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The ancients invented miracle stories to add meaning to their histories


If you had been there and seen these wonders for yourself, you would have gone down on your knees and prayed to the god you now deny.

Euripides, The Bacchae, 712 (5th century BC)


Was Christianity new? Was Christianity unique? Let's talk about miracles.

Miracles persuade. People email me about miracles Jesus did; "Explain that, why don't ya?" After all, who but God could do something as rare and supernatural as turning water into wine or raising the dead?

The emailers are right. For us and for the ancients, supernatural doings do imply supernatural power. But what you're about to learn is that in the ancient world supernatural doings—miracles—weren't rare. Miracles were just how the world worked. You can't explain Jesus' miracles until you understand that.

Let's start with a few examples

Jesus'
spittle cured a blind man, says John
The Emperor Vespasian's
spittle cured a blind man, says Tacitus

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth...

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away ...fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth... Vespasian .... did as the men desired him. Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying.

Gospel of John, Chapter 9 (1st or 2d century AD)

Tacitus, The Histories, 4.81 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Levene, D.S. Tacitus, The Histories (1997), pg. 228- 9

In the patois of modern apology, Vespasian's spittle miracle is "multiply attested".

The Emperor Vespasian's
spittle cures a blind man, says Suetonius

Suetonius gives the same history,     >>

with the helpful note that, for the ancients, having the power to heal blind people was a sign of divinity.

 

Both Tacitus and Suetonius are careful to note that many people witnessed Vespasian's miracle—a way for them to confirm it was real.

Vespasian, the new emperor, having been raised unexpectedly from a low estate, wanted something which might clothe him with divine majesty and authority. This, likewise, was now added. A poor man who was blind, and another who was lame, came both together before him, when he was seated on the tribunal, imploring him to heal them, and saying that they were admonished in a dream by the god Serapis to seek his aid, who assured them that he would restore sight to the one by anointing his eyes with his spittle, and give strength to the leg of the other, if he vouchsafed but to touch it with his heel. At first he could scarcely believe that the thing would any how succeed, and therefore hesitated to venture on making the experiment. At length, however, by the advice of his friends, he made the attempt publicly, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, and it was crowned with success in both cases.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Divine Vespasian Chapter 7 (121 AD), which you can read at Perseus.

Vespasian's spittle miracle (which happened in 69 or 70 AD) is multiply multiply attested.

The Emperor Vespasian's
spittle cures a blind man, says Cassius Dio

Cassius Dio gives the same history,     >>

and again, the power to heal blind people is a sign of divinity.

 

 

65.8 Following Vespasian's entry into Alexandria the Nile overflowed, having in one day risen a palm higher than usual; such an occurrence, it was said, had only taken place only once before. Vespasian himself healed two persons, one having a withered hand, the other being blind, who had come to him because of a vision seen in dreams; he cured the one by stepping on his hand and the other by spitting upon his eyes. 2 Yet, though Heaven was thus magnifying him, the Alexandrians, far from delighting in his presence, detested him so heartily that they were for ever mocking and reviling him.

Cassius Dio, Roman History 65.8 (third century AD), which you can read here or (Greek only) at Perseus,

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Raising a dead girl
These two miracle stories share more than a punch line. Both have a set up showing the girls really are dead (or appear to be). Both girls are cured with magic words. Both only appeared to be dead (a recurrent theme of contemporary novels). Both stories end with details that prove the girls really did recover. The structure of these stories is the same.

The 1st century AD godman Jesus uses magic words to raise a girl from death—she was only asleep The 1st century AD godman
Apollonius of Tyana uses magic words to raise a girl from death—she was only asleep

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don't be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old).

A girl had died just in the hour of her marriage, and the bridegroom was following her bier lamenting as was natural his marriage left unfulfilled, and the whole of Rome was mourning with him, for the maiden belonged to a consular family. Apollonius then witnessing their grief, said : "Put down the bier, for I will stay the tears that you are shedding for this maiden." And withal he asked what was her name. The crowd accordingly thought that he was about to deliver such an oration as is commonly delivered as much to grace the funeral as to stir up lamentation ; but he did nothing of the kind, but merely touching her and whispering in secret some spell over her, at once woke up the maiden from her seeming death ; and the girl spoke out loud, and returned to her father's house, just as Alcestis did when she was brought back to life by Hercules.

Gospel of Mark, 5.21- 42

Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 4.45 (217 AD),—which you can find in: Conybeare, F. C. Philostratus I: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Books I - V (Loeb Classical Library #16) (2000), pg. 457- 9

Did you see how when he raised the girl, Jesus spoke special words. Magic spells were one way ancient miracle workers raised the dead. The Apollonius story says so specifically. So does this next story, from an ancient novel called "An Etheopian Story."

 

6.13 "I cannot at the moment," replied the old woman. "I have certain rites for the dead to perform that can be performed only at night....

Magic words raise a man from the dead     >>

6.14 ... Supposing herself now secure against any intrusion or observation, the old woman began by digging a pit, to one side of which she lit a fire. After positioning her son's body between the two, she took an earthenware bowl from a tripod that stood beside her and poured a libation of honey into the pit, likewise of milk from a second bowl, and lastly of page 486 wine from a third. Then she took a cake made out of fine wheat flour and shaped into the effigy of a man, crowned it with bay and fennel, and flung it into the pit. Finally she picked up a sword and, in an access of feverish ecstasy, invoked the moon by a series of grotesque and outlandish names, then drew the blade across her arm. She wiped the blood onto a sprig of bay and flicked it into the fire. There followed a number of other bizarre actions, after which she knelt over the dead body of her son and whispered certain incantations into his ear, until she woke the dead man and compelled him by her magic arts to stand upright.

 

Magic words raise a man from the dead     >>

.... the old woman had now begun to question the corpse in a somewhat louder voice. ....Then he suddenly collapsed and fell flat on his face. The old woman rolled the body over onto its back and persisted with her questions. Employing apparently more powerful spells of compulsion this time, she repeated her string of incantations into his ears, and, leaping, sword in hand, from fire to pit, from pit to fire, she succeeded in waking the dead man a second time and, once he was on his feet, began to put the same questions to him as before, forcing him to use speech as well as nods of the head to make his prophecy unambiguous.

  Heliodoros, An Ethiopian Story (Aithiopika), 6.3- 4 (3d century AD?), -- which you can find in: Reardon, B. P.. Collected Ancient Greek Novels . (1989), pg. 185- 6
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Did this happen in real life? No, it didn't. It's a story. A made up story. When the ancients made up stories, speaking magic words to raise eople from the dead was one of the things they put in.

While they were delayed at sea for some days and as many nights, the girl gave birth in the ninth month. But the placenta failed to be discharged, her blood clotted, her breathing became constricted, and she suddenly died. …After the coffin had been made, he adorned it with royal accoutrements, placed the girl in the coffin, and…

Weeping bitterly, he ordered that the coffin be thrown into the sea. Three days later waves cast up the coffin. It came to rest on the shoreline of Ephesus, not far from the estate of a doctor… the doctor eagerly opened it, and, seeing a very beautiful girl adorned with royal ornaments and lying in a state of apparent death…ordered that a pyre be constructed immediately.

THE STORY OF APOLLONIUS KING OF TYRE

But while the pyre was being carefully and expertly constructed and assembled, a medical student of youthful appearance but mature judgment arrived. When he saw the corpse of the beautiful girl being placed on the pyre, he looked at his teacher and said, "What is the cause of this recent unexplained death?"

The teacher said: "Your arrival is timely; the situation requires your presence. Take a jar of unguent and pour it over the body of the girl to satisfy the last rites."

 

The young man took a jar of unguent, went to the girl's bier, pulled aside the clothing from the upper part of her body, poured out the unguent, ran his suspicious hands over all her limbs, and detected quiescent warmth in her chest cavity. The young man was astounded to realize that the girl was only apparently dead. He touched her veins to check for signs of movement and closely examined her nostrils for signs of breathing; he put his lips to her lips, and, detecting signs of life in the form of slight breathing that, as it were, was struggling against false death, he said, "Apply heat at four points." When he had had this done, he began to massage her lightly, and the blood that had coagulated began to flow because of the anointing.'"When the young man saw this, he ran to his teacher and said: "Doctor, the girl you think is dead is alive. To convince you, I will clear up her obstructed breathing."

 

With some assistance he took the girl to his bedroom, placed her on his bed, opened her clothing, warmed oil, moistened a woolen compress with it, and placed the compress on the upper part of the girl's body. Her blood, which had congealed because of severe cold, began to flow once heat was applied, and her previously obstructed breathing began to infiltrate to her innermost organs. With the clearing up of her veins, the girl opened her eyes, recovered her breath, and said in a soft, indistinct voice, "Please, doctor, do not touch me in any way other than it is proper to touch the wife of a king and the daughter of a king."

