RESPONDblogs: Does Evidence of Jesus’ Miracles Exist Outside of the Bible?

resurrection.power

Earlier today, someone said this to me:

“There is historical evidence for Jesus crucifixion…but not any of his miracles.”

As those words hit me, I groaned inside. Why? Because I think this guy is just expressing something that is mistakenly assumed by so many skeptics of Christianity.

 

I try to reach a skeptical audience with this blog – i’m not always successful. Having said that…it strikes me that, if I’m a Biblical skeptic, i’m not going to be too impressed by evidence of Jesus miracles from the pages of the Bible itself. So…what about evidence of Jesus miracles OUTSIDE the pages of the Bible? Does any of this corroborating evidence exist…evidence that supports the evidence in the Bible?

Well – I explored some of the earliest reporting from those who were hostile to Jesus here. A priori knowledge about Jesus and his supernatural status is being explained away by some of these skeptical reports. If this is a boot print in history, then the nature defying Jesus of the New Testament is that boot.

You can find more interesting details on how the early enemies of Jesus viewed him here:

Josephus

Tacitus

Suetonius

 

But the extra-Biblical evidence of a supernatural Jesus goes further.

Archaeologists have also uncovered evidence suggesting that the followers of Jesus did not simply view him as a good man…they worshipped him as God.

 

Alexamenos-Graffiti

First – the earliest portrayal of Jesus Christ we are aware of is a piece of graffiti that is drawn with the intention of insulting Jesus and Christians in general. It shows a man with a donkey’s head being crucified…and another man standing to the side with one hand outstretched. Beneath this is written in Greek, “Alexamenos worships [his] God.”

Weird, eh? But actually, the early Christian claims of a crucified God were viewed as ridiculous. The Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead was treated with as much scepticism then as it is viewed by so many today. This graffiti qualifies as ancient satire, it was drawn to poke fun at the early Christians. And it corroborates an important fact. Early Christians – strict monotheists – worshiped Jesus. What would cause strict monotheistic Jews who worshipped Yahweh…to worship Jesus?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Second – two inscriptions found on ossuaries (jars containing skeletal remains) dated around AD 50 – are actually prayers addressed to Jesus…asking for his help. Mark Mittleberg asks a penetrating question. “How is it that Jesus – if he never lived or never rose from the dead – is invoked in prayer a mere twenty years after his death?”[1]

 

Where does this leave us? Well – if we are willing to look – corroborating evidence supports the claim of the New Testament. Specifically – that Jesus lived, he died, he rose from the dead and his followers worshipped him as God; they genuinely and honestly initiated the spread of Christianity.

If the history is right…and Jesus rose from the dead as the New Testament Gospels affirm…then it confirms His recorded claims to be God Himself. Why? Because the thing that eventually masters each and every one of us – death – has no power over Him. In the light of that…wouldn’t it make sense to bring our lives under His love and care?

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29, NIV

 

[1] Mark Mittleberg, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Tyndale House 2010, 77.

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

21 thoughts on “RESPONDblogs: Does Evidence of Jesus’ Miracles Exist Outside of the Bible?”

  1. How this comes off to non-believers:

    “Where’s the evidence that Uri Gellar bent spoons using his mind back in the 80s?”

    “Here’s a book written in 2012 saying that people believed he did it!”

    1. Hey there

      Thanks for pointing this out to me.

      I love your economy here, btw. Brilliant. Made me chuckle.

      Someone once said – context is everything. I would suggest that – when we look at the context of Jesus and the birth of Christianity – we see a very different picture emerging. And no spoons. 🙂

      Stu

      1. Perhaps. But I just want to be clear that what you are arguing here (you’re not alone in this) is for anecdotal evidence being sufficient for supernatural claims.

        Which is fine as long as you’re consistent. If you accept anecdotal evidence for one claim and not another, you need to have a good explanation as to why some things get an exception.

      2. Again – context is everything.

        I don’t think in terms of exception, because as a theist, this universe and the appearance of life on this planet is an incredible miracle in itself, and any follow on supernatural event is a bit like a stone dropped in the stream of nature. External divine input doesn’t break nature. Nature adapts and continues.

