Did Paul simply hallucinate Jesus's appearing to him?
It seems that Paul was proclaiming loudly and often that Jesus appeared to him alive from the dead. The question then arises, what caused this very specific belief to appear in Paul? Currently, the most popular naturalistic explanation of Paul’s proclamation is not that he was lying about his experience, but rather that he hallucinated and mistook it as Jesus' authentic appearance to him (whether this hallucination was visual or just auditory). Is that what happened? Was Paul's experience purely hallucinatory?
Risen-Jesus witnesses weren't hallucinating
In general, the alleged witnesses of Jesus’s post-mortem appearances did not simply hallucinate Jesus.
A page will discuss 7 arguments for this claim: [All Forthcoming]
- Groups interacted with Jesus (seeing, touching etc.). This is naturally problematic for the hallucination theory because hallucinations cannot be shared; they are like dreams.
- The figure often did not look like Jesus. This challenges the hallucination theory because if the figure was a product of the witnesses subconscious (as hallucination theories say), thenwe can be fairly sure it will represent the figure as the witness remembered them; that's what the subconscious is precisely doing insofar as it is a hallucinatin of the given person and not another thing entirely.
- The figure physically interacted with them. This conflicts with the hallucination the theory because hallucinations are not physical, and the kind of coordinated polymodal hallucination required to give various sorts of tactile impressions would be very complex indeed (especially if the figure was picking up pre-existing objects on a table, eating them etc.)
- Hallucinations are rare. Appealing to a complex hallucination to explain away an experience will, in general, constitute a desperation move.
- Hallucinations have known/plausible etiologies. This is relevant because the witnesses were not schizophrenic or anything like it.
- Hallucinations never persuade people of resurrection.
- Hallucinations project known categories.
The general implausibility of the hallucination hypothesis in explaining the experience of self-proclaimed Jesus witnesses matters here because Paul was one of those alleged witnesses; these counter evidences apply to his case.
Paul: “Jesus physically appeared to me”
Paul denies that Jesus appeared non-physically (e.g. intra-mentally), insisting instead that what appeared to him was quite physical and extra-mental; it was Jesus in the flesh, and so externally perceptible. It was not a mere vision or epiphany.
This page analyzes these 8 arguments:
- 1 Cor 9:1 (“I've seen”) denotes normal sight.
- 1 Cor 15 (“buried-appeared”) = physical appear.
- 1 Cor 15:6 (“most remain”) meant witnesses.
- Paul: “Jesus-appearances and visions differ.”
- Paul: “Jesus resurrected physically.”
- An overtly immaterial visit'd not persuade.
- Acts: “Paul says Jesus’ visit hit his group.”
- Acts: “Jesus physically appeared to Paul.”
This is relevant, because if Paul hallucinated, it would’ve been either through a visual hallucination or non-visual hallucination (e.g. an epiphany), and neither of these is compatible with Paul’s understanding of the event.
Paul’s conversion and ministry were miraculous
The circumstances surrounding conversion and subsequent ministry appear blatantly supernatural, dripping with ties to Jesus Christ’s supernatural power.
A full page will analyze these 6 arguments:
- Paul’s companions were impacted
- Paul was blinded.
- Acts: “A Christian (Ananias) healed him.”
- Dramatic story-brilliant conversion.
- Shockingly successful ministry.
- Paul allegedly saw/performed miracles.
This is relevant because it was be awkward this supernatural life was prefaced by a mistaken non-miraculous hallucination of Jesus’ appearing to Paul and converting him.
Paul: “I was surprised it was Jesus”
Paul did not initially know the identity of the figure; at first he was confused as to who it was.
- Acts says Paul claimed to be surprised.1
- Implied by Paul's language in 1 Cor 15:8 (“untimely born”)2
This is relevant because if it were an hallucination of Paul’s (produced by his own psyche), it seems more likely that Paul would just inherently know (e.g. by psychological intuition) what it was that he was seeing in his mind. In fact, even if the figure looked nothing like Jesus, the hallucinator would plausibly just know.
- Acts misrepresents Paul. [Forthcoming]
- It was just a rarer kind of hallucination. [Forthcoming]
- • Acts 9:4-5 — “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
• Acts 22:7-8 — ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’
• Acts 26:14-15 — when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
- Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:8 — and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. There is debate about what Paul means precisely here, but perhaps the predominant view is that Paul is calling attention to the violence with which he was pulled into the Christian faith; there was no easing into it. For any experience Paul had, in its initial moments he would not have attributed it to Jesus.
Paul: “Jesus non-physically ‘appeared’ to me”
According to Paul, his experience was squarely located within his mind; he thinks Jesus “appeared” to him personally in a vision or something else intra-mental like and epiphany.
This page analyzes 3 arguments:
This is relevant because while a physical appearance would be harder to explain as a hallucination, a non-physical appearance would fit quite nicely.
Paul was psychologically set to hallucinate
Paul was cognitively poised to hallucinate Jesus’s appearing, due to one or more psychological tensions or conditions he suffered from.
For example…[All forthcoming]
- Paul was having a seizure.
- Paul secretly admired Christians.
- Paul secretly desired to unify people.
- Paul secretly felt guilty.
- Paul secretly desired power.
- Paul was a visionary.
- Paul was schizophrenic.
Jesus did not rise from the dead
It is just plainly false that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God.
This page analyzes these 4 arguments:
This is relevant, because if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then hallucination is the next best explanation on offer for the so-called “appearance” that resulted in Paul's conversion.