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Old 02-16-2001, 02:46 PM   #1
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Post Jesus, the Miracle Worker

MIRACLES

A concept popular with hardcore skeptics, if not with serious New Testament scholars, is that Jesus' miracles are best explained as fiction added by the early church by incorporating Greek myths. Many believe that the miracles of Jesus are late add-ons to the traditions regarding Jesus. Many believe that the reports of Jesus' miracles are similar to--and no more persuasive than--other accounts of miracles from the first century. There are a number of problems with these beliefs. The earliest traditions about Jesus include accounts of his miracle working. They are inseparable from the sayings tradition. Additionally, the attestations of Jesus' miracles are uniquely diverse and numerous. There is no first century equivalent.

What I intend to provide in this post is some good reasons for believing that, at the very least, Jesus, his followers, and his enemies, believed that he was a miracle worker. I also happen to think that this evidence provides strong reasons for believing that the accounts of Jesus' miracle working are true. He, in fact, performed "startling deeds." If you are a skeptic who is philosophically opposed to the very possibility of miracles, this piece will not convince you. This post is about history, not philosophy. But if you are open minded about this topic, even a little, please evaluate the evidence, ask pointed questions, and give it some thought.

This is a work in progress and probably always will be. So, constructive criticism is welcomed and encouraged.

There are several evidences and arguments that support the proposition that Jesus actually performed miracles. There are four historical tools of inquiry that I especially focus on in this article: multiple attestation, historical embarrassment, coherence; and dissimilarity.

MULTIPLE ATTESTATION

According to John P. Meier, "the single most important criterion in the investigation of Jesus' miracles is the criterion of multiple attestation of sources and forms." A Marginal Jew, Vol. II, at 619. Every gospel source, Mark, Q, M, L, and John, affirms the miracle-working activities of Jesus. Less friendly sources, such as Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud, also attest to Jesus as a miracle worker.

Mark

It is clear that Mark's miracle stories are not fictionalized accounts created by its author, but rather inherited miracles stories "from many different streams of first-generation Christian traditions." Meier, at 618. Of 666 total verses in Mark, 209 deal with Jesus' miracles. These verses are varied in form and content. There are blocks of miracles stories (4:35-5:43), individual, distinct miracle stories (9:14-29), miracle stories intertwined with broader narratives (6:7-8:21); and individual miracles embedded in the pre-Marcan passion narrative (10:46-52). Id.

Furthermore, Mark's miracle stories are not uniform. Their style, tone, and form are very distinct. They are long and circumstantial, as well as short and pithy (1:30-31). They are detailed, including names of places and people, and they are nondescript, giving neither names or places. They are physical healings, nature miracles, exorcisms, and miraculous knowledge. Jesus is portrayed both as performing miracles and in other sources as speaking about his miracles (3:20-30). In short, "when one looks at this vast array of disparate streams of miracle traditions in the first Christian generation, some already grouped in collections, some still stray bits of material, Mark alone--writing as he does at the end of the first Christian generation--constitutes a fair refutation of the idea that the miracle traditions were totally the creation of the early church after Jesus' death." Meier, at 620.

Some of Mark's accounts of miracles retain aramaisms (untranslated phrases from Jesus' native tongue). Because the gospel writers were attempting to reach a Greek speaking audience, most of the sayings and narratives are in Greek. The existence of an aramaism, therefore, is generally regarded as evidence of early formation of the relevant tradition. At least two of Mark's miracle stories contain aramaisms: the raising of Jairus' daughter from the death (5:41) and the healing of the deaf man (7:34).

The "Q" Source

Mark, of course, does not stand alone in his early attestation of Jesus as a miracle worker. The so-called "Q" source, widely regarded to have been used both by Luke and Matthew, also provides us with attestation of Jesus' miracle working. Q, although generally considered to be purely a sayings source, contains a miracle story (Matthew 8:5-13). Moreover, it also contains several statements attesting to the fact that Jesus was a miracle worker. (Matth. 10:8; 11:5-6, 11:20-24; 12:22-32 par). Q, therefore, although demonstrating no interest in "playing up" Jesus' miracles, nevertheless, records and transmits the fact of his miracles.

M & L

"M," the unique material in Matthew, and "L," the unique material in Luke, also contain miracle stories. To be clear, "M" and "L" are not the material that Matthew and Luke share in common via Q. Rather, they are material that is unique to the respective Gospels. That is, "M" is material that is literarily unique to Matthew and "L" is material that is literarily unique to Luke. Although I can anticipate the dismissive attitude some take towards the special "M" and "L" material, I believe it is uncritical, uninformed, and unwarranted. Given the nature of oral and even literary traditions, the fact that Matthew and Luke's communities preserved materials not preserved in Mark's community is probably more a matter of historical chance rather than an indication that such traditions were simple inventions by the authors. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God. Moreover, the evidence is strong that Matthew and Luke were reported traditions well-established in their respective communities, rather than inventing miracle stories from wholeclothe.

Although I am less informed about the unique materials present in Matthew, what I have read indicates that Matthew's unique material consisted of several established traditions, but not a distinct, large, written source. What is fascinating about Matthew's gospel, however, is that "in general, the author de-emphasizes miracles." E.P. Sanders, The Historical Jesus, at 146. Not only does he shorten Mark's miracle stories, the author of Matthew actually excludes some of Mark's miracle stories altogether. Instead, Matthew focuses on Jesus' ethical teachings. For example, Mark begins Jesus' career with some rapid-fire miracle stories, where as Matthew begins Jesus' career with the Sermon on the Mount. Sanders, at 146. This is not the actions of an author bent on promoting the miraculous deeds of Jesus. Nevertheless, despite Matthew's de-emphasis of miracles, his unique material independently preserves two distinct miracle accounts. (14:28-31; 17:27).

