If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
JESUS THE CONJURER
This book considers the evidence that Jesus, if he existed, was nothing more than a stage-magician minus the stage of course. It shows the absurdity of trusting in his miracles. Why should we trust in his resurrection when he had such dodgy miracles behind him? My book, Non-Miraculous Witnesses, demonstrates that the Church discerned many miracles in the New Testament that were not miracles at all and which were not clearly presented as such by these scriptures.
JESUS THE CONJURER
It is nonsense to run through all the miracles of Jesus – if that is what they were - to show how they could have been performed. There are enough books on magic and enough shows on television that tell us how to do the impossible with magic tricks. The miracles are nearly all mundane suggesting that if they were made up everything else probably was as well.
A magician works by distracting the audience, by doing
actions which seem unnecessary if one has magical powers but which are needed to
do the trick – like always pulling a rabbit out of a hat that is resting on a
table – and by not telling the whole truth. Jesus can be proven to have told
lies. And he depended on prophecies that anybody could fulfil and used them as
If Jesus claimed to have magically cured people who could
have been cured by psychological means then he would have been willing to use
trickery. Most of his healings could be explained that way. He would not have
known much about psychology but he would have noticed that sometimes cures took
place that seemed to have a link with the brightening of spirits and having a
Jesus’ doctrine is wrong so God would not have given him
miracle powers and the Devil would have used him to propound smarter doctrines
so if Jesus claimed supernatural powers they were tricks.
Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest man
ever and he named him as his precursor so John must have known him like nobody
else did. Jesus said that John was from God and the best prophet. This implies
that John knew him the best. And the Baptist was not convinced by Jesus who even
had to send messengers to tell him that he did holy signs to prove that he was
the messenger of God (Matthew 11). When John was sceptical what does that say
about Jesus? The fact that John needed to be told was enough to prove that John
was sceptical for had he been a believer he would have followed Jesus’
activities with a close interest.
Whole villages that Jesus visited were sceptical about his miracles (Matthew
11). This was while they were supposedly the talk of the land so they would have
known if he could alter nature.
The miracle of the loaves and fishes could have been done
in the dark which makes trickery easier. In Luke 9 we read that the five
thousand were fed in a desert or waste area and significantly near the city of
Bethsaida. Jesus could have performed an illusion and had wealthy friends to pay
for the food. He told the whole crowd to sit in groups. That was so that only
the attendants might have a chance to see where the food came from. Had a real
miracle happened the people could have queued up. And why were there enough
baskets to carry the food to the people when all they had was a few loaves and
fish? The story of the people going out with the baskets and only one person
having bread and fish with them just has to be an exaggeration. We even read
that the leftovers filled twelve baskets. There would have been more leftovers
than that and the people had more food than the story lets on when they had all
these baskets. Magicians exaggerate their feats and abilities. Jesus who John
said could not lie said he was going to buy food for the crowd (John 6:5). This
is a hint that it was all a big trick. Jesus could have the food in a hole in
the ground out of sight to feed all the people with.
The Matthew and Luke gospels say that the Devil took
Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and suggested that he throw himself down for
God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. This miracle would impress the
people and get Jesus converts easily because he would need to do it in public to
make it worth his while. That is what Christians tell us. But God might have
wanted Jesus to do that so why was Satan so sure it was a sin? Jesus doing that
would not have stopped him going on the cross later. Obviously the only
motivation that makes any sense is that Jesus was being asked to do miracles.
Satan and Jesus both believed it would be a sin for him to try. This shows that
the gospels of Matthew and Luke which have this story are hinting that we should
not believe that Jesus was a true miracle worker. Either the miracles are
symbols or they were tricks.
Perhaps Satan helped Jesus do miracles through trickery. Many have testified in
the past that Satan rather than changing nature like magic manipulates it so
that a miracle seems to have happened. For example, he could make a ghost seem
to appear to you by making you mistake a ray of moonlight coming in your window
for the shape of a person causing you to imagine that you saw a person who spoke
to you. The gospels make no effort to eliminate this hypothesis for the miracles
of Jesus. They just give us dubious evidence which is faulty precisely because
we are not told enough. The gospels certainly do magic tricks with facts, that
is what conjurers do, they don’t tell all but use misdirection.
