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Why I (Actually) Discuss Hallucinations

In this post I continue with my response to Larry Hurtado’s critique of How Jesus Became God.  In the previous posts I dealt with factual errors – where he assigned views to me that I do not state and do not have.  As I have pointed out, Larry was generous to retract these critiques in a subsequent post on his blog.   In this post I want to deal not with a factual mistake but with an assertion he makes about my motive for part of my discussion – an assertion that I take issue with.

One of my major premises in How Jesus Became God is that Jesus was not considered divine during his lifetime, but that it was belief in his resurrection that made his followers begin calling him God.   But since my study is a historical account of how Jesus came to be considered God, rather than a theological or religiously motivated account, I have to deal with a very big problem, which is that historians cannot declare a God-produced miracle as a historical event (even if it *is* something that happened).   I give lengthy reasons for why historians cannot argue for miracles in the book, and will not go into that matter here.  For now it’s enough to say, historians cannot establish that miracles (such as the resurrection) have happened in the past.  (n the book I argue that “history is not the past,” since all sorts of things happened in the past that cannot be shown to have happened by the historical disciplines — including miracles.  If that doesn’t make sense to you – I’d suggest you read my chapter on it!)

They also cannot establish that miracles have NOT happened either.  Maybe they have.  If so, I’m afraid that the historical disciplines simply have no access to them (either do the mathematical disciplines, or the biological disciplines, etc.).

What historians *can* talk about in the case of Jesus’ resurrection is not whether God really raised him from the dead (the historian, as a historian, cannot make any statements about what God has done – since those are theological statements that require faith, but history does not require faith), but about what the disciples came to belief.  *That* is part of the historical record.   And one interesting question involves what made them believe what they came to believe.

In the book I argue that one and only one thing made the disciples come to believe in Jesus’ resurrection.   Some of the disciples had visions of him afterwards.  In my view – I argue vigorously for this in the book – this is a *historical* explanation, not a *theological* one.  We can say, on historical grounds, that the disciples had visions of Jesus.  But doesn’t that require the miracle of the resurrection to have happened?   No, claiming that the disciples had visions of Jesus does not require the historian to say that God worked a miracle, and that Jesus was really raised from the dead,  and that Jesus then as the resurrected Lord really appeared to his disciples.  But how can we claim, historically, that the disciples had visions without saying that God really did a miracle by raising Jesus from the dead?   Because we can talk about visions without claiming that a person sees (in a vision) something that is actually there.

People have visions all the time.  And historians do not have to decide whether the visions they have are caused by external stimuli (so that they are what psychologists call “veridical” visions) or not (so that they are “non-veridical” visions).    Now, everyone knows what it would mean if the disciples of Jesus saw Jesus because he was really there (i.e. that there was a real historical stimulus, making these veridical visions).  It would mean that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples.  But what would it mean if he was not really there?   That’s an interesting historical question and NOT everyone knows how that could be.  And so I devote a lengthy discussion to how it can be historically valid to claim that the disciples had visions of Jesus whether or not he actually appeared to them.

This is what Larry says in critique of my discussion:

[It is] curious that Ehrman then devotes a section of the ensuing discussion to comparing early experiences of the risen Jesus with apparitions of deceased loved ones to the bereaved, and with other such phenomena.  The point of doing so, quite obviously, seems to be to give reasons for taking early Christian experiences as hallucinations, and so not really valid.  To do this, however, is (in Ehrman’s own terms) to move from historical analysis to something else.  To be specific, this discussion seems more aimed to counter Christian apologists and give justification for doubting Christian claims.  But this makes just a bit coy his profession of not being concerned to judge the question whether experiences of the risen Jesus were valid.

This is not a generous reading of my discussion.  Larry is arguing that I am anti-Christian and want to demonstrate that the visions of Jesus were non-veridical hallucinations.   This is “obvious” to him.  The reason I take some umbrage at this charge is that I went completely out of my way to prevent precisely this reading of my discussion.   I explicitly state “I am not taking a stand on the question of whether there was some kind of external reality behind what the disciples saw” (p. 186); “I am not going to take a stand on this issue of whether Jesus really appeared to people or whether their visions were hallucinations” (p. 187).   Did Larry not read these statements?  Or did he simply think that I was being deceitful or duplicitous?  I assume that latter.

