Jesus Christ claimed to be the Messiah that the Jews had long been waiting for. He clearly told the women at the well (John 4:25-26), commended Peter for his profession (Matthew 16:15-17), and calmly confessed to the Jewish leaders seeking to kill Him (Matthew 26:63-65 cf. Daniel 7:13). This claim of its self is remarkable. “Significantly, there are no historical references to any false messiahs before the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the first appearance of a false messiah occurred after the resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish scholar C.G. Montefiore wrote, ‘Of false Messiahs, we know of none among the Jews until Bar Cochba in 131 C.E.’ The genuine always precedes the appearance of the counterfeit.”1)Grant R. Jeffrey, Triumphant Return, Frontier Research Publication Inc., 2001, p. 204; citing C.G. Montefiore, Rabbinic Literature and Gospel Teachings,  Ktav Publishing House, 1970

 

Jesus Himself frequently said that His miracles were evidence for His claim as the Messiah (John 10:25, 37-38; 14:10-12). Phillip Schaff explained why Christ’s claims should not be considered the rantings of a madman or extremist. “How could He be an enthusiast of a madman who never lost the even balance of his mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted his death on the cross, his resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of his Church, the destruction of Jerusalem-predictions which have been literally fulfilled?”2)Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1,  Hendrickson Publishing, originally published 1858, 2011, p. 109 Lewis Sperry Chaffer expressed why we should not consider Christ’s, miracles as legends or myths of man’s invention. “The Miracles of Christ are themselves worthy of God both in their dignity and scope. In this they are far removed from those human inventions which are found in the Apocryphal writings. Those recorded in the Evangelium Infantiae are not only absurd but are incapable of conveying any corresponding truth whatsoever.” 3)Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., Systematic Theology, vol. V, Dallas Seminary Press, 1948, p. 173

 

The New Testament record is teeming with the exhausted amounts miracles which Christ did (John 20:30-31; 21: 25). William Paley acknowledge why it is reasonable for us to believe this record.

 

From the clear and acknowledged parts of the case, I think it to be likewise in the highest degree probable, that the story, for which these persons [the apostles] voluntarily exposed themselves to the fatigues and hardships which they endured, was a miraculous story; I mean, that they pretended to miraculous evidence of some kind or other. They had nothing else to stand upon. The designation of the person, that is to say, that Jesus of Nazareth, rather than any other person, was the Messiah, and as such the subject of their ministry, could only be founded upon supernatural tokens attributed to him… A Galilean peasant was announced to the world as a divine lawgiver. A young man of mean conditions, of a private and simple life, and who had wrought no deliverance for the Jewish nation, was declared to be their Messiah…   A young man calling himself the son of God, gathering a crowd about him, and delivering to them lectures of morality, could not have excited so much as a doubt amongst the Jews whether he was the object in whom a long series of ancient prophecies terminated, from the completion of which they had formed such magnificent expectations, and expectations of a nature so opposite to what appeared…4)William Paley, M.A., Evidence of Christianity: with Annotations by Richard Whately, D.D., James Miller 1860, originally published 1794, p. 81-83

 

H.P. Liddon warned that we don’t view these claims with modern mentality of skepticism. “It may be very desirable to defer as far as possible to the mental prepossessions of our time; but it is not practicable to put asunder two things which God has joined together, namely, the beauty of Christ’s character and the bona fide reality of the miracles which He professed to work.”5)H. P. Liddon, The Divinity of our Lord, Longmans, Green, and Co.(New York, 1908) p. 163 Yet many people remain skeptical and find the accounts of miracle performed by Christ unbelievable. Why? Primarily they are denied, because miracles defy the laws of nature. However, “scientists understand that natural laws don’t tell us what must happen, but only describe what usually does happen. They are statistical probabilities, not unchangeable facts.  So we can’t rule out the possibility of miracles by definition.”6)Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, Baker Books, 1990, p. 77 Furthermore, “miracles don’t violate the regular laws of cause and effect, they simply have a cause that transcends nature.”7)Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, Baker Books, 1990, p. 77

 

How should we assess these recorded miracles today? Josh McDowell stated, “Although the miracles recorded in Scripture cannot be scientifically tested or repeated due to their nature, persons, places and events can be investigates historically. If the biblical writers were incorrect in their historical picture, serious doubt would then be cast upon their trustworthiness in which couldn’t be verified.”8)Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions skeptics ask about the Christian faith, Living Books, 1980, p. 35 Henry Morris indicated the method we should investigate these historical claims, “Thus the investigation of alleged miracles must be a historical investigation rather than a scientific investigation. Did the miracles occur – not could it occur? Is there adequate testimonial evidence that it really happened? Whether or not we can explain it in terms of known scientific processes is beside the point… The point is that a miracle does not need to be explained. It needs to be verified as actually having occurred, but that is all.”9)Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Many Infallible Proofs, Master Books, 1990, p. 255 Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) had a lengthy career in legal investigations. He was appointed secretary of the Prison Commission (1877), Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard investigating political crimes (1887), led the Criminal Investigation Department during the Jack the Ripper case, and was a prolific author defending the Bible. He wrote, “But no confirmatory evidence is more convincing than that of hostile witnesses…”10)Sir Robert Anderson, The Lord From Heaven, Kregel Publications, reprint 1978, p. 22 For this purpose we will assess the historical documents of those enemies who opposed Christ’s claim as the Messiah, and how they viewed His miracles in correlation to the New Testament record.

 

Justin Martyr, a 2nd century Christian apologist, wrote to the Roman officials, stating, “And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”11)Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, chap. XXXV; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James Donaldson, LL.D., Henrickson Publishers, p. 175 This was elaborated by a footnote from the editor, “These ‘acts of Pontius Pilate, or regular accounts of his procedures sent by Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius, are supposed to have been destroyed at an early period, possibly in consequence of the unanswered appeals which the Christians constantly made to them.”12)Footnote of editor, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James Donaldson, LL.D., Henrickson Publishers, p. 175 Scripture identifies that the governing officials in Christ’s day were well aware of the miracles being performed by Christ (Matthew 14:1-2; Luke 23:9). Extra biblical records recognize this truth as well. Tertullian, another 2nd century Christian apologist, who was jurisconsult before converting to Christianity, being familiar with Roman archives appealed to these records when writing to the Roman officials: “All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Cæsar, who was at the time Tiberius. Yes, and the Cæsars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Cæsars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Cæsars.”13)Tertullian, Apology, chap. XXI;  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 3, p. 35 He claimed that Pilate became a Christian because he could not deny the evidence from the legal procedures when he condemned Christ to be crucified. He further stated, “[Emperor] Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Cæsar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians. Consult your histories; you will there find that Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect, making progress then especially at Rome. But we glory in having our condemnation hallowed by the hostility of such a wretch.”14)Tertullian, Apology, chap. V; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 3, p 21-22 Tertullian challenged the Romans official to check their own historical documents which demonstrated these events are facts; that the Caesar Tiberius was convinced by the reports of Christ’s miracles, that He was indeed God as He claimed, and attempted to have Christ added to the pantheon of Roman gods, which proposal was denied by the senate.

 

Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian recorded, “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”15)Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, Book 18, chap. 3, para. 3; The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus the Jewish Historian (trans. William Whiston) New Leaf Publishing (Green Forest, AR, 2008) p. 426 Though this is a controversial passage which will be worthy to consider deeper in a separate article,16)see Heath Henning, “Josephus’ Testimony of Christ: Is It Reliable,” August 10, 2018; http://truthwatchers.com/josephus-testimony-of-christ-is-it-reliable/ this clearer revealed that Jesus did “wonderful works” and “drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles.” Consider that the Jews who were present during the ministry of Christ, clung tenaciously to the religious customs and traditions, yet converted to faith in Christ by the thousands. They did not doubt His claims to miracles because they were eyewitnesses to them and thus accepted His claim to be their messiah.

