’s uncle’s bartender read about it in the Weekly World News once. I’m sure if you asked that bartender about it he could give you all the important facts, so trust me I know what I’m talking about. If you buy me a few drinks I will even tell you the whole story about how Elvis faked his death so that he and Bigfoot could run away together on the UFO and be happy.

  2. Mark:
    The apostles do not believe the women who report Jesus was missing from the tomb. Jesus appears to them and berates them for their disbelief. From a room in a house in Jerusalem, Jesus ascends to heaven. No room for 500 witnesses.

    Luke:
    Jesus appears to two disciples. Then is taken to his remaining apostles. He leads them out to Bethany and there ascends to heaven No room for 500 witnesses.

    John, Matthew and Acts are totally different. No need to take any of this seriously, Nor Paul’s 500 witnesses.

    Did Jesus tell the apostles not to leave Jerusalem? As per acts? Or to go to Galilee? Matthew.

    Whether rumors of the resurrection of Jesus are based on rumors which had their seeds in bereavement hallucinations or not is pointless. These tales are not true as these irreconcilable contradictions demonstrate.

  3. Mark:
    The apostles do not believe the women who report Jesus was missing from the tomb. Jesus appears to them and berates them for their disbelief. From a room in a house in Jerusalem, Jesus ascends to heaven. No room for 500 witnesses.

    The Gospel of Mark does NOT rule out the alleged appearance of Jesus to 500 witnesses. The Gospel of Mark ends at verse 8 of Chapter 16. What happens after Easter is left open by Mark (except for the strong implication that Jesus would meet up with his disciples in Galilee at some point in the not too distant future).

    Luke:
    Jesus appears to two disciples. Then is taken to his remaining apostles. He leads them out to Bethany and there ascends to heaven No room for 500 witnesses.

    The Gospel of Luke does NOT rule out the alleged appearance of Jesus to 500 witnesses. The fact that Jesus flies up to heaven in no way prevents the risen Jesus from appearing to whomever he wants to appear whenever he wants to do so. If Jesus is God incarnate, he can do just about anything he wants to do, including zooming down from heaven in an instant and handing you a slice of pizza and a nice cold beer.

    You don’t claim that John or Matthew rules out the alleged appearance of Jesus to 500 witnesses, but just in case someone was wondering, neither John nor Matthew rule out the alleged appearance of Jesus to 500 witnesses.

    The fact that NONE of the Gospels says anything about Jesus appearing to 500 witnesses at the same time and place DOES cast doubt on Paul’s claim. Acts also says nothing about Jesus appearing to 500 witnesses at the same time and same place. But this is an argument from silence, which is a weak sort of argument to make.

    Your argument that Mark and Luke rule out the alleged appearance of Jesus to 500 witnesses is based on a FALSE premise, so your argument FAILS.

  4. Just two questions:
    1. You have written a lot about the hallucination theory and a lot more about the resurrection hypothesis. By now you probably reached a conclusion about how likely these two explanations are. So how likely do you think they are?

    2. It is my understanding that the creedal statement contained in the first verses of 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 – that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” – is dated by historians to 30-35 C.E.
    Now, a group hallucination of Jesus experienced by all the apostles at the same time would be far less likely than individual hallucinations of Jesus experienced by a few of the apostles at different times. If we assume that only a few of the apostles had such experiences, at different times, then the belief that Jesus appeared to all of them must have developed over time. Was there enough time for this to happen, considering the dating of the creedal statement from 1 Corinthians?

  5. If we assume that only a few of the apostles had such experiences, at different times, then the belief that Jesus appeared to all of them must have developed over time. Was there enough time for this to happen, considering the dating of the creedal statement from 1 Corinthians?

    There are at least three problems or potential problems with your reasoning here.

    1. Paul does not clearly state that Jesus appeared to “the twelve” all at the same time and same place:

    1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,
    2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
    3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
    4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
    5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

    (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, NRSV)

    The main point seems to be the order of appearances. Cephas (Peter) was the first to see the risen Jesus, and then later the other disciples had this experience. We cannot take the phrase “the twelve” literally, because after the crucifixion of Jesus, there were only 11 disciples remaining of “the twelve”. If there was an alleged appearance of Jesus to his remaining inner circle of disciples at the same time and same place, either in Jerusalem or in Galilee, then it was an appearance to 11 disciples, because Judas Iscariot was no longer a disciple of Jesus. So, the phrase “the twelve” here is just a loose reference to the disciples who had been part of the inner circle of disciples of Jesus who did not immediately cease to be disciples when Jesus was crucified. The idea that the other disciples among the remaining 11 disciples had experiences that they took to be experiences of the risen Jesus at different times and different places is compatible with what Paul says in verse 5.

