C The Root of Jesus Reputation

It will not be necessary to review the tradition of Jesus' 'extraordinary deeds' in detail. John Meier has recently provided a thorough and scrupulously careful historical analysis,272 and I have little to add at that level. From the perspective of an oral traditioning process we are also disadvantaged in comparison with the traditions of Jesus' teaching, both because the q/Q (and other Gospels) material contains so little of the miracle tradition and because in most cases Matthew and

268. See Van Voorst, Jesus 114, 117-19, and above, §7.1.

269. Fuller discussion in Stanton, 'Jesus of Nazareth: Magician and False Prophet?' 164-80. Stanton refers particularly to Justin, Dial. 69.7, 108; Apol. 1.30; Origen, contra Celsum 1.6, 28, 68, 71; 2.32, 48-49; b. Sanh. 43a; 107b; Actsof Thomas 96, 102, 106-107; and note already John 8.48 and 10.20.

As already noted, the only item of the six-item list which would not be prompted by Isaianic prophecies is 'lepers cleansed'. The inclusion of that item makes sense only if Jesus was remembered not simply as healing 'lepers' but as regarding these healings in the same light as he regarded his Isaianic healings.

272. Meier, Marginal Jew 2, Part Three (509-1038). An earlier, less critical survey is provided by H. van der Loos, The Miracles of Jesus (NovTSup 9; Leiden: Brill, 1965).

Luke seem to have drawn directly on Mark.273 That is. the comparison of versions which has enabled us to detect the core and thematic stability of particular traditions is less obvious in the traditions of Jesus' powerful deeds.

We should however disabuse ourselves of any suggestion that simply because a story narrates a miracle it must be a late addition to the tradition. Strauss's objection to the rationalist attempts to explain away the miracles remains valid: the stories are intended to be accounts of But that does not necessarily mean that the stories are wholly the product of later reflection. If we have learned anything from our analyses of Jesus tradition thus far it is that traditions characteristically were elaborated in the retelling without affecting the stability of subject matter and core. The point here. then. is that the element of miracle must in at least some cases belong to the core. The stories were being told as miracles from the first. Only so could Jesus' reputation as exorcist and healer have become so firm and so widespread so quickly.276 At the same time. we should not lapse into talk of 'the original report' of a miracle.277 as though there was one single 'original' from which all subsequent accounts derived. Even in the disciple circles there would have been a variety of tellings and retellings round the stable core of miracle.

Here too we need to recall the lessons learned above in §6.3. In the study of history there are no objective facts. only interpreted data. There is no objective Jesus. no artefact ('the historical Jesus') at the bottom of the literary tell to be uncovered by clearing away all the layers of tradition. All we have is the remembered Jesus. Jesus seen through the eyes of those who followed him. Jesus enshrined in the memories they shared and the stories they told and retold among

273. The possibility of detecting 'miracle sources' behind Mark and John (§7.8f) is best left to vol. 2; the overlap between Synoptic and Johannine miracle tradition is confined to the healing of the centurion's/royal official's servant (John 4.46-54; discussed in §8.4b) and the linked feeding and walking on the water miracles (John 6; see below §15.7f); otherwise the lack of overlap hinders the sort of tradition-historical analysis which we assay in this volume.

275. This would include stories of (apparently) bringing back individuals to life (as in Mark 5.35-43 pars.; and Luke 7.11-17; as also in Acts 9.36-43 and 20.9-10). See Meier's very thorough discussion of the stories of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter. the widow of Nain's son. and Lazarus and the reference in Matt. 11.5/Luke 7.22 (Marginal Jew 2.773-873).

276. Goppelt also observes that the customary assumption that miraculous motifs would have been transferred to Jesus is not well founded: 'No one ascribed miraculous healings to comparable figures in his surroundings. e.g.. John the Baptist or the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran' (Theology 1.144). 'The tradition of Jesus' miracles has too many unusual features to be conveniently ascribed to conventional legend-mongering' (Harvey. Jesus 99-110 [here 100]).

277. G. H. Twelftree. Jesus the Miracle Worker (Downers Grove: InterVarsity. 1999) tends to fall into this trap (e.g.. 285). Meier's warning at this point is also apposite (Marginal Jew 2.735 n. 38).

themselves. So too there are no objective events of people being healed, no non-miracles to be uncovered by clearing away layers of interpretation. All we have in at least many cases is the shared memory of a miracle which was recounted as such more or less from the first day. What the witnesses saw was a miracle, not an 'ordinary' event which they interpreted subsequently as a miracle. There must have been many who experienced Jesus' ministrations to them as miracles, individuals who were genuinely healed and delivered, and these successes were attributed there and then to the power of God flowing through Jesus. Only so could Jesus' reputation as exorcist and healer have become so and so widespread so quickly. In such cases, we may say, the first 'historical fact' was a miracle, because that was how the event was experienced, as a miracle, by the followers of Jesus who witnessed it.

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