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Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts

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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. 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.

1172 pages, Hardcover

First published November 1, 2011

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About the author

Craig S. Keener

89 books186 followers
Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, the bestseller The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver, and commentaries on Matthew, John, Romans, 1–2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

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Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Seth Pierce.
Author 12 books30 followers
July 4, 2013
I finally finished this 600 page beast and I have been blessed. Keener challenges anti-supernaturalism head on, providing an in depth critique of Hume's philosophies that have infiltrated Western thought. He contrasts the Majority World View with the West and demonstrates that, for the most part, claims to seeing supernatural manifestations are not ancient--or unique. He clearly demonstrates that the Gospel writers definitely believe themselves to have witnessed the miraculous and not just some naturalistic phenomena.

What will appeal to the lay reader is the hundreds of well documented miracles ranging from the dead people being raised to life--and dead motors in missionary boats sputtering to activity. Keener does not claim that every miracle report is accurate but he has taken pains to document them in order to convince a Western Academic audience.

This isn't a book full of mere anecdotal evidence or hearsay.

I attended a conference where this book was reviewed and, while receiving praise from Pentecostal scholars, it also received criticism due to its meticulous documentation of the supernatural. One scholar present wrestled with Jesus' observation that a "wicked generation seeks a sign" (Matthew 12v39). It should also be noted that the stories within the book are not merely Pentecostal--they cover the range of various Christian tradition from the patristic period to the present.

Even skeptics are healed-some never converting even afterwards.

Keener and his wife are no strangers to personal tragedy--having endured eight painful miscarriages. This is not a scholar who has a "pie int he sky" view of the miraculous, or expects God to intervene dramatically all the time. He simply wants or demonstrate that miraculous did, and do, happen.

Ministers will lose their minds with this book as they now have veritable compendium of well attested/documented miracle stories for sermons and talks.

Worth the read, can't wait for the second volume...





Profile Image for Micael Grenholm.
Author 7 books24 followers
December 10, 2014
One of the best books on miracles that exists. Keener is incredibly detailed and covers both ancient and modern miracle claims, primarily in a Christian context but also from other religions. He tackles the naturalist critique of miracles in a brilliant way and argues forcefully that the belief that miracles do not exist is just that - a belief - and that when Christians believe in New Testament miracles, they are just as rational, being supported by tons of miracle claims in modern times. I really recommend this book to believers and skeptics alike!
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,572 reviews25 followers
February 6, 2017
The short version: "It's true. My first cousin swears it is so. And she's my wife." End of argument.
Profile Image for Brian Chilton.
137 reviews9 followers
January 30, 2019
Keener provides an excellent two-volume manual concerning the credibility of the miracles presented in the New Testament. Attacking the Humean naturalistic bias, Keener provides numerous verified examples of miracles occurring globally that resembles many of the miracles denoted in the New Testament. Whether one is a skeptic desiring to learn of the credibility of the miraculous, or the faithful desiring to strengthen one's belief in the miraculous, Keener's work is a must-have!!!
Profile Image for John Waldrip.
Author 3 books4 followers
October 3, 2019
One of the most thoroughly documented treatments of a subject I have ever read. The author is a genuine scholar, displaying caution and thoroughness in his project. He takes David Hume on and bests him. I am no missiologist, but I would think any missionary (especially new missionaries) ould be well-served by reading this workl.
Profile Image for Darwin Ross.
83 reviews1 follower
February 15, 2022
A truly Herculean effort, on the part of both the author and the reader! For all the effort, though, I was a bit disappointed. Though Keener accomplishes what he sets out to do, to overturn Hume's thesis that supernatural acts uniformly don't happen, that if they are witnessed to happen, this is due to the unsuitability of witnesses testifying about them, I think Keener could have done it in one volume, instead of two.

