B Jesus Reputation

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

Get Instant Access

One of the most compelling features of the whole sweep of ancient opinion regarding Jesus is his reputation as an exorcist and healer. It is no exaggeration to claim that it is one of the most widelv attested and firmlv established of the historical facts with which we have to deal.259 The outlines can be sketched in fairlv brieflv.

(1) In the Gospels, healing stories are frequentlv told about Jesus. For example, in Mark there are thirteen such stories,260 with exorcisms the largest single categorv.261 The latter are prominent also in summarv statements.262 Un-usuallv in the sermons in Acts, Jesus is proclaimed as 'a man attested to vou bv God with mightv works and wonders and signs which God did through him' (Acts 2.22); 'he went about doing good (euergeton) and healing all that were oppressed bv the devil, for God was with him' (10.38).263

(2) Jesus' reputation as a powerful exorcist is attested for his own time; his name was evidentlv prized as one to call on, no doubt preciselv because he himself had been so successful in casting out demons. According to Luke, Jesus' own disciples invoked his name with success.264 And others apparentlv attempted to do the same.265 Origen boasts proudlv: 'The name of our Lord Jesus has alreadv expelled innumerable demons out of soul and bodv — there are de visu witnesses' {contra Celsum 1.25). Jesus' lasting fame is probablv indicated bv the appearance of his name in some incantations preserved among the magical papvri266 and in several references in the Testament of Solomon,261

(3) Witness to Jesus' fame as healer and exorcist is preserved outside Christian tradition more explicitlv. Josephus, as alreadv noted, describes Jesus as 'a doer of extraordinarv deeds' {Ant. 18.63). Later Celsus, Origen's bete noire, attributed to Jesus 'certain magical powers' (Origen, contra Celsum 1.28, 68).

259. See, e.g., B. L. Blackburn, 'The Miracles of Jesus', in Chilton and Evans, Studying the Historical Jesus 353-94, particularlv 354-62; those cited bv Evans, 'Authenticating the Activities of Jesus' 12-13 nn. 19 and 22; and the firm conclusion of Kollmann, Jesus 306-307.

260. Mark. 1.29-31, 40-45; 2.1-12; 3.1-5; 5.21-24a and 35-43, 24b-34; 7.31-37; 8.2226; 10.46-52; see also Matt. 8.5-13/Luke 7.1-10; Luke 13.10-17; 14.1-6; 17.11-19; 22.49-51; John P. Eg. 2 fragment 1 recto contains a version of Mark (text in Aland, Synopsis 60).

261. Mark 1.21-28; 5.1-20; 7.24-30; 9.14-29; also Matt. 12.22-23/Luke 11.14; Matt. 9.32-33; Luke 8.2. The absence of exorcisms in John's Gospel is noteworthv.

262. Mark 1.32-34, 39; 3.10-11; 6.5, 7, 13, 56; Luke 7.21; 13.32.

263. On the traditional material used bv Luke in the Acts sermons see below, vol. 2.

267. T. Sol. 6.8 (see OTP 1.968 nn.); 11.6; 17.4; 22.20.

And the accusation of sorcery in rabbinic tradition (b. Sank, 43a)268 may well be an echo of the charge levelled against Jesus in Mark 3.22 that he 'expelled demons by the (power of) the ruler of demons'.269 What is interesting in this testimony, hardly partisan on behalf of Christian claims, is that the accounts of Jesus' healing and exorcistic success are nowhere disputed, only the reasons for that success.

(4) Not least of importance is the fact that Jesus' success as healer and exorcist is attested also in the sayings tradition. That is, he is recalled as referring to that success and drawing deductions from it. We have already laid out the key data:270 the Baptist's disciples are referred to Jesus' success in bringing about the healings that Isaiah had anticipated in the age to come (Matt. 7.22),271

and both Mark and Q made collections of the lessons Jesus drew from his success as an exorcist (Mark 3.22-29 pars.). We need no more doubt that Jesus believed that he had been a successful healer and exorcist than we should doubt that Paul had the same conviction regarding his own 'signs and wonders' (Rom. 15.19). Jesus was presumably referring to various episodes during his mission when people had indeed been healed, demoniacs released, lepers 'cleansed', and even the dead raised/revived, the sort of episodes which are recorded in the narrative Jesus tradition and which were the basis of his more widely attested reputation.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Study Aid

Study Aid

This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting A Scholarship And Financial Support For Your Studies.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment