Miracles, 2 volumes

The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts

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About

Christianity Today 2013 Book Award Winner

Winner of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship's 2012 Award of Excellence

2011 Book of the Year, Christianbook.com's Academic Blog

"This book is a rarity in the scholarly world in that it is both rigorous in its scholarship and speaks with knowledge and passion about an exciting subject that demands our attention. We have here perhaps the best book ever written on miracles in this or any age. Highly recommended."--Ben Witherington III, Asbury Theological Seminary

Most modern prejudice against biblical miracle reports depends on David Hume's argument that uniform human experience precludes miracles. Yet current research shows that human experience is far from uniform. In fact, hundreds of millions of people today claim to have experienced miracles. Respected New Testament scholar Craig Keener argues that it is time to rethink Hume's argument in light of the contemporary evidence available to us. This wide-ranging and meticulously researched two-volume study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts. Drawing on claims from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic, Keener suggests that many miracle accounts throughout history and from contemporary times are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports.

Contents
Introduction
Part 1: The Ancient Evidence
1. Opening Questions about Early Christian Miracle Claims
2. Ancient Miracle Claims outside Christianity
3. Comparison of Early Christian and Other Ancient Miracle Accounts
Part 2: Are Miracles Possible?
4. Antisupernaturalism as an Authenticity Criterion?
5. Hume and the Philosophic Questions
6. Developing Hume's Skepticism toward Miracles
Part 3: Miracle Accounts beyond Antiquity
7. Majority World Perspectives
8. Examples from Asia
9. Examples from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean
10. Supernaturalism in Earlier Christian History
11. Supernatural Claims in the Recent West
12. Blindness, Inability to Walk, Death, and Nature: Some Dramatic Reports
Part 4: Proposed Explanations
13. Nonsupernatural Causes
14. Biased Standards?
15. More Extranormal Cases
Conclusion
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Appendixes
Indexes


Endorsements

"Any history of the rise and growth of Christianity that fails to take account of the belief in miracles and healings and signs and wonders is missing a very large part of the story. That statement is truer than ever today when we look at the booming churches of Africa and Asia. Craig Keener's Miracles is thus a major contribution to understanding the Christian faith, past and present. The book is all the more valuable because of Keener's thoughtful and bold analysis of the scientific method and the means by which we can test the miraculous. This massively researched study is both learned and provocative."--Philip Jenkins, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

"Seldom does a book take one's breath away, but Keener's magisterial Miracles is such a book. It is an extremely sophisticated, completely thorough treatment of its subject matter, and, in my opinion, it is now the best text available on the topic. The uniqueness of Keener's treatment lies in his location of the biblical miracles in the trajectory of ongoing, documented miracles in the name of Jesus and his kingdom throughout church history, up to and including the present. From now on, no one who deals with the credibility of biblical miracles can do so responsibly without interacting with this book."--J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

"From the very beginning of the modern approach to the Gospels, the question of miracles brought controversy. Over the last few centuries, most historical-critical scholars have dismissed them out of hand. However, in recent years, the tide has turned for a growing number of Gospel scholars. It is within this context that Craig Keener's new two-volume work can be fully appreciated. Those familiar with Keener's previous work will not be surprised by the remarkable level of scholarship in these volumes. The depth and breadth of research is stunning. The interdisciplinary synthesis is as careful as it is brilliant. The arguments are evenhanded and nuanced. In short, this work takes scholarship on miracles to a new level of sophistication and depth. A truly amazing set of books."--Paul Rhodes Eddy, professor of biblical and theological studies, Bethel University