Either way, I don’t think it is a generous reading of my discussion.  One may well ask, in reply, why, if I’m not taking a stand, do I spend so much time talking about hallucinations – for example of people who see deceased loved ones weeks or years after their demise, or of people who see the Blessed Virgin Mary (sometimes hundreds or even thousands of people at once).  Why spend so much time on hallucinations if I’m not trying to convince people that the disciples had hallucinations?

For PRECISELY the reason I’ve explained.  There are basically two options about what happened.  Either Jesus really appeared to his disciples after his crucifixion, or they were seeing things.  Now, if Jesus really appeared to his disciples, how much discussion of the matter is required to indicate that this is what happened?  Does one need to devote a chapter to saying “Jesus appeared to his disciples”?  Of course not.  If he appeared to his disciples (something historians cannot prove and cannot disprove) he appeared to his disciples.  Full stop.   But if Jesus did not appear to his disciples, why did they *think* (or at least *say*) that he did?   THAT is a matter that needs to be unpacked, explained, gone into.   Most people don’t know the scholarship on hallucinations, and might automatically think that when I’m saying that it was the visions that made them think Jesus had been raised EITHER that I must mean he really was raised (which I’ve just argued historians cannot say) OR that I’ve made a mistake an made a non-historical claim (God did a miracle) and claimed it as historical.

If I’m going to argue that it was the visions that convinced the disciples that Jesus was raised, I *have* to show how that can be a historical claim rather than a theological one, and to do that I have to talk about hallucinations.  In my chapter on this I am clear and explicit on repeated occasions: the discussion is *not* in order to argue that the disciples must have had hallucinations.  I’m not taking a stand on whether the visions were veridical or not.  That’s my entire *point*.  I’m not taking a stand.  If you think the visions were veridical, then you think Jesus was really raised.  You can take that view.  But how can you think they had visions if they were not veridical?  They would have to be hallucinations – and if that’s the view you want to take, you need to know what we know about hallucinations.

I’m really not being duplicitous, as Larry charges.  I’m simply giving people two options.  I’m explaining only one of them at length because the other one needs no explanation.  If the visions were veridical, then Jesus was raised from the dead.

 


Christ as an Angel in Paul
More Misreadings of How Jesus Became God

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    mockferret  June 7, 2014

    With the greatest of respect Bart, I can rather see Larry Hurtado’s point on this one – it was the impression I was left with after reading the chapter as well, that you were trying to “explain away” the visionary experiences rather than simply providing one non-supernatural possibility. It struck me at the time as being something of a departure from your more usual agnostic approach (and I should stress that as an agnostic myself, I have no vested interest in seeing the resurrection proven to be “true”).

    Having read this post, I do see more clearly what you were aiming for there, but I’m not sure it came across quite as you intended in the published book.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      Thanks for your note. OK, then, I should have been even more clear about why I was talking about non-veridical visions!

  2. Avatar
    toejam  June 7, 2014

    Personally, I can’t bring myself to say that the ‘hallucination / visions’ hypothesis is ‘probable’. I would say it is the *most likely* explanation, but not necessarily a probable one. There are so many other plausible and implausible-but-not-completely-impossible explanations. I also don’t have a problem with saying that an actual resurrection is an ‘impossibility’ on a practicle level. We all acknowledge that rolling a 7 on a standard 6-sided dice is “impossible”. We all acknolwedge that producing a green marble from a sack of yellow ones is “impossible”, etc., so why can’t we say the same for something that equally requires us to suspend our best understandings of physics and biology? Sure, one can always appeal to the fact that we don’t know everything therefore it’s “possible” in some sense, but this renders nothing “impossible”, and I’m sorry, but if we can’t say that rolling a 7 on a standard 6-sided dice is “impossible” then we humans are a lost cause haha!

  3. Avatar
    rsNvt  June 7, 2014

    How do we know that these visions were not simply fabricated? Or added to later versions of the texts? Wouldn’t there be independent sources of these visions? Because it seems to me to be convenient to early Christian authors that Jesus appeared only to apostles and/or earlier followers.

    I think we can safely assume that such appearances of deities in, say, Greek, Nordic, and Egyptian mythology are fictional.

    Again, from a curious layman,
    Robert Shearer.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      Yes, they could have been fabricated by people who were just lying about it. But that seems much less likely to me, given what we know about the early Christians and their religion. The reason only followers of Jesus had these visions is the same reason why only relatives and close friends have visions of recently deceased loved ones (as a rule).

