Uniqueness of Matthew’s Gospel

 

Matthew’s Gospel is surrounded by many questions – who, when, what, how – making it a target rich environment for those who wish to challenge its credibility. Parallel passages, dates, authorship and variation from other Gospels are all called into question.

Authorship of Matthew is not claimed within the Gospel itself. Customarily Matthew is believed, based on sources who lived in very close time proximity, to have been written by one of the 12 Disciples of Jesus for whom the Gospel is named – an eyewitness.[1] Other scholars and skeptics with differing views believe Matthew was written by someone else; is a collection of stories and oral tradition; or is even completely fictitious.[2]

Papyrus fragment P45

Many religion authorities believe Matthew was written sometime between 55-75 AD; other views range from 90-100 AD.[3] All timeframe possibilities are during the first century when some of the original Disciples were still alive as were undoubtedly some from the Sanhedrin body who placed Jesus of Nazareth on trial. Which was written first, Mark or Matthew, is debatable although clearly Matthew is much longer and has much more detail.

Use of common reference materials are evidenced by the parallel passages, sometimes verbatim, appearing on both Gospels as well as in Luke.[4] Still, less than a third of Matthew’s content is common to Mark.[5] Parallel passages that pose an alleged credibility issue, along with the Gospel being unpinned, can both be attributed to legitimate literary protocols of the day.

Copying from another source to serve as a “witness” was a respected form of citation and corroboration. It was common practice to copy from another resource, even verbatim, without a citation. Abuses of this practice by the Greeks were addressed at length by Josephus in Against Apion.[6]

Not penning a work was characteristic Jewish practice for reasons of humility, to avoid bringing fame or attention to the author. Examples of other Jewish works without authorship or identify of the authors include books within the Old Testament or the Tenakh.[7]

Identity, sourcing, timeline and references aside, the measure of authenticity and credibility of the Gospel can be still be evaluated based on assessing its content. Literary analysis and literary criticism are among important scientific methodologies used to assess credibility.

Variation actually enhances authenticity and credibility of Matthew. In the world of investigations, written statements that too closely resemble each other are immediately suspect of deception.[9]

Truthful, credible statements are expected to be consistent with key evidence as well as with other witness statements, yet characteristic variation is most certainly expected. A basic principal:   the more details, the harder to cover a deception whereas deceptive statements lack detail.

“There must, therefore, naturally arise great differences among writers, when they had no original records to lay for their foundation, which might at once inform those who had an inclination to learn, and contradict those that would tell lies…” – Josephus[10]

Distinct diversity from Luke can be seen immediately in Matthew with the genealogy of Jesus listed in reverse order along with some name variations.[11] Slightly more than a third of the content of Matthew is not in common with Luke similarly to Mark…Matthew’s unmatched subject matter is exceptional.[12]

Joseph‘s personal circumstances are exhibited only in Matthew such as his contemplation of divorcing Mary for becoming pregnant by another man. Joseph’s mind was changed by the angel’s visitation message that Mary would fulfill the quoted Isaiah 7:14 prophecy of a virgin birth and instructed Joseph to name the baby “Jesus.”

Next is the exclusive, unusual introduction of the mystic Magi; “His Star;” and King Herod’s treachery – without it, about half of the traditional Christmas Nativity scene would not exist. Any question about “Bethlehem of Judea” being the birthplace of Jesus was addressed by quoting the Micah 5:2 prophecy, its meaning interpreted by none other than Herod’s own Jewish religious experts.

Moving to the crucifixion, burial and the Resurrection, Matthew solely recounts details surrounding the death of Jesus – the earthquake, stones split in two, and tombs being opened with bodies coming back to life.[13]

Precluding several conspiracy claims, Matthew establishes the chain of custody over the body of Jesus – from the crucifixion; burial by a member of the Jewish Council; the Jewish leadership’s request to Pilate to secure the tomb to prevent a false fulfillment of the 3-day Resurrection prophecies; and the unique use of the Greek word koustodia, a company of guards.