The initial dismantling of Hume's thesis itself is quite easily done and could have been done in a pamphlet at most, by pointing out Hume's question-begging and circular reasoning. As Hume's thesis went on to be a foundational principle for the sciences, Keener does well in pointing out that the principle is an interpretative grid, prejudicing outcomes, rather than a method, assisting in the discovery of outcomes.

Otherwise, the book is repetitive (I got very tired of the constant restatement of his arguments) and the miraculous events go on ad nauseum, contained in a (to me) muddled organizational structure, which brought up the same or similar occurrences over and over (accompanied with restatements of the same arguments).

Also, he tries to be prolific in citing miraculous occurrences, while being academic in the process. What this has led to is an over-abundance of footnotes, leading to distraction (while, ironically, footnotes exist to prevent distraction and provide continuity in reading). Easily, every other sentence is footnoted and one third of the page is taken up with footnotes at the bottom. Most of them are trivial.

I had hoped to find in this tome evidence to make me believe in miracles. Unfortunately, despite his effort to provide instances that are only one degree removed from any event, the book is a list of hearsay accounts - documented by footnotes, to be sure, but hearsay nonetheless. His own telling of the accounts now becomes two degrees removed from any event he lists. So, I walk away from this reading as I came to it: miracles may occur, as hearsay seems to show that they do. I will have to rely on my own experience, though, which to date is like that of Hume: I haven't witnessed any miracles and my closest friends and family haven't either (or, if they have, they're not talking).
Profile Image for Taylor Simpson.
63 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2020
People with an attenuated sense of what is possible will bring that conviction to the Bible and diminish it by the poverty of their own experience.

This is a quote Dr. Craig Keener uses in Miracles from Dr. Walter Winker and, in my opinion, adequately sums up what Dr. Keener has shown with his work.

The Two Tomes

Miracles is as important as it is thick (and it is thick!).
Dr. Keener has crafted a tome (in two volumes) that will surely be one of (if not the) most enduring and thorough works on the subject of the supernatural for many years to come.
It is academic, yet approachable; it is monstrously long, yet most pages fly by; and it is modest, yet solidly evidences a position almost beyond skepticism.

Keener sets out to show two things to be true (stated many times throughout the work, starting from the first page):
1. 'Eyewitnesses do offer miracles claims...'
2. 'Supernatural explanations... should be welcome on the scholarly table along with other explanations often discussed.'

The length of the book is, for the most part, justified in supporting these two theses.

After spending a little time drawing out the questions and issues at hand, walking the reader through Hume's (failed) approach to miracle claims, and demonstrating just how far reaching Hume's perspective has penetrated Western thought in this area, Dr. Keener dives straight into the deep end of evidence for the first thesis. Over 400 pages of the book is devoted to the recollection of hundreds (thousands?) of miracle reports from literally all over the world. Some pages of the book are ~80% footnotes as Dr. Keener meticulously cites the sources for each miracle claim (many of which are eyewitness reports, if not the vast majority). The miracle claims come from not only a diversity of locations and people groups, but also many different denominations, walks of life, and ministry settings.

I don't want to summarize a lot in this review, but I wanted to emphasize that, for me, the most refreshing and rewarding part of this book is this bulk of pages in the middle that are dedicated to recalling and recounting some of the most incredible miracle accounts I've ever heard of or read about. I will admit that after reading dozens and dozens of these accounts back to back, they do tend to run together and almost become monotonous, but I suppose that can only be avoided by a reader with some self control to slow down and really think about what is being described. For me, when I reached these chapters, I almost couldn't the book down at some points: it felt like I was reading a fantasy novel, and yet I've never seen a fantasy work with more than half the page covered with footnotes for the sources of the fantasy elements!

I'll just stop myself here and say: these middle chapters alone are worth picking the book up for.
Needless to say, Dr. Keener's first thesis, it seems to me, is easily supported and proven: eyewitness accounts of miracles can and do exist (and, thus, we have no reason to think that the biblical accounts of miracles are any less credible simply because we are ~2,000 years removed from their recording).