        The Christian claims are rooted in the supernatural. But to call these anecdotal is to misrepresent them. Yes – my blog was focussing on the extra Biblical evidence. But I would suggest this evidence just further builds up the picture which is actually presented thru the gospels and the letters in the NT

        Are all miracle claims of all religions valid? Did that person really see Jesus appear on the surface of his toast this morning? Unlikely. But the claim must be assessed based on the quality of the evidence available, the number of witnesses and the subsequent positive impact that these claims have made on people down thru history. Not rejected out of hand because … of course thinking people know that miracles don’t exist.

        Stu

      3. “But the claim must be assessed based on the quality of the evidence available, the number of witnesses and the subsequent positive impact that these claims have made on people down thru history.”

        The first I agree with. The second depends on having individual accounts from all those witnesses, but still isn’t all that strong based on what we know of ‘eye-witness testimony’. And the third doesn’t matter at all…all it tells us is that someone believes something and it had a positive impact. It in no way gives evidence that the thing believed is true.

      4. I think the Police might view eye witness testimony and the context within which it is given more seriously. So do historians. Context is everything.

  2. Actually the blanket statement that eyewitness testimony is unreliable is a massive overstatement.

    Humans can be fooled by deliberate deception, or under specific types of circumstances (bad lighting, something happening very quickly, distraction). Multiple eyewitnesses largely mitigates these problems, which the NT has.

    So yes, eyewitness testimony requires interpretation, but then so does “scientific” and statistical evidence. A positive GSR test doesn’t make a man a murderer.

  3. “Context is everything.”

    It is. But so is realizing what is a claim and what is evidence.

    “Hundreds of people saw event X.”

    That is a claim. It is not evidence.

    1. If lots of credible witnesses claim to see a motorist knocking over a cyclist…this puts the motorists conviction beyond reasonable doubt. This principle also applies to the eyewitness reporting in the New Testament on Jesus (even tho our distance from the events is counted in millennia, the eyewitness accounts date from a couple of years following the events – 1 Corinthians 15 creed). So why do so many back off and say…”a claim is not evidence”? Well – what do you think? For me…my suspicion is that a large part of the reason is some people’s commitment to anti-supernaturalism. Because of the extra-ordinary claims of those eye witnesses – their claims are dismissed without giving the witnesses a fair hearing. Just my opinion there tho…Any way – have a good weekend!

      Stu

      1. “If lots of credible witnesses claim to see a motorist knocking over a cyclist…this puts the motorists conviction beyond reasonable doubt.”

        True. But that’s not what you have. You have one person who might be a witness claiming that there are a whole lot of other witnesses.

      2. It contains four gospels that we don’t have originals of and therefore couldn’t confirm as eyewitness.

        Even if we could…we have far more than four eyewitnesses to alien abduction. And yet I’d guess you wouldn’t believe those.

      3. I’ve studied alien abduction claims. Their form is completely different from the claims found in the Gospels. I can point to some more thoughts on this topic if you are interested?

      4. Not particularly.

        The point is that for some reason you seem to think that four books that may or may not be eyewitness testimony are somehow good enough evidence for extraordinary claims. And I don’t think that’s good enough in the least.

  4. Reblogged this on Evangeletics and commented:
    Good read. Although the article itself is more accurately focused on extra-biblical evidence of the existence of Jesus rather than His miracles, take another couple minutes to click on his links to get more info on what Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius had to say about Jesus.

  5. NotAScientist I must agree with stuartgrayouk, the difference between your spoon benders and aliens examples and Christ’s resurrection is the background information / context.

    If there was a great unexplained in world that pointed to the existence of spoon benders or aliens then your examples would have weight. But there is none is there?

    For Christ it’s our very existence that points the the existence of a cause to all physical reality. We have very good reasons to expect the cause to be personal (physical could not have caused the first physical). Then we have reason to expect the Cause to have revealed himself in at least one religion of the world. We investigate and find that there is clearly only one religion that stood the scrutiny of critique through all the ages. Then we discover that Christianity is not a mere religion. It’s much more. It is TRUTH revealed. It is a relationship restored, it is eternal life with the “Cause”. 😃

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