  Apollonius King of Tyre, Ch 25 - 7 (3d century AD?), -- which you can find in: Reardon, B. P.. Collected Ancient Greek Novels . (1989), pg. 752- 4
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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A powerful spell
Some Pagan miracles stories give not just the facts but also an explanation of what the facts meant to the ancients. Here are two ancient stories in which a miracle worked heals a cripple, who then picks up his bed and walks away. Lucian explains: the element of picking up the litter proved how strong the spell was—and how potent the magician.

"Invalid for 38 years" and "mortal anguish" and "brought back to life" prove how sick the victim was.
Each magic-worker cures with a magic spell.

The godman Jesus uses magic words to cure a paralytic -- who picks up his bed and walks away. A Chaldean miracle worker uses magic words to cure a paralytic -- who picks up his bed and walks away.

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.

3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

I was still a young lad, about fourteen years old, when someone came and told my father that Midas the vine-dresser, ordinarily a strong and industrious servant, had been bitten by a viper toward midday and was lying down, with his leg already in a state of mortification. While he was tying up the runners and twining them about the poles, the creature had crawled up and bitten him on the great toe; then it had quickly gone down again into its hole, and he was groaning in mortal anguish.

"As this report was being made, we saw Midas himself being brought up on a litter by his fellow slaves, all swollen and livid, with a clammy skin and but little breath left in him. Naturally my father was distressed, but a friend who was there said to him: "Cheer up: I will at once go and get you a Babylonian, one of the so-called Chaldeans, who will cure the fellow."

Not to make a long story of it, the Babylonian came and brought Midas back to life, driving the poison out of his body by a spell, and also binding upon his foot a fragment which he broke from the tombstone of a dead

"Perhaps this is nothing out of the common : although Midas himself picked up the litter on which he had been carried and went of to the farm, so potent was the spell and the fragment of the tombstone.

Gospel of John, 5.1- 9

Lucian, Lover of Lies, Chapter 12 (2d century AD), -- which you can find in: Henderson, Jeffrey. Lucian III (1921/ 2004), pg. 321

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A trick to prove the daemon had left the victim
Here's another Jesus-Pagan parallel miracles story where the Pagan version gives not just the facts but also an explanation of what the facts meant to the ancients. Daemons caused madness. Magic workers cured madness by casting out the demon.

In this famous bit from Matthew, Jesus cures madness by casting out demons. Notice the bit at the end, the daemons going into the heard of pigs, who rush off and drown. Notice the function of this bit in the story: the herdsmen realize demons have been cast out, and they run to the city with the news—the same purpose as the wobbly cup in Josephus' story.

Here Josephus describes a 1st century Judean miracle worker (not Jesus) curing madness by casting out demons. Part of his shtick was a little move at the end that proved to an ancient audience that a real demon had left the victim. Josephus saw this done himself. This must be how it was really done in 1st century Palestine. Holy shit.

28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.

29 And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"

30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them.

31 And the demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine."

32 And he said to them, "Go." So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters.

33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs.

34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.

God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, (4) which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return;

and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a Foot of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed.

And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man...

Gospel of Matthew, 8:28-33

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2.5

 

 

Lucian, who came from Syria, describes how exorcisms were done there. Any of this sound familiar?

Everyone knows about the Syrian from Palestine, the adept in it, how many he takes in hand who fall down in the light of the moon and roll their eyes and fill their mouths with foam; nevertheless, he restores them to health and sends them away normal in mind, delivering them from their straits for a large fee.

When he stands beside them as they lie there and asks: 'Whence came you into his body?' the patient himself is silent, but the spirit answers in Greek or in the language of whatever foreign country he comes from, telling how and whence he entered into the man ; whereupon, by adjuring the spirit and if be does not obey, threatening him, he drives him out. Indeed, I actually saw one coming out, black and smoky in color."

Lucian, Lover of Lies, 16 (2d century AD), -- which you can find in: Henderson, Jeffrey. Lucian III (1921/ 2004), pg. 345

Credulity
Here Lucian's Pagan account doesn't explain the logic of the ancient miracle, it reveals what educated people though of simpletons who could believe this crap to get Lucian's take it helps to read the whole book .

Jesus walked on water.

Lucian puts miracle workers who walked on water in with other silly superstitions only really really credulous people could believe.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,

17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Caper'na-um. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.

19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened,

20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."

21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

"You are joking," said Cleodemus: "I myself was formerly more incredulous than you in regard to such things, for I thought it in no way possible that they could happen; but when first I saw the foreign stranger fly—he came from the land of the Hyperboreans, he said— I believed and was conquered after long resistance. What was I to do when I saw him soar through the air in broad daylight and walk on the water and go through fire slowly on foot?"

"Did you see that?" said I — "the Hyperborean flying, or stepping on the water?"

"Certainly," said he, "with brogues on his feet such as people of that country commonly wear.

Gospel of John, 6:16-21

Lucian, Lover of Lies, Chapter 13 (2d century AD), -- which you can find in: Henderson, Jeffrey. Lucian III (1921/ 2004), pg. 339

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One more thing. Miracles are easy to think about generally, but very hard to think about rationally. Because miracles are super-natural, beyond the rules of nature, they are beyond the rules of reason and logic. For example, there can be no such thing as "evidence of a miracle." So, instead of jumping right into examples of ancient miracles, let's start by reviewing how modern people think about Jesus' miracles:

Modern folks generally explain New Testament miracles in one of three ways:
    1) Supernaturalism
= Gods magic,
    2) Rationalism = the gospel writers were suckers,
    3) Myth = they made them up.

By the way

Nowadays people seem to find prophesy miracles especially persuasive. I don't know why. Pagan prophesy miracles were, no kidding, everyday events. They were so common that great public institutions were built around them. Yet, funny thing, the folks who write me persuaded by Jesus' fulfillment of prophesy are never persuaded by pagan fulfillment of prophesy. Why do you think that is?

At POCM prophesy miracles have their own page.

As we'll talk about in a minute, at least one of these three explanations is not rational. Can you guess which one?

Supernaturalism the miracles really happened—by God's magic. Jesus really did the things described in the gospels, and the things He did really were miracles.

We'll talk about the reasonableness of this theory in a minute.

Supernaturalism was the standard explanation of Jesus' miracles all the way up to the 1700s. Then, what with science going strong and all, in the period called the Enlightenment, folks realized that probably everything in nature has a natural cause -- and if it can't have happened naturally, it can't have happened.

But because everyone thought the gospels were histories, the fact they included impossible miracles meant the gospel writers were liars. That bothered people. Which led to....

Rationalists see Jesus as a charismatic Hebrew placebo

Rationalism The miracles really happened, but they weren't really miracles—the gospel writers were suckers. Rationalists did, and still do, see the gospels as histories. Jesus really did the things described in the gospels, but the things he did were not really miracles, the were natural events that the gospel writers misunderstood as miracles.

The ancients didn't know stuff like we do—science and all—so when Jesus was born and a comet showed up, they were suckers for the theory that the comet showed up because He was born, whereas smart people like us know things like comets swinging by just happened by chance.
I don't remember any the ancients were suckers analysis going much into the fact that what showed up was not a comet, but a star. I wonder why that is?

And those people Jesus healed? They really did get healed; but only of "hysterical" symptoms. See, people got stressed and only thought they were blind, or only thought they were lame, or only thought they were bleeding (every - month - for - twelve - years). Jesus was a charismatic Hebrew placebo. He made people think they would get better, and they did.

Jesus apparently had a talent for picking neurotics. How He got by never once having a go at a hobbling blind fellow with a real disease that He presumably couldn't cure, this theory doesn't say. But if you have any doubt Jesus' sort of healing can happen, let me remind you of that episode of MASH, where the 4077th ran out of morphine and Hawkeye treated battle wounds—battle wounds!—with sugar pills. And it worked. So, it can happen. QED.

Professors call this the "rationalist" view of miracles, although "stretching to keep it sort of rational-sounding, if you don't think about it too hard" would be closer. No one seems to have noticed this until a German fellow, in 1835, published a book describing...

Myth The "history" from which the miracles are taken did not really happened. Not only were the miracles not miracles, the events themselves never happened; the gospel writers made 'em up.

The idea the New Testament miracles are myths was first written about in a big way by a German guy genamened David Strauss, in 1835, in The Life of Jesus Critically Examined.