The second thesis is slightly more controversial, but I still feel as though it is difficult to remain a staunch skeptic of miracle claims, unless you just really are trying to be, after reading some of the accounts in this book. Dr. Keener spend the last few chapters analyzing the current state of academia's seeming obsession with ruling out supernatural explanations altogether and uses a few more miracle claim examples to solidify his case against this bias.

The Verdict
Before opening these volumes, I would have said I believe miracles happen; I don't think I have witnessed one personally for myself, and I do think many of the 'miracle' claims I've heard today are a little 'out-there'. I had read material discussing Hume's failure in discounting miracle claims before and, while I probably couldn't've articulated a perfect response to someone who asked about that, I would have still been convinced enough for myself to believe that miracles occur, and they definitely occurred in biblical times. But now, after having been subjected to the bricks-of-books that Miracles is, I can confidently say I know miracles are real: people actually do claim to be eyewitnesses to miracles, even today (millions of people, actually), and many, many of these claims are so confounding (yet reliable) that naturalistic explanations could never hope to account for them. I allow for no 'naturalism-of-the-gaps' in my thought process.

I wavered between four and five stars for this book, but ultimately couldn't think of a good reason to not give it a perfect score.

It's big, but it's so well written and interesting that most people would be able to fly through it (most of it, at least).

It's academic and has a ton of footnotes, but you don't have to read those and Dr. Keener is so good at bringing these big ideas down to the bottom shelf for you, not to mention he helpfully repeats the important points he's trying to make many times.

It's encouraging as a Christian to see how overwhelming the evidence is for something beyond the material world that is not only powerful, but personal in an intimate way.

And it's invaluable as a reference for future studies on this topic. It is a diamond mine of sources and witnesses and further reading for those interested in taking this study a little further.

Dr. Keener has apparently written a lot of big books, but he's earned his bread with this one alone.
I highly recommend it. If you don't want to drop the money for it, see if you can borrow it from someone and at least read the middle chapters covering the miracle accounts. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Stephen Bedard.
392 reviews6 followers
July 10, 2019
For the last couple of centuries, historical Jesus research has looked at the Gospels and thrown out every miracle. But why? Just because David Hume said so? This two volume set looks at miracles in the ancient world and then in the modern world, not just in North America but the majority world. Keener's thesis is that dismissing miracle claims is a false philosophical presupposition that doesn't fit with the beliefs or the experiences of most of the world. The book is very readable and not just for students of the New Testament. It is a case well argued.
Profile Image for Chris Sobbing.
53 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2022
Everyone should read this, as it challenges what we believe in the West to be a predominant world view with what is the actual Majority World view of mircales. Like all things by Keener it achieves it's aim through an abundance of cited evidence and references.
Profile Image for Shane Hill.
307 reviews15 followers
April 10, 2017
Solid documented miracles...incredible....and a great expose of Hume in the first volume as well.
Profile Image for Melissa.
715 reviews
October 6, 2020
Wow, this is such a thorough, thoughtful tome! Excellent resource.

Quotes:

That God does heal in the late twentieth century should be accepted on the evidence of all these Case Records. If you do not accept those two statements, you may ask yourself what evidence you would be prepared to accept. If the answer proves to be “None,” then you had better face the fact that you have abandoned logical enquiry.

Suffering from acute rheumatic fever at age five, Mel was confined to bed in a dark room away from other children for three years, and sometimes he endured “ice baths to control his fevers and delirium.” The fever led to chorea, often producing involuntary nervous twitching. Neither of the family doctors during this period could offer much hope for recovery, and one warned that if he recovered he would never be strong. Convinced that God had healed far worse cases and that God had spoken through a verse in the family promise box, Mel continued to trust that Jesus would heal him. One day his grandmother felt a special impression to pray for him, and Anthony notes that “from then on he began to recover and excelled in cycle racing and gymnastics.” At age seventeen, during World War II, a military doctor tested him and insisted that he was lying about having had rheumatic fever and chorea for several years as a boy. When Dr. Hopkins discovered that he was Pastor Kent’s son, however, he was astonished; this was the very doctor who had first treated him, and he acknowledged that a miracle had taken place. Mel Kent, who became a carpenter, passed away on October 18, 2006, at the age of eighty-four.

