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January 3, 2010

Christianity teaches, as supported by New Testament claims, that the way that we can know that Jesus is the messiah even though he has not fulfilled the messianic prophecies yet, is because when he was here he did many miracles that could only have been done by one who was divine or had received a special anointing by God to do them.

One problem with this idea is that all the claims as to the miracles that Jesus performed are documented solely in the New Testament.  There is no Jerusalem Post from the year 30 CE, there are no historical writings for us to consult, only the words of the New Testament.  Had the New Testament been a book written by historians as the events were unfolding, we might be inclined to take it at face value.  However, the New Testament was written by those who already believed that Jesus was the messiah; it was written not as a historical document, but rather, as a defense of their claims that he is the messiah.

While it is somewhat simple to show that the NT is not reliable as a historical document, this is not necessary since even if it could be proven to be 100% reliable and accurate that does not change the answer to the real question.  The question which must be asked in response to this claim is, “does the Jewish bible tell us that we be able to recognize the messiah because he will perform miracles?

Not only is there no evidence anywhere in the Jewish bible to support the claim that the messiah will perform miracles, we have very concrete examples in the Tanach of people performing miracles who were considered wicked.  The most famous example can be found in the Exodus story:

(Shemot) Exodus 7:8-22

(8)  Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

(9)  “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'”

(10)  So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.

(11)  Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.

(12)  For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

(13)  Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

(14)  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.

(15)  “Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent.

(16)  “You shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now.”

(17)  ‘Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.

(18)  “The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.”‘”

(19)  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'”

(20)  So Moses and Aaron did even as the Lord had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood.

(21)  The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt.

(22)  But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

As we see in the account of the Exodus from Egypt, when God brought Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh to request that the children of Israel be permitted to leave Egypt, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate several of the “miracles” which Moses and Aaron performed to show Pharaoh that they were sent by God.  So clearly, at least some types of miracles can be performed by those who are not sent by God.

Shemot (Exodus) 8:5-7

(5)  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.'”

(6)  So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.

(7)  The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

It may also be interesting to note that while most missionaries will cite Jesus’ performance of miracles as proof that he is the messiah, the New Testament itself indicates that there could be false messiahs who present miracles in order to trick God’s people, but they are false.

Matthew 24:24

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

This being the case, miracles prove nothing, and the fact that the New Testament claims that Jesus did miracles prove nothing concerning Jesus’ role as messiah or his alleged divinity. But we don’t need the New Testament to tell us this, thousands of years before Jesus came on the scene, we were warned that there may come some teachers who would claim to be prophets and who would do miracles, whose ultimate goal would be to lead us to worship differently from what was handed down to us through Moses.

Shemot (Deuteronomy) 13:1-3

(1)  “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,

(2)  and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’

(3)  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

One might wonder why an omnipotent God would even allow people to be able to prophecy and do miracles if they are not from God.  Well, the Torah gave us the answer before we even asked the question.  In verse 3 we are told that this is a test.  Tests, like all challenges, make us dig deep into the recesses of our mind and to call upon knowledge we already possess to rise to the challenge and make us stronger; whether physically, emotionally or spiritually.

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