My son recently announced that he is an atheist. I have been a Christian all of my life, so this was not happy news for me. Since this announcement, I have been searching the internet to get a better understanding of what the “other side” says. I have listened to the “new atheists” and others. I have to say that my faith has strengthened since I have been listening to these debates. However,  recently, something has been bothering me very much. It is about Bart Ehrman. I have been reading your responses to others who have submitted questions regarding this top notch scholar, and your replies have been very, very inspiring to me. You must admit that a top notch scholar, who was a pastor for 20 years, and all of his degrees in the Bible, would unnerve anyone.   I, however, have a question that has been bothering me, and I would like to know how you would explain it. In a debate between Mike Licona and Bart Ehrman, Ehrman said that the appearances to the 500 people Paul talks about in 1 Corinthins was a mass hallucination. He says that mass hallucinations have happened many, many times in past history. The one he mentioned to prove his point was Our Lady of Fatima. Now, unless you believe that that vision to all of those people was true, how do you account for everyone seeing the same thing? I don’t personally believe in the worship of Mary so, to me, the Fatima vision is a false one, thus needing an explanation.  This has been really bothering me, and your input would be very, very much appreciated. I found your site just from doing searches, and I am happy for a good find. Thanks and God Bless you.


The fact that Ehrman is a former and pastor and has a lot of degrees does not intimidate me personally.  What would “intimidate” me would be if he had good arguments.  The quality of one’s arguments count, not the letters one has after one’s name.

I am well aware of Ehrman and his ideas. He is a great scholar in the sense that he knows his stuff about as well as anyone out there, but he works from presuppositions which strongly color is interpretations of the information. When we make presuppositions and use them to interpret data, this can be problematic. This is especially true when our presuppositions are false. Ehrman assumes that the Bible is a work of man and that God does not exist. No wonder he reaches so many bogus conclusions from his excellent scholarship.

As for 1 Corinthians, I completely disagree with is contention that there are many examples of mass hallucinations which could be used as analogies to the resurrection appearances. His example of the Our Lady of Fatima phenomena is a very poor analogy to what happened with Jesus’ appearances for many reasons. First of all, these visions are all one-off. In other words, one person may observe a supposed miraculous healing. Another person may see a particular individual vision. As far as I know, none of the claimed effects related to the Virgin of Fatima involve a “group vision.” In the research I have done into this and the Medjugorje visions there is not a single example of group hallucinations, in which large groups have identical visions. Again, as far as I have heard of, there is literally not a single example in all of history in which hundreds of people had identical hallucinations. There are the witchcraft trials in Salem in which a number of people had religious experiences related to supposed witchcraft. However, as I intimated, there is no evidence of groups of people at Salem having identical visions. None. Zero. If Ehrman wants to make this claim, he should offer at least one example even remotely similar to a group of 500 sober, not under any particular duress, having a unified vision of the same thing. Besides, this same hallucination ate fish, talked to the Marys, and appeared in a room with followers who had no idea about the resurrection of Jesus. You should not waste any of your energy on this completely bogus claim by Ehrman that there are many, many examples in history of massive simultaneous identical visions.

Besides, there is the fact that the body of Jesus was not in his tomb. Was the fact that his body was not there and that the grave clothes were left there a hallucination? To me what we have here is not evidence that the resurrection appearances are a hallucination. What we have here is clear evidence that Ehrman is seeing the data through glasses colored by his presupposition against the supernatural.

About the Fatima visions, whether there are legitimate supernatural events or are the result of emotionally-charged beliefs is not all that important to questions about the resurrection.  I personally do not believe that Mary is communicating to people on the earth today, but the Fatima phenomena should be weighed on their own merits.  I will let you do your own investigation and decide for yourself.  If you have a specific claim about a specific event surrounding Our Lady of Fatima, I would be happy to respond to the specifics.

John Oakes

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