Talking about miracles

Okay, I have to chime in on the miracle discussion that seems to have enchanted the Christian Origins list serve as the result of Crossley's and Bauckham's discussion at SBL. But I'm going to be brief.

First, if biblical scholars were more concerned about operating as historians than theologians this wouldn't even be a discussion. Historians do not begin with the position that miracles can happen (because God can do anything he wants to do) therefore Jesus performed (or: could have performed) miracles.

When miracles are attributed to famous people in historical writings - and there are many examples beyond Jesus - historians start with the position that these are stories meant to attribute certain superpowers or status to the famous person, or are being used to show the ancient reader that the person being described was thought to be extra-ordinary, divine or godlike. Why should the historical study of Jesus be any different in terms of method?

Second, the fact that this IS a discussion, and that some biblical scholars actually approached James Crossley, maintaining that we can't rule out that Jesus could have performed miracles, should not come as a surprise. The issue at stake is really not about miracles, is it? It is about apology and having it dominate and control our discourse as biblical scholars. It is no wonder that classicists and archaeologists and ancient historians look at our work with suspicion.

I am not going to get into the discussion about whether or not miracles can or cannot happen. I am tired of that discourse and all the false labeling that goes on with it. What I want us to face is the fact that we, as biblical scholars, are willing to suspend what we know about our world when it comes to Jesus and so-called historical research about him, but we are not willing to do so for other figures.