Historians often ask themselves just what caused the first disciples to believe, after Jesus’ crucifixion, that he was now alive as their exalted and glorified Lord.


Historians often ask themselves just what caused the first disciples to believe, after Jesus’ crucifixion, that he was now alive as their exalted and glorified Lord.

My own theory (which is hardly original) starts from the earliest account that we have of an ‘appearance’ of the risen Lord, that of Paul on the Damascus road about two or three years after the crucifixion. Paul, as reported in Acts 9:3-8 (repeated in 22.6-11 and 26:12-18), experienced a blinding light and heard (inwardly, according to one of the accounts) a voice but did not see any bodily presence; if he had, this would also have been seen by the others present. Paul himself equated this experience with the paradigm ‘appearances’ to Peter and the twelve (see 1 Corinthians 15:8). Barnabas likewise described the Damascus road experience as Paul’s ‘seeing  of Jesus’ (Acts 9:27).

Howard Kee commentating on Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 15:8 to his Damascus road experience says:

‘Paul makes no distinction between his having seen Jesus and the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. Equally important is that apparently they also saw no difference between Paul’s experience and theirs, since they accepted him as having been called to apostleship by the risen Christ, just as they had been.’

Howard Kee, What Can We Know About Jesus? p. 1. (Kee was Professor of Biblical Studies at Boston University School of Theology).  

It seems reasonable to conjecture that the original resurrection event consisted of Peter, perhaps others of the twelve and some of the women having an experience essentially similar to that of Paul: an experience of a supernatural light around them within which they were conscious of the glorified Jesus. Near death experiences often report something rather like this in the form of a bright light, or a brightly shining figure, from which comes a deeply accepting love and peace. Christians who have had this experience usually identify the being of light with Christ. The original resurrection ‘appearances’ may quite possibly have been waking versions of this same type of experience.

On this hypothesis the stories of the empty tomb (Mark 16:5), the zombie apocalypse (Matt 27:52-53), etc., are all later elaborations as the story developed through the decades.    

Categories: Bible, Christianity, Jesus

9 replies

  1. …the same phenomena which made all “prophets” had their “visions”…I had visions – the trick is to turn them into power over others and material wealth. For that alone Moses and Mohamed deserve the cosmic platinum salesman award, lol

    • Material wealth like what exactly? Your a long shot from reality

      • @Sabit,
        that’s a good start: we seem to agree on the “pwer-over-others-part”.
        Wealth? You do know, that the wealth of the church and most religious leaders is – and has been – legendary and a factor in their influence over people. Did we really had to point that out?
        I think it is you who rejects reality, Sir

    • @Matt
      Good research. Well written up points indeed. More relevant to this article. So I post the link here.


      The trouble for Zakir Hussain is that he tries to defend two extremely weak points in Islamic apologetics.

      A. Muhammad is in the Bible

      B. Jesus didn’t die on the cross.

      You can see he gets very angry in the first debate. Why? Because James White can easily refute his points.

      As you show, he doesn’t mention that R. Brown himself refutes him. That’s a bit unfair, taking him out of context.

      He also takes the epistle to the Hebrews out of context. Why? Because the epistle to Hebrews is very clear that Jesus died.

      Just a few examples:


      2:9 “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”

      2:14 “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that cthrough death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil”

      9:15 “For this reason He is the mediator of a cnew covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may ereceive the promise of the eternal inheritance”.

      “Now the God of peace, who bbrought up from the dead the cgreat Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord”

      I actually like many things about ZH. I like for instance that he doesn’t do many debates cause debates are often not healthy discussion.

      Islam does have some strong points. These two points though are very weak for their apologetics.

      All Muslim apologists fail on these particular two topics. Adnan Rashid failed, Ijaz Ahmad failed and Zakir Hussain failed

      Maybe Zakir Hussain should focus on some of his stronger points.

      • Of course the New Testament says – over and over – that Jesus died on a cross.

      • Agreed. And most Muslim apologists understand that Hebrews 5:7 can’t be used the way Zakir did. They study these issues diligently.

        The excellent point Matt is making is that Zakir Hussain took both Hebrews Raymond Brown an Hebrews 5:7 out of context.

        By doing that Hussain can claim it says Jesus didn’t die.

        Problem is Hussain still maintains this, trying to make an invalid point, after he is shown to be wrong.

        Wouldn’t you agree Matt is correct in pointing out Hussain took Hebrews and Raymond Brown out of context?

  2. Salam Paul,

    Professor James Tabor writes especially well on this issue….

    Please read his six posts below….

    He explains logically and lucidly and with mastery of textual criticism and also knowledge of the historical method…

    Tabor explains how Christians’s narrative of the visions is problematic.

    “Read these Six Posts and You will Never View Things the Same”


  3. Salams Paul it seems
    that one has a jigsaw and when
    it does fit one is cutting the
    pieces to fit. That is the reason
    christian writers are completely
    confused . In Islam we have
    no ambiguity.

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