Herr Dr. Strauss's did not start with the idea the miracles are myths; he started with an analysis of the miracle explanations of the rationalists. He went through the gospels miracle by miracle, analyzing the best rationalist explanations of each of them. What his book shows, over and over, is that the rationalist explanations were so contrived and self contradictory and far fetched, they couldn't be believed.

By the way

If New Testament miracles were a martial art, David Friedrich Strauss could kick your ass.

Reading Strauss' Life of Jesus is like watching an forty round prize fight that everyone can tell by the first round is over, only chapter after chapter the little guy gets dragged back into the ring and Dr. Strauss beats the crap out of him all over again. It's a terrible thing to see—and you can't stop watching. Rationalism is not rational.

This was huge. Everybody knew supernaturalism is not rational. Now rationalism was not rational. That meant the "history" in the gospels could not not be real history. The only reasonable conclusion is that gospel writers got their "history" by making it up. The unavoidable implication of David Friedrich Strauss' the Life of Jesus Critically Examined was that—is that—the gospels are not histories. Oops.

Strauss changed the world. People were not happy. The book—"the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell'—cost Herr Strauss not just his job but his career. A professor by profession, he never held a teaching position again.

Another huge deal
1835 is the year much of believing Christianity left rational analysis of Christianity behind; they weren't willing to accept Strauss' inevitable conclusion that the gospels are not historical. These folks went on talking and writing about supernaturalism and rationalism. They still do today.

Believers who could accept the non-historicity of the gospels went on analyzing the implications of Strauss, and the implications of those implications, and so on. All the way down to form criticism, Q, an allegorical explanation of Jesus' life, and the Jesus Seminar.

OK, you got all that?
    1) Supernaturalism = Gods magic,
    2) Rationalism = the gospel writers were suckers,
    3) Myth = they made them up.

That's how modern people explain early Christian miracles. The ancients saw miracles differently...

Another SPFYMLMFor the ancients, miracles were just how the world worked
If you've read much of POCM you'll probably not be surprised to learn the ancients didn't think about miracles the way we do. In fact, their take was way different.

For us miracles are exceptional; they need explanation. For the ancients, miracles were just how the world worked. The ancients didn't have Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations to explain the world. They had spirits and powers.

Gods had lots of power, people had a little. People could get extra power —magicians and soothsayers had a bit extra. So did prophets: the Pythian priestess at the oracle at Delphi was just one of hundreds of examples. If a person got enough power he could become divine; in Greece the technical term was "hero."

Some Gods brought divine power to their followers. Dionysus is the regulation example, but He was just one one of many. The divine ecstasy of Cybele led Her priests to take a sword and slice off their own testicles and penis. I will pause now while the men recover from reading that last sentence. Other middle eastern Gods led their priests to do the same thing—including Jesus. What, you didn't know this?

Jesus' early followers didn't just borrow self-castration; the Christian Holy Spirit "indwelling" in early Christian believers, giving them power to prophesy and do miracles, that's just another example of how Gods brought believers divine power worked in the ancient world.

One thing about miracles was the same for us and for the ancients; miracles still happened by Gods' magic. For us it's God's magic; for the ancients it was Gods' magic—only the apostrophe changed.

By the way

Actually, it's not true that all the ancient Pagans thought Pagan miracles happened by God's supernatural power. Some Pagans—Cicero and Lucian come to mind—thought they were silly superstitions.

They thought the same thing about the Christians' miracles. 

Making up miracles
The ancients made up miracles to give their stories meaning.

At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away ...fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth.
... Vespasian .... did as the men desired him. Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying.
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, 4.81 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Levene, D.S.. Tacitus, The Histories (1997), pg. 228- 9

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

How about the connection between Pagan and Christian miracles? Let's start with some background facts.
Pagan miracles
1. There were a lot of them. Tens of thousands.
2. Pagans understood miracles one way: God's magic.
3. The pagans made up miracles—added them to their stories as a way of adding meaning.

Christian miracles
1. There were a lot of them
2. The Christians understood their miracles one way. God's magic.
3. The Christians also believed Pagan miracles were real. They believed the Pagan miracles were done by demons.
4. The Christians made up miracles—added them to their stories as a way of adding meaning.

What's more Pagan Gods did the same miracles Jesus did—and the Pagan Gods did them first. What sort of miracles are we talking about? These miracles:

Jesus healed the sick.

Pagan Gods healed the sick first.

Jesus walked on water.

Pagan Gods walked on water first.

Jesus turned water into wine.

Pagan Gods turned water into wine first.

Jesus calmed the storm.

Pagan Gods calmed storms first.

Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

Pagan Gods fulfilled prophecy first.

Jesus prophesied correctly.

Pagan Gods prophesied correctly first.

Jesus raised the dead.

Pagan Gods raised the dead first.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Pagan Gods rose from the dead first.

Jesus apostles performed miracles.

Pagan Gods' apostles performed miracles first.


Don't believe me? Believe this: and read on for other examples

Jesus'
spittle cures a blind man
The Emperor Vespasian's
spittle cures a blind man

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth....

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
Gospel of John, Chapter 9 (1st or 2d century AD)

At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away ...fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth.
... Vespasian .... did as the men desired him. Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying.
Tacitus, The Histories, 4.81 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Levene, D.S.. Tacitus, The Histories (1997), pg. 228- 9

The 1st century AD godman Jesus uses magic words to raise a girl from death—she was only asleep

The 1st century AD godman
Apollonius of Tyana uses magic words to raise a girl from death—she was only asleep

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don't be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old).
Gospel of Mark, 5.21- 42

A girl had died just in the hour of her marriage, and the bridegroom was following her bier lamenting as was natural his marriage left unfulfilled, and the whole of Rome was mourning with him, for the maiden belonged to a consular family. Apollonius then witnessing their grief, said : "Put down the bier, for I will stay the tears that you are shedding for this maiden." And withal he asked what was her name. The crowd accordingly thought that he was about to deliver such an oration as is commonly delivered as much to grace the funeral as to stir up lamentation ; but he did nothing of the kind, but merely touching her and whispering in secret some spell over her, at once woke up the maiden from her seeming death ; and the girl spoke out loud, and returned to her father's house, just as Alcestis did when she was brought back to life by Hercules.
Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 4.45 (217 AD),—which you can find in: Conybeare, F. C. Philostratus I: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Books I - V (Loeb Classical Library #16) (2000), pg. 457- 9

And Pagan - Christian borrowing wise, here's the thing: the early Christians understood that their miracles had meaning in exactly the same ways that Pagan miracles had meaning. How do we know this? They said so.

The Christian Father Origen understood the meaning of Christian miracles with explicitly Pagan ideas
For example, for Pagans great events were heralded by miraculous "prodigies" (a technical religious term)—the sky going dark at the very minute the Persian king Xerxes set off to conquer Greece, the appearance of new stars heralded the births and deaths of important people.

Stick with me and in a few minutes you'll read Origen, a second century Christian Father, commenting on the star that heralded Jesus' birth. Origen understands the meaning of the star with explicitly Pagan ideas. Early Christians understood that their miracles had meaning in exactly the same ways that Pagans understood their miracles had meaning.

I'm still working on this page 

  Reasons

Remember how I said thinking about miracles generally was easy, but that thinking about miracles rationally was hard? This is the hard part.

Of course there is no reasoned way to analyze this theory. Supernatural goings on do not follow rules made up by measuring and testing the natural world. "God is omnipotent"—magic can do anything.

Does this mean it is impossible Jesus miracles were God's magic? No. It just means there is no reasoned, reasonable analysis to get you there. You believe the miracles were God's magic? Fine. But you can't then claim the authority and dignity and believability of science and reason. You're standing on the side of the room with the naked Hottentot and the stone-age cannibal Aztec.

---------------------

There's an orthodoxy to this. You're not supposed to say "They made 'em up;" on account of it points out that the stories aren't true. Of course, so does "myth," but orthodoxy has a way around that. "Myth" is good. "Myth" is "how people express meaning," etc.

The handy thing about "myth", said orthodox-ularily, is that it changes the focus to the social meaning of the miracles and away from whether they really happened. Don't want to talk about that—cause they made them up.

Exactly why does myth have meaning? Why aren't myths just ridiculous stories made up by credulous primitives? Are the moral and spiritual principles myths supposedly represent so weak they can't be said all on their own? I don't know. Ask your professor.

Pegasus and Cupid were ancient myths too. You ever hear anyone blather over brie and Chardonnay about their inner meaning? No, you haven't. "Myth" is maybe one part "how people express meaning." The other three parts are a way to deal with sorry made up Christian miracles without giving up on Christianity. There, I said it, and I feel better.

