The Miracles of Jesus and the Apostles as Historical Realities

While man may certainly be in awe of the power of God to create countless galaxies while also creating no two snowflakes alike, these natural wonders[1] do not fit the exact definition of miracles as understood in the context of apologetics. Father John Hardon defines a miracle as follows: “A sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone’s sanctity.”

The 48 Miracles of Jesus from the Gospels

Monsignor Fenton, in Laying the Foundation: A Handbook of Catholic Apologetics and Fundamental Theology, notes that the Gospels are manifestly clear that Our Lord worked more than 40 miracles beyond mere human power:

“To the man who approaches this question from an unbiased and scientific historical point of view, nothing can be more evident in all the long career of the human race than the fact that Jesus of Nazareth worked miracles. We have the unanimous testimony of the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistles of St. Paul to this effect, and all of these works stand as absolutely reliable historical documents.

“The testimony of the friends and followers of Jesus is fully corroborated by that of His most deadly enemies. We have at our disposal ancient writings, from Christian and non-Christian sources alike, all united in the contention that the life of this man abounded in works which are obviously beyond the natural competence of any creature whatsoever.

“The Gospels as sources of our knowledge about miracles. Obviously the most important sources from which we can learn about the miracles of Jesus are the four canonical Gospels themselves. Arranging the Gospel narrative according to the biographical order taught by the most eminent scripture scholar of our own days, Father M. J. Lagrange, OP, we find no less than forty-eight occasions on which Jesus is said to have performed manifestly miraculous acts.”

Our Lord performed a wide variety of miracles over illness, demonic possession, the powers of nature, and more. Some of the often-cited miracles of Our Lord include:

  • Jesus healing St. Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:21-27; Luke 4:38-39);
  • Jesus healing a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:1-11);
  • Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11);
  • Jesus healing an official’s son (John 4:43-54);
  • Jesus cleansing a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 21-27; Luke 5:1-11);
  • Jesus healing the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10);
  • Jesus healing a man’s withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11);
  • Jesus raising the widow of Naim’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17);
  • Jesus feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15);
  • Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21);
  • Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45); and
  • Jesus healing the servant’s severed ear (Luke 22:50-51).

The Miracles of Jesus Were Not Doubted by Even His Enemies

All these miracles were beyond human reasoning and many of them are cited in multiple books of Scripture in further corroboration of their historical reality. As Nicodemus himself asserted: “Rabbi, we know that Thou art come a Teacher from God, for no man can do these signs which Thou dost, unless God be with him” (John 3:1-2). And despite the abundant testimony of these miracles, the enemies of Our Lord persisted in their desire to kill Him, yet never denying His miracles, as Father Fenton notes as a further proof of their historical reality:

“Cold-blooded, vicious, but intensely realistic, the enemies of Jesus never attempted to deny His miracles. They considered them as effective signs, performed by the sort of man who was worthy of credence by reason of His intellectual and moral integrity. It was precisely because they were effective and real that they meant to take definitive action against Him. It would have been the easiest thing in the world, from their point of view, to indicate to the people who reverenced and followed them that the hated Nazarene had never performed any miracles at all. The fact that these tireless spies and inquisitors did not do this is most certain evidence that the supernatural character of Jesus’ works was so manifest as to render such instructions ludicrous. The men of the Sanhedrin felt that they could not afford to let Jesus alone. Still less could they afford to make themselves a laughingstock before the people by denying the reality of His signs.”

The Miracles and Testimony of the Apostles

Our Lord’s closest friends who would spread His name to the furthest bounds of the known world as the first bishops of the Catholic Church cited and confirmed Our Lord’s miracles as proof of His authority.

The Scriptures are further replete with testimony of miracles wrought by these Apostles, who confirmed and taught the Deposit of Faith which they received from Our Lord. Some of the miracles of the Apostles recorded in the Book of Acts, from c. 33 A.D. through the deaths of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in approximately 61 A.D.:

  • Peter and John healed the lame man (Acts 3:1-11; 3:16);
  • Peter’s shadow fell on the sick, healing them (Acts 5:15-16);
  • Peter healed the lame Eneas in Lydda (Acts 9:32-35);
  • Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43);
  • Paul and Barnabas healed the crippled man who had faith (Acts 14:8-10);
  • Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a fortune-telling slave girl (Acts 16:16-18);
  • Paul was unharmed by poisonous snake bite in Malta (Acts 28:3-6);
  • Paul healed Publius’ father of fever and dysentery (Acts 28:7-8); and
  • Paul healed all the sick people on the island of Malta (Acts 28:9-10).

And miracles did not stop with the death of the last Apostle.

St. Paul, the closest collaborator to the original eleven disciples, based the entirety of his writings around the greatest miracle of all – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by His own power from the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:17). To St. Paul, the Resurrection was not a mere story that was passed down by the Eleven but one that he and others had experienced by seeing Our Lord personally.

Father Fenton further notes that the ability of the Apostles, and others, to work miracles both before and after Our Lord’s Resurrection is further proof of the truth inherent solely in His divinely-established religion – the Catholic Religion:

“A very practical way in which Jesus attached miraculous works as evidences of credibility to His own doctrine is to be found in His granting of miraculous powers to the Apostles. He chose these men that ‘they might be with Him: and that He should send them to preach. And He gave them power to heal sicknesses and to cast out devils.’ The Apostles exercised that power both before and after the death of their Master. Furthermore, He allowed others to perform miracles in His name, even though these were not members of the apostolic college. The seventy-two disciples received a like commission and attained the same results. Jesus then deemed the miracles as a requisite seal for His own doctrine. His control of the divine power was complete. He could effectively grant men the authority to perform these miraculous works as His agents. The actual performance of these wonders testified to the reality of His control and the genuineness of His claim.”

 Miracles Confirm Catholic Doctrine

Since miracles can only come from God and not from natural causes, and since God will never confirm a falsehood, legitimate miracles are the validation of a truth by God Himself. We see this often throughout history in the miracles wrought by the saints to testify to the truth of the Catholic Faith against the errors of false religions. One such instance, among thousands, is the Miracle of Fanjeaux where the books of the heretical Albigensians and those of the Catholics were thrown together into the fire before Saint Dominic. The Catholic books were miraculously preserved, being rejected three times by the flames, while the heretical ones burned entirely. God confirms truth by miracles.


[1] In a sermon on the miracle of the multiplication of loaves as recorded in the Gospel according to St. John, St. Augustine writes:

“The miracles performed by Our Lord Jesus Christ are certainly divine deeds, calling the human mind to an understanding of God through visible things. God is not such a Being as can be seen with the eye. Moreover, His wondrous workings, by which the whole world is ruled, all creation ordered, are taken as commonplace because of their frequency. For example, almost no one bothers to notice God’s marvelous and amazing work in any grain of seed. Hence, in His mercy God has reserved certain of His works to be performed at apt moments. These works go beyond nature’s usual ordered progression; and the sign of them gives pause to those for whom the daily marvels have become commonplace, not because these deeds are any greater, but because they are unusual.”

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