Here are the details about the miracles that give grounds for suspicion of trickery.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the “dead”? Jesus even said
that he would only do this if his friends believed in him first meaning that it
was not a miraculous sign. A God would only do miracles and change the way he
set nature up for a good reason. That reason would have to be because miracles
are pointers to his power and love and the truth.
So Jesus told his friends that he would only be able to
raise Lazarus if they believed that he could do it (John 11:40). But belief
should not matter. Belief was required in occult operations so we are as good as
being told that Jesus was into occultism with its magical pretences. It was like
God killing Lazarus by mistake and then putting things right. Jesus once said
that the writings of Moses were proof enough that he was the Son of God (John
5:46) which was a totally insane thing to say and shows that the author of John
did not know the Old Testament well and was not related to the apostles in any
way at all. But it proves that Jesus had no intention of raising men from the
dead supernaturally at least.
What was Jesus going to do if they didn’t believe? He
would probably have still pretended to raise Lazarus. He wanted people to
believe he would raise him before it happened so that their perception would be
fine-tuned to put all scepticism aside. It was all psychological manipulation.
Magicians need to instil faith in their audience so that they will be less
likely to catch them out in their trickery. The secret is to get people to
believe what they want to believe.
Lazarus would have been wrapped up in bandages so how was
he able to walk out of the tomb in the robes when Jesus called him forth? This
suggests that it was all a trick. He was prepared for the resurrection hoax.
The Jews were so sure that the blind man Jesus cured was never really blind in
the first place that they got together and interviewed the man’s parents (John
9). The parents said he was but the gospel indicates that they were habitual
liars. They told the Jews that they did not know who cured the blindness but
they must have known. They told the Jews to ask their son so they knew he knew.
They were not scared of telling on Jesus for it would have been no secret
anyway. After all the Jews knew something was supposed to have happened and knew
it was Jesus. When the Jews behaved this way it proves that they were sure that
Jesus’ previous miracles were fake for they would not have wanted to find out
that any more were real miracles and end up with egg on their faces. It could
have been that the parents were honest and did not want to say that Jesus cured
their boy for he was never blind so they told the smallest lie they felt they
could tell and should tell. The incident shows that the Jews were honest
investigators and were sceptical meaning that Jesus was a fraud.
Jesus realised the dead daughter of Jairus was still alive and he wanted to revive her which was why he put all the people in the house out so that he would be credited with a miracle if he succeeded. Jesus said she was not dead but sleeping. But still he may have let people think he raised her from the dead!
Jesus was said to have revived the dead son of the widow
of Naim. When the pallbearers stopped he touched the bier which shows that there
was something going on. There was something odd about the miracle when only Luke
dares to record it. Luke has Paul raising a man from the dead despite Paul
admitting that the man was not dead! Not a reliable reporter! When people have
been mistaken for dead today how much more could this have happened in the days
of Jesus and Paul? Page 61, A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt,
Routledge, London, 2002.
When Jesus stopped the storm it could not have been hard to stop for it was not much of a storm when he slept through the whole thing.
The fig tree is a suspicious miracle for Jesus cursed it
one day in front of people and it was found withered the next day. The tree
could have been dug out and replaced by a bad one. This would be an appalling
sign if it is a miracle. It would show the kind of standard the gospellers had.
Jesus fulfilled prophecies that were not prophecies at
all and ones which anybody could fulfil and the rest of them are left
unfulfilled and we are told they will be sorted out by him later. Jesus failed
all the tests for being a true prophet. He was a fake.
When one miracle is or could be a magical trick that
means we have to refrain from making up our minds about any of the rest of them
and be agnostic.
HIS MOTHER AND FAMILY WERE SCEPTICAL
Mary, Jesus’ own mother, did not believe in Jesus’ magic power even after he turned the water into wine at the Cana wedding. See John 3:32 where Jesus moaned to Nicodemus that that nobody believed his supernatural claim to have come from Heaven and to be infallible. If you make general remarks there will be sometimes obvious exceptions then to expressly omit them would not necessary. For example, if you say a family got drunk at Christmas you don’t have to say that the babies were an exception for the listener would know that anyway. But what Jesus said to Nicodemus includes Mary for Nicodemus did not know her to be able to work out that she was an obvious exception. She knew what happened at Cana was not magical.
