Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MIRACLES IN OUR DAY, a recap. Part I

by Gaius Columbus

I have been thinking quite frequently about everything that has been said so far. This link provides an enumerated list of miracles performed in the Bible and helps us to obtain a picture of the average frequency/clustering of these acts. I do not know the time interval over which these miracles were recorded, but the average rate does not appear to be particularly high until the extreme explosion of miracles recorded during the life of our Lord and His apostles.

One obvious caveat is that this list cannot be seen to be exhaustive. John suggests at the end of his gospel that what is recorded of Jesus' miracles is but a small proportion of all that our Lord performed. John 21 v 25: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Likewise in the early days of the church, Luke records in Acts 2:42-43, They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.

Now, leaving aside the issue of the absolute frequency of miracles (which can be guessed, but is unknowable), does anyone see a unifying theme or pattern to this list or do you feel that these acts are completely random? Is there a key to understanding their distribution over time? An easy pattern for me is what I see when I, in a sense, plot the frequency of recorded miraculous activity as a function of time. Immediately evident, is the rush of miraculous activity that suddenly interrupts the sedate baseline of sporadic signs recorded in the OT. It is plain to see on this time-ordered chart that something curious, but according to the Apostles not unexpected, has occurred.

This impression is strengthened even more by the observation that following this rush of miracles, we again witness a return to a baseline level of sporadic signs from the post-first century church until present. The pre-gospel and post-gospel eras are, in a way, analogous to the random static one hears on an untuned older radio or, to pick another analogy, the background trade volatility recorded daily on the Dow Jones. The miraculous activity recorded during the time of our Lord and His disciples, seen this way, is similar to the sudden transition from static to music or clear speech as one turns the radio dial, or to the sudden unexpected change from the steady small-scale ups and downs of the market to a sudden catastrophic market crash or market boost.

Any analyst of such time-ordered data, whether scientific or financial, would conclude without hesitation that such activity was unusual, curious, and strange, marking a significant event. The rush of miracles reported in the Gospels has the same import; it means something special has occurred--specifically, that on the radio of time or the ticker tape of history, a signal worthy of our urgent attention and exposition has appeared.

What does all of this mean? What can we discern about how God generally deals with man without putting Him in a box? For me the above observation, alone, simple as it is but added to other interesting patterns, incites thoughts in my mind regarding the overarching role that Grace is to play in our lives, a theme alluded previously by my brothers on this blog. I will return to this theme in my follow-up posts. – G. Columbus

Related posts
Authenticating a miracle
Miracles and faith
The Perception of a Miracle
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?