Morning of the Resurrection, Matthew includes the lone accounts of several key happenings. Beginning with the angel rolling away the stone from the empty tomb; the earthquake; the proclamation of the angel presenting the empty tomb;  the dereliction of the Guards and their report to the chief priests; and later the resurrected appearance of Jesus to women of Galilee.[14]

Historically, Matthew states Jesus was born during the reign of Judea’s King Herod; cites Herod’s death shortly thereafter; and names secular historical figure Archelaus as ruler of Judea after Herod died.[15] Matthew’s historical attributions combined with Luke’s Nativity account raises the bar of Gospel answerability to the highest degree by establishing the narrow window of five overlapping historical date markers  – the lives of Augustus, Herod, and Quirinius; the Roman census and “His Star.”

Much of the details of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth are found only in Matthew.  The author recounts three miracles and at least 10 parables that do not appear in any other Gospel.[16]

One of the most famous teachings of Jesus unique to Matthew is the famed “Sermon on the Mount” including the nine verses of Beatitudes, all beginning with “Blessed are…” The quoted sermon covers 106 verses through three chapters – detail requiring an eyewitness..[17] 

Perhaps the biggest clue to the divine nature of Jesus is quoted in Matthew. Jesus spoke from his personal perspective as One who, watching Jerusalem throughout its history, often longed to provide protection for its people even though they killed the messengers God sent to them. The author of Luke chose to include Matthew’s quoted statement of Jesus in his own investigative report:[18]

MT 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (NKJV)

Extensive, unique details in Matthew – narratives, quotes, parables, miracles and prophecies – places the Gospel’s credibility in a most vulnerable position. If any details were deemed to be untrue by other contemporaries, they presented no evidence that refutes it.

Parts of Matthew were corroborated by the independent eyewitness account of John’s Gospel; certain content in Luke’s investigative Gospel; as well as secular history. Considering the customary literary protocols, the allegation of literary misconduct becomes a non-issue.

What remains to assess the credibility of Matthew is its believability. Are the Gospel’s detailed accounts fabrications… or do the unique details in Matthew indicate truthfulness and credibility?

 

