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Customer Review

on October 6, 2007
Written in 1999, this slim book is an easy enough read to get through in one or two days, but beyond this the book does not offer anything to the debate over the resurrection. A reworking of the classic hallucination theory, this book attempts to explain the resurrection away by pointing to a supposed conversion disorder of Paul and the bereavement process of the disciples. Fraught with contradictory and unsubstantiated claims this book is a poor attempt at a naturalistic swipe against the resurrection of Jesus.

First, Kent, who incidentally has no formal psychology training, uses psychological data on widows to try to explain what happened to the disciples. Claiming that the disciples were so overcome with grief over the death of their spiritual leader whom they had been with for three years, they imagined that they saw Jesus to satisfy their inner grief. Kent uses a study by Rees as his evidence. However, this study when examined, actually would not support Kent's claim. In the study, Rees points out that hallucinations among widowed were significantly higher the longer the widow was married, thus if the couple had been married 50+ years as compared to less than 10 years the chance of seeing a hallucination jumps from 30% (10 years) to more than 60% chance. Thus a correlation between spending time with someone and seeing a hallucination points to a longer period. The disciples were only with Jesus less than three years, not enough time to create a bond like that of a married couple, especially among a younger crowd (as compared to those in their 60's and 70's). In addition, even Jesus' own brother who grew up with Him initially doubted and thought them to be crazy. Only when he saw the risen Christ was it only than that he changed his mind. Add this to the fact that psychologists agree that hallucinations are a private event brought on by certain environmental factors, we cannot explain how these "hallucinations" occurred in multiple settings, to a large number of people, and they all agreed with what they saw. If this were truly a large hallucination event, there would be multiple contradictory accounts and they would have to continue to occur for the faith to continue. Kent also believes that hallucinations are a normal event and thus can account for Jesus' appearance. However, most psychologists and therapist also point out that while those who grieve do see things, they know that what they are seeing is not the real thing and they snap out of it. In addition, these hallucinations do more for the individual to cope than to transform their lives or those around them.

Kent goes on to claim that Paul's conversion account can be explained away by the extreme stress he was under forcing him to a decision point of either stopping his killing spree or give into the wishes of his teacher Gamaliel. There is a major problem with this theory though, one that other critics have yet to point out. While it may be argued that Gamaliel was opposed to the killings of the Christians, Paul, if he was to succumbed to the wishes of his teacher, would not have joined this fringe group as his teacher saw them as. If he felt so awful about defying the wishes of his teacher, why, after stopping the killings, would he join the very group that his teacher labeled as a fringe group not worthy of significance? If he was so adamant about being loyal to his teacher as Kent proposes, he would have ceased the killing and returned home to his beloved teacher, not join the very group that his teacher opposed! This disorder also does not explain Paul's companions either. The various accounts clearly show that those present with Paul also experienced something as well. They claimed to here something or saw something. An inner personal trauma cannot be manifested into an experience that others can attest to.

Kent clearly does not understand the nature of a hallucination event in relation to trauma and group experiences. Hallucinations do not account for what happened to the disciples or to Paul. Hallucinations would not account for the physical appearance of Jesus in a Platonic world view. The disciples who lived in a Platonic world would have never imagined a physical body coming back to life. The body was something to be shed and to be done away with in that time. To be released from the body was the goal of mankind. To claim a physical body would have been ludicrous and religiously suicidal. Kent grossly extrapolates a few anecdotal accounts in a medical journal and conjures up a fanciful theory that in no way deals with the facts at hand. After reading this book I am convinced that the only one who is delusional is Kent himself.
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