Borrowing? Thinking about the reasons.

The point of all this is that it changes the facts we have to work with. Nowadays people don't cure blindness by spitting on the blind guy. So when modern folks, try to explain Jesus doing that, we come up with theories like supernaturalism or rationalism.

Turns out that in ancient times people did cure blindness by spitting on the blind guy. Or thought they did. In ancient times divine men did raise the dead by speaking magic words and letting on they were only sleeping. Just like Jesus. Our fact-set has changed. Now Jesus' miracles are nott new and they are not unique, Now Jesus is one of dozens of ancient divine men who did miracles. And now He did the same miracles the other guys did. Jesus' story fits seamlessly into ancient culture. Jesus' story comes from ancient culture.

To explain the new facts, our explanation has to change.

For example, the rationalist analysis applies to the emperor Vespasian curing the blind man, right? And to Apollonius of Tyana raising the dead girl back to life, right? After all, these are well documented historical events.
"Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying." Tacitus

And Pythagoras calming the storm, and the midday clear-sky darkness when Xerxes set off to invade Greece, and Alexander T. Great parting the sea, and the Egyptians curing disease by driving out demons—those historical accounts are all true too, right?

The rationalist method either analyses the evidence (historical account) correctly (must be true), or it doesn't. But applying the same analysis to the Pagan evidence gives us an answer (Pagan miracles must be true) that we can't believe. The method gives the wrong answer. It doesn't work.

The Supernaturalist Faith in God's Magic theory looks different too. With only Jesus' miracles on the table, forthright people could have faith in His miracles and keep a straight face. But now we know that over and over miracles just like His were the common currency of ancient legend. So recognizing all the other ancient miracles as legends, while still having faith in Jesus' miracles, begins to look less like forthright faith and more like flat-Earth superstition—stubborn belief held in the face of clear and convincing contrary evidence. We can still be friends, but people are going to snicker at you.

I never thought the ancients were suckers made much sense to start with—women don't bleed because they're hysterical. But now it makes less sense, because we know ancient people believed in miracles that couldn't be simple non-scientific explanations of natural events. Stone statues getting down and chasing the enemy. Stars in the sky blinking out when important people died. Godmen flying. Cows birthing baby sheep.

The ancients began with the belief that divine powers and signs were everyday events, and they wrote their histories as if they were.

Even Miracles as myth needs tweaking, at least .to the extent it is based on a vague sense that magical stories in general are mythical or, as Herr Strauss put it in 1835, on logical problems with a historical explanation. Now we know Jesus was one of dozens of ancient divine men who did miracles. Jesus' story comes from deep in the Pagan center of ancient culture.

Why the mess? POCM 2012

SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples

SOP—examples showing that miracles were a key part of the ancients' world view, and that the ancients often made up miracles to add meaning to their histories.

Why so many miracles—explains why

Christian accepted Pagan miracles—examples

Examples—from the pens of the ancients themselves, a tiny sampling taken from the tens of thousands of recorded Pagan miracles

SOP Miracles were Standard Operating Procedure

Miracles were everywhere.   Trying to explain how common miracles were in ancient culture is like trying to explain how stinking big the ocean is: naming wet places doesn't get the idea across. You run out of patience before you run out of ocean.

It's like that with pagan miracles—there were too stinking many to count. Miracles were everywhere. Here's what I mean. This blue ancient-quote box >> has a list of miracles taken from one page of my copy of an ancient book called The Jewish War, written by a fellow named Josephus, who lived through it.



Josephus is telling how the war should have been foreseen, because >>

"the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their the Jews future desolation."Josephus, Jewish War, ,6.5.288 He goes on:

"Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year." 6.5.289

And in the Temple, "at the ninth hour of the night of the night a great light shone round the altar....This light seemed to be a good sign to the naive, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend the events that followed." 6.5.291- 293

And, "also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple." 6.5.292

"Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner temple. . .was seen to be opened of its own accord. This also the vulgar thought a happy prodigy...but the men of learning understood it."6.5.293 - 295

And, "...chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds. 6.5.298 - 299

And "Jesus, son of Ananus...came to that feast whereon.. everyone makes tabernacles to God in the temple...and began on a sudden to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house." 6.5.300- 301

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Did you catch that? Those are the miracles on one page of one book. There are hundreds of books, thousands and thousands of miracles. Pick up any ancient text; Pagan or Christian, it's got miracles in it. Guaranteed.

On account of which, here at POCM I can't list every pagan miracle I know about; we'll run out of patience before we run out of miracles. So I'll tell you about just a few—a few that, if you've read your Bible, are going to sound mighty familiar. Here we go.

If you're interested in primary evidence, you'll like professor Cotters book—two-hundred-something pages of pagan miracles direct from the pens of the ancients themselves:
Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity: Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories, by Dr. Wendy Cotter.

By the way, Duh

You know that before Jesus, people believed in Gods. You know those pre- Christian Gods did supernatural things—that's sort of what made them Gods. The supernatural things those other Gods did—those were miracles. In fact now you think about it, it's hard to imagine a God who doesn't do miracles. Miracles are one of the things that make a God a God. Duh.

Was Christianity new and unique? Nope. Jesus did miracles—but Pagan Gods did them first.

So there.

I call upon you, demon, whoever you are, and I charge you from this hour, from this day, from this moment—torment and strike down the horses of the Green and White factions . Strike down the charioteers Clarus and Felix and Primulus and Romanus, and cause them to crash, and leave no life in them. I call upon you by the one who loosed you for periods of time, the god of sea and air.
curse tablet from Hadrumentum, north Africa, . (200s AD),—which you can find in: Lee, A.D.. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity (2000), pg. 1.11, pages 30 - 31

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Among the many lovers who took him the Prophet Alexander on was some quack, one of those who offer magic, miracle working incantations, charms to snare a lover, tricks to defeat an enemy, places to dig for buried treasure, and ways to inherit a fortune…. The two of them went around masquerading as magicians, pulling off swindles, and fleecing the "fatheads", as he public is called in the magicians' argot.
Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet, 5 (2d Century AD),—which you can find in: Casson, Lionel. Selected Satires of Lucian (1962), pg. 271 - 2

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Libo was a fatuous young man with a taste for absurdities. One of his closest friends, a junior senator named Firmius Catus, interested him in astrologers' predictions, magicians' rites, and readers of dreams.
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, 4.1 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Grant, Michael. Tacitus: The Annals of Imperial Rome (1996), pg. 90

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

67. Scythia has an abundance of soothsayers, who foretell the future by means of a number of willow wands. A large bundle of these wands is brought and laid on the ground. The soothsayer unties the bundle, and places each wand by itself, at the same time uttering his prophecy: then, while he is still speaking, he gathers the rods together again, and makes them up once more into a bundle. This mode of divination is of home growth in Scythia. The Enarees, or womanlike men, have another method, which they say Aphrodite taught them. It is done with the inner bark of the linden-tree. They take a pg 250 piece of this bark, and, splitting it into three strips, keep twining the strips about their fingers, and untwining them, while they prophesy.

68. Whenever the Scythian king falls sick, he sends for the three soothsayers of most renown at the time, who come and make trial of their art in the mode above described. Generally they say that the king is ill, because such or such a person, mentioning his name, has sworn falsely by the royal hearth. This is the usual oath among the Scythians, when they wish to swear with very great solemnity. Then the man accused of having forsworn himself is arrested and brought before the king. The soothsayers tell him that by their art it is clear he has sworn a false oath by the royal hearth, and so caused the illness of the king-he denies the charge, protests that he has sworn no false oath, and loudly complains of the wrong done to him. Upon this the king sends for six new soothsayers, who try the matter by soothsaying. If they too find the man guilty of the offence, straitway he is beheaded by those who first accused him, and his goods are parted among them: if, on the contrary, they acquit him, other soothsayers, and again others, are sent for, to try the case. Should the greater number decide in favour of the man's innocence, then they who first accused him forfeit their lives.
Herodotus, The Persian War, 4.67- 8 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 249- 50

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

4.172. The Nasamonians, a numerous people, are the western neighbours of the Auschisae. . ... The following are their customs in the swearing of oaths and the practice of augury. The man, as he swears, lays his hand upon the tomb of some one considered to have been preeminently just and good, and so doing swears by his name. For divination they betake themselves to the sepulchres of their own ancestors, and, after praying, lie down to sleep upon their graves; by the dreams which then come to them they guide their conduct. When they pledge their faith to one another, each gives the other to drink out of his hand; if there be no liquid to be had, they take up dust from the ground, and put their tongues to it.
Herodotus, The Persian War, 4.172 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 285

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

. ...The Ausean maidens keep year by year a feast in honour of Athena the virgin goddess , whereat their custom is to draw up in two bodies, and fight with stones and clubs. They say that these are rites which have come down to them from their fathers, and that they honour with them their native goddess, who is the same as the Athena of the Grecians. If any of the maidens die of the wounds they receive, the Auseans declare that such are false virgins.
Herodotus, The Persian War, 4.180 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 287

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples

How come were miracles so common? Because the ancients didn't have science, that's how come. Inventing civilization? That the ancients got. Everyday all around you stuff like why the wind blows and what the sun is? That they didn't get.