The people who knew him best, his own brothers did not
believe in him (John 7:5; Mark 3:21). Their testimony is stronger than anybody
else’s. Christians say they did not believe in his message but they would have
understood it and believed it for it was only an ethical thing at that stage.
Their problem was with the claim to be the Son of Man and Son of God and to have
the power to use God’s power.
What supports the sceptical family even more is the fact
that there were other reasons why they would have been right. One of these is
that Jesus said that no sign would be granted to his generation but the sign of
Jonah which would be the resurrection of the Son of Man (Matthew 12:39,40). This
tells us that there were no other miracles. The miracles attributed to Jesus
were really misunderstood natural events. Perhaps Jesus knew they, or some of
them, were natural but did not know how to get this across or perhaps he didn’t
want to mention that.
Some say the other miracles were private ones and only
the person who experienced them could understand them as miracles. But the
resurrection was to be a general miracle for all. If this interpretation is
right then it follows that Jesus did not expect his own resurrection but that of
the whole human race who had died. His own resurrection was still too private.
What is the difference between twelve people seeing a vision at once and giving
no details to prove that it was the same vision they all saw and twelve people
being cured at different times? None. Perhaps the Church schemed to make it seem
that Jesus only meant that he would rise and not that all would rise when it
became evident that all would not rise. There is no point in private miracles –
though the gospels claim that Jesus certainly did some of these. No sensible God
would expect us to believe in an extraordinary claim just because somebody
claimed it happened. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Jesus made the equivalent of nine hundred bottles of good wine at Cana when the guests were already drunk (page 6, A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002). The good wine that Jesus created from water was served at the end of the feast when usually the bad wine was given out at that point for the guests didn’t know any different having had too much. This is reported in the gospel of John. The gospel says it was remarked by people how strange it was to be giving out good wine so late on at the wedding. This is a miracle blessing the sin of drunkenness. It sounds more like a hoax – the Devil will not help him with such a sin.
THE WITNESSES TO THE TRICKS
The Bible says that Jesus and his followers were held guilty of fraud and wickedness by the Jews. If so then there were far better grounds for disbelieving the Bible tale of a Jesus with magical gifts than there are for accepting it for there are hundreds of testimonies for the former and only five from the believers. These are the gospels and the Book of Acts. And only the gospel of John claims to be the work of an eyewitness which makes it worse. And things are worsened still when that gospels has a different Jesus from that of the other three gospels.
It is naïve to argue that the miracles were genuine
because nobody criticised them as tricks in the early days. It stands to reason
that they were even if we have no record of it. Doesn’t the Matthew Gospel tell
us that the Jews believed that there would be a fake resurrection to top off all
the deceptions that Jesus had been into? It does not even say that the Jews
really believed the soldiers who may have told them that there had been angels
at the tomb. It does not even say if the body vanished miraculously or what
happened to it. We just read that the soldiers were told to accuse the disciples
of raiding the tomb. No responsible answer is given to the accusations of
trickery which shows that the author himself knew or believed that the Jews were
The gospels indicate that everyone was a sceptic where
Jesus was concerned when he supposedly died. If the sceptical Jews told the
sceptical Romans to make the tomb of Jesus secure in case there would be a fake
resurrection which would be the zenith of Jesus’ conjuring tricks as Matthew
says then this is valuable. When sceptics say such things among themselves it
proves that they are sure they are right. They did not say, “Let us act so as to
discredit the resurrection of this man if he rises from the dead”, which is what
one would expect. When a supernatural story surfaces it is wiser and more
logical to believe the persons who say nothing magical took place. The gospels
lead one to think that they were so sure that Jesus was an incompetent
miracle-man that the only miracle they envisaged taking place at the tomb would
be a fake one. Instead of openly having the body removed and hiding the body in
a secret place so that nobody would be impressed if it went missing, they let
him be in his tomb and even had guards posted. That shows you they were totally
sure no real resurrection would take place. They were even sure that no trick or
Devil was going to help Jesus now. It speaks of their certainty that the man
didn’t have enough magical power to move a feather.