 

The New Testament tells us that the Jewish leaders did not deny the miracles of Christ but rather accused Him of performing them by the power of the devil (Mark 3:22). This was the firmly held argument that the Jews charged against Christianity for many centuries. When the Babylonian Talmud was compiled, the account recognized Christ’s—“Yeshu ”—miracles  were sorcery. The brackets in the following quotes are the footnotes from the Talmud. “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu34  [34 Ms.M. adds the Nasarean’.] was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!35 [35 A Florentine Ms. adds: and the eve of Sabbath.]” 17)Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a; accessible at http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_43.html#43a_34 Mark Eastman commenting on this passage, stated, “According to Jewish law it is illegal to perform capital punishment on the Eve of the Passover. However, this record verifies something that we wouldn’t expect to find in a rabbinical source, the fact that the Sanhedrin acted illegally in condemning and crucifying Jesus on Passover. Consequently, this reference is even more valuable in terms of validating the historicity of Jesus.”18)Mark Eastman, M.D., The Search for Messiah, Joy Publishing (Fountain Valley, CA, 1996) p. 253 Jewish attacks on Christ’s miracles continued with this charge, not denial, when the book was written entitled Toldoth Jeschu: “That the Christian miracles were, at the time, admitted by opponents, we have a proof in a very curious book now extant among the Jews, the Toldoth Jeschu [Generations of Jesus]… It is the Jewish statement of the origin of the religion of Jesus; and it fully confirms the New Testament statement that his adversaries acknowledged the fact of his miracles (except the resurrection), and attributed them to magical art. Now this book, which is very ancient, though the exact date of its composition is not now known, must have been compiled from the very earliest tradition. For, it is incredible that if the contemporaries of Jesus had denied the facts, their descendants should afterwards have acknowledged those facts, and restored to the hypothesis of magic.”19)William Paley, A View of the Evidence of Christianity in Three Parts, with annotations by Richard Whattely, James Miller (Broadway, NY, 1860) p. 84 Annotations further elaborated on this text, “An English translation of it was published some years ago, by an antichristian bookseller, under the title of the Gospel according to the Jews. He was stupid enough to think that it made against Christianity.”20)William Paley, A View of the Evidence of Christianity in Three Parts, with annotations by Richard Whattely, James Miller (Broadway, NY, 1860) fn. p. 84 This text oldest manuscript is from the 11th century; was first mentioned by Agobard, archbishop of Lyon, A.D. 826 [De Iudaicis Superstitionibus]; a second mention by his successor, Amulo, A.D. 849; yet Toledot seem to have been drawn from non-canonical early Christian writings known as apocryphal gospels, dated from the 4th –6th century; with hints of Christian traditions observed which originated in 4th century; and  traces to the second-century Greek philosopher Celsus [Origen, Contra Celsus 1.32]; so we can conclude that the text is probably from the 4th century.

 

In the third century an Alexandrian author wrote a defense for Christianity by refuting a book written by a pagan named Celsus who in the second century wrote an attack against Christianity. Origen’s writings have preserved exhaustive quotations from Celsus’ book, and we can see that the pagans neither denied the miracles performed by Christ but, like the Jew, accused Him of sorcery. Origen records, with interspersed quotations from Celsus, “And yet he [Celsus] desires to throw discredit on them [miracles], as being done by help of magic and not by divine power; for he asserts ‘that he (Jesus), having been brought up as an illegitimate child, and having served for hire in Egypt, and then coming to the knowledge of certain miraculous powers, returned from thence to his own country, and by means of those powers proclaimed himself a god.’ … But if they indeed wrought miracles, then how can it be believed that magicians exposed themselves to such hazards to introduce a doctrine which forbade the practice of magic?”21)Origen, Against Celsus, bk 1, chap. XXXVIII, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 4, p. 413; brackets added, parenthesis in original Origen, again addressing this topic refrences another pagan author name Phlegon who also mentions Christ’s miraculous ability to foretell the future.

 

But this concession he [Celsus] would not make, as being too great a one; and although he somehow granted that Jesus worked miracles, he thought to weaken the force of this by the charge of sorcery. Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events (although falling into confusion about some things which refer to Peter, as if they referred to Jesus), but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions. So that he also, by these very admissions regarding foreknowledge, as if against his will, expressed his opinion that the doctrines taught by the fathers of our system were not devoid of divine power.

Celsus continues: ‘The disciples of Jesus, having no undoubted fact on which to rely, devised the fiction that he foreknew everything before it happened…’22)Origen, Against Celsus, bk 2, chap. XIV, XV, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 4, p. 437

 

We can see then that there is extensive evidence from historical sources that Jesus Christ did indeed perform miracles to confirm His claim to be the Messiah. This evidence is not coming from the Bible or even extra biblical Christian sources, but from the enemies that opposed Christ and reject His claim as the Messiah. This is powerful convincing confirmation of the Bible’s account and proof that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).

 

 

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