Another SPFYMLMWhich is a big deal. Like the ancient man giving his mother- in- law a sacred penis, this is one of the ways ancient civilization was incomprehensibly different from ours. We know about science; we explain everything we see with a few invisible rules—Newton's laws, radio waves, germs. Those rules create our picture of what the world is and how the world works.

Take away our rules and Dorothy, you're not in Kansas any more.

The ancients had different rules. The sun traveled across the sky because God moved it, physically moved it. What made people sick was demon possession. And they didn't mean sissy spiritual demon possession, they meant actual, physical demons living in your body, making you sick.

So it's not hard to see how stories that make sense according to the ancients' rules are impossible according to our rules. And when they're impossible to us, we call them supernatural. Miracles. But for the ancients what we call miracles—that was just how the world worked.

So when we say an ancient God "performed a miracle"—say, raised a dead person—we mean he broke the rules of nature, and for us that's evidence he was outside nature, supernatural.

But to an ancient, a God raising the dead didn't break the rules, it fit the rules perfectly. Gods had extra powers, and they used them. That's what made them Gods. Which made for a system with a lot of miracles.

Cool, huh?

SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples

An early Christian miracle
Here's a miracle described in by an early Christian. Actually, two miracles.

The first miracleflying—was performed by the Samaritan Christ (you knew there was a Samaritan Christ, right?), Simon Magnus.

The second miracle, performed by Jesus' disciple, the apostle Peter, caused Simon to fall from the air—proving whose Christ had the greatest power.


(We'll talk more about this miracle later,down at the bottom of the page.)

" Now when he Simon Magnus was in Rome, he mightily disturbed the Church, and subverted many, and brought them over to himself, and astonished the Gentiles with his skill in magic, insomuch that once,...he...promised he would fly in the air; and...indeed he was carried up into the air by demons, and did fly on high in the air, saying that he was returning into heaven, and that he would supply them with good things from thence... I Peter stretched out my hands to heaven ... and besought God through the Lord Jesus to throw down this pestilent fellow, and... When I had said these words, Simon was deprived of his powers, and fell down headlong.
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 6.9 (Third century? AD)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

This is is another one of those times ancient culture was incomprehensibly different from ours. We see miracles as way way unusual—so unusual that when Jesus does them, we take that as proof he was divine.

Those wacky ancients saw miracles as everyday events that happened when someone was tuned-in to the powers that ran the universe. It worked pretty much like Star Wars, with The Force battling The Dark Side. Simon Magnus did miracles—Christians didn't doubt it—because he was tuned in to the demonic powers. Jesus and Peter did miracles because they were tuned in to God's power. The point of Peter's story here is that his Jesus-power was greater than Simon's demon-power.

The first Christians didn't invent this explanation of miracles, they inherited it from the pagan culture around them.

By the way, this Star Wars force-and-the-dark-side explanation of miracles isn't something Christianity picked up late. It's right there in the bible. Here's Mark's gospel describing a sick woman touching Jesus' garment; the power flows out of Jesus and instantly heals her. Jesus feels His power draining away, so He turns to say, Who touched me?

Friend, it don't get no more Pagan than that.

And a woman, who had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, having heard the things concerning Jesus, came in the crowd behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I touch but his garments, I shall be made whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her plague. And straightway Jesus, perceiving in himself that the power from him had gone forth, turned him about in the crowd, and said, "Who touched my garments?"
Gospel of Mark, 5:25 - 30

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Christianity: Miracles everywhere
You probably know Jesus apostles—his earliest followers—had the power to perform miracles. What you maybe don't know is that from very early on, even before our Gospels were written, having the power to do miracles was understood as a sign you were "filled with the Holy Spirit."—that you were 'tuned-in' to Jesus. That the Force was with you.

And "the apostles" weren't just Jesus disciples (that part of the myth developed later anyway), the apostles were, basically, Jesus earliest followers who had the Force with them. That theology made for a lot of miracles.

Thumb through an early Christian book; just like Pagan books it will be full of miracles. Trying to explain how common miracles were in early Christian culture is like trying to explain how stinking big the ocean is ... yadda yadda yadda. You know the drill.

What do I mean?
Here are a few early Christian miracles, from among the thousands recorded.

Here's the apostle Peter again, describing how the Samaritan Christ Simon flew, and how he, Peter, knocked Simon out of the sky with God's power. After which folks watching, seeing that Peter's Jesus-power was greater than Simon's demon-power, came over to Jesus' Christianity.

That's how early Christianity used miracles. To convert. And you've already noticed, they used miracles not in our modern way-way-unusual-must-be-god sense. They used them in the ancient Pagan force-and-the-dark-side sense. Simon had miraculous power—no one denied it—but Peter's Jesus-power was greater. Better switch to Jesus.

In fact force-and-the-dark-side miracle working was the main technique earliest Christianity used to get people to join up. The early Church wasn't filled by preaching. It wasn't filled by good works or living a life of holy example. It was filled by magic. Wow.

Is this just Greg talking? Nope. For a thorough review of the ancient evidence, try Christianizing the Roman Empire, by Yale's Dr. MacMullen.


How Simon, Desiring to Fly by Some Magical Arts, Fell Down Headlong from on High at the Prayers of Peter, and Brake His Feet, and Hands, and Ankle-Bones.

IX. Now when he Simon Magnus was in Rome, he mightily disturbed the Church, and subverted many, and brought them over to himself, and astonished the Gentiles with his skill in magic, insomuch that once,...he...promised he would fly in the air; and when all the people were in suspense at this, I prayed by myself. And indeed he was carried up into the air by demons, and did fly on high in the air, saying that he was returning into heaven, and that he would supply them with good things from thence... I stretched out my hands to heaven, with my mind, and besought God through the Lord Jesus to throw down this pestilent fellow, and... When I had said these words, Simon was deprived of his powers, and fell down headlong with a great noise, and was violently dashed against the ground, and had his hip and ankle-bones broken; and the people cried out, saying, "There is one only God, whom Peter rightly preaches in truth." And many left him; but some who were worthy of perdition continued in his wicked doctrine. And after this manner the most atheistical heresy of the Simonians was first established in Rome; and the devil wrought by the rest of the false apostles also.
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 6.9 (Third century? AD)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Constantine

Magic power was magic power. Even the Pagan dark-side powers could—did—prophesy Christian victory. When Constantine defeated the Emperor Maxentius, with God's help, even the Pagan Sibylline books saw it coming >>

Discord arose in the city and the emperor Maxentius was upbraided for abdicating responsibility….. Disconcerted by this cry, he scurried away and, summoning some senators, he ordered the Sibylline books to be consulted. In them was found the statement that on that day the enemy of Rome would perish.
Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors, 44.7-8

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Here are a few more, from the thousands recorded, dark-side miracles in early Christianity >>

I n the period after the emperor Alexander Severus, 193 - 211 AD ,….. There were numerous frequent earthquakes… some towns were even swallowed up by cracks opening in the ground and taken down to the depths.…

Suddenly a woman came to the fore who presented herself as a prophetess experiencing states of ecstasy and acted as through filled with the Holy Spirit. But she was so overwhelmed by the onset of the leading daemons that for a long time she seduced and deceived the brethren…. that evil spirit in the woman , being able to foresee that an earthquake was about to happen, sometimes pretended that it was going to bring about what it saw would happen anyway….

He also made the woman go barefoot in the freezing snow in the harsh winter, without her being troubled or harmed in any way by the outing….

Demons with the power of prophecy >>.

S uddenly there appeared before him an exorcist, a man of proven character…. By subtle deceit, the daemon had even foretold shortly beforehand that an unbelieving assailant would come against him.
Cyprian, Cyprian's letters, Letter 75.10

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Of course the good guys had power too, and plenty of it. And they used it all the time. Here are a few miracles from the Martyrdom of Polycarp, an account of the death of one of the earliest Church Fathers.

