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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Accusations Against Jesus Answered

Don Stewart :: Could Jesus Have Been a Master Hypnotist?

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Could Jesus Have Been a Master Hypnotist?

The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Question 9

There has to be some reason to account for the fact that the people of Jesus’ day believed that He performed miracles. It is possible that Jesus actually made the people of His day believe in Him because He was a master hypnotist? Could He have fooled people into thinking He was a miracle worker by hypnotizing them?

There have been some who have claimed that Jesus power over the people was due to His ability to hypnotize, or control, them through the power of suggestion. What is their evidence for this? Can this explain His unique power?

The Claim That Jesus Was a Hypnotist

The case for Jesus being a master hypnotist can be summed up as follows.

1. The People Were Waiting to Be Freed from Rome

To begin with, Jesus was dealing with the Jewish nation. These were people who wanted to believe a deliverer had arrived who would free them from the bondage of Rome.

For many years, they had the promise of the prophets that a Messiah, or Deliver, would rescue them from their bondage. This hope of freedom from their oppression is what kept them going.

Add to this, whenever a new Messiah did appear he immediately attracted a following.

Consequently, Jesus was appealing to a crowd that was ready to be fooled by His hypnotic power.

2. The People Lived In A Pre-Scientific Era

There is also the fact that people in the first century lived in pre-scientific times. There was much ignorance concerning how the universe functioned. This being the case, they could easily be fooled into thinking Jesus’ power was supernatural when, in actuality, it has a perfectly rational explanation.

While today we can understand how and why certain things happen, this was not always how it was in Jesus’ time. They would be more willing to accept a supernatural explanation than we would be today.

3. There Were Certain Places That Jesus Could Not Perform Miracles

One of the points raised by those who call Jesus a hypnotist concern the location of His miracles. We are told that He could not do them in His hometown. The Bible records what happened when Jesus came to Nazareth:

He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was astonished and said, “Where does he get his wisdom and his miracles? He’s just a carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. What makes him so great?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:54-58 NLT)

Jesus could not perform many miracles in Nazareth because the people knew Him well. In other words, they could not be fooled by His tricks. It is only to those whom Jesus was a new and mysterious figure that could see His so-called miraculous deeds. Those who knew Him would not fall for His magic.

4. Jesus Moved From Town To Town To Avoid Being Found Out

The Bible also says that Jesus kept on moving from town to town. We read the following in Mark about how Jesus wanted to keep on the move:

In the morning, long before sunrise, Jesus went to a place where he could be alone to pray. Simon and his friends searched for him. When they found him, they told him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else, to the small towns that are nearby. I have to spread the Good News in them also. This is why I have come.” (Mark 1:35-38 God’s Word)

This could be seen as another indication that He did not want to return to the places where He performed His miracles since it would soon be discovered that they were not genuine. Given these facts, it is argued that the so-called miracles of Jesus were nothing other than hypnotic suggestions Jesus made to the superstitious and ignorant people who wanted to be freed from their difficult life under Rome.

Response To The Idea Jesus Was A Master Hypnotist

The idea that Jesus was some sort of master hypnotist does not fit the facts. We can make the following observations about this theory.

1. Mass Hypnosis Does Not Work

For one thing, mass hypnosis does not work. While there were some people in the crowd who could have been swayed by a master hypnotist, this would not have been true of everyone. There are always some people who resist being hypnotized.

For example, in the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes with a few loaves and fish, it is not possible for Jesus to hypnotize an entire crowd of five thousand men, plus thousands of other women and children. All of these people would not have been fooled into thinking they had eaten to their satisfaction.

2. There Were Too Many Skeptics Watching Jesus

Fatal to the idea of Jesus being a master hypnotist is the fact that there were skeptics of His ministry wherever He went. The religious leaders, who hated Jesus and everything that He stood for, were often at the site of Jesus’ miracles.

Rather than denying Jesus’ miraculous deeds, or attributing them to some hypnotic power, they actually acknowledged something supernatural had occurred. Their best explanation was that Jesus performed these miracles by the power of the devil.

We read the following in Matthew:

But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Mathew 12:24 NIV)

This brings up an important point. Why don’t we ever find them suggesting Jesus’ miracles did not really occur? Why don’t we find them bringing forward one who had supposedly been healed but was later found out to still be ill?

At Jesus’ trial, this would be the perfect opportunity to show that Jesus was a fraud. Yet we find nobody who was supposedly healed from blindness by Jesus later testifying that the miracle did not take place.

Indeed, since Jesus had healed in the city of Jerusalem on previous visits, why didn’t the religious leaders find the people who thought they had been healed but actually had not been? Wouldn’t they have made excellent witnesses against Him?

However, the Bible tells us that the religious leaders had to look for false witnesses to condemn Jesus. This fact demonstrates Jesus did indeed heal people and that the results of the healings continued.

3. How to Explain the Conversion of James and Saul

There were a number of people who were skeptical of Jesus who became believers after His resurrection. This includes His own brother, James, as well as Saul of Tarsus.

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus

Jesus had been dead for some time when Saul of Tarsus was converted on the Damascus Road. Something truly happened to Saul which changed his life.