Luke's unique material consists of almost one-half of his entire Gospel. Distinguishing him from Matthew, however, is his preservation of several independent accounts of Jesus' miraculous works. (5:1-11; 7:11-17; 8:2-3: 13:10-17; 14:1-6, 4:29-30). Although somewhat hampered by Luke's seamless and exceptional Greek, scholarly study of Luke's unique material has yielded much fuller results than the more limited evaluation of Matthew's material. "Research into the historical Jesus has found the distinctive contents of Luke, both teaching and narrative, to have a high degree of authenticity." Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside of the New Testament, at 137. Luke's unique material is thought to consist of fewer sources than Matthew. It is not one source, his infancy narrative for example is considered a distinct internal unit, and the biggest portion of "L" is commonly thought to be one independent written source. Van Voorst, at 137-38. Therein, lies Luke's unique miracle materials which I identified above.

One reason scholars are confidant that Luke is passing along established traditions is because of his demonstrated careful use of Mark and Q. "The general fidelity to his sources M[ark] and Q, where these can be certainly identified, makes one skeptical of suggestions that he created material in the Gospel on any large scale. It is much more plausible that Luke's own attitudes were in considerable measure formed by the traditions which he inherited." I.H. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, at 31. This fidelity, although not absolute, is consistent with Luke's stated purpose. "Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." Luke 1:1-4. Accordingly, we can be confident that Luke's unique material is derived from otherwise unknown, but preexisted traditions in the early Christian community (perhaps even a significant literary source).

In sum, both the unique "M" and "L" materials contain independent references to Jesus' miraculous deeds. Those materials, moreover, was already in existence in their respective communities. Therefore, they provide independent sources to the miracle working of Jesus.

John

We also have John, which a slight majority of New Testament scholars believe to be entirely independent of Mark and the other synotpics. I accept this view and consider John's miracle stories to be a distinct witnesses to Jesus' role as a miracle-worker. Despite its independence, John contains the same types of miracles as the synoptics, with some direct parallels: healing, raising the dead, nature miracles, and prophetic knowledge. As with Mark, Matthew, and Luke, application of form and source criticism to the Gospel of John reveal that John's miracle stories are derived from earlier sources. W. Nicol, The Semiea in the Fourth Gospel. Tradition and Redaction, 37-39, 109-10 (1972); von Wahlde, The Earliest Version of John's Gospel, 116-23 (1985); Fortna, The Fourth Gospel and its Predecessors; Meier, at 637. Accordingly, John adds at least a fifth independent source attesting to Jesus' miraculous deeds.

Josephus

I know a few hardcore skeptics still reject the strong scholarly consensus that Josephus' references to Jesus are genuine, although embellished. However, I agree with that scholarly consensus represented by such diverse and respected scholars as Dominic Crossan, John P. Meier, and N.T. Wright. Accordingly, the following is the reconstructed version of the Testimonium Flavianum accepted by a majority of N.T. scholars: "At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin." The term Josephus uses to describe Jesus' "startling deeds" (paradoxa) is also used by Josephus in undisputed references to the miracles of the prophet Elisha (Antiquities 9.7.6, section 182).

Given the "rescued" text's language and theology, it is highly improbable that Josephus used the gospels, or their respective traditions, when he wrote the Testimonium. Accordingly, Josephus' reference constitutes an independent, probably Jewish, source attesting to Jesus' miracle working. As John P. Meier states, "[a]part from the idea of attracting many Gentiles during his lifetime, this bundle of assertions gives exactly the same configuration of Jesus' ministry as do the Gospels. Rarely does attestation of Gospel tradition by multiple literary witnesses reach out to encompass so many different sources, including a non-Christian one. But such is the case here, and the attestation includes a reference to Jesus' alleged miracles." Meier, at 622.

The Babylonian Talmud

Another Jewish source for Jesus' miracle working can be found in the Babylonian Talmud:

"It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): 'He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover." Babylonian Talmud, Sandhedrin, 43a.

The reference to "sorcery" is clearly an admission that Jesus performed at least seemingly miraculous deeds. It is reminiscent of the accusations of the Jewish authorities that Jesus was in league with Satan (Mark 3:22; Matthew 9:34; 12:24).

EMBARRASSING MIRACLES

Another interesting feature about some of Jesus' miracles, is that they actually create more problems for the early church than they solve. This fact gives rise to what New Testament scholars call the criterion of embarrassment. It holds that facts or events in the New Testament which would have been "embarrassing" to the early Church are more likely to be true. What is fascinating is this criterion actually applies to some of the miracles, or statements about miracles, which are recorded in the New Testament. Because of the problems they create, it is unlikely that the early Church would have invented them.

A Jewish Leader's Faith

Mark 5:22 puts leader of a synagogue in a favorable light.

"And behold, one of the rules of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly saying, "My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live. .... Then He took the child by hand, and said to her, "talitha cumi," which translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

Given the early Church's conflict with the Jewish authorities (probably strongest with leaders of the synagogues), and the gospels' rather consistently negative portrayal of Jewish religious leaders, it does not make sense that the gospel authors would invent such a miracle putting one such leader in a favorable light. Jaimus is shown to have had faith in Jesus. The gospel's authors message, however, was otherwise simple and direct: Jesus was rejected by the Jewish authorities. Accordingly, it is unlikely that they would invent, or transmit, a false miracle story casting "the opposition" in such a positive light.

Jesus in League with Satan

Both Mark and Q include the accusation of Jesus' opponents that he was able to perform miracles because he was in league with the devil. (Mark 3:20-30; Matthew 12:22-32). As N.T. Wright states, "the Church did not invent the charge that Jesus was in charge with league with Beelzebub, but charges like that are not advanced unless they are needed as an explanation for some quite remarkable phenomenon." N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, at 188. It appears, therefore, that Jesus' religious opponents did make this charge, and must have had a reason for doing so. "It is noteworthy that Jesus' enemies are not presented as denying that he did extraordinary deeds; rather they attributed them to evil origins, either to the devil (Mark 3:22-30) or in the 2d-century polemic to magic (Iranaeus, Against Heresies, 2.32.3-5)." Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, at 62-63.

