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Implications of the Miracles

Miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth as reported by the Gospels, if true, would have dual implications. Not only would these miracles serve to corroborate that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah; accounts of miracles performed would also demonstrate the integrity of the Gospels.

Aside from the obvious the Christian perspective, at least some Jewish authorities support the Gospel’s accounts of miracles and wonders. Encyclopedia Judaica noted the miracles ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels define him as a “miracle maker”:[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

Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides in his premier Jewish work Mishneh Torah (circa 1180 AD) commented on miracles performed by the Messiah.[2] Performing “miracles and wonders,” according to the Rabbi, 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 who sent him letters with questions. His responses to some of these letters are known as Responsa (Teshuvot).[3]

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:[4]

“…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

Contrary to perceptions that the four Gospel are merely recycled information, accounts of miracles have less in common with each other than they have in common. A total of 35 miracles are recorded as having occurred before the crucifixion of Jesus, but only one these 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![5]

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 the 17 miracles performed before the crucifixion are uniquely detailed by a given Gospel author – 3 by Matthew, 2 by Mark, 6 by Luke and 6 by John.[6] Both instances of Jesus resurrecting the dead are exclusively narrated, the first in Luke and the second in John.[7]

Detailed by all four Gospels, the greatest miracle story ever told 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.[8]

Often overlooked are the miracles, signs and wonders recounted after the Resurrection. Later the same day of the Resurrection accounts, Luke includes the eyewitness statement of Cleopas when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him and his traveling partner on the road to Emmaus, sat down to dinner and prayed with them, then vanished before their eyes.[9]

Later that evening, Mark and Luke described when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared inside a locked room terrifying those present. After eating and speaking with the gathering, he instantly disappeared.[10]

John exclusively reports it happened again 8 days later with the doubting Disciple Thomas present who was allowed to touch the healed wounds of Jesus.[11] John described two more miracles that occurred days later at the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee).[12]

Outside of the Gospels in the Book of Acts written by the author of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus rose in the sky and disappeared into a cloud.[13] The author wrote that the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth attested to the fact that God was manifesting Himself through Jesus.[14] Quoting the Disciple Peter:

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

All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on the Sabbath.[15] They first had to acknowledge 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.

Later, allegations claim Christian conspirators devised the Gospels as fictional books making Jesus appear to be the Messiah.[16] A major hurdle is the assumption that Christian conspirators – authors, witnesses, translators, transcribers – would want to tightly sync their accounts to portray a flawless story. The Gospels themselves are evidence they are not a coordinated effort.

Comparing all four Gospels through literary analysis reveals a different perspective. Various multiple, often unique, reports of miracles, signs and wonders based on witness accounts were recounted by the authors of the Gospels demonstrating they are not recycled materials.

Do these miracles attest to the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was sent by God as the Messiah and corroborate the integrity of the Gospels…and, if they do, what does that say about Gospels’ claim of the greatest and unique miracle, the Resurrection?

 

Updated November 7, 2021.

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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] 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>
[3] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Publisher:  Kehot Publication Society. 2018. Chabad.org.  2014.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm> [4] 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>
[5] “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>
[6] Fairchild. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.” 
[7] Luke 7; John 4.
[8] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; I Corinthians 15. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1998. Part 3.
[9] Luke 24; CR Mark 16.
[10] Mark 16; Luke 24. NET.
[11] John 20. NRSV.
[12] 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>
[13] Acts 1.
[14] 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>
[15] Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6, 13; John 5, 9.
[16] 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>

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