Miracle Reports And The Argument From Analogy -- By: Craig S. Keener

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 25:4 (NA 2015)
Article: Miracle Reports And The Argument From Analogy
Author: Craig S. Keener


Miracle Reports And The Argument From Analogy

Craig S. Keener

Asbury Theological Seminary

Traditionally, scholars used the argument from historical analogy to deny the historical reliability of extraordinary miracle claims in the Gospels, claims such as visible healings, instant cures of blindness or inability to walk, resuscitations from death, and nature miracles. In view of a wide body of global reports available today, the analogy argument instead supports the historical plausibility of eyewitness reports of these experiences.

Key Words: miracle reports, miracle stories, argument from analogy, blind, blindness, raising the dead, nature miracles, Blumhardt, Bultmann

Potential modern analogies for miracle reports in the Gospels may be employed in various ways, but the focus here is to challenge the conventional argument from analogy used against the historical reliability of the ancient claims.1 The ancient sources about Jesus unanimously support these claims, and modern analogies allow us to treat this evidence as credible, in contrast to the more skeptical approach of scholars such as Strauss and Bultmann. Many experiences have been significant enough to convince those not starting with Christian assumptions; others have included visible physical changes and the sorts of dramatic experiences sometimes reported in the Gospels that are not easily explained in purely psychosomatic terms (including resuscitations and nature miracles).

Although these analogies prove neither the ancient accounts nor that divine activity stands behind them, they should remove the a priori

prejudice that the Gospel traditions about healings and nature miracles cannot ultimately reflect genuine eyewitness experience.

Potential Contributions Of Analogies

Given limited space, this article cannot address the philosophic and theological question whether we should interpret some miracle claims as genuinely divine or superhuman action. Although from a theistic framework many of the examples in this article would be viewed as miraculous, historically focused scholars debate the extent to which this question may be addressed within a purely historiographic framework.2 I thus address only briefly, and confine primarily to the third point of this introductory section, possible implications of this research for philosophic and theological exploration.3

Here, I offer instead a very modest challenge to a major traditional argument against the historical re...

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