"Keener deals not just with the biblical evidence for miracles but also with the vast evidence from all over the world that miracles of various sorts happen. He shows that whatever the merits of Hume's claim in his own day, it can hardly be maintained today that 'miracles are not a part of normal experience and are not widely attested.' To the contrary, the evidence suggests that millions of people in the world have either witnessed or claim to have experienced miracles of one sort or another. Keener has painstakingly assembled the necessary data and is careful in the way he presents the evidence and draws his conclusions. This book is a rarity in the scholarly world in that it is both rigorous in its scholarship and speaks with knowledge and passion about an exciting subject that demands our attention. We have here perhaps the best book ever written on miracles in this or any age. Highly recommended."--Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"This is vintage Keener--exhaustive research, expert command of and thoughtful interaction with both ancient and modern sources, impeccable analyses of all sides of the argument, and deft handling of the controversial issues--plus some! It will be a long time before those skeptical about miracles will even begin to mount a response to what will undoubtedly henceforth be the first stop for all serious researchers on this topic."--Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity

"In an age of a global church, the time has come for Bible scholarship to be enriched by considering the way Christians read and understand Scripture in non-Western countries and cultures. In Miracles, Craig Keener offers an invaluable example of how that enrichment can take place through hard scholarly work and a passion for integrity. He gives us an exhaustive wealth of historical understanding, anthropological richness, and missiological savvy."--Samuel Escobar, professor emeritus of missiology, Palmer Theological Seminary; professor, Theological Seminary of the Spanish Baptist Union, Madrid

"Craig Keener's magisterial two-volume study of miracles is an astounding accomplishment. The book covers far more than the subtitle implies, because Keener places the debate over the biblical miracles in many different contexts, including the philosophical debate over miracles, views of miracles in the ancient world, contemporary evidence for miracles, and the relationship of the issue to science. Although this book is clearly the product of immense learning and a mind at home in many disciplines, it is clearly written and argued and shows good sense throughout."--C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University

"Keener dares to accuse prevailing approaches to biblical-historical inquiry of operating according to ethnocentric prejudices and presuppositions, and then dares to make the charges stick with an avalanche of interdisciplinary arguments and evidence. He challenges us to ask--not only as persons of faith, but also as committed academicians--one of the most important questions that we can: Is the natural world a closed system after all? This monumental study combines historical inquiry into late antiquity, philosophical and existential criticism of antisupernaturalism and the legacy of David Hume's epistemological skepticism, and ethnographic study of the phenomenon of the miraculous throughout the Majority World. The result is a book that is important not only for the historical study of Jesus and the New Testament but also for our understanding of our contemporary world beyond the boundaries of our social location and its worldview."--David A. deSilva, Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek, Ashland Theological Seminary

"An exhaustive treatment of the subject, encompassing a range of sources from antiquity to contemporary times, from the Bible to modern Africa. It brilliantly serves not only biblical scholars but also--equally important--mission thinkers and practitioners."--Wonsuk Ma, executive director, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies

"Craig Keener has written arguably the best book ever on the subject of miracles. He places the miracles of Jesus and his followers in a full and rich context that includes philosophy, history, theology, exegesis, comparative religion, cultural anthropology, and firsthand observation and testimony. There is nothing like it. Keener's monumental work shifts the burden of proof heavily onto skeptics. This book is must-reading for all who are interested in the truly big questions of our day."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College

"Craig Keener has produced an impressive work that is meticulously researched, ambitious in historic and geographic scope, and relevant to current cultural concerns. Keener's bold exploration of the plausibility of past and present miracle claims should provoke interest--and debate--among a wide range of readers."--Candy Gunther Brown, associate professor, Indiana University

"Craig Keener's discussion of New Testament miracles adduces a uniquely--indeed staggeringly--extensive collection of comparative material. That eyewitnesses frequently testify to miraculous healings and other 'extranormal' events is demonstrated beyond doubt. Keener mounts a very strong challenge to the methodological skepticism about the miraculous to which so many New Testament scholars are still committed. It turns out to be an ethnocentric prejudice of modern Western intellectuals. So who's afraid of David Hume now?"--Richard Bauckham, professor emeritus of New Testament studies, St. Andrews University; senior scholar, Ridley Hall, Cambridge

"This book is the kind of performance that reviewers of opera like to call 'bravura' or 'virtuoso' and that philosophers call a tour de force. After putting it down, I'm standing up, clapping, and shouting 'Bravo! Bravo!'"--Leonard Sweet, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, Drew University, and visiting distinguished professor, George Fox University


The Author

  1. Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is the F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts,...