Even the fact the events were recorded at all was a miracle, revealed to the coppiest by the dead Polycarp himself >>

This account Gaisus transcribed …. And I Pionius, wrote it down again…(for the blessed Polycarp showed it to me in a revelation).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Moscow manuscript 22.2 -3,—which you can find in: Michael Holmes.The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (1999), pg. 245

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Polycarp miraculously prophesied his martyrdom >>

And while he Polycarp was praying he fell into a trance three days before his arrest, and he saw his pillow being consumed by fire. And he turned and said to those who were with him: "It is necessary that I be burned alive."
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 5.2

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

As he entered the stadium to be martyred, a voice spoke to him from heaven. >>

But as Polycarp entered the stadium, there came a voice from heaven: "Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man."
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 9.1 (v),—which you can find in: Michael Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (1999), pg. 233

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And when the Pagans tried to burn Polycarp, the fire miraculously would not burn him—a miracle visible only to the believers, a display of the good-power explicitly intended by God to persuade non-believers to join the Church. >>

…the men in charge of the fire lit the fire. And as a mighty flame blazed up, we saw a miracle (we, that is, to whom it was given to see), and we have been preserved in order that we might tell what happened. (2) For the fire, taking the shape of an arch, like the sail of a ship filled by the wind, completely surrounded the body of the martyr; and it was there in the middle, not like flesh burning but like bread baking or like gold and silver being refined in a furnace. For we also perceived a very fragrant odor, as if it were the scent of incense or some other precious spice.
Ch 16: When the lawless men eventually realized that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they ordered an executioner to go up to him and stab him with a dagger…. And the whole crowd was amazed that there should be so great a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Ch 15—which you can find in: Michael Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (1999), pg. 239

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

The first Christians did more than borrow the idea of Pagan miracles, they accepted the fact that Pagan miracles were real. Wow. Bet you didn't pick that up in church.

SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?

"
Next time you're in church... When they get to the part about Jesus doing miracles, remember Orpheus' chatty head and the hundreds of other pre- Christian Pagan miracles.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of years—in a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts.

Wow!

SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples
Healing

By far the most often attested business of prayer was health; by far the greatest number of shrines and deities answered such prayers almost exclusively on as the principle part of their usual benefactions. So there were hundreds of Asklepieia in the eastern half of the empire and various adopted versions of the god, through syncretism; . . . Silvanus cured as well as Asclepius, unmindful of his proper raison d'e^tre; so did Mercury, Hercules, in fact any deity one could think of. One scholarly discussion after another will particularly given to some pagan deity will conclude that he or she was essentially a healer; and any number of essentially healing deities are known…
MacMullen, Ramsay. Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (1997), pg. 56

POCM quotes modern scholars

Apollonius of Tyana cures the lame, the blind, the paralysed.

3.39 There also arrived a man who was lame. He was already thirty years old and was a keen hunter of lions ; but a lion had sprung upon him and dislocated his hip so that he limped with one leg. However when they massaged with their hands his hip, the youth immediately recovered his upright gait. And another man had had his eyes put out, and he went away having recovered the sight of both of them. page 318 Yet another man had his hand paralysed, but left their presence in full poscession of the limb. And a certain woman had suffered in labour already seven times, but was healed in the following way through the intercession of her husband. He bade the man, of whenever his wife should be about to bring forth her next child, to enter her chamber carrying in his bosom a live hare ; then he was to walk once round her and at the same moment to release the hare; for that the womb would be extruded together with the fetus, unless the hare was at once driven out.
Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 3.39 (217 AD),—which you can find in: Conybeare, F. C.. Philostratus I: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Books I - V (Loeb Classical Library #16) (2000), pg. 317- 8

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Vespasian cures blindness with his spittle.

By the way the Gospel of John, Chapter 9

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth....

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

4.81 During the months which Vespasian spent at Alexandria waiting for the regular season of the summer winds* to ensure a safe voyage, there occurred many miraculous events manifesting the goodwill of Heaven and a certain favour of Providence towards him. At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away, on the advice of Serapis (whom this superstitious people worship as their chief god) fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth. Another man with a maimed hand, also inspired by Serapis, besought Vespasian to imprint his footmark on it.

At first Vespasian laughed at them and refused, but they insisted. He half-feared a reputation for gullibility, but was half-moved to hope by their petition and the flattery of his courtiers. He eventually told the doctors to form an opinion whether such cases of blindness and deformity could be remedied by human aid. The doctors discussed the question pg 229 from various angles, saying that in the one case the power of sight was not extinct and would return if the impediments were removed; in the other case the limbs were distorted and could be set right again by the application of an effective remedy: this might be the will of Heaven and the Emperor had perhaps been chosen as the divine instrument. They added that he would gain all the credit if the cure were successful, while, if it failed, the ridicule would fall on the unfortunate patients.

This convinced Vespasian that there were no limits to his destiny: nothing now seemed incredible. To the great excitement of the bystanders, he stepped forward with a smile on his face and did as the men desired him. Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying.
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, 4.81 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Levene, D.S.. Tacitus, The Histories (1997), pg. 228- 9

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

By the way the Gospel of John, Chapter 9

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth....

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus' spittle cures a blind man

The Emperor
Vespasian's spittle cures a blind man

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth....

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
Gospel of John, Chapter 9 (1st or 2d century AD)

At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away ...fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth.
... Vespasian .... did as the men desired him. Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying.
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, 4.81 (c 110 AD),—which you can find in: Levene, D.S.. Tacitus, The Histories (1997), pg. 228- 9

Asclepius healed the sick and raised the dead.

"Asclepius was the son of Apollo a god and Coronis a mortal woman—is the pattern sinking in here? ...he healed many sick whose lives had been despaired of, and... he brought back to life many who had died." Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 4.7.1.1- 2

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Asclepius raised at least six dead men:

"I found in writing this history some who are reported to have been raised by him Asclepius , to wit, Capaneus and Lycurgus, as Stesichorus 645- 555 BC says... Hippolytus, as the author of the Naupactica reports6th century BC , Tyndareus, as Panyasis c. 500 BC says; Hymnaneus, as the Orphics report; and Glaucus...as Melasogoras 5th century BC relates." Apollodorus, The Library, 3.1.3- 3

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

and

"When Hippolytus was killed,...Asclepius raised him from the dead." Pausanias, Corinth, Description of Greece, 1.27.5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Asclepius healed blindness

"Alcetas of Halieis. The blind man saw a dream while sleeping in Asclepius' temple . It seemed to him the god came up to him and with his fingers opened his eyes....At daybreak he walked out sound." Inscriptiones Graecae, 4.1.121 - 122, Stele 1.18

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

and

" Hermon of Thasus. His blindness was cured by Asclepius." Inscriptiones Graecae, 4.1.121 - 122, Stele 2.22

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

and

"To Valerius Aper, a blind soldier, the god revealed that he should go and take the blood of a white cock along with hone and compound and eye salve and for three days should apply it to his eyes. And he could see again and went and publicly offered thanks to the god." Inscriptiones Graecae, 14.96

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Asclepius heals a mute boy

"A voiceless boy. He came as a supplicant to the Temple of Asclepius ...the temple servant demanded the boys father...to bring...the thank offering for the cure. But the boy suddenly said, "I promise." His father was startled at this and asked him to repeat it. The boy repeated the words and after that became well." Inscriptiones Graecae 4.1.121- 122; Stele 1.5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Asclepius heals a lame man

"Nicanor, a lame man. While he was sitting wide-awake in Asclepius' temple , a boy snatched his crutch from him and ran away. but Nicanor got up, pursued him, and do became well." Inscriptiones Graecae 4.1.121- 122; Stele 1.16

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And

"Cleimenes of Argus, paralyzed in body. He came to the Abaton and slept there and saw a vision... When he woke up he took a bath and walked out unhurt." Inscriptiones Graecae 4.1.121- 122; Stele 2.37

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Isis healed the sick

"Isis...finds her greatest delight in the healing of mankind... In proof of this...they advance not legends...but manifest facts...For standing above the sick in their sleep she gives them aid for their diseases and works remarkable cures upon such as submit themselves to her..." Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 1.25.2 -5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Isis cures blindness

"Numbers who have lost the use of their eyes or of some other part of their body, whenever they turn for help to this goddess, are restored to their previous condition. ." Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 1.25.5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Isis and immortality

"Furthermore, she Isis discovered also the drug which gives immortality." Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 1.25.6

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Apollonius of Tyana cures demon posession

The nature of the demon described.