Updated October 12, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Luke 13:34. Luke 13:34. Papias. “Papias.” Fragment I & VI. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vii.html>  Gloag, Paton James. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p 168.  <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=chi.090193322;view=1up;seq=25>  Irenaeus of Lyons.  Against Heresies. Book III, Chapter I.1, IX, XXI.3.  <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, 1902. p XIX. <https://books.google.com/books?id=WcYUAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA127&ots=f_TER300kY&dq=Seneca%20centurio%20supplicio%20pr%C3%A6positus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[2] Fausset, Andrew R.  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. “Matthew, The Gospel According to.”  <http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T2722>  Didymus, John Thomas.  “The Biblical Evidence For a Conspiracy Theory of the Resurrection.”  2010.  <http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Biblical-Evidence-For-a-Conspiracy-Theory-of-the-Resurrection&id=4205050>  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament>  Smith, Ben C. The Synoptic Project. 2018. <http://www.textexcavation.com/synopticproject.html>  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp. 4-5, 48, 63-64, 106-108.  “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com.  “The Lives.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament>  Kirby, Peter.  “Gospel of Matthew.”  EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2018. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/matthew.html>  Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.”  Carr, A. The Gospel According to Matthew, Volume I. 1881. pp XVIII – XIX. <http://books.google.com/books?id=ZQAXAAAAYAAJ&dq=Swete%2C%20The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20St.%20Matthew&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Swete,%20The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20St.%20Matthew&f=false>  Smith, B. D. “The Gospel of Matthew.”
[3] “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com. n.d. <https://www.theopedia.com/gospel-of-matthew>  “The Lives.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d. <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/matthew.htm> Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010. <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/01/dating-gospels-looking-at-historical.html>  Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” Answering-Islam.org. 2013.  <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>  Kirby, Peter. Index. EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2018. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html> Smith, Barry. D. “The Gospel of Matthew.”  n.d. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/Matt.htm>  Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6.  2012.  <http://www.foolishfaith.com/book_chap6_history.asp> Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” 2013.  <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>  “Paprus Fragments P45.” Bible Resource Pages. photo. early 3rd century. <http://katapi.org.uk/BibleMSS/P45.htm
[4] Fausset, Andrew R.  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. “New Testament.”  <http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T2722>
[5] “Matthew. Easton’s Bible Dictionary. 1897. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002400.html#T0002443>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Greek Text with Notes and Indices. p. XXIV.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p. 33 <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=chi.090193322;view=1up;seq=25>
[6] Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book I.1-2, 4-6, 10, 17, 19, 23, 26. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. “Preface.”  Reed, Annette Yoshiko.  Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and ‘The Bible’ in Late Antiquity. 2008. p 478.  <http://www.academia.edu/1610659/_Pseudepigraphy_Authorship_and_the_Reception_of_the_Bible_in_Late_Antiquity>  “Custom Cheating and Plagiarism essay paper writing service.” ExclusivePapers.com.  n.d.  <http://exclusivepapers.com/essays/Informative/cheating-and-plagiarism.php>  Cummings, Michael J. “Did Shakespeare Plagiarize?” Cummings Study Guides. 2003. <http://cummingsstudyguides.net/xPlagiarism.html>
[7] Reed.  Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and ‘The Bible’ in Late Antiquity. p 476-479.  “Hebrew Bible: Torah, Prophets and Writings.” MyJewishLearning.com. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hebrew-bible>  Benner, Jeff, Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2018. “The Authors of the Torah.” <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/articles_authors.html>
[8] Carr. The Gospel Accouding to Matthew, Volume I. p XVIII – XIX.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p 5. “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com. “Jesus.”  “The Book of Matthew.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  Mareghni, Pamela. “Different Approaches to Literary Criticism.” 2014. <http://web.archive.org/web/20140628042039/http://www.ehow.com/about_5385205_different-approaches-literary-criticism.html>  Preble, Laura. “Traditional Literary Criticism.” 2014. <http://www.ehow.com/info_8079187_approaches-literary-criticism.html>
[9] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. Basics and advance courses. <http://www.lsiscan.com/id37.htm>  “Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN).” Personal Verification LTD. 2018. <http://www.verify.co.nz/scan.php>
[10] Josephus. Against Apion. Book I.5.
[11] Matthew 1; Luke 3. Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Book III. Chapter I.1, IX, XXI.3. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. n.d.  <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies>  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp ix, 39.
[12] “Matthew.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002400.html#T0002442>  “Luke.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002300.html#T0002331> Carr. The Gospel Acco rding to Matthew, Volume I. pp XVIII – XIX. Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.  p 32-33, 38-42.  Sween, Don and Nancy. “Parable.” BibleReferenceGuide.com. n.d. <http://www.biblereferenceguide.com/keywords/parable.html>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, 1902. p XVII, XXIV.  Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158Ryrie Study Bible.  Ed. Ryrie Charles C.  Trans. New American Standard. 1978. “The Miracles of Jesus.” Aune, Eilif Osten. “Synoptic Gospels.” Bible Basics. 2013. <www.bible-basics-layers-of-understanding.com/Synoptic-Gospels.html>
[13] Matthew 27.
[14] Net.bible.org. Matthew 27:65 Greek text.  “koustodia <2892>.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2892.html>
[15] Matthew 2; CR Luke 1.
[16] Carr. The Gospel Accouding to Matthew. Volume I. pp XVIII – XIX.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp 32-33. Gloag, The Synoptic Gospels. pp 38-42. Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”  F. 5.3.3.  2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/John.htm>  Sween. “Parable.”  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark. pp. XIX, XXIII. <https://books.google.com/books?id=WcYUAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA127&ots=f_TER300kY&dq=Seneca%20centurio%20supplicio%20pr%C3%A6positus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Luke.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary.  “Parable.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 2018. <http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/P/parable.html>  “The Parables of Jesus.” Ryrie Study Bible. “The Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie Study Bible.  Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158>
[17] Matthew 5-7. CR Luke 6:20-22.
[18] Mathew 24; Luke 13:34.

Conspiracy Theory – Christianity Is a Fiction

 

Adversaries of Christianity sometimes argue against the reality of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, even as a real historical figure, by claiming Christianity itself is a fictional story. One conspiracy theory claims Christianity and thus Jesus are the result of various groups colluding to invent a morphed deity image of a messiah:[1]

“…Christianity and the story of Jesus Christ were created by members of various secret societies, mystery schools and religions in order to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion.  …this multinational cabal drew upon a multitude of myths and rituals that existed long before the Christian era, and reworked them for centuries into the religion passed down to us today.” – Acharya S.

