Sorry the font is so weird. I tried to fix it, but could not.
Recently I did a post about how the Jesus Seminar concedes so many miracles of Jesus that it makes no sense for them to continue being critical of traditional Christian beliefs. They concede 6 of his 36 miracles, but contend that they were the result of what we call "faith healing" today. However, the sicknesses Jesus was able to "faith heal" are so incredible impressive that it is an extreme long-shot to attribute them to faith healing alone. As I said in that post, it's like trying to say serial killer Ted Bundy is a good man but you only concede 6 of his 30-35 murders in your historical analysis. Concessions like these annihilate one's own position.
Atheist New Testament Historian Gerd Lüdemann
This time I would like to analyze famous New Testament historian and atheist Gerd Lüdemann, and the amount of concessions he makes with regards to the miracles of Jesus. He is very well known in the field of New Testament studies, and one of the leading advocates of the vision hypothesis (aka hallucination hypothesis) for the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples. I happened upon a list of what he considers to be the authentic sayings and deeds of Jesus. It was in the first part of the book, and was available in the Amazon.com preview.
Although he is one of the member's of the Jesus Seminar, he operates on his own and his work is usually considered separate from the Seminar's. He is one of the fellows of the Jesus Seminar that is actually a scholar, which is a plus for him.
Lüdemann and the Miracles He Concedes
I found in this list that he accepts less miracles than the Jesus Seminar, but the one's he does accept are significant:
- Jesus healed Peter's mother-in law who had a fever ("very high degree of probability")
- Jesus healed a deaf man ("relatively high degree of probability")
- Jesus message to John the Baptist in prison, where he says:
- "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor." (Luke 7:22) ("very high degree of probability")
- Jesus performed what he thought were exorcisms ("very high degree of probability")
Now, Lüdemann does not believe Jesus did any actual miracles, as in things he did through God's power. Rather, I assume he attributes these to "faith healing" or psychosomatic causes, or otherwise natural causes. In fact, I read once (at the beginning of one of his books) that it is part of his methodology that no miracles occurred. However, to say something came about through natural causes certainly doesn't make it so.
Per #1, I don't know of anyone who can cure someone laying in bed sick with a fever just by taking their hand, but I suppose someone somewhere might be able to. Per #2, healing a deaf person who can hardly talk seems far outside the reach of any faith healing. To those who think otherwise I would like them to find a person in the whole world who can heal a deaf man by doing what Jesus did to this man. Per #3, for Jesus to say that the "blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised" would sound rather stupid to the messengers if it wasn't true, since they were his contemporaries. Furthermore, it would not ease John the Baptist doubts about Jesus being the Messiah, since he was doubting that claim in the first place. Per #4, there were other exorcists during the time period, but one cannot dismiss Jesus capacity to do that just by saying that other people did it too. One needs a good naturalistic explanation for what an exorcism is, why it got Jesus contemporaries attention, and why other exorcists in the past weren't actually performing real exorcisms too.
What if we put all of these together? Some dude can heal a person with a fever, heal a deaf person, talks about his other miracles, and is recognized to exorcise demons. If I could heal deaf people I think I would stop blogging about apologetics and start healing deaf people, since it would help more people and probably win more debates. Granted, Jesus didn't like to do miracles for people who were highly skeptical. Nevertheless, healing deaf people would be a lot easier way to prove that my beliefs are true than by blogging. Furthermore, the idea that Jesus really was the Messiah explains all of the facts and is the simplest explanation, which is a mark of a good theory.
You don't have to believe what Gerd Lüdemann believes. You can deny Jesus existence altogether. That is one very costly way to be consistent, which I addressed in a previous post. But the moment one concedes his existence, some of the earliest and most well-attested material we have about him is that he did miracles. So if we know anything about the guy at all, it is that he was regarded as a miracle worker. This post and the post about the Jesus Seminar show how powerful the evidence is, since even skeptical scholars concede that Jesus had these capabilities