Neither Scripture nor Christian theology uses miracles as an excuse to neglect wisdom (for us including medical science) or avoid working for justice and peace in the world. Miracles are portrayed as merely sample signs of a future age, a reminder of what the world can be like; they are not intended as a large-scale panacea for the world’s problems.

From a nt (especially Pauline) perspective, one might allow a theological distinction between gifts of healings, whose object was simply a person’s wellness (cf. 1 Cor 12:9; Jas 5:14), and a more compelling “sign,” which was meant to get the attention of outsiders for the message about Jesus, by means of its extraordinary character (Rom 15:19; 2 Cor 12:12; Acts 4:29–30; 14:3). That is, believers can find in some recoveries encouraging signs of God’s grace without feeling compelled to appeal to them as extraordinary evidence that nonbelievers would necessarily find compelling.

...one person skeptical about undue skepticism pointed out, “All I know is that when I stop praying, the coincidences stop happening!”
Profile Image for Tyler Thomas.
39 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2021
I just finished reading the second volume of Keener’s set on miracles, including the appendices and a hefty portion of his footnotes.

Observations:

1. It is dense, dry, and academic. His goal was a scholarly, peer-reviewed treatise focused on refuting the Humean interpretation of the supernatural, and supplying ample eyewitness evidence for miracles of various sorts.

2. As such, his goal is not to inspire. However, I found a handful of the (thousands) of eyewitness reports moved me to tears. I was prompted to worship immediately. Those most impacting stories however are few and far between.

3. If I were ever two write a paper on miracles, this would be my best friend. If I were ever to write on exorcism/possession, his appendix on the subject is excellent. It won’t get much use in my preaching or teaching however.

My takeaway is this; I feel very competent after reading it, with the apologetic aspect of the miraculous. I know where to look in order to refute the reigning scientific paradigm. I have a broadened perspective on how God is at work in non-apostolic (and even non-Pentecostal) spheres, which lends great perspective to His character.

If you’re looking for inspiration? Go with Lee Strobel’s “Miracles” instead.
2 reviews
May 18, 2020
Really really excellent. The key contention is that eyewitnesses, many sincere, do (rightly or wrongly) make miracle claims; this is relevant to New Testament studies where some view miracle accounts as clearly and automatically legendary. I honestly don't see how a reasonable person could read the book and disagree. Keener's second and more contentious thesis is that supernatural explanations should be included in the pool of live options under scholarly consideration when interpreting miracle claims, and while not as undeniable as his first thesis by its very nature, I think he argues persuasively here as well. Chapter 15 (contained in Volume 2) is particularly interesting for this thesis; there Keener provides a lengthy list of alleged miracles and argues that not just *an* explanation but *the best* explanation for them will include supernatural elements. As someone who was skeptical of modern miracles - albeit for no particular reason - I found even this part of the book utterly convincing. "Miracles" has totally changed my perspective on miracles, and I suspect it will do the same for anyone like me who reads it with an open mind.
Profile Image for Matthew McGuire.
202 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2020
These 2 Volumes by Keener will undoubtedly remain the definitive work on miracles for years (and perhaps decades) to come. Keener is incredibly well read and is thorough to the point of exhaustion in his research. Although the ostensible thesis of the book is merely to prove that eyewitnesses can claim miraculous experiences (as opposed to all miracle accounts being legendary accretions over time), the work that he has done to bring together ancient, medieval, modern era, and contemporary miracle accounts is astounding and will bring any fair-minded reader to reject bare materialism.


