Did the apostles etc. lie about meeting with Jesus after his death?
Clarifying the question
Jesus was crucified in c. AD 30. Shortly after Jesus's death, the apostles of Jesus were testifying to having experienced Jesus appearing to them. Rather than telling the truth when they reported their experience, were they in fact lying?
Historians unanimously say "No"
Gary Habermas (Professor at Liberty) “On the state of Resurrection studies today, I recently completed an overview of more than 1,400 sources on the resurrection of Jesus published since 1975. I studied and cataloged about 650 of these texts in English, German, and French. Some of the results of this study are certainly intriguing. For example, perhaps no fact is more widely recognized than that early Christian believers had real experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus. A critic may claim that what they saw were hallucinations or visions, but he does not deny that they actually experienced something.” (See details in Gary R. Habermas, “Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What Are Critical Scholars Saying?” Philosophia Christi, forthcoming.) [The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregal, 2004), 60.] [Note: Licona 2010, p. 278. says Gary's list is now “in the neighborhood of 3,400 sources.”]
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: “Of this fact, however, all historians are confident: that very shortly after Jesus was crucified, his disciples became convinced by multiple visionary appearances of Jesus [veridical or not]… that God had restored his life and ushered him into the heavenly world.” [Joel Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall (IVP Academic, 1992), 557.]
And so forth.1
- • Wolfhart Pannenberg (Systematic Theology professor at Harvard etc.): “…few scholars, even few rather critical scholars, doubt that there had been visionary experiences.” [“The Historicity of the Resurrection: The Identity of Christ” The Intellectuals Speak Out about God (ed. R. A. Varghese: Regnery Gateway, 1984), 260.]
• Paula Fredriksen (Jewish professor, Historian of Early Christianity & Hellenistic Judaism): “I know in their own terms what they saw was the raised Jesus. That's what they say, and then all the historic evidence we have afterwards attests to their conviction that that's what they saw. I'm not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus. I wasn't there. I don't know what they saw. But I do know as a historian that they must have seen something.” [ABC, Interview in The Search for Jesus w/ Peter Jennings (June 26, 2000), as cited by Habermas]; compare another Jewish scholar:
• E.P. Sanders (NT Scholar, Religion professor at Duke): “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it. … That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know” [The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin Books, 1993), 280.]
• Gerd Lüdemann (Outspoken Atheist; professor of Early Christian Hist. & Lit.): “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” [What really happened to Jesus, Trans. by Bowden (Westminster, 1995), 80.] [Note: Lüdemann concludes that they must have been hallucinating].
• Peter Carnley (Liberal NT Scholar): “Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the first disciples interpreted the Easter visions or appearances as signs of the heavenly presence of Christ. Why they should be minded to do this with the degree of conviction that is so clearly reflected in the early testimony is what we must seek to explain.” [The Structure of Resurrection Belief (Oxford, 1987), 246.]
• A.J.M. Wedderburn (NT professor at Munich]): “That question need not involve just the matter of the honesty of Paul or the other disciples; we have no reason to suggest that these early Christians deliberately lied -- and received their reward of persecution and in some cases martyrdom.” [Beyond Resurrection (Hendrickson, 1999) 123.
[Note: For those eager to learn as soon as possible the reasons all scholars accept this, see Michael Licona's 718 page book, The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP Academic, 2010). The book spends only a couple pages on the evidence from Jesus's empty tomb. The vast majority of this academic treasure trove is devoted to discussing the evidence from the appearances.]