Book Plunge: Jesus, The Miracle Worker

What do the miracles of Jesus mean? Le’ts talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My Master’s research is on miracles. One book recommended to me (And if anyone has any other recommendations feel free to give them!) was Graham Twelftree’s “Jesus: The Miracle Worker.” This one was published in 1999 long before Craig Keener’s excellent work on the topic of miracles, yet they handle quite different themes, meaning the two work together very well.

Keener’s book dealt largely with modern accounts of miracles and asking if they are still going on today. Twelftree’s deals with the accounts of the biblical material and is not really interested in if miracles are happening today, although he does indicate that the biblical writers think that miracles should be going on today.

Early on, Twelftree does have a section dealing with Hume, which is an essential for most any work on miracles today. The arguments are simple, but I think in many ways effective. Twelftree does realize that this is not his area and does have sources in the back to help the reader with further study.

Then, he takes us through the gospels where we look at each in turn and look at each miracle that Jesus does. It has been said before that Twelftree argues the strongest case for the deity of Jesus can come from the gospel of Mark. Some readers might be surprised at that, but throughout Twelftree’s book, he does argue that Mark saw Jesus acting as God doing miracles. Whether this is the book the person who told me that had in mind or not, I cannot say, but it is a strong case. It is difficult to think about looking at miracles the same way again after this.

Then, we get into historiography and this is some of the most fascinating material. My father-in-law had warned me that when you get into historiography, that it is a very appealing area and one you can lose yourself in. He’s right. It’s quite fascinating when you see discussion back and forth on whether this passage is historical or not.

I like in this that Twelftree does present a real approach. He is not simplistic enough to say “It’s in the ‘Word of God’ so we know it happened.” In fact, when he speaks about the “Word of God” he uses quotation marks in describing the people who hold to a theory like that so much that they do not allow the Bible to be investigated. I do not doubt Twelftree sees Scripture as God’s Word, but the point he wants to make is that it is not an idol.

So there are places in there where he lists reasons and says “This is why we can say this traces back to an event in the life of Christ.” Then there are places where he says “We can’t be too certain here.” This is a wise move. Let’s suppose you’re like me and do believe that both the wedding of Cana miracle happened and that the resurrection of Jesus happened.

Which one could a stronger case be made for?

Without a doubt, it’s the resurrection. Most of us accept the wedding account because we accept the resurrection account. Of course, if we are wrong about the wedding, then we are wrong, but it does not mean that we will throw out the resurrection. Each account of a miracle should be handled on its own terms. (Do we need to be reminded on this blog that not all miracle accounts are equal?)

Twelftree also lists the miracles by type such as blindness, raising the dead, paralysis healing, nature miracles, exorcisms, and then anything that doesn’t fit into those categories to see what we can gleam about them that way and discuss their historicity. He then gives us a look at what this means about how Jesus saw himself and what we can say about the historical Jesus.

For those interested in miracles, this is a fine work to read alongside of Keener’s book on the topic. In fact, just this morning I started reading Mark again and could not help but see the miracle accounts differently after just reading this book, and of course, that means more abundantly.

I highly recommend this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The book can be purchased here