    Continue reading about Craig S. Keener

Reviews

"This phenomenal two-volume work belongs in the library of every person who is seriously interested in whether or not events akin to the New Testament miracle stories have occurred at other times and places and/or still occur today. [Keener] is a well-known atheist-turned-Christian New Testament scholar with what is most likely the world's most extensive compilation of ancient texts that compare or contrast in some way with any verse anywhere in the New Testament. . . . Ben Witherington on the back book jacket rightly labels [this work] 'perhaps the best book ever written on miracles.' I suspect the 'perhaps' is unnecessarily cautious. . . . Keener's work deserves the widest possible audience. Anyone who claims that events akin to New Testament miracles do not happen today but who has not carefully read and evaluated these volumes must be pointed to them. Anyone who does read them but opts for naturalistic explanations for all of them has far more faith in an unverifiable ideology than I do in Jesus!"--Craig Blomberg, Denver Journal

"I . . . believe that Keener's work will become one of [the] most significant publications in the field of theology and its correlate disciplines in this decade. So long in coming and so sorely needed, Miracles takes back the initiative in the debate and relocates the burden of proof onto those who wish to dismiss miracles. In doing so, Keener rouses us from our western naturalistic dogmatic slumber and wipes away the scales from our eyes allowing us to see afresh God moving via the miraculous in the New Testament and in the world today. . . . This book induces what is very often missing from scholarship: pure excitement about the love and power of God."--Matthew Miller, Christianbook.com's Academic Blog

"This massive and erudite two-volume work is less a study of the miracle accounts of the New Testament than it is a case for the plausibility of those accounts as reflecting authentic eyewitness reports and as potential supernatural occurrences. . . . [Keener] tackles the philosophical and theological significance of miracles by reviewing and critiquing the empirical and rationalistic stance of Western culture. . . . Keener is a thoughtful and respectful scholar and this is a very ambitious work."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"Every once in a while a book comes along that is long overdue within the academic community. Craig Keener's Miracles is just such a book. . . . Of course, Keener's book is not the first to challenge the modern predisposition against miracles. But his book is unique in that it is up-to-date on the latest scholarship, vast in its detail and documentation (over 1,000 pages!), pays particular attention to ancient historiography, and offers an impressive catalog of modern (and ancient) miracle testimonies. . . . Keener has written an impressive and well-argued work on a very important subject. Not only has he reiterated the long-standing critiques against Hume in a fresh way, but he has broken new ground by exploring modern miracle claims with unprecedented documentation. Any future discussions of miracles in the NT or in the modern day will surely have to reckon with the arguments of this book."--Michael J. Kruger, Themelios

"Though many scholars have addressed the subject of the 'miraculous' in religion, Craig Keener's two volume Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts stands as a highly anticipated and much needed treatment of the topic's significance for the Christian tradition. . . . The work is both thoroughly documented and fairly exhaustive in its treatment of the various debates and issues which attend the apologetic and historical issues of miraculous accounts. . . . Keener's work on the topic is to be commended on several specific points. First, Keener's argument for miracles ultimately comes down to a desire to challenge the naturalistic 'explaining away' of miracles within academic circles. . . . Secondly, no one can state that miracle claims are rare or poorly attested. The extensive amount of footnotes and sources which have gone into Keener's work serves to blow a hole in this assertion. . . . Third, Keener is to be applauded for his historical scrutiny. While Keener's conviction that miracles do occur is evident, one gains the impression that his conviction stems not from an attempt to prove his presuppositions but to follow where the evidence leads. His engagement with history, sociology, philosophy, theology, anthropology, and science suggest that he is trying to make a cumulative and coherent case based on data. . . . Keener is to be highly considered for the case he puts forth. . . . The book deserves to be read as a definitive contribution to its subject area."--Randall Hardman, American Theological Inquiry