      • Avatar
        rsNvt  June 7, 2014

        But…people who see the recently deceased are not generally trying to create a religion relying on those visits.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  June 8, 2014

          I don’t think the disciples were *trying* to start a new religion. The new religion resulted from their having visions and acting accordingly.

      • Avatar
        richard gills  June 10, 2014

        Dr Ehrman

        i will quote the relevant verses:

        16:1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and trying him asked him to show them a sign from heaven.

        16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of Jonah. And he left them, and departed.

        can one argue that matthew’s jesus thought that jesus was going to prove his sign by showing his face to the pharisees and saducees after his resurrection? if sign = resurrection and jesus didn’t show his face to them, then why promise them a sign?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  June 10, 2014

          Because they would *hear* about it. The entire “generation” could not have seen the resurrected Jesus!

          • Avatar
            richard gills  June 13, 2014

            hello dr ehrman

            so they would hear about it like they have heard the story about jonah?
            after it was confirmed that jesus was no liberator of israel, the pharisees would hear about his alleged resurrection?
            thanks

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  June 14, 2014

            Yes, something like that.

  4. Avatar
    hwl  June 7, 2014

    I agree the historical method cannot be used to evaluate the actuality of miracles, though I think the reason is quite complex. For different reasons, I think the natural sciences cannot incorporate any appeal to supernatural intervention to explain any scientific phenomena – hence Intelligent Design explanations cannot be scientific explanations. However, the natural sciences can eliminate need for supernatural explanations if they provide perfectly adequate naturalistic explanations, thereby rendering supernatural explanations at best superfluous.
    But if neither history or science can ever be used to positively affirm actuality of miracles, then what academic discipline is capable of taking on this task? Historians like yourself would cite theology. But what exactly is the theological method – and what gives it the tools and capacity to evaluate the supernatural in a manner not accessible to history and the sciences? I’m not even sure theology is up to the task – for so much of theology operates from a position of prior faith. It can be said that theology is “faith seeking understanding” – that is, it typically presupposes existence of God to some extent.
    To what extent is your position that historical method cannot evaluate actuality of miracles, a version of David Hume’s argument against miracles on basis of testimonies?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      My views are similar to David Hume’s, but have a somewhat different — or at least more developed — theoretical rationale (if you know his argument, just reread my discussion in How Jesus Became God.)

    • Avatar
      Theonedue  December 22, 2015

      The only objective way to know wither miracles are possible or not is to find out if they are intrinsically possible/impossible. The conclusion of a miracle never follows from its premises (i.e from the theory attempting to explain it) therefore they are illogical and therefor impossible until they can be explained.

  5. Avatar
    jsoundz  June 7, 2014

    Just finished your book – a bit more exhaustive than others written for the general public which I appreciated more so. To address the area of hallucinations I was glad you mentioned Oliver Sack’s book on the subject. Its a great read too. ,Amazed the phenomena is quite common and doesn’t necessary denote a mental disorder Lastly, my questions to you is whether this ( hallucinations) is a commonly held theory among other scholars? Thanks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      No, I don’t know that scholars have extensively developed the idea of hallucinations; it was my study of the psychology of visoins (a study most NT scholars have not engaged in) that turned the tide for me.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 7, 2014

    I think I follow most of your points, but, as you know, the suggestion that the disciples may have hallucinated the appearance of Jesus is quite upsetting and offensive to many

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      Yes, I know it is. But if a historian is trying to explain how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, and if s/he is sure that it was because the disciples had visions of Jesus, and if s/he wants to explain how that is possible if Jesus was not really raised from the dead — since the historian cannot favor the Christian theological view over the non-Christian view — I don’t see how there is an alternative to talking about hallucinations. If I were writing just for Christians, I would obviously take a different approach!

  7. Avatar
    toddfrederick  June 7, 2014

    I do not understand how you are able to continue with a critical study of the New Testament when the New Testament is a form of literature that deals with religious belief. In order to study it fully you must consider the factor of belief in what is reported in this literature.

    In the question being considered…the resurrection of Jesus….those who saw the risen Jesus said that they actually saw him….not an illusion. Many even said that they touched him and even ate with him and spoke with him.

