Thursday, May 11, 2006

Marian apparitions

According to Dagood:


Saw a physically resurrected Jesus You may have noticed I did not include Paul in the list of named individuals. That is because Paul saw Jesus in a vision, not within the 40 days prior to Jesus’ ascension. Paul’s vision (or the vision of any other) does not confirm or deny a physical resurrection and provides us no new information on the subject.

Proponents of this argument occasionally indicate Paul as one of those that wouldn’t “die for a lie.” They forget what they are arguing. This is a claim that Jesus physically resurrected, with a body that walked, talked, ate fish and touched people. That people saw this body, and because of the miraculous implications, went to their death. It is not a claim about what visions people have at a later time.

If Jesus died, and his soul was taken to heaven (a spiritual resurrection) Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. If Jesus died, and physically re-animated, and then ascended to heaven, Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. Paul’s vision provides no information that mandates a physically resurrected Jesus.

Paul, in recounting his interaction with Jesus, refers to it as “God’s son revealed in me.” (Gal. 1:16) Paul indicates that Jesus appeared to him, just like Jesus appeared to the other apostles. (1 Cor. 15:8) [Is Paul arguing that Jesus appeared as a vision to the other apostles? Hmm….]

But Acts makes it very clear this is a vision. Paul is recorded as only seeing a flash of light and hearing only a voice. (Acts 9:4; 22:7; ) Paul records later seeing Jesus in a vision. (Acts. 18:9; 22:17; 23:11) Paul tells King Agrippa this is a vision. Acts 26:19

Paul speaks of getting information directly from Jesus. (1 Cor. 11:23. 2 Cor. 12:9) Every encounter of Paul with Jesus is in the form of a vision. This does not even remotely promote a physical resurrection.


Several elementary blunders here:

i) There’s a persistent equivocation over terms like “vision” or “appear.”

This fails to distinguish between an objective vision or appearance and a subjective vision or appearance.

ii) Even in the case of the Damascus road encounter, this was a public event, not a private event, for Paul’s escort were also witnesses to this audiovisual event. It’s a spatiotemporal phenomenon.

iii) There is also an obvious difference between saying the same Jesus appeared to Paul and the twelve, and saying that Jesus appeared the same way to Paul and the twelve. Even if the Damascus road encounter involved a different mode of presentation, this does not imply an identical mode of presentation for Easter. Dagood is indulging in eisegesis.

iv) Dagood also chooses to lift 1 Cor 15:8 out of context. The whole point of this chapter is to repeatedly stress the physicality of the glorified body, with the Risen Christ its archetype and prototype.



I wonder if any Christian that claims Paul is helpful in this regard consistently maintains that method. We have visions of the Virgin Mary today. Is this evidence that not only Jesus, but also Mary was physically resurrected from the dead? Of course not!

This is belief that Mary, living in heaven, occasionally graces us with a ghastly apparition, or a ghostly appearance left on the incidental grilled cheese sandwich. It has absolutely, positively nothing to do with her physically resurrecting. (Although it is confirmation of a spiritual resurrection, perhaps.)

Any visions, or appearances of a spiritual Jesus do not qualify for this particular argument. While they may be interesting in other discussions—not here


This has become a stock objection to Easter. I already addressed myself to that objection a while back, but since the Debunkers have never been distinguished by their powers of retention or comprehension, I’ll quote myself:


Do we reject Marian sightings? Once again, Loftus has bundled together several distinct issues.

i) We put more credence in some miraculous reports than others for the same reason that we put more credence in some non-miraculous reports than others.

Is it arbitrary of me to admit that I don’t believe everything I read in the newspaper? Should I either believe everything or nothing at all?

Some reports are more credible than others because some reporters are more credible than others.

ii) What does it mean to say that we reject Marian sightings? This doesn’t mean that we necessarily reject the “sightings” of an individual whom the witnesses report to be Mary.

Are we talking about the experience of the percipient or the external stimulus?

A “sighting” can either have reference to the subject of the sighting—the perception of the observer, or the object of the sighting—what was seen.

We might credit their subjective experience. We might admit that they saw something. What they saw is a matter of interpretation.

After all, how do they know what Mary looks like? Jesus was seen by his contemporaries. But no one today is a contemporary of the Virgin Mary. No one knows what she used to look like when she was walking the earth two thousand years ago.

Any “recognition” of Mary would be based, not on a knowledge of the historical individual, but on Catholic art and iconography. Mary a la Raphael.

iii) Given the OT prohibitions against necromancy, why would we expect the Virgin Mary to be popping up all over the place? Why would Mary do what is forbidden in Scripture? Why would she entice the faithful to traffic with the dead? Seems out of character.


And, while we’re on the subject, I’ll make a few other points:

i) This isn’t simply a case of comparing Marian apparitions with Easter appearances.

We have more than the Easter appearances to go by. We also have everything that went before. Easter Sunday comes at the tail-end of the Gospels. It’s the climax.

All of this additional biographical material gives us a chance to become acquainted with the apostolic witnesses to the Resurrection, as well as observing the way in which each Evangelist handles other incidents in the life of Christ. So by the time we arrive at the Resurrection, we know a good deal about the character and quality of the reporters.

This is not at all the same thing as comparing a reported sighting of Jesus with reported sighting of Mary, where you have two isolated reports without any supplementary background material to help us size up the reporters.

To compare the first Easter with Lourdes or Fatima or other suchlike is comparing the incomparable.

ii) In addition, when Dagood brings up the image of Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, all this does is to accentuate the discontinuity between the Easter appearances and the Marian apparitions. The Resurrection is a purposeful event. Seeing Mary is a grilled cheese sandwich is not.

By introducing a ridiculous example, Dagood makes the entire comparison ridiculous.

This is not a case of comparison, but contrast.


  1. Dagood: I think you really ought to see the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary on the blog titled "Miracle Millennium of Mary", with pictures of the Madonna, that almost blew me off. I am now even more convinced of the Madonna's existence and power, and I hope you will be a beleiver in God and not a doubter!Please don't ridicule the Virgin Mary!

  2. Another post on blog: "helpingafriend" with the same article but with digital pictures of the Virgin Mary offer impressive images. The multiple images gives a facial recognition to the Virgin Mary miraculously. People need to check this out!