"Keener demonstrates that those who take their cues from David Hume and say miracles cannot happen are wrong, and then in a second step proceeds to show why they are wrong. . . . Keener's primary thesis is thus modest: 'that eyewitnesses do offer miracle claims, a thesis simple enough but one sometimes neglected when some scholars approach accounts in the Gospels.' He supports this with extensive documentation and discussion of miracle claims--well over five hundred pages' worth, covering antiquity to the present. . . . Keener's secondary thesis is even more ambitious and will prove much more controversial in biblical studies and the wider culture, given the recent outbreak of jejune New Atheism. He posits 'that supernatural explanations, while not suitable in every case, should be welcome on the scholarly table along with other explanations often discussed,' for 'antisupernaturalism has reigned as an inflexible Western academic premise long enough.'. . . The extensive documentation of miracle claims is impressive, but what's really new and useful is Keener's claim that rejection of the miraculous is ethnocentric, particularly Eurocentric. One might even say Teutonocentric. . . . Keener's work should prove a compelling witness to those who doubt miraculous claims both ancient and modern."--Leroy Huizenga, First Things

"Astounding in its breadth [and] comprehensiveness. . . . This is a gem. . . . Keener, in a rare measure, combines amazing research and writing skills with genuine compassion and pastoral sensitivity."--Ray Van Neste, Preaching

"The book combines broad (and often deep) knowledge of and sensitivity to the vast breadth and subtlety of issues that need to be considered to give miracle claims, ancient and modern, the thorough airing they deserve in the current climate. . . . Keener's work on miracles will prove the standard work of its generation and perhaps several to come. It sustains two clear and important theses with effective organization, meticulous scholarship, passionate concentration, and gravity (though without the author taking himself with undue seriousness). A brief review cannot suffice adequately to commend this study, which given its massive scope and speed of production might even qualify as a mini-miracle in itself (a category, one admits, not found in the book). Whether those most in need of considering Keener's arguments (i.e. skeptically inclined biblical scholars) will deign to read them may, sadly, be doubted. Yet even this, Keener's book shows, can surely be hoped for in light of God's ongoing unusual operations underway at all times around the globe and often in connection with his people's faith and prayers."--Robert W. Yarbrough, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Seldom does a book take one's breath away, but Craig Keener's magisterial Miracles is such a book. It is an extremely sophisticated, completely thorough treatment of its subject matter, and, in my opinion, it is now the best text available on the topic. The uniqueness of Keener's treatment lies in his location of the biblical miracles in the trajectory of ongoing, documented miracles in the name of Jesus and his kingdom throughout church history, up to and including the present. From now on, no one who deals with the credibility of biblical miracles can do so responsibly without interacting with this book. . . . . [It is an] extraordinary two-volume set. . . . I highly recommend these books. . . . [They] are crucial parts of the apologetic enterprise."--J. P. Moreland, blog (jpmoreland.com)

"Keener is not the first to challenge Hume's caricature of eyewitness testimonies about miracles, but Keener is the first to catalogue such staggering numbers of them that span a vast geographical and educational landscape. . . . Miracles should grace the library shelves of all theologians, exegetes, and philosophers (Keener's target audiences), but missionaries should also add it to their collections. . . . I want to note specifically Keener's (unmentioned and, perhaps, unintended) interdisciplinary contribution to missions--specifically for those serving in the Humean, secular environments of the world's (often atheistic and frequently antitheistic) universities. . . . Miracles will serve well as an ancillary textbook for any discussion on Hume, for a class on worldviews, and for a class on biblical studies (especially on the Historical Jesus). Beyond the classroom, however, Miracles, though written at the pinnacle of academic scholarship, devotionally serves the professor, who must tirelessly swim against the current of secularism. . . . Keener provides the philosophical and academic platform for a renewed (but culturally appropriate) boldness in the mission fields of the world's academic academy."--D. Keith Campbell, Missiology

