The resurrection of Jesus - Part 3

SERMON TOPIC: The resurrection of Jesus - Part 3

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 28 May 2023


Sermon synopsis: A look at:
- Hallucination theory
- Spiritual resurrection theory

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The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the belief that Jesus returned to life on a Sunday three days after he was crucified.

A central tenet of Christian faith, it forms part of the early Nicene Creed:

“On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures”.

Swoon theory

Hallucinations are where you hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that appear to be real but only exist in your mind.

The Hallucination theory holds that the resurrection only occurred in the minds of the disciples. They had grief-related hallucinations of the risen Jesus and thus were convinced that he was alive.

Hallucination theory


There are many reasons why this position is untenable:

Even individual hallucinations are questionable for believers who felt despair at the unexpected death of Jesus just hours before. Their hopes and dreams had suddenly been dashed. Extreme grief, not exuberance, would have been their normal response. *

* http:// articles/ explaining-away-jesus-resurrection-hallucination

Apart from drug-induced hallucinations, only certain people are susceptible to hallucinations. They generally occur to certain types of people who have fantasy prone personalities (i.e. an overactive imagination). *

The wide variety of times and places that Jesus appeared, along with the differing mindsets of the witnesses, is another formidable obstacle. The accounts of men and women, hard-headed and soft-hearted alike, all believing that they saw Jesus, both indoors and outdoors, provide an insurmountable barrier for hallucinations. The odds that each person would be in precisely the proper and same frame of mind to experience a hallucination, even individually, decrease exponentially. *

Most psychologists assert that hallucinations are private, subjective and individual events, then how could groups share exactly the same subjective visual perception. There is no such thing as a “mass hallucination”. No two people have the same experience, especially not simultaneously. *

In 1 Cor 15 we have over 500 people having the same experience. Most of Jesus’ appearances was to groups e.g. the appearances to the Eleven. Psychologist Thomas J. Thorburn wrote:

“It is absolutely inconceivable that… five hundred persons, of average soundness of mind… should experience all kinds of sensuous impressions – visual, auditory, tactual – and that all these … experiences should rest entirely upon … hallucination.” *

* Thomas James Thorburn, The Resurrection Narratives and Modern Criticism (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1910.), 158, 159.

It has been suggested that hallucinations of this nature occur to those who intensely want to believe something and have a spirit of anticipation or hopeful expectation. The historical record shows no such anticipation existed. The disciples were prone to disbelieve even after they were told of the resurrection. *

Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus’ body and not a risen Saviour, saying, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him” (John 20:15) *

The women who went to the tomb had gone prepared with spices to embalm a dead body, not to see a risen Jesus. Their main concern was who would move the stone away for them because of the weight. (Mark 16:3) *

The sceptical Thomas was clearly not expecting a risen Jesus and insisted on physical contact to believe. *

Jesus’ half brother James was sceptical regarding Jesus’ ministry even before the crucifixion. *

In the case of Paul, he was hostile to the news of the resurrection, having dedicated his life to persecuting those who preached the resurrection. *

The resurrection of a contemporary individual contradicted general Jewish theology, which held to a corporate resurrection at the end of time. So Jesus’ resurrection did not fit normal Jewish expectations, and most of the witnesses to Jesus’ bodily resurrection were Jewish. *

* Ibid.

What about the natural human tendency to touch? Would not one of them ever discover, even in a single instance, that his or her best friend, seemingly standing perhaps just a few feet away, was not really there? * Jesus had to tell Mary Magdalene “Do not hold on to me” (John 20:17).

* Ibid

The women at the tomb “came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:9).

Jesus actively encourages Thomas to touch him. (John 20:27)

Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.

Jesus does the same with the other disciples when they “were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” (Luke 24:37-39)

Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

Can a hallucination break bread and pass it to you? “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)

Can a hallucination eat food? “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.” (Luke 24:41-43)

Can a hallucination cook breakfast?

John 21:9-12 (NIV) When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore … Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

Why would the hallucinations suddenly stop after 40 days?

But most importantly the main problem with the Hallucination Theory is that you still need to account for the empty tomb. If the apostles were simply guilty of hallucinating, all the Jewish or Roman authorities needed to do was produce the body and that would have ended Christianity before it started. Instead they kept on commanding the apostles to stop preaching the resurrection – to no effect - and were also considering executing them (see Acts 5:27-33).