    It sounds like you are making an assumption that they did not actually see him, or touch him, or eat with him and spoke with him….but that is was a vision, and even worse, an hallucination. Those are “loaded” words. Those words imply psychotic implications and/or mass hysteria.

    As i see it, reality has two parts: one is the physical world and one is the world of spirit. The world of spirit is used often in both the Jewish and the Christian writings. That term is not used lightly and is considered a real entity likened to wind or breath.

    Paul says that he also had such an experience with the risen Jesus, and he also speaks about the resurrection of the dead generally and that of Jesus in particular, as being one of a “spiritual” transformation…a transformed spiritual body (1 Cor: 15).

    It seems to me that what the disciples and the others who had this experience saw a “spiritual body” of Jesus.

    I agree that science and history can not prove that they saw such a body. Science and history does not now have the tools to verify that, but you, as a New Testament historian, can say definitely that the documents confirm in many places that the disciples and the others who saw and touched and ate with and spoke with Jesus ***believe*** that collective experience, and that experience transformed their lives, which can also be historically verified, in the documents.

    I think your use of the term hallucination and even vision takes more speculation on your part that making the affirmation that those involved **believed** in that experience, which I think is verification that their experience historically happened.

    I agree with you that this resurrection experience convinced them that Jesus became a god-like persona in some way that he was not previously. I can **believe** in that kind of transformative spiritual resurrection than I can the resuscitation of a corpse.

    Christianity deals with both spirit and with belief and I see no reason why those essential elements can not be a part of the way in which you study the history of the New Testament, otherwise your study is incomplete, leaving out many of the most important aspects of religious study regardless of what religion or religious documents you consider.

    I have followed you for almost two years and you know that I support your work, but we can disagree.

    Please comment. I would like your thoughts on spirit and belief as essential elements in your historical studies of the new Testament. Thank you.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      My view is that Christians can be experts on Buddhism, that agnostics can be experts in Islam, that hard-core Republicans can be experts in Marxism, that Kantians can be experts in Aristotle, and that law-abiding citizens can be experts in criminology. It’s possible, of course!, for Christians with Christian commitments to approach the study of the NT. It’s also possible for historians to approach it. One approach is not necessarily better than another. It’s simply different. (Departments of Religious studies — such as mine — are full of scholars on religious traditions that they themselves to not personally subscribe to; that’s what universities are all about, in one respect.) So I understand and sympathize with your views, but I do see how they are different from the ones I have.

      • Avatar
        toddfrederick  June 8, 2014

        Just a clarification….I do agree with you on most of what you present in you books and blog essays and your methodology for your studies. It just seems to me that since Christianity (and Judaism) (and other religious traditions that involves what we might call supernatural issues) are both deeply involved in faith / belief concepts, if seems that it would be difficult to give a complete picture of what those who were involved in the NT events actually did historically without considering their faith / belief positions as a part of those events described.

        I’m simply puzzled by that. It may just be
        be my misunderstanding.

        Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  June 8, 2014

        The question is whether Christians can be experts on Christianity? Many, perhaps most Christian scholars, are too emotionally invested in their religion to objectively study it. Many Christian scholars go to church every Sunday to listen to sermons, take part in rituals and to worship and sing hymns of praise to Jesus and God. They have often been raised in the church since childhood. With a few notable exceptions, no matter how expert a Christian’s scholarship is, the conclusions are suspect. What sounds or feels correct to a Christian scholar will almost invariably be a variation of conservative, traditional explanations. How could it be otherwise?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  June 8, 2014

          I’d say that absolutely Christians can be experts on Christianity, just as Marxists can be experts on Marxism or Platonists on Plato. But non-Christians can be too!

  8. seminole
    seminole  June 7, 2014

    I’m tellin’ ya, Bart, my high school English teachers would have given this clown an “F” on his thesis and, with finger in face, advised him that “Ya hafta read the book, son, not just the Cliff Notes!

  9. Avatar
    JudithW.Coyle  June 7, 2014

    Thank you for all of that. It took quite an explanation and yet now I thoroughly understand. It’s extremely useful information to have and I appreciate your going to such lengths to make it clear enough for even me to grasp.

  10. Avatar
    mary  June 7, 2014

    Bart,
    OK, I may be mixing (do not understand) Hallucination and vision. But the something external, could be a “conversation” that stirs something so far back in your memory and deep in your thoughts that as they come forward it is as if a sudden overwhelming picture in your mind is forced to the visual part of your brain, and then you actually “see” it.