The Bible says the following occurred to this persecutor of Christians as he was nearing his destination:

As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him! He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, sir?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men with Saul stood speechless with surprise, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice, but they saw no one! (Acts 9:3-7 NLT)

How, we may ask, was Jesus able to hypnotize him? How was Jesus, who had died a few years previously, able to arrange the bright light from heaven in the middle of the day on the way to Damascus? If this was a hypnotic trick, why couldn’t the men traveling with Saul see whom was performing it?

James

James, the brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him until after His resurrection. John’s gospel records this fact. It tells us the following:

For even his brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5 RSV)

What convinced James that Jesus had risen from the dead? How could Jesus have hypnotized Him once He had been crucified? Of course, He could not if He had remained dead.

4. Hypnosis Does Not Explain the Empty Tomb

While hypnosis may explain why Jesus’ disciples claimed to have seen the risen Christ, it would not explain why the tomb was empty on that first Easter. Since the Roman authorities, as well as the religious leaders, were not under Jesus’ hypnotic spell, they would have visited the place where Jesus had been buried and would have produced His body had He not risen. Yet they were not able to do this. Why? Again, there is no explanation if one accepts the hypnosis theory.

5. Jesus’ Healings Were Instantaneous and Lasting

The fact that Jesus healings were all instantaneous, and lasting, is a further indication that hypnosis is not occurring. The New Testament emphasizes that multitudes of people were healed. Mark writes,

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1:32-34 NIV)

Furthermore, there is not one example of a person whom Jesus healed who returned to Him later complaining of the same problem. None.

6. Jesus Returned to the Same Town

While Jesus did travel from town to town preaching the message of the kingdom of God, it is not true that Jesus never returned to any place where He had previously healed. The Bible says that Jesus came back to the same town, Capernaum, where He had previously healed people. We read this in Mark’s gospel:

Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the town. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. (Mark 2:1-2 NLT)

If the original healings were only the result of hypnosis there would have been many people protesting His return. Instead we find many more individuals wishing to be healed.

Obviously, the original healings of Jesus in that town were still valid. Otherwise the large crowds would not have turned out to see Him on His return.

7. He Did Perform Some Miracles in Nazareth

Furthermore, the Bible does not say that Jesus was not able to perform any miracles in Nazareth. Rather it says that He was not able to do many miracles. He did do some miracles. If He was a fraud, then He would not have been able to do any of His tricks.

8. False Messiahs Were Soon Rejected

While it is true that certain people who claimed to be the Messiah or Deliverer attracted a following, the following did not last. Once the person died so did their movement. Jesus’ followers continued to increase after His death. How can this be explained? Something had to keep the movement going. Hypnosis does not have such long-lasting results.

9. How Did His Disciples Continue His Miracles?

If Jesus was only a fraud, then how do we explain His disciples performing similar miracles after Jesus died? The Book of Acts records Jesus’ disciples performing miraculous deeds. How were they able to do something like this if they had been merely fooled by Jesus? How could they repeat His deeds?

Given the above facts, it is clear why not too many people take seriously the idea that Jesus was merely a master hypnotist. Indeed, the evidence is non-existent!

Summary – Question 9
Could Jesus Have Been a Master Hypnotist?

It is obvious that Jesus Christ attracted a large following of people. It is also clear that these people believed that He was a miracle-worker. If He was not, then some other explanation had to be given. Some have tried to attribute Jesus’ miracles to the idea that He was some sort of master hypnotist.

They point out that the people were waiting to be freed from Roman bondage. Thus, they were susceptible to hypnosis. Furthermore, they lived in a pre-scientific era where superstition abounded. In other words, they were excellent candidates to be fooled by a master hypnotist.

In addition, Jesus did not do miracles in His hometown of Nazareth. Since they knew who He truly was He could not work any of His magic tricks.

Furthermore, the New Testament informs us that Jesus went from town to town. This is a mark of someone who does not want to retrace His steps.

This sums up the arguments for Jesus being a master hypnotist. While there are those have attempted to explain Jesus’ control over others by His ability to hypnotize them, this idea certainly does not fit the facts.

Indeed, Jesus’ healings do not have any of the traits of a hypnotist. For one thing, mass hypnotism does not work. While some people may be susceptible to hypnosis this is not true of everyone.

Also there are too many skeptics were watching Jesus. They certainly would not have allowed themselves to be hypnotized.

Hypnotism does not explain the conversion of either Saul or Tarsus or James the Lord’s brother. They were converted after Jesus’ death. How was He able to hypnotize them?

Hypnosis cannot explain the empty tomb of Jesus. While the disciples may have been fooled into thinking Jesus had risen from the dead, the tomb in which His body was placed in would have still been empty.

We also find that the healings were instantaneous and lasting. We never find someone returning to Jesus claiming that their healing did not last.

We also discover that Jesus returned to the same towns. This is something that a fraud would not do. Contrary to what some charge, He did perform some miracles in His hometown of Nazareth. Scripture emphasizes Jesus did not do many miracles there.

We also know that false Messiahs were soon rejected by the people. However, the ministry of Jesus lasted after His death and continues to last until this day.

Finally, if He was merely a hypnotist, then how were His disciples able to continue His ministry? They were able to perform similar miracles as Jesus. Where did their power come from?

Thus, the hypothesis that Jesus was merely a master hypnotist has no basis in fact.

Why Was Jesus Different from Other Miracle Workers of His Time? ← Prior Section
Was Jesus a Magician, or Sorcerer, Involved in the Occult? Next Section →
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