Jesus would not have been crucified had he possessed
abilities not of this world. The Jews would have preferred to kill him without
anybody knowing in case he would rise if they were going to kill him at all. He
spent enough time on his own praying for the opportunity to arise. And they
would have tried exiling him or jailing him before they would have tried killing
him. We have the testimony of the actions of the Jews and not just their words
that Jesus could do no miracles. And they did it though the people wanted no Jew
however bad handed over to the Romans and crucified and though Jesus was
supposed to be popular. What stronger testimony against Jesus could there be?
The apostles would have known soon after getting involved with Jesus if they
could get away with following him and deceiving for him so their testimony is
weaker and we do not know why they died decades later or how many of these
deaths were not natural. But what use is a handful against the educated Jews who
had everything to lose by making a mistake and did it because they were sure it
was not a mistake? There is too much of an effort made in the gospels to show
the Jews in a bad light. That trick, attacking the person so that nobody will
believe the person though the person is telling the truth, is as old as Eden.
Christians will reply that after Pentecost many Jews
converted to Christianity showing that the disbelief of the leaders was just a
refusal to admit the fact that Jesus did have magic power. But the records never
state that it was the words and works of Jesus that persuaded them but the
message of salvation. And besides where is it said that they were very
theologically competent Jews?
The Jews accused Jesus of doing miracles by the power of Satan (Matthew 27:64).
They might have thought that Jesus was just doing tricks and Satan was
manipulating the witnesses through nature to see them as miracles just like he
manipulates people to steal or murder and to see these sins as good (in actual
fact, you need to be insane in the first place to even listen to the Devil so
the Devil tempting you to sin is an absurdity for you can only tempt yourself
for when you are insane to start you don’t need a Devil to make you insane).
There had to be witnesses who were bribed to give a
natural explanation if Jesus did miracles. The Jews had plenty of money and
power to get them and train and coach them to boot. But we will never know if
these witnesses were telling the truth or not. Witnesses appeared at Jesus’
trial to give evidence that he was a fake and a false prophet who failed to
predict the future and taught absurdities. We read that the Jews were desperate
to have Jesus found guilty and put to death so they would have chosen better
false witnesses. This suggests that they were real witnesses and due to nerves
and fear of the fans of Jesus they messed it all up. Or did they? The gospels
simply say their testimony couldn’t agree but the gospels were not in any
position to judge that. No evidence is given only hearsay that their testimony
was useless. They were probably witnesses who knew that Jesus was a fraud.
The apostles were not forced by the hostile Jews to be
silent on Jesus’ works according to the Book of Acts. This suggests that the
miracles were too well known as natural, too well known as tricks or never
happened. Any one of these could be the reason they did not bother silencing
them. Nobody takes cranks seriously.
The gospellers never give enough detail for us to be sure
that magic trickery was impossible and that the supernatural was the only
explanation. Perhaps they did not know themselves how much trickery Jesus pulled
off. It is more reasonable to hold that the accusation of trickery is the truth
than to claim that Jesus did have miracle powers and especially when the gospels
admit that the Jewish leaders who knew Jesus rejected his powers. When in a bit
of doubt you have to deny that a miracle happened otherwise you will find
yourself believing anything. It is more reasonable to believe that the
anti-miracle witnesses were right for they were not answered than to believe
that he did miracles. The gospels merely report and do not refute. They do not
attack the testimony of persons who made allegations against Christ or show that
they are untrustworthy. They only say they were worth watching but what use is
saying for we have no evidence that they knew what they were talking about?
The Jewish debunkers of Jesus were more educated than
Jesus or his entourage so their word comes first. Christians will reply that we
listen to the testimony of uneducated people and it is as good as that of the
intelligent. We do listen but the smarter a person is the more reliable they can
be and the more acceptable the testimony is. The smarter people will see through
miracles better than the stupid ones provided they are smart the right way which
the Jewish debunkers were for they had to be theologically competent in handling
religious cranks. It will not do to accuse the Jews of lying for what evidence
do we have that they were? The leaders were habitually slandered by the
gospellers to stop anybody taking them seriously.
HEALED LIED FOR JESUS
Some of the people the gospels say were cured by Jesus lied for him.
Every healer has his fans who are willing to fake illness
or exaggerate it to make people believe that he cured them. The fact that these
were not explicitly mentioned in the gospels suggests that they were only
interested in making Jesus look good and not in the truth. You cannot write a
book to defend a miracle-worker when you do not discredit the frauds who brought
disrepute on him. You do not do it.