THIS discussion was interrupted by the appearance among the sages of the messenger bringing in certain Indians who were in want of succour. And he brought forward a poor woman who interceded in behalf of her child, who was, she said, a boy of sixteen years of age, but had been for two years possessed by a devil. Now the character of the devil was that of a mocker and a liar. Here one of the sages asked, why she said this, and she replied : "This child of mine is extremely good-looking, and therefore the devil is amorous of him and will not allow him to retain his reason, nor will he permit him to go to school, or to learn archery, nor even to remain at home, but drives him out into desert places. And the boy does not even retain his own voice, but speaks in a deep hollow tone, as men do ; and he looks at you with other eyes rather than wit11 his own. As for myself I weep over all this, and I tear my cheeks, and I rebuke my son so far as I well may ; but he does not know me. And I made up my mind to repair hither, indeed I planned to do so a year ago ; only the demon discovered himself, using my child as a mask, and what he told me was this, that he was the ghost of a man, who fell long ago in battle, but that at death he was passionately page 316 attached to his wife. Now he had been dead for only three days when his wife insulted their union by marrying another man, and the consequence was that he had come to detest the love of women, and had transferred himself wholly into this boy. But he promised, if I would only not denounce him to yourselves, to endow the child with many noble blessings As for myself, I was influenced by these promises; but he has put me off and off' for such a long time now, that he has got sole control of my household, yet has no honest or true intentions." Here the sage asked afresh, if the boy was at hand ; and she said not, for, although she had done all she could to get him to come with her, the demon had threatened her with steep places and precipices and declared that he would kill her son, "in case," she added, " I haled him hither for trial." "Take courage," said the sage, '' for he will not slay him when he has read this." And so saying he drew a letter out of his bosom and gave it to the woman ; and the letter, it appears, was addressed to the ghost and contained threats of an alarming kind.
Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 3.38 (217 AD),—which you can find in: Conybeare, F. C.. Philostratus I: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Books I - V (Loeb Classical Library #16) (2000), pg. 315- 6

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Pythagoras: prophecy, healing, calming storms

"Verified predictions by Pythagoras of earthquakes are handed down, also, that he immediately chases away pestilence, suppressed violent winds and hail, and calmed storms o both rivers and seas. Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 29

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

(pg 91) Many other more admirable and divine particulars are likewise unanimously and uniformly related of the man, such as infallible predictions of earthquakes, rapid expulsions of pestilences, and hurricanes, instantaneous cessations of hail, and tranquillizations of the waves of rivers and seas, in order that his disciples might more easily pass over them.

The power of effecting miracles of this kind was achieved by Empedocles of Agrigentum, Epimenides the Cretan, and Abaris the Hyperborean, and these they performed in many places. Their deeds were so manifest that Empedocles was surnamed a _wind-stiller_, Epimenides an _expiator_, and Abaris an _air-walker_, because, carried on the dart given him by the Hyperborean Apollo, he passed over rivers, and seas and inaccessible places like one carried on air.
Iamblichus, On the Pythagorean Life, 28 (3d c AD),—which you can find in: Gutherie, Kenneth. The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library (1988), pg. 90 - 1

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Thunderbolt at Apollonius' birth—and it's meaning explained.

But the people of the country say that just at the moment of the birth of Apollonius , a thunderbolt seemed about to fall to earth and then rose up into the air and disappeared aloft; and the gods thereby indicated, I think, the great distinction to which the sage was to attain, and hinted in advance how he should transcend all things upon earth and approach the gods, and signified all the things that he would achieve.
Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 1.5 (217 AD),—which you can find in: Conybeare, F. C.. Philostratus I: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Books I - V (Loeb Classical Library #16) (2000), pg. 13- 14
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves. Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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6.27. It mostly happens that there is some warning when great misfortunes are about to befall a state or nation; and so it was in this instance, for the Chians had previously had some strange tokens sent to them. A choir of 100 of their youths had been dispatched to Delphi, and of these only two had returned, the remaining ninety-eight having been carried off by a pestilence. Likewise, about the same time, and very shortly before the sea-fight, the roof of a school-house had fallen in upon a number of their boys, who were at lessons, and out of 120 children there was but one left alive. Such were the signs which God sent to warn them.

It was very shortly afterwards that the sea-fight happened, which brought the city down upon its knees; and after the sea-fight came the attack of Histiaeus and his Lesbians. to whom the Chians, weakened as they were, furnished an easy conquest.
Herodotus, The Persian War, 6.27 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 348

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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1.58 ... The star that was seen in the east we consider to have been a new star, unlike any of the other well-known planetary bodies, either those in the firmament above or those among the lower orbs, but partaking of the nature of those celestial bodies which appear at times, such as comets, or those meteors which resemble beams of wood, or beards, or wine jars, or any of those other names by which the Greeks are accustomed to describe their varying appearances. And we establish our position in the following manner.

1.59 It has been observed that, on the occurrence of great events, and of mighty changes in terrestrial things, such stars are wont to appear, indicating either the removal of dynasties or the breaking out of wars, or the happening of such circumstances as may cause commotions upon the earth. But we have read in the Treatise an Comets by Chaeremon the Stoic, that on some occasions also, when good was to happen, comets made their appearance; and he gives an account of such instances. If, then, at the commencement of new dynasties, or on the occasion of other important events, there arises a comet so called, or any similar celestial body, why should it be matter of wonder that at the birth of Him who was to introduce a new doctrine to the human race, and to make known His teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many of the barbarous nations besides, a star should have arisen?
Origen, Against Celsus, 1.58- 59 Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

7.37. And now when all was prepared-the bridges, and the works at Athos, the breakwaters about the mouths of the cutting, which were made to hinder the surf from blocking up the entrances, and the cutting itself; and when the news came to Xerxes that this last was completely finished, then at length the host, having first wintered at Sardis, began its march towards Abydos , fully equipped, on the first approach of spring. At the moment of departure, the sun suddenly quitted his seat in the heavens, and disappeared, though there were no clouds in sight, but the sky was clear and serene. Day was thus turned into night; whereupon Xerxes, who saw and remarked the prodigy, was seized with alarm, and sending at once for the Magians, inquired of them the meaning of the portent. They replied, "God is foreshowing to the Greeks the destruction of their cities; for the sun foretells for them and the moon for us." So Xerxes, thus instructed, proceeded on his way with great gladness of heart.

Editor Godolphin notes: 'There was no eclipse of the sun visible in Western Asia this year (480 BC) ...
Herodotus, The Persian War, 7.37 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 405

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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King Tarquin, judging that his cavalry was a particular weakness, decided to add new centuries units of cavalry to the existing ones - Ramnes, Titienses, Luceres - created by Romulus, to which he would leave the distinction of his own name. Because Romulus had created his three tribes by means of the auguries,' a distinguished augur at that time, called Attus Navius, declared that no change or innovation could be made to them without the consent of the birds. That moved King Tarquin to anger. To make fun of the augur's art, the story goes, he said to Navius: 'Come then, prophet, divine by your augural art whether it is possible to do what I am thinking of at this moment.' Navius took the auspices and announced that what the King was thinking of would in fact come to pass. 'Well', said Tarquin, 'I was thinking of your cutting a whetstone in half with a razor. Fetch them and perform what your birds declare can be done.' Without delay Navius cut the whetstone in half. A statue of Navius with his head veiled used to stand in the place where this happened - in the comitium, on the steps to the left of the senate house. The whetstone was also supposed to have been preserved at the same spot, to provide a memorial for posterity of the miracle. Such great honour was brought to the auguries that no action was taken, in war or in the city, without the auspices: assemblies of the people, levies of the troops, all the greatest affairs would be broken up if the birds did not approve.'
Livy (Titus Livius), History of Rome, 1.36.2-6 (1st century AD),—which you can find in: Beard, Mary. Religions of Rome, Volume 2, A Sourcebook (2001), pg. 167

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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3.86. And now, when the morning broke, the six Persians, according to agreement, met together on horseback, and rode out to the suburb. As they went along they neared the spot where the mare was tethered the night before, whereupon the horse of Darius sprang forward and neighed. Just at the same time, though the sky was clear and bright, there was a flash of lightning, followed by a thunder-clap. It seemed as if the heavens conspired with Darius, and hereby inaugurated him king: so the five other nobles leaped with one accord from their steeds, and bowed down before him and owned him for their king.
Herodotus, The Persian War, 3.86 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 202

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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In former times the city has been saved from many great and constant dangers by the providence of its protective and mighty deities, Zeus of Panamara and Hekate, whose sanctuaries were recognized by a decree of the sacred Roman Senate as being inviolable and possessing the right to receive suppliants, on account of the manifest miracles which they performed for the safety of the eternal empire of our lords the Romans.
Inscriptions from Stratonikeia, De Inschrifen von Strantoneika, De Inschrifen von Strantoneika 1101 (end of 2d century AD),—which you can find in: Lee, A.D. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity (2000), pg. section 1.5, page 23

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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5.85. After this the Athenians relate that they sent a trireme to Aegina with certain citizens on board, and that these men, who bore commission from the state, landed in Aegina, and sought to take the images away, considering them to be their own, inasmuch as they were made of their wood. And first they endeavoured to wrench them from their pedestals, and so carry them off, but failing herein, they in the next place tied ropes to them, and set to work to try if they could haul them down. In the midst of their hauling suddenly there was a thunderclap with the thunderclap an earthquake; and the crew of the forthwith seized with madness, and, like enemies, began to kill one another until at last there was but one left, who returned alone to Phalerum. . ...