Jesus Fails to Perform Miracles

Another embarrassing statement is recorded in the synoptics. Specifically, Jesus admits that he cannot perform miracles in Nazareth, his home town, because of the lack of faith. Jesus' admission that he cannot perform miracles in Nazareth because of a lack of faith is not something we would expect the early church to create. Afterall, they go out of their way to heighten, not diminish, christology. Nevertheless, the statement is recorded and passed along in the early church as a statement by Jesus. What I think is interesting is that Jesus' admission that he could not perform miracles in a specific place indicates that he was thought, by himself, and others, to perform miracles in other places.

COHERENCE

Message & Miracles

The criterion of coherence is a common tool of historical inquiry. It is usually used after gather some historical material by the other methods. It holds that other sayings or actions of Jesus that fit in well with the preliminary historical material amassed has a good chance of being historical. The argument from coherence in this post is basically twofold: 1) The initial inventory of narratives and sayings of Jesus blend with the miracles. That is, the sayings supplement the miracles and the miracles supplement the sayings. 2) The reports of Jesus' amazing deeds fits in well with the fact that Jesus succeeded in gaining a large, and enduring, number of followers.

That Jesus was an impassioned advocate of the eschatological arrival of the kingdom of God is a belief central to the works of some of the most respected New Testament scholars, such as Albert Schweitzer, E.P. Sanders, and N.T. Wright. This belief is supported by a large number of well-attested sayings of Jesus and by Jesus' incontestable relationship with the ministry of John the Baptist. Fitting in well with Jesus success as an eschatological teacher are his reported exorcisms and healings.

Jesus exorcisms are viewed as dramatic presentations and partial realizations of God eschatological triumph over triumph over evil through the actions of Jesus. Additionally, the healing miracles show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of such Old Testament figures as Isaiah. Perhaps it can best be put this way: Jesus core teachings and his miracles are supplementary and intertwined in our earliest sayings traditions. "What is remarkable in all this is how deeds and sayings cut across different sources and form-critical categories to create a meaningful. This neat, elegant, and unforced 'fit' of the deeds and sayings of Jesus, coming from many different sources, argues eloquently for a basic historical fact: Jesus did perform deeds that he and some of his contemporaries considered miracles." Meier, at 623. Additionally, this combination is unique in the first-century. "[O]ne should be wary of the claim that Jesus was portrayed like the many other miracle-working teachers, Jewish and pagan of his era. The idea that such a figure was commonplace in the 1st century is largely a fiction. Jesus is remembered as combining teaching with miracles intimately related to his teaching, and that combination was unique." Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, at 63.

Attraction of Large, and Enduring, Followers

Jesus attracted large numbers of followers. This is testified to by all of our source material, including Josephus. Our gospel source material and Josephus indicate that part of the reason that Jesus attracted large numbers of followers was because of his miracle working. Many scholars have seen a strong congruence between the durability and number of followers that Jesus attracted in such an apparently short amount of time and the report of Jesus as a miracle worker. Certainly it is true that Jesus' miracle working would provide strong explanatory power as to his importance as a first century religious figure. Although I certainly find the teaching of the sermon on the mount to be an awesome expression of moral and spiritual truth, I doubt its ability to attract and sustain large crowds.

Moreover, this following of Jesus continued, even after his death, which is a most unusual phenomenon for a first century Jewish leader. An untimely death, which was often, was generally considered to be proof that the eschatological or messianic claims of the leader were false and disapproved of by God. Nevertheless, despite Jesus' early, and extremely shameful death at the hands of pagans, the evidence is strong that his Jewish followers did not abandon his teachings, but rather spread them across the Roman Empire. This fact radically distinguishes Jesus' draw on the Jewish population from that of other first century figures, such as John the Baptist. One of the explanations that provides perhaps the most powerful explanatory power is the well attested reports of Jesus' miracle working. "In short, while miracles are not strictly necessary to explain the success of Jesus in attracting many followers, his execution at the hands of Pilate, and the ongoing success of the church in attracting more followers, the presence of the miraculous in the mission of both Jesus and the early church coheres well with Jesus' temporary and the church's permanent success." Meier, at 623.

DISSIMILARITY

Another important feature of Jesus' miracles is their dissimilarity from Judaism, Paganism, and the early Church. There are no examples of miracle workers in Judaism or Paganism comparable to and contemporary with Jesus. None. If you disagree, please provide me with your examples and we can discuss them. What is even more significant, however, is the fact that Jesus' miracles are depicted as different than those of the early Church. "In the Synoptics Jesus does not follow biblical or later Christian precedent in performing his cures; he does not pray nor does he invoke the sacred name." Ben Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, at 159. If you compare the miracle accounts in Luke from the miracle accounts in Acts, you quickly see that Jesus' miracles are those known to, or at least believed in, by the early Church.

For example, when Jesus performs miracles in Luke, he does not invoke the divine name, he does not rely on any incantation or vessel. He generally just commands. ("Then he came and touched the open coffin, and those hwo carried him stood still. And he said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.'" Luke 7:14.). In Acts, however, when Peter is shown as performing a miracle, he does so very differently. "Then Peter said, silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Acts 3:6. Moreover, when Paul conducted an exorcism, he stated, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." Acts 16:18. This distinction is not limited to Acts, but is generally applicable to the earliest Christian accounts of miracles.

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 16, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 16, 2001).]
 
Old 02-16-2001, 07:01 PM   #2
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I assume this is a continuation of our thread on miracles......

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Layman:
MIRACLES

A concept popular with hardcore skeptics, if not with serious New Testament scholars, is that Jesus' miracles are best explained as fiction added by the early church by incorporating Greek myths.


Serious hardcore skeptic. Flattery will not turn my head! Certainly that's one explanation. I myself prefer to see them as inventions of the gospel writers if Jesus was fictional, as typical tricks used by hundreds of religious frauds, of that era and others, if he actually existed.

Many believe that the miracles of Jesus are late add-ons to the traditions regarding Jesus.

Who? Certainly not I. My position is, was, and will be, that time is not all that important for rapid growth of legends and miracles.

Many believe that the reports of Jesus' miracles are similar to--and no more persuasive than--other accounts of miracles from the first century. There are a number of problems with these beliefs. The earliest traditions about Jesus include accounts of his miracle working. They are inseparable from the sayings tradition. Additionally, the attestations of Jesus' miracles are uniquely diverse and numerous. There is no first century equivalent.