Challenges to create a fictional messiah figure would have been enormous, especially in an era without any means of electronic communication, media, even the printed word. Just the opposite occurred. Christianity rose so rapidly, Jewish leaders tried to snuff it out quickly and Rome tried to quell it by killing people who professed it.

To believe the claim of a morphed, fictitious messiah image who was a Jew, the theory wants people to believe that a Christianity conspiracy began “centuries” earlier.  Creating a Christian religion with a Jewish messiah ups the ante to the highest degree.

Jews were probably the most scorned, if not hated, ethnic group in the Roman Empire. Judaism itself viewed Christianity as blasphemous for its belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

Contrary to this theory in Biblical history, Jews themselves were warring against each other before being taken captive in Babylon. After being freed by the Persian overthrow, enemies still wanted to subvert the Jew’s efforts, yet this theory says there was collusion with them to develop a fictitious messiah strategy.[2]

Rulers of three Empires – Babylonians, Persians and Greeks – had to be complicit in the conspiracy for this theory to have merit.[3] It then has to be accepted this was a long term strategy “to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion” even though the concept of a Roman Empire was unknown.

Pilate had Jesus crucified and to refute that fact means declaring Tacitus, Suetonius and other Roman historians were wrong. The theory proposes that Jewish leadership was supporting Rome who was, in fact, crucifying Jews by the thousands eventually destroying Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.[4]

For the invention of a fictional Jewish messiah, a deity or god, “created by members of various secret societies, mystery schools and religions,” a perfect profile would be expected. A fictitious messiah image would call for a flawless ancestral background of pure Jewish lineage, not to mention a flawless ancestral history free of unsavory or illegal activities. Alleged collaborators would then have to weave this 2000 year history of a complex lineage into a messiah narrative.

Genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth was anything but flawless. While going back to the time of Abraham that included blessings, faith, forgiveness, miracles, redemption, prophecies issued and fulfilled; it also involved the most ignoble examples of disobedience to God and yet each involved blessings from God. Disgraceful accounts pulled straight from the Old Testament, the Tenakh, include deceptions, lies, a prostitute, Gentile intermarriages, voyeurism, adultery, murder, greed, lascivious pleasures, etc.

Grandson of Abraham, Jacob swindled his older twin brother’s inheritance blessing from his father, Isaac. Jacob was later renamed by God and became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.[5]

Jacob’s own conniving sons sold their younger brother, Joseph, into slavery and lied to their father saying he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph went on to become the second most powerful ruler in Egypt under Pharaoh and eventually saved his same Hebrew family from a famine.[6]

Rahab, a prostitute spared from the destruction of Jericho, married a Hebrew named Salmon and their son was named Boaz who became a wealthy resident of Bethlehem.[7] Boaz married the Gentile daughter-in-law of his Jewish relative Naomi, allowing Naomi to redeem her otherwise lost inheritance.[8]

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi professed his distaste of having a Gentile in the prophetic lineage of the Messiah. His disgust appears in his commentary on the Bethlehem prophecy of Micah 5:2:[9]

“you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah: [Rashi] You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.” – The Complete Jewish Bible

Grandson of Boaz and Ruth was Jesse whose son, David, became the King of Israel.[10] David committed some dastardly deeds that would be scandalous in any century.

King David’s voyeurism led to an affair with his neighbor’s wife and when his plan to cover-up her illicit pregnancy failed, the King had her husband sent to the front lines of a war knowing he would be killed.[11] Subsequent prophecies foretold the future Messiah would come from the lineage of King David.

King Solomon, son of David, built his own palace first, then built and consecrated the promised Temple of God. In the interim, Solomon indulged in the pleasures of 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of whom were Gentiles who brought with them forbidden idolatry influences.[12]

A prefect lineage of a made-up messiah was simply not possible as demonstrated time and again by Scriptural history. This flawed genealogy would have been a huge obstacle for anyone who attempted to “rework[ed] them for centuries into the religion passed down to us today.” According to the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born into this flawed Jewish royal lineage.

Unique to Christianity and the center of the its core creed are the Resurrection accounts of Jesus.[13] No one, including the followers of Jesus, ever believed a resurrection could happen before Jesus was crucified.

In one weekend, one morning dawn, everything changed; it did not take “centuries” to rework “the religion passed down to us today.” Adversaries of the Resurrection accounts necessitated that the witnesses or those who believed their accounts – Christians – to be refuted, ridiculed, imprisoned and even killed.

