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Implications of the Miracles

Miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth reported by the Gospels, if true, would have dual implications. Not only would they serve to corroborate that Jesus is the Messiah, they would also demonstrate the integrity of the Gospels.

Did Jesus actually perform miracles? Aside from the obvious Christian perspective, at least some Jewish authorities support the Gospel’s accounts of miracles and wonders. Encyclopedia Judaica noted without any disclaimer that the miracles ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels define him as a “miracle maker and preacher”:[1]

“…Matthew, Mark, and Luke present a reasonably faithful picture of Jesus as a Jew of his time. The picture of Jesus contained in them is not so much of a redeemer of mankind as of a Jewish miracle maker and preacher.  The Jesus portrayed in these three Gospels is, therefore, the historical Jesus.” – Encyclopedia Judaica

All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on the Sabbath.[2] To support their accusation of violating the Sabbath, they first had to acknowledge these miracles had occurred:  restoring a withered hand; healing a woman with an 18-year infirmity that kept her doubled over; healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years; and restoring sight to a man born blind.

Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides in his premier Jewish work Mishneh Torah (circa 1180 AD) commented on miracles by the Messiah.[3] With Jesus of Nazareth apparently in mind when mentioning the miracle to “resurrect the dead,” a miracle only attributed to Jesus, Maimonides expounded that performing “miracles and wonders” was not proof of the Messiah because miracles are not a requirement for the Messiah…

Mishneh Torah launched Maimonides into celebrity status causing a great response from the Jewish community of his day sending him letters with questions, some to which he responded in what is known as Responsa (Teshuvot).[4] One question was posed by Rabbi Jacob al-Fayumi of Yemen regarding the Isaiah 52-53 parashah prophecy.  Known as the Epistle Concerning Yemen, Maimonides’ Responsa clarified his views about “the signs and wonders” that Isaiah prophesied would be performed by the Messiah:[5]

“…there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and the signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin…”

“…and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands to their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.” – Rabbi Maimonides

Author of the book, the Gospel of Luke, in his second, the Book of Acts, quoted the Disciple Peter who said the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth attested to the fact that God was manifesting Himself through Jesus:[6]

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know ––” NKJV

If the Gospel accounts of miracles are indeed true and serve to attest that God manifested Himself through Jesus, this is based on the Gospels being credible sources. For those who believe the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah or are fictional books merely comprised of recycled materials, then their accounts of miracles are deemed baseless.[7] Comparing all four Gospels – literary analysis – offers a different perspective. 

Contrary to popular perceptions, the four Gospel accounts of miracles have less in common with each other than they have in common. A total of 35 miracles are recorded that occurred before the crucifixion of Jesus, but only one is common to all four – the feeding of the 5000. One of the most famous miracles is Jesus walking on water and it does not even appear in Luke![8]

Less than a third of the miracles, only 10, are commonly recounted by the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Nearly half of all the miracles performed before the crucifixion, 17 in all, are uniquely detailed by a given Gospel author – 3 by Matthew, 2 by Mark, 6 by Luke and 6 by John.[9] Both instances of Jesus resurrecting the dead are exclusively narrated, the first in Luke and the second in John.[10]

If the allegation was true that the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah, the question begs to be asked, then why did the alleged Christian conspirators – authors, witnesses, translators, transcribers – fail to make their fictional Messiah profile appear to be stronger by tightly syncing up their accounts of miracles, signs and wonders performed by Jesus? Undoubtedly, it was not a coordinated effort.

The greatest miracle story ever told in the history of the world, detailed by all the Gospels, is the unique self-resurrection from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth – the sole basis of Christianity. No credible evidence has ever been produced to debunk the miracle of the Resurrection.[11]

Often overlooked are the miracles, signs and wonders recounted after the crucifixion. The same day of the reported Resurrection, Jesus appeared to Cleopas and his traveling partner on the road to Emmaus, sat down to dinner and prayed with them, then vanished before their eyes.[12]

Later that evening, Mark and Luke describe when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared inside a locked room terrifying those present; then after eating and speaking with them, Jesus instantly disappeared.[13] John exclusively reports it happened again 8 days later in the locked room with the doubting Disciple Thomas present who was allowed to touch the healed wounds of Jesus.[14]

John, the eyewitness, described a miraculous fish catch orchestrated by the resurrected Jesus that took place on the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee).[15] Outside of the Gospels in the Book of Acts, Jesus rose in the sky and disappeared into a cloud.[16]

Multiple reports of miracles, signs and wonders based on witness accounts were recounted by the authors of the Gospels – do they attest to integrity of the Gospels and the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was sent by God as the Messiah…and if they do, what does that say about Gospels’ claim of the greatest and unique miracle, the Resurrection?

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REFERENCES:

[1] “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Page 246.  CR “Jesus.”  Encyclopedia.com. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jesus>
[2] Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6, 13; John 5, 9.
[3] Maimonides, Moses.  Mishneh Torah.  Moznaim Publications.  Jewish year 4937 (1177 AD).  Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  Chabad.org. 2018. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  Rich, Tracey R.  “What Do Jews Believe?”  Judaism101. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>
[4] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Publisher:  Kehot Publication Society. 2018. Chabad.org.  2014.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm>
[5] Maimonides .“Letter to the South (Yemen)”.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp 374, 375. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[6] Acts 1:3, 15; I Corinthians 15. Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Philip Schaf, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. Book III, Chapter XIV.1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2005. <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies> Aherne, Cornelius. “Gospel of Saint Luke.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1910. New Advent. 2015. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09420a.htm>  Cline, Austin. “Luke the Evangelist: Profile & Biography of Luke.” About.com|Agnosticism/Atheism.  n.d. <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/LukeEvangelist.htm>  Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. “Luke.”  Page 251. 1912. <http://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq=wave%20sheaf%20encyclopedia&pg=PA594#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[7] Gloag, Paton J.  Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp vii-viii, 1-3. 1895.  Online Books Page. Ockerbloom, ed.   <http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008728595>  “Gospel Contradictions.” 2000. Walker, ed. PositiveAtheism.org. n.d. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150324003025/http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9449.htm>  Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” TextExcavation.com. 2018. <http://www.textexcavation.com/gospelmanuscripts.html> Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010. <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/search?q=Dating+the+Gospels>  “New Testament.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament> Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6. 2018. FoolishFaith.com. <http://www.foolishfaith.com/book_chap6_history.asp> Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” Answering-Islam.org.  2018. <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>
[8] “The Miracles of Jesus.” Bible.org. 2018. <https://bible.org/series/miracles-jesus> Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158> Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. Trans. New American Standard. “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 13 –His Miracles of Nature.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN171-MIRACLES.htm> “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 14 –His Healing Miracles.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN175-HEALING.htm> “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com. n.d. <https://www.theopedia.com/gospel-of-john>
[9] Fairchild. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.” 
[10] Luke 7; John 4.
[11] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; I Corinthians 15. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1998. Part 3.
[12] Luke 24; CR Mark 16.
[13] Mark 16; Luke 24. NET.
[14] John 20. NRSV.
[15] John 16. “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com.  “The Book of John.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d.  <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/john.htm>  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”  Crandall University. 2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/John.htm>
[16] Acts 1.

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