We'll tackle these points in a moment.

What I intend to provide in this post is some good reasons for believing that, at the very least, Jesus, his followers, and his enemies, believed that he was a miracle worker. I also happen to think that this evidence provides strong reasons for believing that the accounts of Jesus' miracle working are true. He, in fact, performed "startling deeds." If you are a skeptic who is philosophically opposed to the very possibility of miracles, this piece will not convince you. This post is about history, not philosophy. But if you are open minded about this topic, even a little, please evaluate the evidence, ask pointed questions, and give it some thought.

No problem. My arguments are also about history, so we should find compatible ground.


(four criteria Layman cites) multiple attestation, historical embarrassment, coherence; and dissimilarity.

MULTIPLE ATTESTATION

According to John P. Meier, "the single most important criterion in the investigation of Jesus' miracles is the criterion of multiple attestation of sources and forms." A Marginal Jew, Vol. II, at 619. Every gospel source, Mark, Q, M, L, and John, affirms the miracle-working activities of Jesus. Less friendly sources, such as Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud, also attest to Jesus as a miracle worker.


This is the best you can do? Three guys who were copying each other, a fourth certainly influenced by the others, Josephus whose attestations are contested, at best, and the Babylon Talmud. These are tired ones. From the Infidels response to McDowell:

"The Babylonian Talmud. McDowell next lists the opinion of the Amoraim that Jesus was hanged on the eve of Passover.[49] However, Klausner thinks that the Amoraim traditions "can have no objective historical
value (since by the time of the Amoraim there was certainly no clear recollection of Jesus' life and works)."[50] Morris Goldstein states that the passage "cannot be fixed at a definite date within the Tannaitic time-area."[51] The value of this passage as independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus is therefore uncertain."

That's Infidels. I might clarify that the Babylonian Talmud emerged after 70 and was redacted numerous times. The passage can be no later than 220, it speaks of Yeshua, which is a common name, who was hanged on Passover.
So you got a 150 year span for introduction of the idea, even if it refers to Jesus.

The Josephus passage on Jesus exists in a couple of versions, and is much less "christian" in the Arabic version of Josephus. You make the call. Either way it seems like its been edited by later Christians.

In short, you have no unambiguous references from the first century outside of the Gospel.
Next!

Mark

Furthermore, Mark's miracle stories are not uniform. Their style, tone, and form are very distinct. They are long and circumstantial, as well as short and pithy (1:30-31). They are detailed, including names of places and people, and they are nondescript, giving neither names or places. They are physical healings, nature miracles, exorcisms, and miraculous knowledge. Jesus is portrayed both as performing miracles and in other sources as speaking about his miracles (3:20-30). In short, "when one looks at this vast array of disparate streams of miracle traditions in the first Christian generation, some already grouped in collections, some still stray bits of material, Mark alone--writing as he does at the end of the first Christian generation--constitutes a fair refutation of the idea that the miracle traditions were totally the creation of the early church after Jesus' death." Meier, at 620.


I am not arguing that the miracle stories were invented by the early Church. I am claiming that Mark invented some, embellished others, or invented them all if Jesus is fictional.

If they are not inventions, how is it that they match the legends of the Homeric Epics so well? Again and again, MacDonald was able to locate a Markan passage in the Epic, and showed how Mark built on Homer. If they are not inventions, why did Jesus not perform even a single miracle not available to the other magicians of his day (and still used by magicians in the less developed parts of the world? For example, if Jesus had produced a block of plastic, or stretched a fiber-optic cable from Rome to Jerusalem, or left a working internal combustion engine, that would have been a very different thing.


Some of Mark's accounts of miracles retain aramaisms (untranslated phrases from Jesus' native tongue). Because the gospel writers were attempting to reach a Greek speaking audience, most of the sayings and narratives are in Greek. The existence of an aramaism, therefore, is generally regarded as evidence of early formation of the relevant tradition. At least two of Mark's miracle stories contain aramaisms: the raising of Jairus' daughter from the death (5:41) and the healing of the deaf man (7:34).

And if they are early, so what? That's unimportant. We already have rich evidence of reports of miraculous powers from the lifetime of many miracle workers.

The "Q" Source

Mark, of course, does not stand alone in his early attestation of Jesus as a miracle worker. The so-called "Q" source, widely regarded to have been used both by Luke and Matthew, also provides us with attestation of Jesus' miracle working. Q, although generally considered to be purely a sayings source, contains a miracle story (Matthew 8:5-13). Moreover, it also contains several statements attesting to the fact that Jesus was a miracle worker. (Matth. 10:8; 11:5-6, 11:20-24; 12:22-32 par). Q, therefore, although demonstrating no interest in "playing up" Jesus' miracles, nevertheless, records and transmits the fact of his miracles.


Even better! Now we know that in his (perhaps fictional) lifetime tales of miracles circulated. So? That is true of hundreds of others.

M & L


In sum, both the unique "M" and "L" materials contain independent references to Jesus' miraculous deeds. Those materials, moreover, was already in existence in their respective communities. Therefore, they provide independent sources to the miracle working of Jesus.


Even if we accept your case, at best, they provide independent evidence to the circulation of miracle stories about Jesus.


Josephus

I know a few hardcore skeptics still reject the strong scholarly consensus that Josephus' references to Jesus are genuine, although embellished.


Yes, hardcore skeptics, like many Jewish scholars, for example. And if it dates from that period, why is not cited by later scholars? AFAIK it remains unremarked on by apologists until the 4th century, Eusebius.
Origen refers to the other disputed passage,
but not that one.

The Babylonian Talmud

"It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): 'He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover." Babylonian Talmud, Sandhedrin, 43a.


Hmm.....no clear identification of your man here. Doesn't Josephus attest to many wackos running around claiming to be the Messiah?

