In the past, some critics of the Resurrection have sought to explain it away by saying that his followers merely hallucinated seeing a risen Jesus. Like most theories, this one too falls to shreds upon the slightest scrutiny.
The apostles made it very clear that when they said Jesus was risen, they meant bodily. They weren’t talking about seeing a ghost or the spirit of Jesus; they were adamant that the physical body of their Teacher was up and about. Now it’s true that this body apparently now had some supernatural abilities—such as the ability to appear in a room unannounced, and the ability to mask its identity until He desired to be recognized—but the apostles (and Jesus himself) took great pains to emphasize the fact that it was his actual body that was risen:
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.Luke 24:30
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”Luke 24:37-39
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”Luke 24:40-44
So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.John 20:1-9
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.John 20:20
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”John 20:27
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.John 21:9
A very important fact here is that Jesus appeared to groups of people at a time. Hallucinations only happen to individuals. In fact, in the very earliest written testimony we have of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15—not the gospels, as one might think), Paul says that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once. As this was only 3-5 years after the death of Jesus, he goes on to say that most of those 500 are still alive, so go ask them yourself!
And of course, we always have our good old standby, our Old Reliable: the empty tomb. If it was indeed a hallucination (did they have LSD back then?) then all you hadda do is, you guessed it….Bring out yer dead! Bam, mystery solved. But as we all know by now, there was nobody in the tomb to bring out.
The disciples obviously believed that they had seen a risen, physical body of Jesus. In fact, they took great care to emphasize the physical aspect of it so as to negate any hallucination-explanations. The only way to get around this belief (besides believing they were right) is to say either that the disciples were telling bare-faced lies about the resurrection, or to say that the gospels themselves are forgeries.
I’ll address both those issues in my next posts.
In the end, it’s the hallucination theory that is insubstantial and bodiless, not Jesus.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.