What’s your response to people who claim the hallucination hypothesis and state that Paul had a lot of guilt towards persecuting the Christians which eventually led to his hallucination? And how would you interpret the verse in Matthew 2:3 "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and ALL Jerusalem with him"? Thanks!


I have never heard of this particular hallucination hypothesis. It sounds like an ad hoc hypothesis. In other words it sounds like an explanation being made up for a particular purpose, not because it is a strong argument or that there is any evidence for it. Such hyptheses are convenient because they are irrefutable. I can never "prove" that Paul did not have a hallucination on the road to Damascus.

My response is that I have never heard of guilt causing a hallucination. This is a real stretch.  Whether or not Paul felt a lot of guilt before he met Jesus is very debatable. Either way, I do not believe that a psychologist would agree that feelings of guilt are known to produce vivid hallucinations of the sort Paul had. This theory is very clearly being made up just to explain away Paul’s claims about his vision of Jesus. I have heard of no evidence from any source to support the belief that Paul was schizophrenic or that he had any psychotic syndromes. This supposed hallucination completely transformed Paul’s life. The transformation of Paul’s life is another argument against the theory. Add to this the blindness that Paul experienced after his vision of Jesus. I have never heard of an example of a halucination causing blindness. This is an extremely weak theory in my opinion.

About Matthew 2:3, I believe that the news of the visit of the Magi and their prophecy must have spread around Jerusalem. Obviously, no one would take the ALL literally, but it became general knowledge. For example, if I said that the Boston Celtics made it to the NBA finals and that all of Boston was cheering for their team, we would know that this is manner of speaking and no one would accuse me of lying or of exaggerating.

John Oakes

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