EMBARRASSMENT

The embarrassment criterion is, frankly, ridiculous. Many books on modern cranks
give ear to critics claims. Laudatory
biographies of Geller include pro forma
references to skeptics' attacks which are quickly refuted.

http://members.aol.com/introsai/miracles/murphet.htm
contains skeptical comments on Sai Baba by a believer, quickly passed over. The point of such accusations is to show how the enemies get embarrassed by the power of the savior.
Sai Baba pages frequently contain references
to other religions....

COHERENCE

(snipped a lot)
"miracles and stories blending well" is completely subjective. Perhaps you have some
way to quantify this?

Attraction of Large, and Enduring, Followers

Jesus attracted large numbers of followers. This is testified to by all of our source material, including Josephus. Our gospel source material and Josephus indicate that part of the reason that Jesus attracted large numbers of followers was because of his miracle working.


Come, come, so do proven fakes. In any case, we have only the Gospels' word for this -- Josephus is by no means proved, and further,
Josephus attests that the false Messiahs also attracted crowds, as did (and do) all miracle workers. More people have seen Sai Baba's miracles than any Jesus did.


DISSIMILARITY

Another important feature of Jesus' miracles is their dissimilarity from Judaism, Paganism, and the early Church. There are no examples of miracle workers in Judaism or Paganism contemporary with Jesus.
None. If you disagree, please provide me with your examples and we can discuss them.


Actually, there are zillions of them, and the examples show the sterility of this debate, and the desperate need for some comparative experience. Palestine is about as tiny a place as you can get and still be somewhere.
Let's look rather farther afield.....

To provide one small example, from the second
century BC to about 500, a circle of female shamans (wu) provided miracles for the Emperor. After 472 they stopped being part of the State apparutus, and over the next three hundred years, were slowly stamped out. That they did miracles is well attested from works from the early period as well as reports from later eras. See Si ma Qian's Shi Ji (Historical Records), dating from -91, or the Qian Han Shu. In Song (10-11-12th cent.) they were persecuted and laws against them remained on the books until 1911.

There are numerous reports of magic workers in ancient Chinese texts. The Huai Nan Zi (second century BC), The Book of the Prince of Huai, tells of a circle of Taoist protoscientists/magic workers who gathered around the Prince. The Han Wu Nei Chuan (The Secret History of the Emmperor Wu of the Han), +180 or so, refers to the activities of adepts by name. "With this master I once made gold (note -- no 3rd person there); on four occasions we threw away into the sea several tens of thousands of [barrels] of gold." Frankly I doubt Jesus' disciples would have been so....wasteful. One adept lived to 200 and then went away, across the frontier.

From China of that period come not merely vague reports of individuals, but piles of texts, recovered from Han tombs. For example, from the tomb of the son of the Lady of Tai (-166)(whose uncorrupted body was preserved by chemicals until her tomb was
opened this century), were recovered numerous texts, including texts on psychological traumas and their treatment. While Jesus was casting demons into swine (a story reworked from Homer) the Chinese were treating madmen with psychology! From that tomb was also recovered a text on alchemical (magical) ways to prolong life. We not only have the reports of the miracle workers, we have their texts as well! In fact numerous magical recipes survive from this period (imagine if Jesus had left instructions....)

Of course, about -60 the Han Emperor was running a state-supported program to make gold. Why didn't they succeed? Because the Chinese were already far ahead of the west in chemical techniques, and magicians could not pass off miracles so easily.

This points at the basic problem with miracle working in China of the period was that the Chinese were so far ahead of the Roman world in science and technology. The boundary of the miraculous was much farther away in China than in Palestine. "In the activities of nature there is never anything sinister or illusory," wrote one alchemist. Could a 1st century Palestinian have written anything as wise as that?

Ironically the first century was the flourishing of the great skeptic Wang Chung, whom all on Infidels should honor as the first of their breed. Maybe I'll track down his refutation of the idea of destiny, which uses a flood exactly like Voltaire's use of Lisbon 1700 years later, and post it as an article.

I haven't dealt with the exception of Jesus to other forms of magic healing. It's of little consequence that he had his own way (actually, we only have second or third hand reports, so it is hard to tell). See my objections below...

Let's use Layman's method to look at Sai Baba:

multiple attestation: millions have seen his miracles, on video, in person, there are books, websites and movies about him.

historical embarrassment: the skeptical literature and skeptical attitudes appear, other religions are referred to

coherence: the sayings of Sai Baba and the miracles of Sai Baba blend in well (a subjective judgement if there ever was one)
Large crowds turn out wherever he appears.

dissimilarity:
Sai Baba has performed unusual miracles no one else has done. Sai Baba can read thoughts, a claim made for no other religious leader. Sai Baba has raised the dead twice.

Clearly, Sai Baba is god.

One other example from ancient China..

Wei Bo-yang, who authored the oldest extant Chinese text on alchemical theory, lived from about 100-172. In addition to his book, he is known from other works by his disciples and from independent records which show he had a high administrative post in Loyang about 150. Other texts are atrributed to him, but the dates are doubtful. Of course, he is also a deity who gave his elixir of immortality to a man and -- a dog. It must be true, it is written down and attested to by many sources.
Further, he had done what none before him had done. Further, there is independent evidence of his existence (not disputed crap like Josephus) etc etc etc.

Clearly, Wei Bo-yang is god.


Now....
Having demonstrated that modern examples with far more breadth and depth than Jesus ever had, plus provided ancient examples, based on numerous texts, of miracle workers doing all sorts of stuff, I think you can toss your basis for belief out the window, and go back to shutting your eyes and relying on faith.

Oh, and I got my examples out of a work on technology, Needham's _Science and Civilization in China_, quite possibly the greatest scholarly work of this century.
Needham's mastery of thousands of ancient texts blows away Biblical scholars making an industry out of a few scraps of papyrus.
Imagine if I had a book on ancient Taoism in front of me, instead of getting tangential references out of text focusing on something else entirely.

Michael
 
Old 02-16-2001, 08:03 PM   #3
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Let's rock.

Where to start? Generally I believe you failed to respond to a number of my points and misundrestood several others. Then, in an attempt to prove that there were Pagan and Jewish parrallels to Jesus with comparable evidence, you spent a long time talking about Chinese alchemist and some guy called Sai Baba (I'll have to check him out but so far an unconvinced. And just what is your argument anyway? Do you believe he did miracles or not?).

