- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 5, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195126696
- ISBN-13: 978-0195126693
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,365,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today Reprint Edition
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From Library Journal
In this thought-provoking work, Wiebe (philosophy and assistant dean, arts and religious studies, Trinity Western Univ., Canada) critically studies visions of Jesus as reported in recent years. While the experience of visions has occurred since the early days of Christianity, reported by the likes of Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola, Catherine of Siena, and others, and indeed are considered acceptable, modern-day instances invariably force questions of hallucinations and temporary insanity. Wiebe presents each of the 30 accounts in vivid detail, examining the often dramatic changes the apparitions brought about in the lives of mostly ordinary men and women. He goes on to discuss these experiences in light of psychology and neurology as well as from the perspectives of biblical scholarship and parapsychology. Both believers and skeptics will find much for thought in this well-researched study. The general reader will find the reading stimulating, and the informed believer or skeptic will be challenged to go further.?Leroy Hommerding, Citrus Cty. Lib. System, Beverly Hills, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Wiebe (Philosophy/Trinity Western Univ., Canada) draws on 30 contemporary visionaries and a wide range of scholarship in an attempt to produce a philosophically coherent critique of visions of Jesus. Many people claim to have experienced these visions, so that dismissing all such reports as hoaxes or hallucinations can look like prejudice. But the question remains, what sense are we to make of what the visionaries tell us? Wiebe's answer is that visions of Jesus do not exactly prove anything about the truth of Christianity or even the existence of God, but they are symbolic of a transcendent realm that is as real as that of conventional Western science. Wiebe's approach involves issues of epistemology and philosophy of religion; for example, he uses the thought of Richard Swinburne and Alvin Platinga and looks at various theories of how mind and body interact. Wiebe is also a disciple of William James and Alistair Hardy in his attitude to religious experience. Our author offers as the empirical basis of his study 30 contemporary cases of alleged visions that he has personally investigated. These include not only dreamlike encounters but also experiences shared by groups of people and even recorded on film. Not all of the visionaries were religiously active, but in spite of Wiebe's protestations of heterogeneity, most of them seem to have been influenced by an Evangelical or Pentecostalist setting. An important part of Wiebe's thesis is his controversial belief that these visions are basically the same as, and thus shed light on, those recorded in the New Testament. It is a pity that in a multidisciplinary study of religion Wiebe largely bypasses theology and the nuanced Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions of discerning the authenticity of visions and situating them in the larger context of religious growth and practice. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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It starts with accounts of a number of experiences, mostly by people Wiebe interviewed himself, who say they saw Jesus in some way. Many of them were apparently healed at the same time. In a few cases, more than one person saw the "vision". Wiebe's task is to find an explanation.
He looks at three classes of explanation - supernatural explanations, natural psychological explanations, and natural neurophysiological explanations - with several different types of explanation within each class. He assumes that outright lies are unlikely in any case and impossible overall. I would have expected that some form of hallucination (which can be included under neurophysiological) could feasibly explain all cases, but he shows this isn't the case. He concludes that no single explanation can explain all cases.
Drawing on recent developments in the analysis of near death experiences, Wiebe suggests how a methodology could be developed to analyse these visions, but that many more visionary experiences need to be documented before a better understanding will be possible. He suggests that further research might lead to these experiences being seen as a more "scientific" approach to the philosophical question of the existence of God.
What I enjoyed most were the stories of their experiences. The author spends a lot of time on the scientific side of things... which I suppose is valuable and gives it more credibility, but what I was truly looking for was affirmation, and I received it.
God does not always use the language of our experience to speak to us, and in this we see his creativity and sense of humor, and are reminded that his truth can be found in many faith traditions, whether they belong to us, or not.
Basically its a long list of anecdotal stories about modern people who have encountered Jesus Christ, often through weird experiences or visions. My only real complaint is that there are some sections of the book that come across as being sort of padded out. But for the 'meat' of the text there is nothing else quite like it really and I enjoyed it tremendously. This is one of those books that will be reread again and again.
I admit that I found the book too "scholarly" and strangely boring. It also has a tendency to jump back and forth between very different subject matters (a bit like a college lecture, I suppose).