"Keener's study includes hundreds of reports (selected from thousands) of credible eyewitness accounts of miracles. Many of these occur in what he calls the 'recent West,' thus clearly undermining Hume's assumption that miracles come from 'ignorant and barbarous tribes' in far-away times and places. However, even more such claims come from the global South, and Keener has carefully collected, critically examined, and evaluated a mass of such claims from Africa, Asia, and South America. . . . It is not possible in a brief review to do justice to the quantity and quality of this evidence. . . . Keener's book contains far more than contemporary reports of miracles. He surveys the history of Christian thinking about miracles, deals in a scholarly way with the immense philosophical literature, and looks at the arguments of biblical scholars. Nevertheless, I think what makes this book particularly noteworthy is the way Keener demolishes two of the key assumptions behind Hume's argument. . . . Keener is careful and cautious in the claims he makes. . . . If [this book] is read carefully and seriously it will help many philosophers and theologians to see how parochial much of the Western argument about miracles has been."--C. Stephen Evans, Books & Culture

"Today's students find scholars more eager to engage the possibility of miraculous activity. Given recent methodological shifts, I am confident that the work at hand will become a standard on such debates for years to come. . . . Keener produces a wonderful read. Though a mammoth volume, I could not put it down. . . . Educators will want to include various required/recommended readings for courses such as Gospels, Acts, Pentecostal theology, and philosophy (not to mention nearly 300 pages of appendices and bibliography). Pastors, students, and scholars will find great resources and stories from early Christianity to the current day."--Martin W. Mittelstadt, Pneuma

"Keener does it again, providing us with another massive, highly documented book. . . . The book is a tour de force. . . . Keener weighs the evidence; and although he personally believes strongly in miracles, he is critical of credulity (and of any idea that there is divine healing for every disease)."--David Wenham, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Here is a highly recommended, powerful apologetic contribution and significant addition to Keener's work on the Jesus of History. . . . With the most detailed and extensive footnoting to support, he analyzes, evaluates and at times exposes and opposes the weaknesses of the Humean philosophy, finally rejecting it as antisupernaturalist because of its circular and at times illogical, even non-scientific argumentation. . . . Here Keener's prior concern is to highlight the effect that Hume has had upon the Christian academia of the modern era. This he does with consummate skill and detailed analysis. . . . While he still wrestles with his inbuilt skepticism he almost reluctantly concedes that supernormal events happen, events in which multiple incurable physical conditions are changed in ways which have no medical, natural, or psychological explanation for their cause. This allows him to investigate the issue of interpreting this cause and concludes from a theistic perspective that there has to be a divine causation known as God in action. Therefore such modern anomalies and analogies of miracles of healing support the credibility of the New Testament reports."--Colin Warner, Evangelical Quarterly

"Within the last twenty years, the name Craig Keener has come to be associated with many significant New Testament reference works, commentaries, monographs, essays, and articles. It is a remarkable list of publications. Keener . . . has set an example for other evangelical scholars by consistently seeking to instruct and edify the church while demonstrating the highest standards of scholarly research. . . . The quality and importance of this work is without question. . . . These volumes are lengthy but they can be well used as class textbooks. They may be too long to have students read them completely unless assigned for an elective seminar on miracles, but many portions will serve excellently as supplemental readings for classes in New Testament, philosophy, apologetics, epistemology, and church history."--Robert L. Plummer, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

"Keener explores both ancient and modern sources of miracle claims through critical and exhaustive research. He offers a vast number of eyewitness accounts of miracles from various parts of the world to challenge the prejudice of Western anti-supernaturalists. In addition to the use of exegetical, historical and philosophical arguments, Keener uses statistics and first-hand stories from eyewitnesses who claim to have seen miracles in order to defend the credibility of New Testament miracle accounts. Thus, to date, Keener's work could be considered the reference book on the topic of the credibility of miracle accounts in the New Testament."--Hughson T. Ong, Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism