If the miracle stories and the resurection are myths started years after
the crucifiction wouldn’t there be alternate stories of Christ that would
be written down? I don’t know of any stories of a non-miracle working
Jesus so isn’t this very strong evidence that the stories are not myths?
Why don’t I ever here this argument?
I think that you have a good point. I make this point (sort of–not in
the way you do here) in my book, Reasons for Belief: A Handbook of
Christian Evidence (www.ipibooks.com). The point I make there is that
even the Jews did not claim that Jesus did not work miracles. In fact, as
you point out, none of the contemporaries had the nerve to create the
scenario that Jesus did not work miracles. His wonders and signs were too
much a matter of public record. As Peter put it, “Men of Israel, listen
to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles,
wonders and signs, which God did among you through him as you yourselves
know.” (Acts 2:22) The miracles of Jesus were not done in the dark or in
secret. They were so public, that even the Jews did not have the nerve to
pretend nothing happened. Instead, they claimed Jesus did miracles by the
power of Satan. The Talmud mentions Jesus, but claims his signs were from
Satan, not God. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a).
As far as I know, published claims that Jesus was just a good teacher, and
not a worker of miracles were invented only in the seventeenth century
with the rise of deists in Western Europe.
Is the fact that there are no stories of Jesus as a non-miracle worker
strong evidence that Jesus was a miracle worker? My response is that this
is good evidence, but not evidence of the strongest sort. A lack of
evidence is not evidence of a lack. In other words, although we do not
know of any examples of claims that Jesus did not work miracles, a skeptic
can claim that just because we do not have such documents does not prove
that none were ever written. We cannot state for sure that no one wrote
such things in the first or second century. All we can say is that we
have no evidence for such writings. Using a lack of evidence as a piece
of evidence is not the sort of thing which will convince the skeptic.
Such “evidence” does not hold up well in a court of law.
So, I agree with your point. The unanimous testimony, to some extent even
by the enemies of Jesus, points to Jesus as a miracle worker. The lack of
evidence for a competing non-miraculous Jesus story is evidence as well,
but in my opinion, it is not evidence of the strongest sort. If we could
prove that these stories never existed (which is impossible) the point
would be a lot stronger, but this cannot happen. I really appreciate the
fact that you are thinking carefully about the miracles of Jesus. By the
way, a friend of mine, Dave Eastman and I, have written a book on the
miracles of Jesus which should be published by late 2007. Be looking at
the web site for a publication date.
John Oakes, PhD