Wiebe discusses various explanations for Christic visions (his term), from frankly supernaturalist to strongly sceptical. I was struck by the fact that even Christian theologians have problems with modern visions of Jesus, and often attempt to explain them away. Thus, Karl Rahner seems to have suggested that not even "true" Christic visions are of Christ himself. Rather, angelic beings create sense-impressions of Christ in the minds of the percipients. It's not clear to me whether Rahner said this for "modernist" reasons, for reasons of Church authority, or both. (Churches sometimes have problems with free-wheeling visions or visionaries.) The silliest explanation discussed by Wiebe is psychoanalytic, and claim that visions of Jesus and Mary are...surprise...Oedipal-sexual fantasies. At the opposite side of the spectrum are charismatics, who have no problems whatsoever with supernatural appearances of Jesus. One charismatic church in Oakland claims to have taped a short movie sequence showing Jesus materializing in the congregation. Unfortunately, the original film got lost during a burglary... Wiebe has seen it, but implies that it might have shown a painting rather than a real person!
The visions of Jesus recorded in the book are of several different types, and the author admits that a Christian believer in the supernatural would be hard-pressed to explain some of them. For instance, there are visions of Jesus as a child, or visions which show scenes from his life (usually the passion). These visions don't seem to be different in kind from regular apparitions of Jesus (sometimes Jesus even interacts with the percipient), but they obviously can't be "true" in the sense of being actual meetings with Baby Jesus or the crucified Christ. According to Christian theology, Jesus has ascended to his Father in Heaven! He is no longer a child, nor is he still crucified. This sounds trivial, but note that it's connected to the historical-temporal claims of Christianity. Hindus would presumably have no particular problem with Krishna showing himself as a child for the benefit of some devotee, despite not really being a child. From a Christian perspective, meetings with Jesus as a child could be more problematical, especially if the whole thing is seen as a clever illusion created by angels. (Note also that Jesus' childhood is mentioned mostly in passing in the canonical Gospels.)
On the other hand, some other visions are of Jesus actually touching the percipient, as if he still had a physical body of some kind. These visions can't be illusions induced by angels, but they are also difficult to explain theologically: does Jesus occasionally leave the right hand of God and descend to Earth? Does he have a glorified body that one can touch? If he has, does that mean that the Second Person of the Trinity is somehow limited in space?
The author also points out the strange fact that all percipients he interviewed immediately recognized the person in their visions as Jesus, despite nobody knowing how Jesus really looked like. Often, Jesus would have a "traditional" look (beard, long hair, sandals and so on), but there were nevertheless obvious differences in detail between the various testimonies. At other times, Jesus did *not* show his face nor tell his name, but the percipient somehow knew who he was anyway.
The author is brave enough to point out that there doesn't seem to be an absolute difference between the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus on the one hand, and the medieval or modern visions on the other. The post-Resurrection but pre-Ascension Jesus could appear and disappear at will, yet he also had a physical body and could be touched. He often appeared to several people at once, but that too has been reported in modern times. At the road to Emmaus, Jesus somehow changed his countenance, thereby keeping his identity secret. Some medieval reports are about mysterious beggars who later turn out to be Jesus. Wiebe also points out that a certain kind of ghosts have non-transparent bodies which look physical, sometimes complete with clothes!
The above could be controversial for several reasons. Some Christians are cessationists, and would presumably deny that anyone after the death of the apostles had visions of Jesus. However, modern visions are more well-documented than ancient ones, and seem to be of the same kind as the original post-Resurrection appearances. Sceptics could point to the similarities between modern visions and NT-recorded visions as evidence in favour of none of them being true. If people today can hallucinate physical meetings with Jesus, perhaps Thomas was hallucinating, as well? Finally, New Age believers could make the opposite claim: all visions of Jesus are true, but so are apparitions of dead relatives, angels, gnomes, Hindu gurus etc. (Yogananda's book "Autobiography of a Yogi" records several purported resurrections in India.)
Wiebe never reaches a firm conclusion, and as already mentioned, his book became tedious to read after a while. I admit that I didn't read literally every word of it...
Since the descriptions of the actual visions are relatively short, the book probably isn't suited for the general reader. Rather, "Visions of Jesus" belongs to the library of a theology student, or perhaps a student of comparative religion or mythology.