    That would mean that the “external” may not have been Jesus (physically, in some form) present but that the thought of him exploded the picture of him to the visual mind. If this is correct though, how could it explain many people having seen Jesus unless they were all under severe stress from the loss of him?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      Yes, if something *else* other than the entity viewed is what “caused” the vision, then it is still a hallucination. If you see your grandmother in your bedroom three weeks after she died, she either is really physically there or she is not physically there — whatever the reasons are for your seeing her. If she’s not there it’s a non-veridical vision; if she really is there, it’s a veridical vision.

  11. Avatar
    jhague  June 7, 2014

    A reasonable person will agree (not historically ;^) ) that Jesus and all the others raised from the dead in the Bible did not really get raised from the dead. Those who thought they saw a vision of a raised Jesus were seeing a hallucination or were jumping on the bandwagon of those who were making the claim of seeing Jesus.

  12. talitakum
    talitakum  June 7, 2014

    “If the visions were veridical, then Jesus was raised from the dead.”

    On the transfiguration account, disciples saw Moses and Elijah alive talking with Jesus. However, I’m not sure if they thought that they were resurrected . What do you think?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      No, probably not. Elijah never died in the Hebrew Bible; and Moses was often thought in Judaism to have been taken to heaven after his death (or never to have died, despite the ending of Deuteronomy). They were not thought to have been physically raised from the dead, but to have appeared from heaven. Prior to Jesus we don’t have accounts of people physically raised from the dead to heaven.

  13. Avatar
    coffeemachtspass  June 7, 2014

    Last Friday, my mother described a ‘vision’ along the lines of what you describe here. It was a week after my grandfather’s death. She ‘saw’ him drive up next to her, in the passenger’s side of a car. He showed her that he was looking forward through the windshield at a vast, verdant countryside. The entire vision took place while she was seated at her desk at work and it was clearly a real comfort in her grief. As you have said elsewhere, such vivid experiences are common, but how could one attempt to prove that they demonstrate hard reality rather than soft psychology?

  14. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 7, 2014

    I agree with you completely. The only possible excuse I can think of for Hurtado is that when a person reads a book, some very striking things will stick in his or her mind, and other things (like “disclaimers”) won’t. But in a case like this, when he was about to review a scholarly book, he should have gone back and reread the chapters in question, to refresh his memory.

  15. Avatar
    gavriel  June 7, 2014

    Miracles cannot be described in terms of “probability”. The laws of probability is something that is inherent in natural systems (or rather our models of them). Since a miracle is a temporary suspension of the laws governing nature (by an external agent) , per definition it is something that cannot be explained from probability, and a miracle must therefor be stated on reasons other than that it is the most “likely” explanation. Further, belief in a miracle in this case, excludes a natural explanation, doesn’t it? One has to select one or the other. However it is possible to discuss what kind of natural explanation is the most probable, given that a miracle did not occur. I find it hard to believe that large numbers of disciples were subject to true hallucinations, of an intensity like what is normally reported in Near Death Experiences. I think that sectarian people in general reacts to grossly failed predictions in ways that makes it possible to carry on without considering the past as totally wasted. If someone brings in a rescuing idea, the rest will easily embrace it, and supply statements that support it. So I think very limited true hallucination occurrences would be required to trigger the belief in resurrection in the group as a whole.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 7, 2014

      Yes, the issue is what *historians*, working with historical criteria, in the context of the historical disciplines, are able to say about the past, as I try to explain in my book….

  16. Avatar
    VirtualAlex  June 8, 2014

    Bart, have you read Kris Komarnitsky’s “Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection”? He proposes that an unusual combination of events (“a swirl of rationalisations, individual hallucinations, collective enthusiasm, designations of authority and scriptural interpretations”) gave rise to the belief of the resurrection. He goes into some detail of the disciples’ probable cognitive dissonance reduction (OMG how could the Messiah have died? Well let’s try and explain it…) and cites more recent very similar occurrences – those of the rationalisations of the deaths of Sabbati Sevi and Rebbe Schneerson by their followers (coincidentally both messianic Jewish movements).

    It’s a great book, it doesn’t claim at all to be *what happened*, but just an hypothesis of what could have happened given the known data. And once you have a plausible naturalistic hypothesis, there is simply no need for a supernatural explanation.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 8, 2014

      Haven’t read it. Sounds interesting!