Arrival of Jesus of Nazareth happened during the era when Rome was entering it’s height of glory in which the early Christians lived. Accounts people heard about Jesus rang true, many believed and were labeled as “Christians.” Their belief was so strong, they were willing to die for what they believed. Would anyone die to defend a false legend?

Updated November 17, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Acharya S. (Murdock, D.M.)  The Christ Conspiracy. Google Books advertisement. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Christ_Conspiracy.html?id=KnIYRi3upbEC Conspiracy Theories>. Stitcher. image. 2018. <https://megaphone-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/podcasts/4b9e4b82-9bf9-11e8-ad4e-23b6913e004d/image/aa316e8eb017eeb2d66bd3ab5ef8270c329c2cdb5347f0e589403a20369416bc4a7f9ac6d6f18a9a13fd4eb5c6d622a7e506238a1124dbd66019deba3532d1ee.jpeg
[2] I Kings 11:26-12:24; Ezra 4;4, 5:6-17.
[3] Ezra 1:2-4, 6:7-12; 7:11-28. Spiro, Ken.  “History Crash Course #27: The Greek Empire.” Aish.com. 2001. <http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48939587.html>  Hooker, Richard. “Hellenistic Greece: Alexander the Great.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[4] Suetonius (C. Suetonius Tranquillus or C. Tranquillus Suetonius). The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Ed. Maximilian Ihm, trans. J. C. Rolfe. University of Chicago|Bill Thayer. n.d. “The Life of Titus.” 109 AD. <https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html> “Siege of Jerusalem.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/event/Siege-of-Jerusalem-70> Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter XIV, Book V, Chapter XI.. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[5] Genesis 25; 27-28.
[6] Genesis 37; 41-46.
[7] Joshua 2, 6, Ruth 4; I Chronicles 2:1-17.
[8] Ruth 2-4.
[9] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah 5:2 Rashi commentary.
[10] Ruth 4; I Chronicles 2.
[11] 2 Samuel 11-12.
[12] 2 Chronicles 7, 9; I Kings 7-8, 10.
[13] I Corinthians 15:3-4.

Implications of the Miracles

 

Miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth reported by the Gospels could demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. At least some Jewish authorities agree with the Gospels’ accounts of miracles and wonders such as Encyclopedia Judaica noting they 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” was not proof of the Messiah because miracles are not a requirement for the Messiah although it is prophesied that he will perform miracles.

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

Various, often unique, reports of miracles, signs and wonders based on witness accounts are recounted by the authors of the Gospels. Some allegations claim Christian conspirators devised the Gospels as fictional books making Jesus appear to be the Messiah.[5] Comparing all four Gospels through literary analysis reveals a different story.

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 miracles 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!6]

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.[7] Both instances of Jesus resurrecting the dead are exclusively narrated, first in Luke and second in John.[8]

All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on the Sabbath.[9] Jewish leaders acknowledged miracles had occurred in order to criticize when they were performed. Among them, even with today’s standards of modern medicine, are truly miracles:  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.

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.[10]

Often overlooked are the miracles, signs and wonders recounted after the Resurrection. Later the same day of the Resurrection, 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.[11]

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.[12]

John exclusively reports it happened again 8 days later, with the doubting Disciple Thomas present, he was allowed to touch the healed wounds of Jesus.[13] John described two more miracles that occurred days later at the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee).[14]

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.[15] The author wrote that the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth attested to the fact that God was manifesting Himself through Jesus.[16] 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

Do miracles attest to 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?

 

Updated November 28, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Page 246.  CR “Jesus.”  Encyclopedia.com. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jesus>  “Miracles.” YouTube. photo. 2017. <https://i0.wp.com/theodds.website/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Miracles-image.jpg?resize=300%2C169>  
[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] 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>
[6] “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>
[7] Fairchild. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.” 
[8] Luke 7; John 4.
[9] Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6, 13; John 5, 9.
[10] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; I Corinthians 15. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1998. Part 3.
[11] Luke 24; CR Mark 16.
[12] Mark 16; Luke 24. NET.
[13] John 20. NRSV.
[14] 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>
[15] Acts 1.
[16] 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&gt