And despite the overwhelming case that his documented evidence makes, he writes with a characteristic humility and winsomeness. Keener has done a service to humanity with this monograph.
Profile Image for Matthew Richey.
401 reviews6 followers
September 14, 2020
Good, still processing. I feel like there is a lot that I like here and that my worldview has been challenged (in a good way) but that there is something missing here but I can't quite articulate it yet. Maybe a couple of days of thinking will lead to an update.

Long, but easy reading.
25 reviews
January 15, 2019
Lot of information on healings and the scientific ideology behind if they are scientific.
Profile Image for Todd Hudnall.
Author 4 books15 followers
April 15, 2022
Overwhelming documented evidence of the reality of modern-day healing miracles and the operation of other gifts of the Spirit.
Profile Image for David Diaz.
Author 3 books
July 14, 2019
One of the most comprehensive works on this topic. The author also documents hundreds, if not thousands, of purported miracles worldwide.
Profile Image for Joe.
9 reviews4 followers
January 29, 2013
In his two-volume work, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, Craig Keener argues for two theses: “The book’s primary thesis is simply that eyewitnesses do offer miracle claims … The secondary thesis is that supernatural explanations, while not suitable in every case, should be welcome on the scholarly table along with other explanations often discussed” (p. 1). Keener executes his argumentation for these two theses over four parts. In part one, he discusses the New Testament accounts as well as ancient miracle claims outside of Christianity, comparing and contrasting the two. The second part of the book examines various paradigms of skepticism, both ancient and modern, and spends much of its pages critiquing Hume’s arguments against the miraculous. The bulk of Keener’s work comes in part three, which surveys miracle accounts beyond antiquity. Keener develops an anthology of miracle stories and perspectives including sources from all across the Majority World as well as the recent West. Keener then picks up his second thesis in part four, where he discusses several proposed explanations for such accounts.

The amount of work that Keener put into this text is extraordinary in and of itself. Though this book requires a long effort to finish, such effort is not in vain. The weight of the evidence that Keener provides does well to support his first thesis, which is that miracle claims have been and still are afforded by eyewitnesses. The implications of this conclusion alone offer a significant insight into the Scriptures – namely that the presence of the miraculous does not necessarily discount their having been written by eyewitnesses of Jesus. His second thesis, though obviously less empirical, is argued well. This book operates as a successful apologetic for many reasons, including Keener’s past as an atheist, as well as his present experience. Keener effectively demonstrates that during the very periods that Hume and Bultmann argued against the miraculous, eyewitnesses were attesting to their existence.

