The second question I’ve been pursuing is did [Jesus] perform acts that we, today, would agree are miracles? To answer this, I’ve been hoping to rely on sources outside of the New Testament because I am uncertain of its historical accuracy. Because it was written by Christians and for Christians, and because it has been translated and its contents adjudicated multiple times, I just don’t feel it to be an un-biased source.
And given my limited understanding and expertise, I’ve decided to rely on scholars and, through their publications, try to understand their sources and follow their arguments. In this regard, the book “Jesus Outside the New Testament” by Robert E. Van Voorst has been the primary work I’ve been using. I have other sources but none have been so closely focused on the issues that interest me.
Sadly, after as careful a consideration of this book concerning sources other than the New Testament, I must conclude that for my second question about Jesus’s miracles, the New Testament is going to be the only source of information.
This is because all other sources treat Jesus as either a relatively unimportant criminal figure — the Romans deemed Him a troublemaker within the Jewish community — or a revolutionary — Jewish sources refer to Him as a magician and a deceiver who diverted many away from the true faith.
Worse, all of these sources are well removed from Jesus’s time and location. Pontius Pilate, for example, apparently reported nothing to his superiors on the man or His execution. The written sources outside of the New Testament all start to appear near the end of the first century (circa 100 C.E.), and scholars speculate that those may be based primarily on traditions they heard from the Christian communities of their era.
Did Jesus perform miracles as the New Testament says or was He simple a magician and deceiver as Jewish sources claim? The answer there remains to be seen; I am continuing my reading and study.
But it does seem clear, from all three sources, that Jesus did exist and that He founded what we refer to as Christianity. There is enough evidence to conclude that Jesus was no myth, that He was a real person, and that He churned things up considerably in His time and His part of the world, and that the beliefs He preached have passed through the millenia.
An interesting aside has come from understanding the tone of some of the Jewish sources and, therefrom, to understand perhaps some of the sources of fear and hatred the Islamists feel toward non-believers. Because the early Christians were a division within the Jewish community, the Koran may simply make no differentiation between them. And some of the Jewish “law” is unquestionably brutal in dictating death by stoning and such.
Ignorance is truly a dangerous condition.