And a quick point in response to something you said at the end of your post. I don't argue that the simple fact that Jesus performed miracles means he is God. Moreover, I don't believe that the ability to perform miracles means ones is God. I also happen to believe that Peter and Paul performed miracles, but I do not believe that they were God or gods.

You dismiss the multiple attestation argument by failing to understand it. As my post made quite clear, the gospels are not just "three guys who were copying each other." Something is not multiply attested because it appears in more than one writing. I was discussing independent sources in each of the gospels. I did not count Matthew and Luke simply because they record the same miracles of Mark, but rather because their independent elements contained independent miracle accounts.

And as I explained, a majority of New Testament scholars believe that John is completely independent of the Synotpics. I do not consider your disagreement unreasonable, but I certainly believe, as do a majority of New Testament scholars, that you are wrong.

As to Josephus. I would love to debate his references with you, and you raise some good points. But a strong majority of New Testament scholars have rejected your arguments for very good reasons. These include Jewish Scholars, G. Vermes, liberal scholars, D. Crossan and M. Borg, moderate scholars, T.L. Johnson, R. Brown and J. Meier, conservative scholars, G. Stanton, B. Witherington and N.T. Wright, and, of course, apologists, W. Craig and J. McDowell. I would also point out that you are completely wrong about the first reference to Jesus only appearing in a few versions, ALL of our extant Josephus manuscripts contain the first reference.

On a related point, you seem to imply that I used the "embellished" version. I did not. I used the redacted version, very similar to the Arabic one you mention, with the Christian embellishments removed.

This is also a good time to bring up a frequent skeptical argument. It goes like this: Because Josephus is "contested" you can't rely on him. This is what can be called a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is that I am relyong strong scholarly consensus that finds strong support from Jewish, Christian, Liberal, Moderate, and Conservative scholars. This is quite reasonable and many strong theories rest on such points.

Similarly, the scholarly consenus is that the Bablyonian Talmud refernce I mentioned is accepted as refering to Jesus. It is admittedly not the best historical evidence, but given its continuity with earlier Jewish reactions to Jesus, and its hostility towards Jesus, I think it at least preserves earlier Jewish reactions to Jesus' miracles. That is, they do not deny that such things happen, but argue that they were derived from evil sources.

As for your reliance on a comparison to the Homeric Epic, I have yet to read a reputable New Testament scholar who agreed with such an outlandish theory. Do you even read real N.T. scholars such as J. Crossan, J.P. Meier, or N.T. Wright? If there is a strong case to be made them make it, as you skeptics make us do. However, given source and form criticism's discovery that Mark is relying on inheritid and varied traditions, I find it impossible to think he simply ripped his story off from Homer. Mark's gospels protrays a very Jewish Jesus, and shows little, if any, pagan influence. Moreover, it completely overlooks the congruence between Paul's undisputed epistles and Mark's basic outline of Jesus' life. In short, the Homer Epic idea is uninformed and uncritical. It is equivalent, and this is being generous, to those valient, yet hopeless, Christian apologists who still insist on Matthean priority.

I think you completely misunderstand the criterion of embarassment. I was not saying that is imply means that the gospel authors recorded skeptical charges against Jesus that were refuted by his wonder working. Not at all. The first one had to do with the fact that central to one of Jesus miracle stories, and portrayed in a very favorable light no less, was a figure who was otherwise an enemy of Jesus' ministry and particularly loathed by the early church, a Jewish synagouge leader.

Moreover, the second example had to do with claims that Jesus gained his power from satan. This was not disproved by another miraculous deed, and it could not have been, but rather Jesus simply disagrees with them. You are right that if the story showed a skeptic who doubted Jesus' power altogether had been vanquished, that is PRECISELY the kind of story we would expect to be invented. However, those stories are absent from the Gospel accounts.

As for your "rebuttal" to my coherence argument, I have to admit that there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved in the analysis. But, alas, such is the plight of the historian. That is why I referred to some expert scholars, rather than my own subjective analysis. If you can refute the point please do so by demonstrating a discongruity between Jesus sayings and miracles.

And I think you intentionally cloud the issue regarding the large numbers Jesus attracted. I "fronted" our objections by discussing the enduring nature of Jesus' followers, in addition to the attraction of large numbers. You are right, Josephus does describe several false messiahs who attracted followings. But once those followers died, their followers disbanded and realize that their leader had been "false." This was what happend with Theudas and Judas of Galiliee. This was, in fact, a pattern in first century Palestine. Jesus is unique in that he broke that pattern. His followers did not disband after his death, rather they rallyed and spread throughout the Roman Empire in fairly short order.

You get pretty outlandish with your response to my dissimilarity argument. I specifically discuss pagan and jewish examples contemporary with Jesus. I don't discuss chinese emperors turning lead into gold, or female shamans whose miracles are attested by "works from the early period as well as reports from later eras," or other magicians. Jesus did not practice magic, he performed miracles. There are very real differences between the two. Moreover, you have not shown in detail that the attestation of their miracles has anywhere near the support that I have demonstrated for Jesus.

Thanks for the thoughts though. I'll see you Monday.
 
Old 02-16-2001, 08:07 PM   #4
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I must add that we seem to have at least one point of significant agreement. You seem to concede that Jesus, his followers, and his enemies believed he performed miracles. Is that a fair characterization? Or where you just assuming my points to get to the heart of the debate?

I ask because I believe both points are significant. One, that the miracles go back to Jesus (whether true or tricks). Two, that the miracles really happened.
 
Old 02-16-2001, 10:39 PM   #5
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Layman

Note, I'm not a serious historian. I cannot bring any depth of historical scholarship to this debate. However, there are a few claims inside of ordinary common sense that I can speak to.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I was discussing independent sources in each of the gospels.</font>
I don't think you can introduce independent sources as corroborative evidence unless you can produce the actual sources themselves.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I did not count Matthew and Luke simply because they record the same miracles of Mark, but rather because their independent elements contained independent miracle accounts. </font>
Matthew and Luke cannot be said to be independent of Mark. The obvious quotations show that these works are, to some extent, derivative of Mark itself. Differences do not prove independence; Independence means they have no evidence of copying the text itself, implying any similarities derive from the independent witnessing of the same events in reality.

