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Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts Hardcover – November 1, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
Most modern prejudice against biblical miracle reports depends on David Hume's argument that uniform human experience precluded 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. In this wide-ranging and meticulously researched study, Craig Keener argues that it is time to rethink Hume's argument in light of the contemporary evidence available to us.
"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, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
"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, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
"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 past volumes will not be surprised by the remarkable level of scholarship in this work. 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, Bethel University
"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, Drew University; George Fox University
"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, Indiana University
From the Back Cover
"Perhaps the best book ever written on miracles"
"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. 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, Pennsylvania State University
"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, St. Andrews University; Ridley Hall, Cambridge
"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
"Keener's magisterial two-volume study of miracles is an astounding accomplishment. 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, Baylor University
"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 undoubtedly henceforth be the first stop for all serious researchers on this topic."
--Amos Yong, Regent University School of Divinity
"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, Ashland Theological Seminary
"Keener has written arguably the best book ever on the subject of miracles. His monumental work shifts the burden of proof heavily onto skeptics. This book is a must-read for all who are interested in the truly big questions of our day."
--Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College
"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. Keener offers an invaluable example of how that enrichment can take place. He gives us an exhaustive wealth of historical understanding, anthropological richness, and missiological savvy."
--Samuel Escobar, Palmer Theological Seminary; Theological Seminary of the Spanish Baptist Union, Madrid
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Keener devotes several chapters to David Hume's classic rejection of miracles. Hume lived 1711-1776. Hume declared that a miracle is a violation of the law of nature. Keener demonstrates logically that Hume's argument categorically dismissed anyone who contradicted his premise. Thus, his argument was not valid. This section gets a little philosophical and tedious.
But then Keener, who was once an atheist himself, asks whether there is any firsthand evidence to support the possibility of miracles. Of course the logic is that if one such account is truly miraculous then the liberal, modernist, Enlightenment presupposition against miracles has been refuted. Keen collected 400 pages of such evidence across the span of history and from all over the world.
Keener closed the first volume with 13 pages of accounts of the blind healed, 13 pages of the lame walking, and 43 pages of accounts of the dead raised to life. Page after page after page of such accounts can get a little monotonous until you start realizing what this means in terms of changed lives, apologetics, church growth, prayer, and a worldview of faith and hope. He has academically buried the classic liberal position and the classic Calvinist cessationist position by simply cataloging the evidence. Neither Craig, nor his African wife identify themselves as Pentecostal, in the classic sense of having spoken in tongues. Without embracing the extremes and excesses of historic Pentecostalism, it must be given credit for breaking the mindset of Western rationalism and making a supernatural worldview legitimate.
Keener opens volume two by anticipating all of the possible alternate explanations which could be given to the documented “miracles.” After allowing for the possibility of psychosomatic healing, the placebo effect, as well as outright fraud, none of these explanations are sufficient to cover hundreds of millions of people who have claimed to have witnessed a miracle. It would be reductionistic to claim that every case of the miraculous can be sufficiently explained in naturalistic terms. While some physicians would rather claim that they misdiagnosed the case rather than to admit a miraculous healing had occurred, if that is the case, there have been enough cases of “misdiagnosis” to warrant an investigation of such prevalent misdiagnosis within the medical community!
Finally, Keener shares twenty-two accounts of miracles that he has witnessed or which was reported to him by a trusted friend. Although I have not met Dr. Keener, I am happy to share two of those respected friends with him. Keener set up a grid:
• a description of the healing claim
• how do I know the witness?
• psychosomatic element possible?
• how frequent are such events normally?
• supernatural explanation seems more plausible than not?
His conclusion in every instance was that if miracles were not categorically ruled out as a legitimate possibility, that the most logical explanation was that it was miraculous.
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that I believed in the possibility of miracles prior to reading this book. I do not identify myself as Pentecostal, having never spoken in tongues. I do not identify myself as Calvinist, while affirming the authority and inerrancy of Scripture (along with Keener).
In 1961 I contracted spinal meningitis and was in a coma for six days. I was placed in the isolation ward of Providence Hospital in Kansas City. My parents were told that I would be an invalid for the rest of my life and that they would need to be trained on how to care for me.
My grandfather got up in the middle of the night and drove to my pastor’s home. Dr. Dale Yocum, my pastor, had a masters degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD from the University of Kansas. He and my grandfather received divine assurance that God would heal me. The next day I sat up in bed and word spread through the hospital that a miracle had occurred. I went home five days later. That account was published in two denominational magazines and in Conformed to Christ which my pastor published in 1962. That was 54 years ago and I have lived a normal life. Needless to say, I have never been swayed by the arguments of David Hume nor of cessationist Calvinists. But I am happy that Keener has laid both theories to rest with this massive research project.