Recently a correspondent wrote and told me that he wanted more ammunition against the theory that the disciples were involved in a conspiracy to fake the resurrection of Jesus. He said that he sees that hallucination theories are a poor explanation and grants (this is important) the reliability of the Gospels but, despite the fact that many of the original witnesses risked much for their testimony, he was still concerned about conspiracy theories.
I found that what I wrote in return has implications more broadly for the arguments for the resurrection, so I decided that it would make a good blog post. Notice for example that the considerations here about the women who claimed to have seen angels and Jesus have implications for hallucination theories as well. Apparently the women claimed to have seen Jesus separately (at least Mary Magdalene separate from the others) as well as a group together. And as argued here, they would have been under various social pressures from their relatives and friends, which produces an important degree of independence in their testimony. This is overwhelmingly strong when it comes to conspiracy, but it is also relevant to other theories. If one can bring oneself to imagine any kind of experience that would lead a group of women to think falsely they had chatted with angels and gripped the feet of the risen Jesus (and what would that be?), one should remember that they would have had separate chances to "snap out of it" in consultation with their own families and friends later on. And once again, Mary Magdalene apparently claimed to have had a separate experience from the others.
It's also important to emphasize the role played here by the reliability of the Gospels. Since he (rightly) took that to be established, I argue repeatedly using the names and descriptions of the alleged witnesses and the specifics of what they claimed. This is important. It's a good thing that I don't regard it as "beyond what historians can conclude" to say that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, was one of the women at the tomb or that two disciples who were not members of the eleven claimed to have experienced the events on the Road to Emmaus. Again, as I have often emphasized, taking the Gospel accounts as reliable means that we can claim boldly that this was what the putative witnesses said. In writing this I was struck anew by how many different people--people, by the way, whom Tim and I didn't even bother to name or to break out as separate witnesses in our 2009 article--claimed to have seen Jesus after his resurrection and were willing to be known as witnesses either by name (often) or occasionally by description (e.g., Clopas's companion). I was also struck again by the relevance of the conversion of James, Jesus' brother and the fact that he had not previously been a follower of Jesus, which, again, attests to the independence of his testimony.
Despite the fact that the conspiracy theory is not generally considered to be a strong candidate as an alternative to the resurrection, contemplating all that is wrong with it helps to draw one's attention more generally to the strength of the maximal data case for the resurrection. Here is what I wrote, very slightly edited: