Virtually all substantial ancient sources about Jesus, including those from his detractors, recognize that his contemporaries experienced him as a healer. Some multiply-attested reports of his activity appear particularly dramatic, including healing blindness, resuscitating some dead persons, and on rare occasions what modern scholars call nature miracles. Such accounts comprise perhaps one-third of the earliest extant Gospel, yet they are also a major reason for many traditional critics suspecting the reliability of the gospel tradition. Paradoxically, most scholars today do believe that Jesus’s contemporaries experienced him as a healer, however we explain these experiences.
That even first-hand witnesses can claim to experience such events, however, can no longer be credibly denied. Varieties of explanations exist (e.g., cures of psychosomatic disorders), and various levels of explanation are also possible (e.g., some argue for a deity working through natural causes). However explained, surveys suggest that hundreds of millions of people today claim to have witnessed what they consider divine healing. Moreover, millions of people have changed centuries of ancestral allegiances on the basis of such experiences. As in the gospel tradition, these experiences do include even healing of blindness, resuscitation of some dead persons through prayer, and occasionally what their reporters consider nature miracles. Some experiences go beyond the gospel tradition in reporting instant or nearly instant visible changes such as vanishing goiters. Such reports challenge traditional scepticism of the Gospel accounts. Depending on how they are understood, some experiences could also challenge Hume’s presumption against sufficient credible witnesses regarding miracles.
CRAIG KEENER is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has authored seventeen books, four of which won significant awards in the United States, and more than seventy academic articles. The longest of these, his four-volume Acts commentary, comprises roughly 4500 pages and cites some 50,000 references from ancient sources, as well as citing more than ten thousand different secondary sources. His two-volume work, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, is 1172 pages and cites more than four thousand secondary sources. His most popular work, offering ancient background information on each passage of the New Testament, is some 800 pages and has sold more than half a million copies. His other works include a short commentary on Paul’s Corinthian correspondence for Cambridge; an 831-page work on historical Jesus research; a two-volume commentary (1636 pages) on the Fourth Gospel; a commentary on the first Gospel (1040 pages); and several other works. His wife, Médine Moussounga Keener, is from the Republic of Congo and completed her PhD in Paris; they have two children, David and Keren.