When Jesus “cured” the bleeding woman why did he not turn
around and see her when he felt the power leaving him at her touch. He pushed
through the crowd to find her which proves she couldn’t have got away if she had
really been near enough to touch him. In that charged electric atmosphere many
people would have felt cured though they were not. Jesus just sought out the
person who gave out the signal that she was cured or felt cured and pretended it
was her he meant. The woman was scared and that could explain why she felt
cured. Strong emotion can simulate a cure and make you feel cured. The failure
of the gospels to tell us if the cure was permanent shows that the writers were
incompetent as religious reporters and were unduly biased.
The woman was dishonest when she did not want to say that
Jesus cured her and was frightened to do so though when she saw him push through
the crowd she must have known Jesus wanted it out in the open.
The blind man of Bethsaida was cured by Jesus but broke his promise to tell
nobody and broadcasted it all over town. One would expect him to have been
afraid to tell in case the miracle would be reversed in retribution. The blind
man was either a liar and could not be trusted when he lied to Jesus or he and
Jesus had concocted the miracle together or he was convinced that the miracle
was only a medical success of some sort and was not a miracle.
Jesus, the synoptics say, performed miracles that he
wished to be kept secret. The recipients of the wonders promised to be discreet
and then they went and gossiped all over the place. When we are asked to believe
people like that that Jesus cured then we are asked to swallow it all on blind
faith. If they told lies it is more likely that that they lied about being
Jesus himself occasionally said that they were liars or hysterical for he said
their faith healed them when they started shrieking about a miracle.
Don’t object that the disciples saw them or that Jesus told the world what he
had done later. There is no evidence and so it is most likely that the
recipients did the telling. We have to stick to what is indicated for
speculation is no use.
NO AFFIDAVITS FOR MIRACLES
There are no affidavits or sworn testimonies to verify the gospel stories about Jesus.
You cannot ask anybody to believe in a miracle or seeming
miracle unless you name the witnesses and evaluate their testimony. A single
testimony about them alone is worthless and if its is second hand and third hand
and so on this will make it worse. If you think it will do you then you have to
believe all you are told. The gospellers never named the witnesses or said that
they put their memory and honesty to the test.
Christians respond that we would not believe no matter how strong the evidence
was. But that does not mean that it should be as unprofessional and weak as it
is. They are saying that we can resist believing but we could do that even if
the evidence for a miracle is as strong as the evidence for the existence of the
moon. And evidence causes belief. The unnecessary weakness of the evidence
proves that it is more reasonable to disbelieve for a supernatural power can’t
be involved. And how do they or God know we would not believe even if the
evidence came up and bit our noses off?
We don’t know if anybody could corroborate the story that
Jesus put demons into swine (Matthew 8), gradually cured the blind man (Mark 8),
if anybody who knew if the hand of the man who had a shrivelled hand was really
restored or never shrivelled in the first place (Matthew 12) or if anybody knew
if the Canaanite woman’s daughter was really possessed and really cured (Mark
7). The gospels were written to provide evidence for Jesus’ claims and only
fools just say a miracle happened and no more like they have done. Serious
reasons for belief in a miracle are needed.
One miracle that is proven as far as possible is better
than a hundred that are not. This proves that the gospels had no divine
protection against error.
The gospellers don’t so much as say that they are very
sure or how sure they are that their stories are right.
Luke says he collected the testimonies so that Theophilus
could be sure of what he was told but anybody can collect testimonies and gossip
and not check them out right and take too much for granted.
Few are the miracles that the apostles who Jesus designated as his witnesses and testators seen. They verified hardly any of them for us. When the apostles have the job of providing the evidence and it is not done what is the point of considering Christianity?
Any writer with a magical story who expects people to
believe because he says so could only be credulous or a deceiver himself.
There are indications in the gospels that if Jesus was a miracle worker then he was using deception and trickery to perform his “wonders”. If Jesus existed, then he was a fraud for he did miracles to promote error and religious superstition.
Believing in God, PJ McGrath, Millington Books in Association with Wolfhound, Dublin, 1995
Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan Books, London, 1985
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volume 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha, Cumbria, 2000
The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel, HarperCollins and Zondervan, Michigan, 1998
Jesus the Magician, Morton Smith, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1978