Even for ordinary historical or evidentiary claims, the burden of proof is to establish independence, not refute it.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But a strong majority of New Testament scholars have rejected your arguments for very good reasons.</font>
Without those reasons, this is just a fallacious argument from authority.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Because Josephus is "contested" you can't rely on him.</font>
The appearance of quotation marks around "contested" indicates that you dismiss the contestation as specious. However, I find the contestation substantive and persuasive that Josephus's allegedly favorable comments were not quoted until much later.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The truth is that I am relyong strong scholarly consensus that finds strong support from Jewish, Christian, Liberal, Moderate, and Conservative scholars. This is quite reasonable and many strong theories rest on such points.</font>
An argument from authority. If these scholars' arguments support your case, then lets hear the arguments! Just invoking their religions is not at all informative.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Similarly, the scholarly consenus is that the Bablyonian Talmud refernce I mentioned is accepted as refering to Jesus.</font>
Another argument from authority.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for your reliance on a comparison to the Homeric Epic, I have yet to read a reputable New Testament scholar who agreed with such an outlandish theory.</font>
Yet another argument from authority.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think you completely misunderstand the criterion of embarassment.</font>
I find the argument from embarassement entirely unconvincing. It's non-falsifiable and impossible to distinguish between changing standards of value, intentional fabrication, error and stupidity.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for your "rebuttal" to my coherence argument, I have to admit that there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved in the analysis.</font>
No shit!

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It holds that other sayings or actions of Jesus that fit in well with the preliminary historical material amassed has a good chance of being historical.</font>
This is actually persuasive. However, the argument for coherence by itself, especially as a verification mechanism, is going to exclude supernatural phenomena, because supernaturalism fails to cohere at all with the entirely naturalistic observations of the modern day. Additionally, a phenomenon is supernatural because it does not cohere with ordinary reality.

However, the argument from coherence does lend credence to the hypothesis of Joshua, the Essene orginator of the sayings in the gospels.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And I think you intentionally cloud the issue regarding the large numbers Jesus attracted.</font>
&lt;shrugs&gt; Large numbers of followers prove only the widespread phenomenon of human credulity and stupidity, an entirely non-controversial proposition. Many emotionally appealing ideas, however bizarre and fallacious, can and have attracted large numbers of followers.

Besides, number of followers now is not evidence of historical truth then.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Jesus is unique in that he broke that pattern. His followers did not disband after his death, rather they rallyed and spread throughout the Roman Empire in fairly short order.</font>
Heck, the followers of George Washington rallied and created the most powerful nation in history. Ordinary people are capable of amazing feats when inspired. It's simply not evidence of any sort of supernaturalism.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">You get pretty outlandish with your response to my dissimilarity argument.</font>
First, I'm not sure I understand the dissimilarity argument in the first place. So Mark writes about a Jesus with a new spin on the "miracle" con. That just proves that Mark is creative.

Turtonm's refutation is fascinating (I'm getting more interested in Chinese history by the minute!), but the original argument seems very weak in the first place.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Jesus did not practice magic, he performed miracles. There are very real differences between the two.</font>
There are? &lt;eyebrow raised&gt;

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Moreover, you have not shown in detail that the attestation of their miracles has anywhere near the support that I have demonstrated for Jesus.</font>
Dude, if you're going to compare the quality of documentation of ancient Chinese sources to ancient Jewish/Roman sources, you're going to get creamed. The Chinese had a working government bureaucracy millennia before the middle east invented writing.
 
Old 02-16-2001, 10:42 PM   #6
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turtonm

Very persuasive rebuttal.

Completely OT: Have you read The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox?
 
Old 02-16-2001, 11:04 PM   #7
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In response to Layman's argument, I note that lots of people were described as having worked miracles. Consider Apollonius of Tyana, a monkish fellow who had supposedly done several of Jesus Christ's kind of miracle, including healing people and rising from the dead. Does Layman believe that A of T had really worked those miracles? And consider numerous other miracles described in various history accounts. Does Layman believe what Josephus relates in _The Jewish War_, that a heifer had once given birth to a lamb? And that part of the Temple once shone as bright as day? And that a heavy gate once moved of its own accord? And compared to the Gospel writers, Josephus is generally considered a sober historian!

As to "skeptics" conceding these miracles, that was because the closest thing to present-day rationalism was practiced back then only by a few philosophers, such as the Epicureans. Someone who believed that A of T could work miracles would also be willing to believe that JC had also worked miracles. And early Christian theologians were experts as this kind of "concession"; they believed that miracles worked by pagans were real -- but that they had been worked with the help of the Devil.

And I wonder if Layman also believes that Alexander of Abonutichus is a legitimate prophet who has been smeared by evil skeptics like Lucian. After all, he once made the prophecy that a great victory would result if Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius threw two lions into the Danube before fighting the Marcomanni. MA did that, and this prophecy was fulfilled by the Marcomanni having the great victory, which only indicates what a great prophet A of A had been. So let us all go to his home town, what is now Inebolu in NW Turkey, and pay homage to the god that he had revealed, Glycon.

And yes, the Oracle of Delphi had once had similar prophetic success. King Croesus of Lydia (now SW Turkey) once asked the oracle whether he should fight the Medes. The oracle said that a great empire would fall if he did so. But it was his that was the great empire, which only showed what prophetic insight the oracle had had. When Croesus asked about that, the oracle responded, quite correctly, that the god Apollo had indeed predicted the fall of a great empire, but did not say which one.
 
Old 02-17-2001, 06:44 AM   #8
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Very persuasive rebuttal.

Thanks. I could trundle out dozens of cases
like Wei Bo-yang, all well-attested. The
Chinese had a habit of making deities out of
people who gave them practical inventions, like paper, agriculture, canals, etc. Very refreshing attitude, in comparison to making gods of someone who healed a couple of blind guys, raised a couple of dead, and then got himself crucified, when, if he were really a god, he could have done something really useful for us (like leaving us steam engines, or warning us about Republicans).

