What’s the sound of a one-legged miracle hopping? Not very sound: Claims to historicity in Judaism and Christianity

Jew – I’ve only one leg to stand on.
Christian (formerly an uncompleted Jew) – I know the feeling well. Pity you can’t just grow another one.

How many legs does it take to stand on solid historical ground? I examine this question with reference to the miracles in Judaism and Christianity.

Here is some actual “footage” from a Jew who represents the majority Jewish understanding of the origin of Judaism and Christianity.

“I really don’t have enough information to ascertain whether or not the legends of Christianity grew up around the framework of a real person named Jesus, or a sheer figment of Paul’s imagination. Since there are no witness people to testify about their ancestors’ collective personal experiences with Jesus, the only thing I know about Jesus’ supposed existence is the account Paul wrote of his dream, in which Jesus appeared to him and recounted his public miracle performance career that no one had ever heard of until Paul published the story of his dream. For all I know, Jesus could have actually existed and he may even have really appeared to Paul in Paul’s dream. But I can never know that. It is the nature of dreams that only the dreamer can pass judgment–and not always accurately–on how real it was. That’s quite different from the Jewish community’s collective memory of their ancestors’ collective prophecy at Sinai….only the Jews were at Sinai, and only they had the possibility of being able to accurately convey to their children, down through the generations, what information they received at Sinai.”

In sum, and in his own words, “there is no better standard of group membership than the standard erected by the group.” And in a nutshell, WE WUZ THERE. WHERE WUZ YOU?

Hey, but I, a Jewish Christian, am also part of that Jewish tradition, no? “ You’re not says the Jewish Jew; you’re an oxymoronic counterfeit. Jews like you from families that experienced an interruption in the transmission have forfeited their progeny’s participation in the destiny of Israel, and are thus without standing to rule on what information was given to the Jews at Sinai.”

So far so good for the Jew, and so bad for the Christian, who needs a miracle to get out of this one. Failing that, let me do the next best thing and talk miracles, and, in so doing, show that the historical record of the roots of Christianity stands on a far surer footing than the record of the roots of Judaism. Of course, even though the evidence be solid, we would still need the miracle of resurrection ( a “quickening” Ephesians 2:1) to embrace it.

I contrast the Jewish view of miracles with the Christian view, with help from John Owen’s “Exposition of the book of Hebrews”.

Christians plead the evidence of the miracles wrought by Christ and the tradition passed them on. Jews make a similar plea concerning the miracles of Moses. They were, they claim, openly wrought in the sight of all Israel (see the Jewish argument above), and the testimony of Israel in succeeding ages is part and parcel of the the writings themselves.

The race is about to start; the Jew and the Christian are togged out in their respective gear: scripture and tradition, and ready to jump out of the starting blocks. So far, they’re surely on the same footing. BANG! They’re off. Look at that, and the look on the Jewish supporters’ faces. The Jew is falling back big time. Too late for group dynamics. What’s happening. John Owen, the Christian partisan, stands up to the mike; addressing himself to the Jewish group, his words reverberate in the ears of the audience composed of separate groups of Christian and Jewish supporters:

(I’ve made some changes in style and added a few clarifications to make it easier to read)

“Our evidence far exceeds what you have to plead. For the miracles of Moses were indeed wrought openly, but the most of them were wrought only in the sight of that one people, whom he had under his own conduct, and in a wilderness remote from any converse with other nations; and that in the dark times of the world, when men were generally stupid and credulous, as having not been imposed on by the delusions by which the following ages were awakened. You Jews also lay no greater weight on any miracles than on those which were wrought in the wilderness of Midian, which had no witness unto them but that of Moses himself.”

“But the miracles of Jesus were all, or most of them, wrought before the eyes of multitudes, envying, hating, and persecuting him ; and that in the most knowing days of the world, when reason and learning had improved the light of the minds of men to the utmost of their capacity. They were wrought upon multitudes for many years together, and were all of them sifted by his adversaries, to try if they could discover anything of deceit in them. And although his personal ministry was confined to one nation, yet the miracles wrought by his disciples in his name and by his power, for the confirmation of his being the Messiah, were spread all over; so that mankind without distinction (different races and languages) were first filled with the report of them, and then satisfied with their truth. The acclaim, therefore, of his miracles far exceeds that of those of Moses…The secluded circumstances of the Jews could not provide evidence which can in any way be compared with it. So that we may truly say, that no Jew can on any rational account give credit to the truth of the miracles wrought by Moses, and then deny at least the same credit to the record of the miracles wrought by the Lord Jesus.”

The Jew, balancing on solitary adamant leg, to Christian: You’ve still got no leg to stand on.


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