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§ 296. Was the Reappearance of Christ a Vision?

If, then, it be the task of history to connect the course of events, the reappearance of Christ must be recognized as an essential link in the chain which brought about the spiritual renovation of the life of humanity. Without it, the historical inquirer will always have an inexplicable enigma to solve. But reason, which demands this connexion of events, feels itself—until it has obtained a higher light by faith—repelled by a supernatural event, not to be explained from the connexion itself. And the inquirer who does not recognize (as we felt ourselves compelled to do at the outset) the whole manifestation of Christ as supernatural, must set himself to the task of finding some natural explanation of his reappearance, in the connexion of cause and effect.

Those who attempt such an explanation on internal grounds sup pose Christ’s reappearance to have been a vision. Now in any vision (other than magical, and such are precluded by the hypothesis of this inquiry, which goes upon natural and historical grounds) a psychological starting-point is necessarily presupposed, even when the vision is 425said to be seen by one individual, much more when it is repeatedly seen, in the same way, by different individuals. But no such starting-point can be found in the mental condition of the Apostles, such as it has been described. It is precisely in order to explain the change in that condition that we need another cause. How is it possible to derive from the psychological developement itself a condition precisely its contrary? That were indeed a petitio principii.

Moreover, the very nature of the Evangelical narratives, bearing, as they do, the stamp of sensible reality, subverts such a hypothesis. And to these must be added the concurrent testimony of a contemporary, who himself came forward within a very few years as a witness for the reality of Christ’s resurrection, whose personality lies before us, in his letters, in all the traits of undeniable historical reality, and whose convictions, founded on that resurrection, gave him power to encounter cheerfully all perils, labours, and sufferings—the Apostle Paul. And Paul bears witness that Christ appeared to more than five hundred at one time.793793   1 Cor., xv., 6.

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