    2. Paul does not state when and where and how he “received” this information. The dating of 30-35 CE probably is based on the date of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. But Paul does not state that he received this information at the time of his conversion. In fact, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul insists that he received the Gospel from no human being, but from divine revelation:

    11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;
    12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    (Galations 1:11-12, NRSV)

    If we take Paul at his word, then the statement of the Gospel that he gives in 1 Corinthians 15 is NOT something he was taught when he converted (about 35 CE), and it is NOT something he learned when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem (38 CE). But we can reasonably infer that this summary of the Gospel was something that Paul taught when he was a missionary in Corinth (50 to 52 CE). So, this summary of the Gospel does go back a few years before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (about 52 to 55 CE). So we can reasonably infer that this summary of the Gospel existed at least by 52 CE, before Paul left Corinth.

    I will grant that 20 years (from crucifixion of Jesus to the origin of this summary of the Gospel) is a short time for a fictional story about the 11 remaining disciples to arise and take hold, but many of the 11 could have died or left the church by that point in time, so it is possible that a fictional story about the 11 remaining disciples could have arisen and taken hold by that point in time, even if this is somewhat unlikely.

    3. If we ignore Paul’s claim to have received this Gospel information from divine revelation, and suppose that this summary of the Gospel was a widespread creed or a widely used Christian saying that Paul learned from some other Christian believers, then there is still the question of the dating of the creed/saying. It is UNCLEAR where and when Paul learned this Christian creed/saying. So, it is possible that Paul learned it as late as 52 CE, in time to use it in his preaching to the Corinthians.

  6. 1. You have written a lot about the hallucination theory and a lot more about the resurrection hypothesis. By now you probably reached a conclusion about how likely these two explanations are. So how likely do you think they are?

    As you might have gathered from my posts on the Hallucination Theory, I understand that theory in a broad way as encompassing more than just “hallucinations” (as that word is typically used). So the title “Hallucination Theory” is a bit misleading. A more accurate label would be the “Non-Veridical Experiences Theory“. Dreams or visions or trances could also produce experiences that could be mistaken for ordinary sensory experiences.

    I recently realized that dreams and visions of a risen Jesus could be understood by the experiencer to be dreams or visions and yet be the basis for a firm conviction that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. If a person believed that a dream or vision of a risen Jesus was produced by God, then the contents of that dream or vision would be viewed as a REVELATION from God, and thus be the basis for certainty about the belief that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. Such an experiencer would NOT mistakenly believe their subjective experience to be an ordinary visual or sensory experience. The experiencer would understand that his or her experience of the risen Jesus was subjective, that the experience was generated inside his or her mind without any external physical stimulus. Yet, because the dream or vision is believed to be from God, the contents of that experience would be viewed as having IRONCLAD truth and accuracy.

    I am inclined to also include scenarios like that under the umbrella of the Hallucination Theory (or the Non-Veridical Experiences theory).
    I believe there is a significant chance that the Hallucination Theory is true. However, I also believe there is a significant chance that the Swoon Theory is true. The Swoon Theory is also named misleadingly. Swooning is only ONE WAY that one could appear to be dead when actually still alive. A better name for this view is the “Apparent Death Theory”, since Jesus swooning is NOT a necessary condition for the theory to be true.

    However, even this improved name is misleading, if one understands this theory as broadly as I do. Appearing to be dead is only ONE WAY for Jesus to survive being crucified. I take it that the essential point of this skeptical view is to concede that Jesus was crucified, but to deny the Christian belief that Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross. In other words, this theory asserts that JESUS SURVIVED CRUCIFIXION. So, the best name for this theory might be the “Survival of Crucifixion Theory” .

    For example, if a follower of Jesus bribed the Roman soldiers who were guarding Jesus on the cross, Jesus could have been removed from the cross while still alive, even though he did NOT appear to be dead. Such scenarios where Jesus is rescued from the cross would count as instances where this skeptical theory was true, even though there is no swooning by Jesus and no appearance of the death of Jesus. This scenario satisfies the basic criterion: Jesus was crucified and yet survived the crucifixion.