Keener admits himself the limitations of this study, which serve as the weaknesses to this work. Many of Keener’s stories must be taken upon the credit or word of those in his social circles – few provide further documentation or support. Much more work should be done in order to overcome his lack of funding for investigation, lack of time off from his teaching duties, and his own lack of medical knowledge, and suggests that maybe in the future other people will be able to build on his work and do an investigation that doesn’t suffer from those limitations. Hopefully this work will inspire many to pick up where Keener leaves off, in turn providing more scrutinized support for Keener’s theses.
Profile Image for MrWalterN.
43 reviews5 followers
September 13, 2012
With this book Craig Keener intends to expand upon his ideas as presented in a footnote in his recent commentary on Acts. His primary thesis is that eyewitnesses do offer miracle claims. He spends much of the book defending this thesis, and specifically targets the materialistic assumptions of David Hume and those who follow him. In fact, Keener devotes two entire chapters to refuting Hume’s arguments, and the idea that miracle claims in the New Testament are legend rather than eyewitness accounts. Following this discussion, he lists specific eyewitness claims of miraculous events from around the world and throughout history since the time of Christ. In doing so, he challenges materialistic assumptions and a priori reasoning that supernatural, or at least supra-human forces do not exist. This is his secondary thesis, that supernatural explanations should be welcome in scholarly discussions.
The book could be quite stretching for contemporary Christians, who often operate under anti-supernaturalistic assumptions. This book is also fairly lengthy and somewhat complex, and while its length might imply exhaustive research and objectivity, this is not the case. Keener himself admits that this work does not take a scientifically representative sample of contemporary miracle claims. This may be the biggest weakness of the book. Instead of a representative sample, Keener relies heavily upon miracle claims gathered through his own contacts and personal trips. Other possible weaknesses of this book include the exceptional amount of time spent combating Hume, who has often been answered elsewhere, and its over repetition of certain ideas, such as the primary thesis as well as arguments against Hume and materialism. While somewhat helpful for the reader following Keener’s arguments, this repetition becomes a bit tedious by the end of the book. Overall though, the book is an engaging read, and its lists of miracle claims are challenging for the current American reader.
Profile Image for Rick.
82 reviews3 followers
February 17, 2016
Extremely thorough. Thoroughly documented. Humble. Carefully argued. Limited scope (even given that it's two volumes). Tremendously instructive and insightful. Two great chapters answering David Hume's skepticism regarding miracles. Hundreds of documented eyewitness and personal accounts from around the world. He sets out to make two primary arguments: 1) That the historical accounts in the Gospels and Acts of supernatural events should be seen as resulting from eyewitness events, and not as a mythological accretion over a long period of time, and 2) That we are not obliged to offer a non-supernatural explanation of these accounts. His engagement with Hume and Enlightenment anti-supernaturalism is thorough and demonstrates that contemporary Western reductionist view of reality is an anomaly not only historically, but also geographically, a feature of the Western world as opposed to what he refers to as the "Majority World." He destroys Hume's argument that miracle claims run counter to "universal human experience," or that no educated people believe in miracles. Keener provides vast numbers of documented examples from all over the world, including in Western cultures throughout history, but particularly within recent history up into the 21st century. His work is exhaustively footnoted and includes hundreds of pages (beyond the 884 pages of his work) of bibliography and other documentation. This is not a work for someone looking for a popular level examination of Miracles. (For that purpose, I would recommend Eric Metaxes' similarly titled "Miracles," which is an excellent work in itself, and much more accessible to the lay-reader.) He also includes several appendices dealing with the subject of spirit possession and related issue.
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
283 reviews17 followers
September 3, 2016
I struggled as to wether I wanted to buy this title as Keener is not one of my favorite scholars (he often writes well, but seems to often lack development in his thoughts with the later coming across as snippets instead of developed argument). The thesis of the book is two claims: (a) the uncontroversial claim that the uniform experience of humanity is not naturalism in sections 1 and 3 (many many examples across cultures, time, education, race, nationality, sex, age, etc), and, (b) a somewhat more controversial claim that miracles are indeed possible (Sections 2 and 4). There are some pluses and minuses to the book. Pluses include - reminding me how naturalistic I can become in my thinking at times, reminding me of my cultural snobbery, and reminding me of the power of prayer. My chief negatives would be the choppy flow to the book with the author snapping back and forth between his two points, the lack of development in his arguments (perhaps a subjective complaint), and the examples he gives are often only mentions with a footnote source without further development on details. I'm glad I have this work as a reference but found myself by 25% through skimming most of the work (easy to do given the nature of the examples he gives).
4 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2015
Wow!! The most comprehensive, in-depth book I have ever read pertaining to the supernatural in the New Testament. Not an easy read by any means. This book actually began as a footnote to Keener's massive four volume commentary on Acts. I believe the last of the 4 volumes is to be released this Fall. At approx $50.00 per volume it will be an investment but one I will make. My only disappointment is that Dr. Keener was not at Asbury Theological Seminary while I was a student there.
Profile Image for Kaleb.
11 reviews11 followers
November 3, 2015
Read this set for a Historiography, Miracles, and Resurrection class. Good account of miracles and eye opening to someone who grew up in a western christian culture that is more skeptical to miracles.
Profile Image for Derek.
31 reviews42 followers
November 20, 2012
Sit down, open your mind up, and prepare to have your western world view challenged as it pertains to miracles.
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