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Miracles Didn’t Stop in the First Century – Primary Sources

June 11th, 2021 · 8 Comments · Bible, Miracles

I heard many times that the miracles stopped in the first century. They said the Holy Spirit didn’t give the gifts for two main reasons:

1 – It took the apostles laying on hands to impart the gifts per Acts 19

2 – The miracles were only to confirm the Word/New Testament so once it was written the gifts were no longer needed.

As with many things, this was a conclusion reached before the study was done and then the Bible retrofitted to support the view.

Did it require the apostles to pass on gifts?

No – read Acts 10.

Was the purpose of the gifts to verify the Word? Yes.

Was the purpose of the gifts ONLY to verify the Word? No.

Healing miracles were actually designed, get this, to heal a hurting person. The idea that there was only one reason for the gifts doesn’t hold up.

God can pass on gifts without any human intermediary. This was pointed out but we were taught those were “special” occasions but how do we really know that? That is based on a limited data set (Acts) without us really knowing what else God did at the time…except we do know what else God did from outside the Bible.

The early church fathers recorded miracles and Holy Spirit gifts hundreds of years later. What is more, these weren’t rare instances…over and over they state that these were happening a lot. In fact, Craig Keener (in his book on Miracles, which is invaluable) states that miracles were a primary evidence that let to the majority of conversions based on what the early church fathers said,

“Second and third century Christian apologists depict not only apostolic leaders but also ordinary Christians as miracle workers. Before the 300s exorcisms proved to be a major factor in the spread of Christianity; in the 300s exorcisms and miracles are the most explicit cause of conversions to Christianity mentioned in early Christians sources.”

Keener, Miracles

The last thing I want to do is give you the evidence so you can look it up for yourself and know what was said. This isn’t hard to find and it is a shame no one took the time to look this up before teaching the view I outlined above.

First, rabbinic sources note early Christian miracles. Some of these were opponents to Christianity and yet they didn’t deny it happened but openly acknowledged it.

Second, here are the early church fathers,

Augustine of Hippo
He was a skeptic of the miracles in his day – which makes me trust what he said here even more because he wasn’t eager to accept it as true until he saw it himself,

“A miracle that happened at Milan while I was there, when a blind man had his sight restored…I have been concerned that such accounts should be published because I saw that signs of divine power like those of the older days were frequently occurring in modern times too…many miracles have occurred there (at Hippo) and to my certain knowledge many miracles have occurred there which are not recorded in the published documents and nearly 70 of these documents have been produced at the time of writing – City of God, 22.8

Origen

Against Celsus 1.46 – “And there are still preserved among Christians traces of that Holy Spirit which appeared in the form of a dove. They expel evil spirits, and perform many cures, and foresee certain events, according to the will of the Logos. And although Celsus, or the Jew whom he has introduced, may treat with mockery what I am going to say, I shall say it nevertheless — that many have been converted to Christianity as if against their will, some sort of spirit having suddenly transformed their minds from a hatred of the doctrine to a readiness to die in its defense, and having appeared to them either in a waking vision or a dream of the night.”

Against Celsus 1.67 – “And the name of Jesus can still remove distractions from the minds of men, and expel demons, and also take away diseases;”

Cyprian

“And this also is done in the present day, in that the devil is scourged, and burned, and tortured by exorcists, by the human voice, and by divine power;” – Epistle 75, 15

Tertullian

“The clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases!” – Scapulam, 4

Irenaeus in Against Heresies,

“men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power” – 2.6.2

Talking to those who didn’t believe in the miracles,

“And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity—the entire Church in that particular locality entreating [the boon] with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints.” – 2.31.2

“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ” – 2.32.4-5

More could be mentioned: Athanasius, Basel, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Athansius, etc.

Were they all making it up? Where is the refutation? They are stating these things were common and were like what happened in the first century.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Kent Blake

    In response to your request for thoughts on why we hold our position that miracles have ceased, I tend to believe that those of us who have seen things don’t particularly care to broadcast the fact for fear of being put out of the synagogue.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    So place this into the 21st century, Matt. I have researched the miracles claimed by the Dutch version of Oral Roberts – and they were bogus.
    In the early 70’s a Catholic MD wrote a book, “A Doctor in Search of Miracles.” His motivation? When i have to send patients home because there is nothing left what I, as a specialist can do. I will gladly send them to ANYBODY that promises a cure.
    And was sorely disappointed because those he researched were all cheaters.
    So if miracle workers still exist, please tell me who and where so I can send my brother to be healed from Alzheimers. Or my friend who was diagnosed with cancer.

  • Garridy Hamilton

    Hi, could you provide some examples of the rabbinic authors you mentioned that acknowledged the disciples miracles? I’d love to look into some of those. Thanks!

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Matt, let me repeat my request. I truly am serious! Where do miracles still take place, the sick are healed – so my brother can be healed from Alzheimer’s, and my friend from cancer…

    The records of the authors you quoted are about as convincing as those we hear about today: Someone knows someone somewhere who heard about someone somewhere else who has a cousin… You get my drift…

    I would love to be proven wrong in my skepticism…

    • Matt Dabbs

      There are all kinds of reports of healing miracles around the world. I was talking to a man who did mission work in China just a few weeks ago and he said he had met people who had been raised from the dead. The same in Africa with a minister I know there. These are very credible people. Have you tried looking these things up? Have you talked to missionaries? I think at some point I pointed you to some books – The Father Glorified, Miraculous movements as a start – have you read those yet?

  • Matt Dabbs

    Here are a few who talk about it: Lucian in the second century, Juvenal also in the second century both talk about it. Hanina ben Dosa was said to have healed people. That would be a start.

  • David

    Hi,

    Cyprian’s quote is out of context. He is saying that Demons loose all their power over a person once they are baptized. Following is the fuller context.

    15. But if any one is moved by this, that some of those who are baptized in sickness are still tempted by unclean spirits, let him know that the obstinate wickedness of the devil prevails even up to the saving water, but that in baptism it loses all the poison of his wickedness. An instance of this we see in the king Pharaoh, who, having struggled long, and delayed in his perfidy, could resist and prevail until he came to the water; but when he had come there, he was both conquered and destroyed. And that that sea was a sacrament of baptism, the blessed Apostle Paul declares, saying, Brethren, I would not have you ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and he added, saying, Now all these things were our examples. And this also is done in the present day, in that the devil is scourged, and burned, and tortured by exorcists, by the human voice, and by divine power; and although he often says. that he is going out, and will leave the men of God, yet in that which he says he deceives, and puts in practice what was before done by Pharaoh with the same obstinate and fraudulent deceit. When, however, they come to the water of salvation and to the sanctification of baptism, we ought to know and to trust that there the devil is beaten down, and the man, dedicated to God, is set free by the divine mercy. For as scorpions and serpents, which prevail on the dry ground, when cast into water, cannot prevail nor retain their venom; so also the wicked spirits, which are called scorpions and serpents, and yet are trodden under foot by us, by the power given by the Lord, cannot remain any longer in the body of a man in whom, baptized and sanctified, the Holy Spirit is beginning to dwell.

    • Matt Dabbs

      Thank you for taking the time to look that up. Can you point out what makes you say that? He says there are exorcists in his day – in the present day. I am not sure what I am missing.

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