Assuming that there's historical evidence that Jesus did perform feats that eyewitnesses considered to be miraculous, what about miracles in other religions? To the critic Hume, miracles from different religions cancel each other out as being evidence for truth.
For instance, Islamic tradition says Muhammad ascended to heaven on a mule, that he healed the broken leg of a companion, that he fed large groups with little food, that he turned a tree branch into a steel sword, and that he was responsible for other supernatural accomplishments.
"If he and Jesus both performed similar miracles," I said to Craig, "then doesn't that water down the uniqueness of Jesus and negate miracles as being evidence of his truth?"
Craig furrowed his brow. "I think this is based on a misimpression of Islam," he said a bit tentatively. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I read the Koran, essentially there aren't any miracles, apart from the supposed miracle of the Koran itself."
"Granted," I replied. "Except for a few disputed passages, I think scholars generally interpret the Koran that way. But I said these miracles are reported in Islamic tradition, which is where they really proliferate." 12
Craig searched his mind and then locked in on the issue. "Ah, yes, exactly-the miracles are mentioned in the so-called Hadith," he said. "And here's what's important: this Islamic tradition comes hundreds of years after Muhammad's life and therefore isn't comparable to the gospels, which were written down within the first generation when the eyewitnesses were still alive.
"For example, in First Corinthians 15, the reports of Jesus' resurrection appearances go back to within the first five years after the event. Consequently, this is fresh data that could have not been the result of legendary development. It's simply not comparable to these legendary stories about Muhammad that accumulated many, many years later in Islamic tradition."
"Do you think it's significant that the Koran itself doesn't emphasize miracles by Muhammad in the way the Bible does about Jesus?"
"Perhaps in the sense that later the Hadith seemed to find it necessary to invent miracles for Muhammad. He never claimed any such things for himself. Basically, these stories illustrate how non-historical reports arise by legendary influences over centuries of time, in contrast to the gospels, where miracle reports are part of the earliest strata of sources."
Still, I sensed a contradiction. If the immediacy of the reporting of miracles is important, then certainly the Book of Mormon passes that test. "There you have claims of the miraculous that are reported soon after they supposedly occurred, yet you wouldn't accept them as being true," I pointed out.
"In this case, what you have is just plain charlatanry by Joseph Smith, who created Mormonism," Craig replied. "Its interesting that Smith and his father, when they lived in New York, were obsessed with finding Captain Kidd's buried gold. Then what does Smith later claim he finds? Golden plates from the Angel Moroni, and then they disappear and are supposedly taken to heaven and never seen again.
"What you have here is an elaborate hoax, compared to the gospels, with the evident sincerity of the people in what they were reporting. The problem with Mormonism is basically one of credibility because of the unreliability of Joseph Smith and a blatant lack of corroboration. Unlike the gospels, whose credibility has been greatly enhanced by archaeology, archaeological discoveries have repeatedly failed to substantiate the Book of Mormon."
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