5.87.... According to the Athenians, it was the god who destroyed their troops; and even this one man did not escape
Herodotus, The Persian War, 5.85- 6 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 324- 5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Poseidon crossed the water:

"Then gamboled the sea beasts beneath him Poseidon on every side from out of the deep, for well they knew their lord, and in gladness the sea parted before him." Homer, Iliad, 29

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Alexander the Great parts the sea

Quoting Callisthenes now lost , "the sea withdrew from before his Alexander's march as though recognizing him, and that it too did not fail to know its lord. " Eustathius, On the Iliad, 29

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Lucian describes men running on the sea and walking on water

"We came in sight of many men running over the sea..." Lucian, A true Story, 2.4

and: "I saw him soar through the air in broad daylight and walk on water..." Lucian, The Lover of Lies, 13

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Dionysus changes water into wine

"At fixed times in their city a fountain of wine, of unusually sweet fragrance, flows of its own accord from the earth." Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History 3.66.3

"The water flowing from a spring in the temple of Father Liber Dionysus on the island of Andros always has the flavor of wine on January 5th: the day is called God's Gift Day.
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.106

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Dionysus turns a water into a wine-spring

One woman bacchant
struck her thyrsus against a rock and a fountain
of cool water came bubbling up. Another drove
her fennel in the ground, and where it struck the earth,
at the touch of god, a spring of wine poured out… (707)

… (712) If you had been there and seen these wonders for yourself,
you would have gone down on your knees and prayed
to the god you now deny.

Euripides, The Bacchae, 703 - 707 (5th century BC),—which you can find in: Meyer, Marvin W. The Ancient Mysteries; A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts (1987), pg. 76

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Dionysus changes water into wine

The place where they hold the festival they name the Thyia is about eight stades from the city. Three pots are brought into the building by the priests and set down empty in the presence of the citizens and of any strangers who may chance to be in the country. The doors of the building are sealed by the priests themselves and by any others who may be so inclined. On the morrow they are allowed to examine the seals, and on going into the building they find the pots filled with wine. I did not myself arrive at the time of the festival, but the most respected Elean citizens, and with them strangers also, swore that what I have said is the truth.
Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 6 Elis 2, 26.1-2 (.),—which you can find in: Meyer, Marvin W. The Ancient Mysteries; A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts (1987), pg. 95

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Speaking in tongues

Very often, when people submitted questions in a native tongue, Syrian or Galatians, for example, Alexander would prophesy in a foreign language.
Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet, 52? (2d Century AD),—which you can find in: Casson, Lionel. Selected Satires of Lucian (1962), pg. 293

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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Pythagoras: prophecy, healing, calming storms

"Verified predictions by Pythagoras of earthquakes are handed down, also, that he immediately chases away pestilence, suppressed violent winds and hail, and calmed storms o both rivers and seas.
Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 29

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

The river answers Pythagoras

Again, once passing over the river Nessus along with many associates, he addressed the river, which, in a distance and clear voice, in the hearing of all his associates, answered, "Hail, Pythagoras!"

In two cities at once

Further, all his biographers insist that during the same day he was present in Metapontum in Italy, and at Tauromenium in Sicily, discoursing with his disciples in both places, although these cities are separated, both by land and sea by many stadia, the traveling over which consumes many days.

(pg 91) Many other more admirable and divine particulars are likewise unanimously and uniformly related of the man, such as infallible predictions of earthquakes, rapid expulsions of pestilences, and hurricanes, instantaneous cessations of hail, and tranquillizations of the waves of rivers and seas, in order that his disciples might more easily pass over them.

The power of effecting miracles of this kind was achieved by Empedocles of Agrigentum, Epimenides the Cretan, and Abaris the Hyperborean, and these they performed in many places. Their deeds were so manifest that Empedocles was surnamed a _wind-stiller_, Epimenides an _expiator_, and Abaris an _air-walker_, because, carried on the dart given him by the Hyperborean Apollo, he passed over rivers, and seas and inaccessible places like one carried on air. Many think that Pythagoras did the same thing, when in the same day he discoursed with his disciples at Metapontum and Tauromenium. It is also said that he predicted there would be an earthquake from the water of a well which he had tasted; and that a ship sailing with a prosperous wind would be submerged in the sea. These are sufficient proofs of his piety.
Iamblichus, On the Pythagorean Life, 28 (3d c AD),—which you can find in: Gutherie, Kenneth. The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library (1988), pg. 90 - 1

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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An early Christian miracle
Here's a miracle described in by an early Christian. Actually, two miracles.

The first miracleflying—was performed by the Samaritan Christ (you knew there was a Samaritan Christ, right?), Simon Magnus.

The second miracle, performed by Jesus' disciple, the apostle Peter, caused Simon to fall from the air—proving whose Christ had the greatest power.


" Now when he Simon Magnus was in Rome, he mightily disturbed the Church, and subverted many, and brought them over to himself, and astonished the Gentiles with his skill in magic, insomuch that once,...he...promised he would fly in the air; and...indeed he was carried up into the air by demons, and did fly on high in the air, saying that he was returning into heaven, and that he would supply them with good things from thence... I Peter stretched out my hands to heaven ... and besought God through the Lord Jesus to throw down this pestilent fellow, and... When I had said these words, Simon was deprived of his powers, and fell down headlong.
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 6.9 (Third century? AD)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

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SOP|Why so many miracles?|Christian's accepted Pagan miracles|Examples

W hen Sanacharib, king of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched his vast army into Egypt, the warriors one and all refused to come to his aid. On this the monarch, greatly distressed, entered into the inner sanctuary, and before the image of the god, bewailed the fate which impended over him. As he wept he fell asleep, and dreamt that the god came and stood at his side, bidding him be of good cheer, and go boldly forth and meet pg 149 the Arabian host, which would do him no hurt, as he himself would send those who should help him. Sethos, then, relying on the dream, collected such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, who were none of them warriors, but traders, artisans, and market-people; and with these marched to Pelusium, which commands the entrance into Egypt, and there pitched his camp. As the two armies lay here opposite one another, there came in the night a multitude of field-mice, which devoured all the quivers and bow-strings of the enemy, and ate the thongs by which they managed their shields. Next morning they commenced their flight, and great multitudes fell, as they had no arms with which to defend themselves. There stands to this day in the temple of Hephaestus, a stone statue of Sethos, with a mouse in his hand, and an inscription to this effect, "Look on me, and learn to reverence the gods."
Herodotus, The Persian War, 2.141 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 148 - 9

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Healing|Exorcism|Controlling nature|Signs|Dreams|Punishment|Special|Godmen's|Early Christian|Other

Good Books for this section

Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity
A Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories

by Wendy Cotter

Lousy with miracles Like chocolate chips in mama's cookies, miracles were a basic ingredient in ancient people's understanding of how the world works. Every bite—another miracle. The ancient world was lousy with miracles.

Don't believe me, believe the ancients. This excellent sourcebook gives hundreds of examples—250 pages—of ancient miracles recorded by the pens of ancients themselves.

You'll read short excerpts from ancient texts describing Pagan Gods who healed the sick (blindness, paralysis, lameness), raised the dead, exorcised demons, controlled nature, turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed storms, and more.

Well organized, easy to read. Highly recommended.

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Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400)
Ramsay MacMullen



A solid scholarly look at the reasons Pagans converted to Christianity in the period before Christianity took over the central government of the Roman Empire. 

You'd think the main tool of conversion was preaching, or maybe people telling how their conversion had changed their lives. It wasn't. The main tool of conversion was magic!

The ancient evidence shows the first Christian evangelism was based on miracle working and miracle healing—basically saying 'Hey Presto! My God is stronger than your Gods.' 

By the end of this period about ten percent of the Empire was Christian. 

By a famous Yale historian. Highly recommended for serious students.

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