Monday, September 5, 2011

Hallquist/Rising God

It was on my amazon wishlist for quite some time, but I finally got around to buying it, and I'm glad I did: Chris Hallquist's UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus

Here's my review:

Hallquist writes with great clarity, simplicity, and (when necessary) emotion.

This book carefully documents a vast number of weird claims, legends, and other bunk which in and of in itself makes the book worth having. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions about Christianity, you'll get a kick out of the stuff he describes. For example, at one point in the book he quotes evangelical Stage Magician Andre Kole on how people would greatly embellish the magic tricks he performed within a couple of days. That is mythmaking at its best.

I was surprised at how well he was able to support the hallucination hypothesis (the hypothesis that the resurrection appearances were hallucinations). He points out that the gospels themselves seem to be describing a suddenly disappearing and reappearing Jesus (this is also supported in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, in which Paul seems to describe a series of isolated appearances), which is indicative of hallucination (hallucinations are usually fairly brief and fleeting).

I think there are only a couple of instances in the book in which Hallquist left out something important, and in both these cases what is left out only supports his arguments. Here are the two instances:

Paul and epilepsy - Hallquist quotes Dr. Barry Beyerstein's description of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and notes a surprising correlation between the symptoms of TLE and the character of St. Paul (Paul displays excessive moral zeal, is preoccupied with religion, has a conversion experience, and so on). The quote Hallquist provides says that TLEs report mystical religious presence. Mystical Religious Presence? Hmmm... "Christ lives in me" -- Galatians 2:20. It's an astonishing link, one that I wish Hallquist had pointed out explicitly.

Second, Hallquist seems to think that legend explains all of the gospel miracle stories. Though that could well be, another possibility which explains at least some of them is symbolism. For instance: the cursing of the fig tree is symbolic, See pp.56-58 of Richard Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus?: A Symbolic Reading.

Overall, this is a great read and a book which will help give you the "other side of the story" if you've read a book like The Case for Christ.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I tend to think that most miracle stories can also be explained by appeal to simple faith healings. Jesus was definatley known as a healer and exorcist, and both of these are what faith healers do now, just as they did back than. I also agree about temporal lobe epilepse- however, I think that IF the tomb was found empty, IF Jesus had predicted his death and vindication (in an apocalyptic way of course), and IF Jesus' followers were advertising that they saw the risen Jesus, that would provide enough evidence for an ancient to convert alone (or at least doubt their judaism until they hallucinate). After all, if these arguments convert laymen to christianity now adays, why couldn't they 2000 years ago?