Spiritual resurrection theory

Historicity of Jesus

Stolen body theory

Wrong Tomb theory

Hallucination theory

Spiritual resurrection theory

Swoon theory

Spiritual resurrection theory

According to the “Spiritual Resurrection” adherents, Jesus was not resurrected bodily, but as a spirit.

This view is held by some modern liberal Christians, cults and false religions. But it traces its roots to the early heretical Gnostic groups.

The “Gnostics” were not a single group, but “Gnosticism” is a broad term used to describe many early heretical groups whose views enjoyed some limited popularity in the 2nd to 4th century AD.

Due to the influence of Greek philosophy, the Gnostics viewed the physical world (and hence the body or flesh) as evil.

As such they generally disliked the idea of a bodily resurrection. According to Gnostic belief, Jesus was not raised bodily, and neither will we be.


Some Gnostics denied that Jesus came in flesh, but rather in a spiritual body. In the late 1st century the apostle John had already encountered this Gnostic heresy, propagated in Ephesus by Cerinthus. And so he writes:

John 1:14 (NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

1 John 4:2-3 (NIV) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God…

2 John 7 (NIV) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.

In “Against all Heresies” the 2nd century North African Church father, Tertullian, shows that the denial of the resurrection of the flesh was a common theme among the heretics of his day:

Saturninus believed “that Christ had not existed in a bodily substance, and had endured a quasi-passion in a phantasmal shape merely; that a resurrection of the flesh there will by no means be.” *

*See http:// anf/ anf03/ anf03-46.htm


Basilides, Carpocrates, Valentinus

Basilides: “The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.”

Carpocrates: Jesus’ “soul alone was received in heaven as having been more firm and hardy than all others: whence he would infer, retaining only the salvation of souls, that there are no resurrections of the body.” *

Valentinus: “The resurrection of our present flesh he denies…” *

* Ibid.

Marcus, Colarbasus, Cerdo, Appelles

Marcus and Colarbasus: “they say there is to be no resurrection of the flesh.” *

Cerdo: “A resurrection of the soul merely does he approve, denying that of the body.” *

Appelles: “This man denies the resurrection of the flesh.” *

* Ibid.


All aspects of Gnosticism were thoroughly examined and repudiated by the early church fathers, including their denial of the resurrection of the flesh:

In his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 or 50 - c. 98 to 117) writes, “For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now.” *

* http:// ccel/ schaff/ anf01.v.vii.iii.html

Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD) wrote:

They who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh… And there are some who maintain that even Jesus Himself appeared only as spiritual, and not in flesh, but presented merely the appearance of flesh: these persons seek to rob the flesh of the promise. *

Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection, ch. 2


Chapter IX of Justin’s work is titled “The Resurrection Of Christ Proves That The Body Rises” and in this chapter he writes:

If He had no need of the flesh, why did He heal it? And what is most forcible of all, He raised the dead. Why? Was it not to show what the resurrection should be? How then did He raise the dead? Their souls or their bodies? Manifestly both. If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life. *

* Ibid.

Justin continues:

Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, “Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;” and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. *

* Ibid.

In his book “Against Heresies” Irenaeus (c. 130 -202 AD) argues against those who deny the physical nature of Christ and affirms the resurrection of the body.

And then the doctrine concerning the resurrection of bodies which we believe, will emerge true and certain [from their system]; since, [as we hold,] God, when He resuscitates our mortal bodies which preserved righteousness, will render them incorruptible and immortal. *

* Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) Book II, ch. 29


In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh ... *

Like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus highlights the fact that Jesus raised people’s bodies from the dead. He indicates that the 2nd century Gnostics misinterpreted Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15:50 (this same passage is still used by modern Gnostics):

... so is it with respect to that [favourite] expression of the heretics: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;” while taking two expressions of Paul’s, without having perceived the apostle’s meaning, or examined critically the force of the terms, but keeping fast hold of the mere expressions by themselves … **

* Ibid, Book V, ch. 7, ** Ibid, Book V, ch. 13, 2.


Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD) wrote in “Of the Resurrection of Flesh” where he “declares the reality of the resurrection of the body, against the ideas of the Gnostics who denied it, in favour of something more allegorical, from the texts of the Old and New Testament.” *

*http:// works/ de_resurrection _carnis.htm

And in his “rule of faith” Tertullian declares that the belief in a bodily resurrection is one of the factors which divided true believers from heretics:

[Jesus] will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics. *

* De Praescriptione Haereticorum (Prescription against Heretics) Chapter XIII


In fact, even the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, which mention Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, display contradictory views. And so, the resurrection is emphatically affirmed in the “Treatise on the Resurrection” (2nd to 3rd century AD):

“…do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth! Indeed, it is more fitting to say the world is an illusion, rather than the resurrection which has come into being through our Lord the Saviour, Jesus Christ.” *

* James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990.