References. (from http://mb-soft.com/believe/txo/miracle.htm)
Miracles and signs recorded in the Old Testament
1. The flood Gen. 7, 8
2. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Gen. 19:24
3. Lot's wife turned into a "pillar of salt" Gen. 19:26
4. Birth of Isaac at Gerar Gen. 21:1
5. The burning bush not consumed Ex. 3:3
6. Aaron's rod changed into a serpent Ex. 7:10-12
7. The ten plagues of Egypt--(1) waters become blood, (2) frogs, (3) lice, (4) flies, (5) murrain, (6) boils, (7) thunder and hail, (8) locusts, (9) darkness, (10) death of the first-born Ex. 7:20-12:30
8. The Red Sea divided; Israel passes through Ex. 14:21-31
9. The waters of Marah sweetened Ex. 15:23-25
10. Manna sent daily, except on Sabbath Ex. 16:14-35
11. Water from the rock at Rephidim Ex. 17:5-7
12. Nadab and Abihu consumed for offering "strange fire" Lev. 10:1, 2
13. Some of the people consumed by fire at Taberah Num. 11:1-3
14. The earth opens and swallows up Korah and his company; fire and plague follow at Kadesh Num. 16:32
15. Aaron's rod budding at Kadesh Num. 17:8
16. Water from the rock, smitten twice by Moses, Desert of Zin Num. 20:7-11
17. The brazen serpent in the Desert of Zin Num. 21:8, 9
18. Balaam's ass speaks Num. 22:21-35
19. The Jordan divided, so that Israel passed over dryshod Josh. 3:14-17
20. The walls of Jericho fall down Josh. 6:6-20
21. The sun and moon stayed. Hailstorm Josh. 10:12-14
22. The strength of Samson Judg. 14-16
23. Water from a hollow place "that is in Lehi" Judg. 15:19
24. Dagon falls twice before the ark. Emerods on the Philistines 1 Sam. 5:1-12
25. Men of Beth-shemesh smitten for looking into the ark 1 Sam. 6:19
26. Thunderstorm causes a panic among the Philistines at Eben-ezer 1 Sam. 7:10-12
27. Thunder and rain in harvest at Gilgal 1 Sam. 12:18
28. Sound in the mulberry trees at Rephaim 2 Sam. 5:23-25
29. Uzzah smitten for touching the ark at Perez-uzzah 2 Sam. 6:6, 7
30. Jeroboam's hand withered. His new altar destroyed at Bethel 1 Kings 13:4-6
31. Widow of Zarephath's meal and oil increased 1 Kings 17:14-16
32. Widow's son raised from the dead 1 Kings 17:17-24
33. Drought, fire, and rain at Elijah's prayers, and Elijah fed by ravens 1 Kings 17, 18
34. Ahaziah's captains consumed by fire near Samaria 2 Kings 1:10-12
35. Jordan divided by Elijah and Elisha near Jericho 2 Kings 2:7, 8, 14
36. Elijah carried up into heaven 2 Kings 2:11
37. Waters of Jericho healed by Elisha's casting salt into them 2 Kings 2:21, 22
38. Bears out of the wood destroy forty-two "young men" 2 Kings 2:24
39. Water provided for Jehoshaphat and the allied army 2 Kings 3:16-20
40. The widow's oil multiplied 2 Kings 4:2-7
41. The Shunammite's son given, and raised from the dead at Shunem 2 Kings 4:32-37
42. The deadly pottage cured with meal at Gilgal 2 Kings 4:38-41
43. An hundred men fed with twenty loaves at Gilgal 2 Kings 4:42-44
44. Naaman cured of leprosy, Gehazi afflicted with it 2 Kings 5:10-27
45. The iron axe-head made to swim, river Jordan 2 Kings 6:5-7
46. Ben hadad's plans discovered. Hazael's thoughts, etc. 2 Kings 6:12
47. The Syrian army smitten with blindness at Dothan 2 Kings 6:18
48. The Syrian army cured of blindness at Samaria 2 Kings 6:20
49. Elisha's bones revive the dead 2 Kings 13:21
50. Sennacherib's army destroyed, Jerusalem 2 Kings 19:35
51. Shadow of sun goes back ten degrees on the sun-dial of Ahaz, Jerusalem 2 Kings 20:9-11
52. Uzziah struck with leprosy, Jerusalem 2 Chr. 26:16-21
53. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego delivered from the fiery furnace, Babylon Dan. 3:10-27
54. Daniel saved in the lions' den Dan. 6:16-23
55. Jonah in the whale's belly. Safely landed Jonah 2:1-10

Miracles Recorded in the Gospels
Peculiar to Matthew
1. Cure of two blind men Matt 9:27-31
2. Piece of money in the fish's mouth Matt 17:24-27
Peculiar to Mark
1. The deaf and dumb man Mark 7:31-37
2. The blind man of Bethsaida Mark 8:22-26
Peculiar to Luke
1. Jesus passes unseen through the crowd Luke 4:28-30
2. The miraculous draught of fishes Luke 5:4-11
3. The raising of the widow's son at Nain Luke 7:11-18
4. The woman with the spirit of infirmity Luke 13:11-17
5. The man with the dropsy Luke 14:1-6
6. The ten lepers Luke 17:11-19
7. The healing of Malchus Luke 22:50, 51
Peculiar to John
1. Water made wine John 2:1-11
2. Cure of nobleman's son, Capernaum John 4:46-54
3. Impotent man at Bethsaida cured John 5:1-9
4. Man born blind cured John 9:1-7
5. Lazarus raised from the dead John 11:38-44
6. Draught of fishes John 21:1-14

Common to Matthew and Mark
1. Syrophoenician woman's daughter cured Matt 15:28 Mark 7:24
2. Four thousand fed Matt 15:32 Mark 8:1
3. Fig tree blasted Matt 21:18 Mark 11:12

Common to Matthew and Luke
1. Centurion's servant healed Matt 8:5 Luke 7:1
2. Blind and dumb demoniac cured Matt 12:22 Luke 11:14

Common to Mark and Luke
1. Demoniac cured in synagogue at Capernaum Mark 1:23 Luke 4:33

