Some have tried to deny the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by claiming that the apostles hallucinated. There are many problems with such a claim, not least among them the fact that multiple groups at multiple different times claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Those who would claim such are forced not only to claim that an apostle hallucinated, but that groups of people hallucinated, that groups of people hallucinated the same thing, and that groups of people hallucinated the same thing at different times. Is this sounding plausible? It is not, but let’s look at problems with the hallucination theory of explaining away the apostles and others’ claims to have seen the risen Christ more closely.
1) There is very little evidence—if any because collective hallucination accounts are not currently well researched enough, because of lack of occurrences, to have any real credibility—that collective hallucinations occur (Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11).
2) Hallucinations are private accounts stemming from an individual’s mind (Gary Collins cited in The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11, by Habermas).
3) Belief, expectation, and excitement are the underpinning psychological conditions for hallucinations. The disciples were distraught and disappointed after Jesus’ death by crucifixion and so the hallucination of him alive when Jesus reportedly appeared to them is improbable (Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11).
4) The variety of persons, places, and times, supposing them to all have had the same hallucination stretches credulity to the breaking point. Not only are no collective hallucinations well evidenced to even believe it happened once, but now it is supposed to be believed that it happened in multiple places, to differently composed groups, and at different times, but the hallucinations all agreed with one another. If this is possible, the chances are infinitesimally small. On the principle of analogy, that is, that present experiences are the same as those same experiences in history, collective hallucinations become even more dubious. At least with Jesus’ resurrection, the principle of analogy provides resuscitations as a pale event analogous to resurrections; analogous because renewed life comes forth but the quality of that renewed life differs: i.e., Jesus’ recreation/renewed life takes life (back) to its original dimensionality achievable in the garden (eternal; “tree of life”) whereas resuscitation is renewed life but only for limited time (until death takes them again) (Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11; this mixed with my extended thought on the matter).
5) Hallucinations are not well documented to transform lives (Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11). Why did the disciples live radically different from their depressed state after the crucifixion? It is unlikely that a hallucination would produce the kind of vigor and commitment the disciples had in the proclamation of the Gospel if they knew that it was false. This is very important. Many people will die for what they believe in, but the disciples, if they just had hallucinations, went on to die for what they knew was false.
6) James and Paul were not “believers” and so were certainly not in a frame of mind to hallucinate Jesus raised (Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 11).
7) Other supposed “supernatural events” in the gospels would have to be explained by means of group hallucinations (on naturalistic presuppositions) as well, like the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus’ walking, or even the water turned to wine. But in some of these cases there is a critical realism (e.g., eating fish and bread) so dramatic it would be fantastic to suppose that they did not actual eat anything (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 571 – 572).
Kerygma of 1 Cor. 15:3 – 7 functions as an early creed not only shows what those mentioned in it and the 500 others thought but much broader to be a received tradition among all those in the early church, beginning likely in Palestine shortly after the resurrection (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 573).
8) If hallucinations did occur, why did not the Jewish leaders just point out or produce the body of Jesus to defeat the growth of Christianity?
9) The Marian and source (Belinda Gore, Ecstatic Body Postures) which Pilch cites are more dissimilar than similar to the appearances in the gospel and so fail to account for the appearances there that they claimed to be able to explain (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 574).
10) Neither Craffert or Pilch provide any “reports from the social sciences of a group of individuals” objectively interacting with an individual (i.e., the resurrected Jesus) by means of speaking, eating with, or touching (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 575).