In contrast, other Gnostic texts claim that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, but rather created the illusion that he was being crucified. In the 3rd century Gnostic book “The Second Treatise of the Great Seth” the claim is made that Jesus swapped places with Simon of Cyrene. Then from a distance this sadistic “Gnostic Jesus” laughs while Simon is crucified in his place.

“It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing … And I was laughing at their ignorance.” *

* Ibid.

The Gnostic “Apocalypse of Peter” states:

… I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said “What do I see, O Lord, that it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?” The Saviour said to me, “He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness …Therefore he laughs at their lack of perception, knowing that they are born blind. So then the one susceptible to suffering shall come, since the body is the substitute. But what they released was my incorporeal body. But I am the intellectual Spirit filled with radiant light.”

Modern Gnostics interpret these type of passages to mean:

They foolishly thought they were killing him but in reality they were setting him free from the flesh. Only the human Jesus was being put to death … When the human body died, his non-corporeal spiritual body rose up from it (Refutation of Heresies 10:7, Apocalypse of Peter 83:6-8, cf. also Treatise on the Resurrection 45:14-17) …This body which he raised is not the material body, “for what is flesh and blood cannot share in God’s kingdom” (1 Corinthians 15:50)… The risen Saviour only took up those elements he wished to save, that is, the animate soul and the spiritual seed … *

* http:// library/ valentinus/ Jesus_Valentinianism.htm


One of the most documented and damaging facts about the Quran is that Muhammad used heretical ‘Christian’ Gnostic gospels and their fables for material in the Quran. 1 Everything the Quran says about the life of Jesus which is not found in the Bible can be traced to fables composed more than a hundred years after Jesus’ death. 2

This has been demonstrated many times by various scholars (Richard Bell, Tisdall and Pfander). 1

Encyclopedia Britannica comments about Muhammad: “The gospel was known to him chiefly through apocryphal and heretical sources” (15:648).

1 http:// islam/ islam-koran-fairy-tales-dr-morey.htm 2 http:// authors/ durie/ islamic_jesus.html

And so Islam ignores the 1st century eye-witness accounts and instead borrows from later heretical sources by incorporating this 2nd century Gnostic heresy into the Quran, asserting that Jesus’ crucifixion was an illusion.

“And because of their saying, ‘We killed Messiah 'Îsa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts.” (Surah 4:157)

The apostle Paul writes “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

They accept the resurrection, but they redefine its meaning.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resurrection as “the act of causing something that had ended or been forgotten or lost to exist again, to be used again, etc.” *

Thus the very definition of resurrection is to restore something to its prior state.

* http:// dictionary/ resurrection


The main problem with the “Spiritual Resurrection” theory is the fact that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb. If he wasn’t raised bodily, what happened to the body?

Luke 24:2-3 (NIV) They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

And so proponents of these views come up with all sorts of complicated solutions about Jesus’ body either vanishing or being removed by God, while Jesus reappears in an eternal spiritual form.


The modern Watchtower cult (JW’s) also adapt a variant of the Gnostic heresy by asserting that Jesus rose as a spirit only. There is of course the problem of the empty tomb, but they claim that his material body was taken away by God the Father. They claim that Jehovah gave him a temporary fleshly body while dematerializing the one that he was crucified in.

What happened to the perfect fleshly body of Jesus after his death? Was it preserved so that in time men will look upon it in worship? or does Jesus still have this fleshly body in the heavens, “spiritualized” so that it can be seen and worshiped? Neither. The Scriptures answer: It was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constituent elements or atoms. *

* 1953 Watchtower September 1st - Pg. 518

But in Scripture, Jesus himself dismissed the notion that he was merely a spirit. In Luke 24:37-39 we read that the disciples “were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.” (NASB)

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

This view of a spiritual resurrection is generally held by people who either claim to be Christians, or who at least accept the New Testament. But if you accept the Scriptures, you cannot assert that Jesus did not rise bodily. Jesus himself made this clear by prophesying that he would raise the temple (of his body) after three days. And so, we read in John 2:18-22.

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?

But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

So Jesus explicitly says the destroyed temple that he would raise in three days was “his body”. So he rose bodily, not just spiritually.

In fact, far from teaching that the body is evil, the NT affirms - as did Jesus - that our body is God’s temple.

1 Cor 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

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