Is jesus the only religious leader who performed miracles?


No, Jesus is not the only religious leader who performed miracles. However his miraculous ministry was absolutely unique in at least one sense, as I will discuss below.

Let me start with a list of famous religious leaders. I will only list ones who were real people. Such religious figures as Osiris, Empedocles or Krishna almost certainly were not real people, making stories of supposed miracles they worked irrelevant to the question you are asking.

1. Moses (approx.. 1400 BC). According to historical records, specifically the book of Exodus, Moses was the instrument through which the Red Sea was parted, water came from a rock and a number of other miraculous events. A number of other miraculous things happened around Moses, but it is debatable to say he performed these miracles. This would include the manna found on the ground in the morning, the fire on Mt. Sinai and many others.

2. Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) (approx. 550 BC). There is no contemporary record of Buddha either working miracles or claiming to work miracles. Any stories of his working of miracles are rather obviously made up by pious followers–usually hundreds of years after the events. Most scholars, including Buddhist ones, would agree that Buddha did not physical miracles.

3. Confucius (approx. 500 BC). The same situation holds for Confucius as for Buddha. There is no reliable evidence that he either worked miracles or claimed to do so.

4. Jesus. I assume you know about the multiple claims that Jesus worked miracles. These claims are universally reported by a wide range of eye- witnesses, some of whom reported their experiences. This would include the apostles John and Matthew. Also, non-Christian writers such as Josephus (Jewish), Tacitus (Roman) and the writers of the Jewish Talmud corroborate the fact that it was claimed widely that he worked miracles.

5. Muhammad. (approx. AD 600) There are no claims of miracles at all in the Qur’an. The only possible "miracle" associated with Muhammad is that he was supposedly raised and taken to heaven. This was not a physical/bodily resurrection. There is no claim that Muhammad was walking around after his death. Besides, there is literally no evidence for his being taken away. Neither do Muslims claim that such physical evidence exists. As with all important religious leaders, pious followers have invented apocryphal stories of Muhammad working miracles, but serious Islamic scholars discount these stories.

6. Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith claimed the power to work miracles by the Holy Spirit. He made numerous claims of healings and tongue-speaking. However, at the most crucial times, his ability to work public, bona-fide miracles was proved to be either limited or to not exist at all. For example, at a key meeting in the first temple in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith completely failed to perform a number of faith healings. This failure was so complete that the meeting broke up and his followers went home disillusioned. Bottom line, Joseph Smith was not able to do public and irrefutable miraculous signs, despite a number of folk stories and anecdotal and unreliable accounts.

Of course, there have been a number of other important religious leaders, such as Lao Tzu (Taoism) and Baha’Ullah (Ba’hai) Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism) and others, but the picture which emerges does not change significantly if we add these men to the list. Only two legitimate miracle-workers emerge from the pack. Certainly other people have claimed to work miracles and have had miracle-working claimed of them, but the list above is relevant to your question, which was about major religious leaders.

Of the two miracle-workers on our list, the miracle-working pedigree of Jesus is somewhat stronger than that of Moses. This is because we have accounts written by known people within one or two generations of when Jesus actually worked his miracles. These accounts include indirect evidence of his miraculous ministry, even from non-believers. The case with Moses is a bit weaker from the point of view of the quality of the testimony. We cannot be sure how much time elapsed between the events happening and them being written down. It is possible that Moses himself wrote all or parts of Exodus, which would make the witness very strong, but it is difficult to provide hard evidence that Moses or anyone else in that generation wrote down these accounts. I do not mean to say that Moses was not a miracle-worker, but that the evidence for this is somewhat weaker for those investigating the question if we do not make assumptions about the inspiration of the scriptures.

John Oakes

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