That said, Layman is right in one respect, the Taoist adepts who mixed elixirs of immortality and Jesus' miracles really are two different things (how you label them is your affair). The taoist adepts would have found the whole idea of healing by touching absurd, and would have laughed such a person out of court. Power required study and preparation, the proper materials. Wholesale willy-nilly violations of nature's laws could not occur, you had to work with her through exercises, breathing, testing of recipes, and so on. The taoists were doing proto-science, Jesus was doing carnival tricks (still done today by the Uri Gellers and Sai Baba's of the world).

However, as far as being equally miraculous,
there ain't much difference between an elixir of immortality and raising the dead. Both are equally impossible.

Completely OT: Have you read The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox?

No. Never even heard of it. What's it about?

If you want a good introduction to Chinese tech history, Temple's _The Genius of China_ is quite good. There is a three volume condensation of Needham. I have sixteen volumes of _Science and Civilization in China_, ironically, the volumes I don't have are on military achievements (am military history buff) and porcelain (am attempting to start a collection of Song porcelain).

Personally, I think a skeptic should have a working knowledge of a couple of radically different cultures. As I said on another thread, it's no good to compare Greeks to Romans, you've got to compare Chinese to Romans to get a handle on either. Traveling helps a lot too, if I'd never been to India, I never would have heard of Sai Baba, who is a kick. My friends in Calcutta spent hours talking about Baba and Krishna with me. I learned a lot. If I'd never been to Africa, I never would have seen the shaman summon rain before the assembled elders of the Igembe clan, or attended the magic rites of a circumcision ceremony (fortunately I was ALREADY circumcised, otherwise, might have lost some skin that day). The miraculous is all around us; it happens every day.

Michael
 
Old 02-17-2001, 07:03 AM   #9
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Do you even read real N.T. scholars such as J. Crossan, J.P. Meier, or N.T. Wright? If there is a strong case to be made them make. However, given source and form criticism's discovery that Mark is relying on inheritid and varied traditions, I find it impossible to think he simply ripped his story off from Homer. Mark's gospels protrays a very Jewish Jesus, and shows little, if any, pagan influence. Moreover, it completely overlooks the congruence between Paul's undisputed epistles and Mark's basic outline of Jesus' life.

MacDonald's argument is not that Mark is doing Homer with the serial numbers filed off. It is much richer and more subtle. First, there is no conflict with Mark drawing on Homer and Jewish sources at the same time, that is the brilliance of Mark, just as Yeats drew on 19th century mysticism, Irish history, and greek mythology, or Kurosawa combined Shakespeare and Japanese myth. Not difficult, all creative types do it. Rather, what Mark did is take episodes from Homer and re-present them with Jesus as the protagonist instead of Odysseus, in a jewish framework, and with jesus beating the heck out of Hector and Odysseus. I beg you to read him, I can't begin to describe how good the book is. I have not read Maier, but I have read Wright and Crossan, and Brown's Intro to the New Testament would be sitting on my shelf, if my neighbor hadn't borrowed it and moved away. It's not that I find them unconvincing or not; to me they are simply irrelevant. They are like those people out there today who attempt to demonstrate that Sai Baba is really doing miracles and can read thoughts, except that the latter have not yet acquired the imprimatur of a university program to advance their psuedoscientific conclusions. Note that I differentiate between the very real knowledge required to understand uncials and copyists errors, and the history of papyrii, and the claim that Jesus was real.
There is no connection between the two. If Maier tells me that an extent manuscript is written in a certain script, I am all ears, but if he then claims Jesus is really god, he's got no more expertise than I do. It's a particular and very dangerous fallacy, that when someone is an 'expert' on issues of fact, their opinions on other matters carry weight. I would be more impressed if a real miracle worker, like a stage magician or a taoist adept, showed me that jesus' miracles were impossible to replicate, but alas, all evidence indicates that jesus' miracles are
rather mundane, and many have performed them.
You see, no matter how much experience you have with papyrii, you're not qualified to make judgements about miracles.

Frankly, I am really not that interested in comparing "my scholars" to "your scholars" as if we were two teenagers whipping out our schlongs in a high school locker room. If you are really misguided enough to think that Jesus actually performed genuine miracles,
and that he was the son of god, you can. But
all evidence of history and human behavior
is against you.

Michael
 
Old 02-17-2001, 03:48 PM   #10
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Layman:
MIRACLES
A concept popular with hardcore skeptics, if not with serious New Testament scholars, is that Jesus' miracles are best explained as fiction added by the early church by incorporating Greek myths. Many believe that the miracles of Jesus are late add-ons to the traditions regarding Jesus. Many believe that the reports of Jesus' miracles are similar to--and no more persuasive than--other accounts of miracles from the first century. There are a number of problems with these beliefs. The earliest traditions about Jesus include accounts of his miracle working. They are inseparable from the sayings tradition. Additionally, the attestations of Jesus' miracles are uniquely diverse and numerous. There is no first century equivalent.


1. Obviously no one knows with any degree of certainty about the historicity of Jesus, but I think that he, as a self-styled, Jewish Galilean magician/prophet, probably existed.

2. It is incorrect to state that Jesus'acts were different from those of magicians who lived before, during, and after his time. Scholars have commented on this since the turn of the century. More on this later.

Layman: What I intend to provide in this post is some good reasons for believing that, at the very least, Jesus, his followers, and his enemies, believed that he was a miracle worker.

Jesus' contemporaries believed he practiced magic. His followers thought he did "signs and wonders." What is the difference?

Layman: I also happen to think that this evidence provides strong reasons for believing that the accounts of Jesus' miracle working are true. He, in fact, performed "startling deeds." If you are a skeptic who is philosophically opposed to the very possibility of miracles, this piece will not convince you. This post is about history, not philosophy. But if you are open minded about this topic, even a little, please evaluate the evidence, ask pointed questions, and give it some thought.

The techniques used by Jesus were identical to those used by men known to be magicians.




 
 

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