      • Avatar
        VirtualAlex  June 11, 2014

        I think you’d appreciate it. I love your work, I loved that, ergo you should like it too!

  17. Avatar
    mary  June 8, 2014

    How many worlds are there? Could their be a physical world, spiritual world and the world of the mind? And, could the world of the spirit/soul be one and the same as the world of the mind. Since we believe what we think and what we think is a product of many, many things environmental, internal and external. Are the stories, myths, souls and belief in the supernatural our way of understanding what our minds are showing us? That is, what we do not understand? How can things that are seen, not be there (physically)? And yet, it is a fact that people hear and see things that are not physical and sometimes they act on them. We act Good, bad, neutral, violently and peacefully.

    If an unbalanced person hears a voice directing s/he to kill, why do we not believe a sane person can see a dead relative. Both are real to them.

    In Jesus time were the stories of his resurrection and miracles accepted because they are the explanations for them about the unknown. When the unknown happens we fill in the blanks. Like a dark hole, but it IS an empty space of the unknown. Dark holes and empty spaces are v e r y scary places, there is no place to put your feet down, to be held and care for. Belief in Jesus gave the comfort to alleviate the fear. In the stories of Jesus the people were assured they would have enough to eat they were to be loved, safe and never need to worry again. Who would not go for it?

    The more fearful we are the more likely we are to believe the unbelievable. Ask any con man/woman.

  18. Avatar
    John123  June 8, 2014

    You said here and in your book that sometimes hundreds or even thousands of people have seen the Virgin Mary at the same time. I know this has occurred when people stare at the sun for a prolonged period of time, or when there are unique light reflections associated with a particular location (maybe even a piece of toast!), and it has occurred to groups of 3 or 4 children who may or may not have been reporting accurately, but there is no evidence that the early Christians stared at the sun in order to see Jesus, or that the visions of Jesus were associated with a particular location, and none were children. So can you please give one example that does not involve these situations (or drug use) where more than one adult person has hallucinated the exact same person at the exact same time?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 8, 2014

      If you’ll read the books that I refer to my book, you’ll find many many such instances, especially, say, the book by Laurentin.

  19. Avatar
    dikelmm  June 8, 2014

    I have read your new book and am still wrestling with the idea of the visions of Jesus after his death. I will have to look into the books you recommended. However, I think that the fact that both your regular critics and your “supporters” have some trouble means you are doing something right and intellectually honest. Although you disprove the fundamentalist approach, your argument that “something happened” after the death of Jesus can certainly hearten other types of believers who believe Jesus was indeed some type of divine being, although perhaps not part of a trinity. Those seeking faith rather than dogma can take heart (I’m not among those, btw). I think How Jesus Became God takes your general readers from college level to graduate school.

  20. Avatar
    John123  June 9, 2014

    I read the group appearance of the Virgin Mary from Laurentin’s book that you put in your book, which you said was his “most striking” (pg. 198-199). However, this clearly seems to be a case of unique light reflections and water mist at the top of a waterfall, i.e. it does not sound like anyone was hallucinating; rather, many people just convinced themselves that the unique light reflections at the top of this particular waterfall were in the shape of the Virgin Mary, much like a group might be talked into seeing the same thing in the shape of a cloud or after staring into the sun. This is pretty much cinched in the next example you use from Laurentin’s book where Laurentin claims to have a photograph of the Virgin Mary apparition. I’ll bet he does, but I doubt the cause of the image is really the Virgin Mary; it is probably another situation of unique light reflections and the desire to see the Virgin Mary. But the main point, which I am sure you agree with, is that that hallucinations cannot be photographed, so these examples for sure cannot be hallucinations. So can you please provide one example from your research where more than one adult person has ever hallucinated the exact same person at the exact same time? I do not think such an example exists anywhere.

    but was not too impressed. Although he reports one event where multiple people saw the Virgin Mary at the same time, he also reports of people levitating, foretelling the future, and healing the sick, which leads me to think he is reporting second hand reports or is easily duped (do you really think anybody really levitated?).

    The “most striking” event

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 10, 2014

      I’d suggest you read the books — there are lots of examples. (Laurentin has seen photographs, by the way). And if the visions of Mary were caused by the light (Laurentin never says this), then what were the visions of Jesus caused by? And how do you know?

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