Is there any merit to the Jesus hypnotist theory? Could Jesus have just been a talented hypnotist, and not the son of God?
The Jesus hypnotist theory is one of the theories posed by critics of Christianity. It postures the idea that Jesus was not the son of God, but was actually a skilled hypnotist capable of tricking large crowds.
Keep reading to find out more about the Jesus hypnotist theory, and whether or not it is credible.
The Jesus hypnotist theory comes from author Ian Wilson. Wilson has advanced an elaborate argument that Jesus was simply a master hypnotist, able to induce trance- or coma-like states that mimicked death (for example, in Lazarus) and create illusions in the minds of his followers. Wilson’s central piece of evidence for this theory is the strange fact that Jesus was unable to perform many miracles in his hometown of Nazareth. Wilson believes this is because the awe surrounding a hypnotist is a major factor in his power to hypnotize, and Jesus’s family and friends wouldn’t find him mysterious enough to fall under his sway.
This Jesus hypnotist theory has a number of shortcomings:
- Not everyone is equally susceptible to hypnosis (this is why stage hypnotists will talk in a “hypnotic” voice and scan the crowd to see who’s being lulled by their techniques). It’s highly unlikely that even the most brilliant hypnotist could enchant the 5,000 people who witnessed Jesus’s multiplying of the bread and fish.
- Hypnosis is often ineffective on those who doubt its legitimacy. Yet even Jesus’s most recalcitrant doubters—James, Saul of Tarsus, Thomas—eventually saw his deity.
- Both the Pharisees and the Roman Authorities found Jesus’s tomb empty. Although it’s possible he hypnotized his disciples to see an empty tomb, he could not have hypnotized the Pharisees and the Romans.
- Jesus didn’t say anything to the wedding guests who tasted wine when they drank water. A glass of water was simply brought to the banquet master, and he said it was wine without prompting.
- Jesus’s healings were immediate and total. Whereas Wilson’s comparative example of hypnotic healing took several weeks and was incomplete, Jesus was able to heal ten lepers instantaneously.
- For all the things the gospels do mention, they never once recount anything resembling hypnotism.
Jesus as Exorcist
In addition to the Jesus hypnotist theory, some believe that Jesus was a exorcist. Jesus traced illness and strange behavior to possession by evil demons, and he healed people by exorcising those demons. Isn’t the belief in demons a sign of mental disturbation? Is there any psychological evidence for the real existence of demons (or angels)?
Collins replies that, although he hasn’t personally encountered demons in a clinical setting, his colleagues have; and he also notes that many trained psychologists have been exploring the so-called “spiritual” world. In short, greater and greater numbers of psychologists are coming around to the possibility of supernatural influence on our behavior. A belief in supernatural beings having an effect on us, as far as Collins is concerned, isn’t a sign of psychosis.