The Resurrection of Christ: Part 3
Dr. Rafat Amari
The risen Christ appeared to many people and interacted with them for forty days. It is impossible to consider His resurrection as a hallucination.
When a historical figure sits and eats with a group of 12 people many times during a forty-day period; when He trains them for a task they will perform; when His presence alone convinces them of the resurrection, we would never suggest they met with His shadow, or that the group was hallucinating. A hallucination does not interact with people, eats or sits with them.
A person experiencing a hallucination, usually by a negative, wicked spirit, sees the spirit in each direction he looks because the hallucination is in his mind. Mohammed spoke in that regard when he said that in every direction he looked he saw Gabriel. This was not an angelic apparition. Angels, when appearing to the prophets, were seen by the prophet or the person to whom they appeared in the direction in which they appeared or stood.
Those who are experience hallucinatory visions due to negative spirits are usually affected by a type of schizophrenia. Medical science suggests that a person who suffers many hallucinations may end up with a form of schizophrenia. The biography of Mohammed mentions Mohammed suffered a severe condition. His wife and close companions describe various symptoms. He used to think he was doing a certain thing without doing it. [ii]
This is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Because schizophrenia at that time was not diagnosed, his close friends falsely claimed that Mohammed was charmed by the Jews. Nevertheless, the severe symptoms continued for more than six months. Mohammed's disease had to do with the many hallucinations he experienced.
On the other hand, the resurrection was seen and experienced by the early disciples. It was not just the experience of one person, who claimed to see it in secret. The founders of other religions, such as Zoroaster, Mani, and Mohammed all claimed to see angels while they were alone, but the resurrection of Christ was attested to by all the disciples and the large group. There was not just one appearance, but continuing appearances of the risen Christ during the 40 days before His ascension.
The risen Christ, before He went to heaven, appeared to more than five hundred Christians in one group. Of these people, many were alive when the Christian message reached other parts of the ancient world. At the time when Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, most of them were alive. Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 15:6, “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” Paul could not say this if the experience was not real, famous, and well known to many Christians. Many of those five hundred may have been seen by the Corinthians themselves, since those who saw the risen Christ reported their encounters with Him not only in Judea but also in many parts of the Roman Empire.
The risen Lord appeared not just to His followers, but also to one who was among the most aggressive antagonists of the Christian faith.
After the ascension of Christ to heaven, He appeared to Saul, who, after his conversion, became known as the Apostle Paul. Saul, before his conversion, was a great persecutor of the early church. Here is the account from Acts 22:4-11. Paul says “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, to be punished.
“Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
“So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ The people with me saw the light but didn't hear the voice.
“So I said, ‘what shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’
“And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.”
Because of the appearance of Jesus Christ to him, Paul became a fervent apostle testifying about the resurrection. From a position of great religious honor, Paul became a humble servant of Jesus after the risen Christ appeared to him. Paul was persecuted and was stoned many times for Jesus’ sake, until his martyrdom in Rome. Paul’s testimony that he saw the risen Lord is important because he was an enemy of the Christian faith. He came to faith not through someone’s preaching the Gospel, but through Jesus’ appearing to him in person.
Copyright 2006 by Dr. Rafat Amari. All Rights Reserved.
[ii] Ibn Hisham, 2, page 121; Sahih al-Bukhari, 4, page 68; 7, pages 29, 30, 88; Halabieh 2, page 319