Common to Matthew, Mark and Luke
1. Peter's wife's mother cured Matt 8:14 Mark 1:30 Luke 4:38
2. The tempest stilled Matt 8:23 Mark 4:37 Luke 8:22
3. Demoniacs of Gadara cured Matt 8:28 Mark 5:1 Luke 8:26
4. Leper healed Matt 8:2 Mark 1:40 Luke 5:12
5. Jairus's daughter raised Matt 9:23 Mark 5:23 Luke 8:41
6. Woman's issue of blood cured Matt 9:20 Mark 5:25 Luke 8:43
7. Man sick of the palsy cured Matt 9:2 Mark 2:3 Luke 5:18
8. Man's withered hand cured Matt 12:10 Mark 3:1 Luke 6:6
9. A lunatic child cured Matt 17:14 Mark 9:14 Luke 9:37
10. Two blind men cured Matt 20:29 Mark 10:46 Luke 18:35

Common to Matthew, Mark and John
Jesus walks on the sea Matt 14:25 Mark 6:48 John 6:15

Common to all the evangelists
Jesus feeds 5,000 "in a desert place" Matt 14:15 Mark 6:30 Luke 9:10 John 6:1-14
In addition to the above miracles wrought by Christ, there are four miraculous events connected with his life -
1. The conception by the Holy Ghost Luke 1:35
2. The transfiguration Matt 17:1-8
3. The resurrection John 21:1-14
4. The ascension Luke 2:42-51

Miracles pertaining to the ministry of the Apostles from http://biblia.com/miracles/new.htm.
Again, I don't think this list is exhaustive because "many wonders and signs [miracles] were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43)
· 26 miracles of the Disciples of Jesus
· By the seventy Lk.10:17-20
· By other disciples Mr.9:39; Jn.14:12
· By the apostles Act.3:6, 12, 13, 16; 4:10, 30; 9:34, 35; 16:18
· Stephen, Act.6:8
· Philip, Act.8:4-13.
· Philip carried away by the Spirit Act.8:39

9 Miracles of Peter
· Peter and John cure a lame man Act.3:2-11
·Cures all the sick Act.5:15-16
· Heals Aeneas Act.9:34
· Raises Dorcas from the dead Act.9:40
· Causes the death of Ananias and Sapphira Ac 5:5, 10
· Peter delivered from prison Act.5:19-23
· Second Peter's Miraculous Escape From Prison, Acts 12
· Visions of Peter and Cornelius, Acts 10

11 Miracles of Paul
· Paul cured of blindness, vision of Ananias Act.9:1-18
· Strikes Elymas (Bar-Jesus) with blindness Act.13:11
· Heals a cripple Act.14:10
· Throws out an evil spirit Act.16:18; ,
· Paul and Silas delivered from jail, Acts 16
· Paul cures sick people, even touching his handkerchiefs, 19:11-12; 28:8, 9
· Raises Eutychius to life Act.20:9-12
· Shakes a viper off his hand and is unharmed Act.28:5
· Paul heals the father of Publius of Dysentery, Acts 28
· Paul heals the sick of Malta, Acts 28

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Annang said...

Thanks for the research, Gaius. I wonder what your tentative conclusions or hypotheses on how frequently we should see miracles today are going to be, based on your findings.

The other question that Calorius has raised is about verifying miracles. Can one describe something as miracle without an element of basic belief on the part of the verifier? In other words, would a person, determined not to accept that there is ever a thing as a miracle not succeed in always rejecting an occurrence and explaining it to chance, a yet to be explained incident or even something which is a fake or magic?

This is one of my problems with purely logic based apologetic endeavor towards unbelievers. Josh MacDowell wrote a book in which he did his very best to marshal arguments to prove that the miracles recorded in the Bible were truly miraculous. But I always wondered whether if a person will not grant an element of belief, he could ever be convinced that even a truly verified extraordinary event such as feeding the 5000 cannot be explained as a hoax by Jesus.

Some Christians make similar arguments when they see Benny Hinn's purported miracles on television. To put it simply, without some believing, it is difficult to accept miracles. – Annang

January 31, 2008 at 12:33 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Perhaps, if we were to look at the lives of certain individuals in the OT, we would end up recording a
spate of miracles that matches the frequency of those that occurred during the Gospel period.

I'm referring to people like Baalam [who has always been more
mysterious to me than his donkey] Or possibly Elijah, or Elisha, and then there was that school for prophets.

I wonder if that changes your thesis in any way??

January 31, 2008 at 3:17 PM  

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