by Matt Slick
All sorts of excuses and challenges have been offered to contradict or explain away the miraculous accounts of Jesus' life. Among the weaker challenges offered is that Jesus was some sort of a magician who was able to get people to hallucinate about His miracles. In other words, countless people were all seeing Jesus do things that were not really happening and it was Jesus who was perpetrating this deception upon them. Let's take the account of where Jesus feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fish (Matt. 14:19-21). Though it is certainly possible to have one person hallucinate about this, how do the critics account for five thousand people hallucinating about the same thing at the same time? Or how about the resurrection? How do the critics explain the accounts of Jesus appearing to the disciples with holes in His feet and hands? How did Jesus get numerous people to believe a lie about His resurrection (a mass hallucination?) after the Romans, who were experts at executions, not only flogged Him severely, beat Him, and hung Him on a cross for six hours and then pierced His side where water and blood came out? How did Jesus do that?
Some have alleged that Jesus went to the far east and learned many "tricks" and techniques for influencing people as well as controlling His bodily functions so as to appear dead. Of course, this kind of theory lacks any evidence at all and is nothing more than conjecture and guesswork. Besides, the Bible says in Luke 2:51 that Jesus from a very young age continued in subjection to His parents. This means that in that culture, Jesus was obligated to stay with His earthly parents and care for them in accordance with the Ten Commandments which stated that He was to honor His mother and father. His obligation was to be there and care for them in their old age, not abandon them for some journey to the far east in order to learn techniques of mind control.
Hallucinations are misperceptions, false interpretations of reality. It is certainly possible for a single person to have a hallucination about something. But, how do you get two, three, or four people to misperceive reality and claim to see the same thing at the same time -- like Jesus' resurrection? That is very difficult to do. In fact, have you ever heard of a group of people succumbing to a mass hallucination and all of them believe the same thing?
But then, some might say that Jesus was able to hypnotize people which would account for the mass hallucination. But you must remember that if Jesus were hypnotizing people, then He would have had to do it over and over again in different circumstances (in homes, in temples, in open fields, in boats, from the cross, etc), with hostile audiences (Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.), as well as those who were already believing Him. If Jesus was so good a hypnotizing people and getting them to believe things that weren't true (which makes Him a deceiver), then why did He not fool people and escape the sentence of being beaten and crucified? Or is it all part of the incredibly great hoax that Jesus somehow managed to accomplish on hundreds and hundreds of people.
Also, did Jesus teach His disciples how to do mystical and/or mind control techniques? If that is so, then where is the evidence? Merely claiming that Jesus could do it, does not mean that it is true. There must be some compelling evidence to support the claim. Simply stating that miracles cannot happen and this must mean that Jesus was a magician or some sort, is begging the question. In other words, the critics assume to be true the thing they are trying to prove; namely, that miracles cannot happen. They then base conclusions upon that assumption which cannot be proven at all.
In order to maintain the theory that Jesus was a master magician who caused people to hallucinate it would seem that the person holding that position must himself be hallucinating.