    I also believe there is a significant chance that the Conspiracy Theory is true. Christian apologists typically construe this theory very narrowly, as requiring that all 11 of the remaining “tweleve disciples”, the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, conspired with each other to deceive others that Jesus had risen from the dead when they all believed this claim to be FALSE. I understand this theory more broadly, so that if just one or two of the “twelve disciples” intentionally deceived others into believing that Jesus had come back to life, then this theory would be true.

    In fact if just ONE PERSON who was not even among the “twelve disciples” of Jesus decided to deceive others into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead, and managed to fool some of the “twelve disciples” into this belief, then that would be sufficient to make this theory true, even though this does not involve a “conspiracy” between a group of people. So, the title “Conspiracy Theory” is a bit misleading. A better name would be the “Deception Theory“.

    Furthermore, there could be overlap between the Deception Theory and other skeptical theories. A single deceiver might drug or hypnotize some of the 11 remaining disciples so that they would have a vivid experience of the risen Jesus. That would be a deception that makes use of an hallucination or trance. Alternatively, a deceiver, or group of deceivers, might have rescured Jesus from the cross, and then fooled others into thinking that Jesus had risen from the dead. This would be a deception involving helping Jesus to survive his crucifixion. But there are other ways to deceive people into believing that Jesus rose from the dead, so the Deception Theory could be true even if both the Hallucination Theory (i.e. Non-Veridical Experience Theory) and the Swoon Theory (i.e. Survival of Crucifixion Theory) were false.

    I also believe there is a significant chance that the Myth Theory is true. Once again, Christian apologists have a narrow conception of what this theory implies. According to Kreeft, the Myth Theory asserts that there are two layers. The historical layer consists of an historical Jesus who did not claim to be divine and who did not perform miracles and who did not rise from the dead, and then a mythical layer that takes the historical Jesus and modifies his life and death so that he claims to be divine, performs miracles, and rises from the dead. But another possibility is that there was no historical Jesus at all. If Jesus was a purely fictional character, then that would also make the Myth Theory true, so it is NOT a necessary condition of the Myth Theory that there existed an historical Jesus.

    Another possibility is that there was a Jewish preacher who claimed to be divine, perhaps his name was even Jesus, but this man was NOT crucified and did NOT rise from the dead. However, there was another Jewish man who led a religious movement and who was crucified, but he did not claim to be divine, and he did not claim that he could perform miracles. However, at some later time the stories of the lives of these two men were combined together to form the Jesus of the Gospels, a man who claimed to be divine, who claimed to perform miracles, who was believed by others to perform miracles, and who was crucified. This “Jesus of the Gospels” however did not exist, and thus was a fictional character, even though this story is based on the lives of two actual historical people. I would also consider this scenario to be one that would make the Myth Theory true.

    Alternatively, the Jesus of the Gospels could be an historical person, except for the resurrection. There could have been a Jesus who was a preacher and a faith healer, who many people believed performed miraculous healings (a mistaken belief), and who claimed to be divine, and who was crucified, but the story of this Jesus coming back to life a couple of days after he died was a Myth or Legend that arose months or years after his death. In that case, the Myth Theory would, on my broad understanding of that theory, be true.

    So, Kreeft and other Christian apologists almost always interpret skeptical theories in very narrow ways. This is a STRAW MAN fallacy, because the narrow interpretations make it much easier for them to cast doubt on the skeptical theories. But since Kreeft and McDowell and other Christian apologists also claim to have refuted ALL POSSIBLE skeptical theories, the logic of their arguments is INVALID, because by narrowly defining skeptical theories they neglect and ignore dozens or hundreds or thousands of other possible skeptical theories. For example, McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory is this:

    …only particular kinds of people have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals… (The Resurrection Factor, 2005 edition, p. 93)

    This objection has NO FORCE if we consider the possibility of someone DREAMING that they saw the risen Jesus. EVERYBODY DREAMS. Everybody dreams every night! This objection works only if we focus on a very narrow conception of the Hallucination Theory.

    So, if McDowell or Kreeft or any other Christian apologist wants to use the elimination-of-alternatives logic used by McDowell and Kreeft, then the skeptical theories need to be understood very broadly (or else they will have to attempt to “refute” dozens or hundreds of very specific and narrowly defined skeptical theories, which they are far too intellectually lazy to ever attempt).

    What about the probability of “the resurrection hypothesis”? Well it all depends on what is meant by “the resurrection hypothesis”. The broadest conception of this view is that:

    Jesus died on the cross, but was alive and walking around a few days later.

    This however does NOT logically imply that this was a SUPERNATURAL event. It is possible for a person to die and yet to come back to life a short time later. This is a frequent occurrence in the 21st century, because of CPR. Of course in these cases “death” means “clinical death”, the cessation of circulation and respiration. I believe that this is TOO BROAD an interpretation of “the resurrection hypothesis”.

    We could narrow our understanding of this view to include only SUPERNATURAL causes of coming back to life:

    Jesus died on the cross, and was alive and walking around a few days later BECAUSE a supernatural being or force caused him to come back to life.

    But this theory would be true if Jesus was brought back to life by the spell of a witch or by a magical potion or by a psychic healer or by Zeus or by Satan. Do Christians really want “the resurrection hypothesis” to include these various UNCHRISTIAN supernatural explanations? If not, then we could narrow the understanding of this hypothesis further:

    Jesus died on the cross, and he was alive and walking around a few days later BECAUSE God raised Jesus from the dead.

    This is what Christians believe, and so if they intend for “the resurrection hypothesis” to accurately reflect the Christian view, then this fairly narrow understanding of “the resurrection hypothesis” is to be preferred over the broader interpretations I have just discussed.

    If this narrow understanding of “the resurrection hypothesis” is what you have in mind, then I would say the probability that this hypothesis or theory is true is practically ZERO.

    First of all, I believe that there is no God. At any rate, my view is that the existence of God is highly improbable.

    Second, if we assume for the sake of argument that God exists, I take it that this assumption almost rules out the possibility that “God raised Jesus from the dead” and also makes it very unlikely that anything else CAUSED Jesus to rise from the dead. God is a perfectly good and perfectly just person, so God would not be a Great Deceiver. But raising Jesus from the dead would make God a Great Deceiver, because such a unique miracle would, as Christian apologists insist, show that God has placed a seal of approval on the teachings and character of Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus was a FALSE PROPHET who promoted worship of a FALSE god, so placing a seal of approval on the teachings and character of Jesus would involve God in approving a FALSE PROPHET and approving worship of a FALSE god. This would be a Great Deception by God. Therefore, the existence of God does NOT make the resurrection of Jesus likely, but rather makes it extremely improbable. Therefore, either God does not exist, in which case it is logically impossible that God raised Jesus, or else God does exist, and that makes it extremely improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Since I believe the first lemma to be much more probable than the second lemma, we must multiple the tiny probability that God exists times the tiny probability that God, if God existed, would raise Jesus from the dead, and that gives us a very very small probability that “the resurrection hypothesis” is true. For example, if the probability that God exists is .01 and the probability that God would raise Jesus IF God existed is .01, then the probability that God raised Jesus would be .0001.

    I think most of the remaining probability would be taken up by the four main skeptical theories if we understand those theories in the broad ways that I have suggested.

    1.0 – .0001 = .9999

    So, the probability that one of the four main skeptical theories is true would be around .8 to .9, and there are no doubt some other skeptical or natural theories that are not encompassed by the four main skeptical theories, and they would have a collective probability that is roughly .1 to .2

    If we rank the four main skeptical theories in order of most probable to least probable, then I could provide a rough estimate of the probabilities of the individual four main skeptical theories.

  7. I am no longer able to create blog posts on The Secular Outpost.
    However, I will continue to create and publish posts on my own blog site, including continuation of this series of posts “Defending the Hallucination Theory…”.

    Here is the site where I will be publishing new posts:

    https://tcaict.blogspot.com/

  8. Over on my personal blog site I have published four more posts in the series on “Defending the Hallucination Theory…”

    In Part 18 I analyze and evaluate Kreeft’s Objection #4 (A Long-Lasting Hallucination), and I show that this objection FAILS:

    https://tcaict.blogspot.com/2021/12/defending-hallucination-theory-part-18.html

    In Part 19 I clarify and analyze Kreeft’s Objection #5 (Returned Many Times), showing that the core of this argument consists entirely of UNSTATED premises and an UNSTATED conclusion:

    https://tcaict.blogspot.com/2021/12/defending-hallucination-theory-part-19.html

    In Part 20, I evaluate one of the key premises in Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #5, and I show that not only did Kreeft FAIL to establish that this key premise is true, but that the premise is in fact FALSE:

    https://tcaict.blogspot.com/2021/12/defending-hallucination-theory-part-20.html

    In Part 21, I complete my evaluation of Objection #5:

    https://tcaict.blogspot.com/2021/12/defending-hallucination-theory-part-21.html

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