Acts - Lesson 4

Themes in Acts and the Credibility of Miracles

This lesson teaches you about the themes of theology, history, culture, and miracles in the book of Acts, including Christology, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the historical and cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire and Jewish culture. You'll learn the role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the gospel message and its relationship with faith. By the end, you will have a complete understanding of the main themes in the book of Acts.

Lesson 4
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Themes in Acts and the Credibility of Miracles

NT619: Themes in Acts and the Credibility of Miracles

I. Introduction to the Themes in Acts

A. Overview of the book of Acts

B. Importance of understanding the themes in Acts

II. Theology in Acts

A. Christology in Acts

B. The Holy Spirit in Acts

C. The Kingdom of God in Acts

III. Historical and Cultural Context of Acts

A. Overview of the historical and cultural context of the book of Acts

B. Understanding the Roman Empire in the first century

C. Understanding the Jewish culture in the first century

IV. The Credibility of Miracles in Acts

A. Understanding the nature of miracles in Acts

B. The role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the message of the gospel

C. The relationship between miracles and faith in Acts

V. Conclusion

A. Summary of the main themes in Acts

B. Importance of studying the book of Acts in the context of its theology, historical and cultural background, and the credibility of miracles

  • Acts is often referred to as "Luke: Part 2" suggesting that Luke was the author. Internal and external evidence confirms this authorship. It is believed that Acts was written in the 70's or 80's of the first century as a historical monograph with a biographic focus.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight about the authorship, date, and genre of the Book of Acts. The lesson will present evidence that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts and provide historical context to help determine the date of its writing. The genre of the Book of Acts will also be discussed, giving you a better understanding of its composition and purpose.

  • Acts is not a novel because it doesn't fit the style that novels of that time period were written in. It has elements of both common folk literature and elite literature. One motive that Luke had in writing Acts is as an apologetic to support a Jewish perspective. Acts is an apologetic, ethnographic history in a monograph form. 

  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the genre, historiography, purpose, and historical reliability of the book of Acts and its implications for interpretation.
  • This lesson teaches you about the themes of theology, history, culture, and miracles in the book of Acts, including Christology, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the historical and cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire and Jewish culture. You'll learn the role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the gospel message and its relationship with faith. By the end, you will have a complete understanding of the main themes in the book of Acts.

  • In this lesson, you will learn about the role of miracles in the early church and how they were used to support and advance the gospel message in the book of Acts. The purpose of miracles, such as healings and other supernatural events, were seen as signs of the Holy Spirit's power and evidence of the truth of the gospel, which helped attract people to the message. Through exploring specific examples from the book of Acts, you will see how miracles played a crucial role in the growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel.

  • This lesson covers the historical context of Acts, including the Jewish World, Roman Empire, political/social structures, and Mediterranean Geography. The purpose and authorship of the book, including Luke as the author, the purpose of the book, and its theology, will be discussed. The narrative structure, major sections, and events will be overviewed.
  • The lesson is about the historical and theological context of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the early Church as described in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts.
  • In this lesson you will learn about Peter's healing and sermon, the persecution and expansion of the church, and Stephen's martyrdom. You will gain insight into the early church's growth and the challenges they faced, as well as the impact of Stephen's death on the spread of Christianity.

  • The lesson teaches about the events in Acts 5-7, including the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the growth of the church, the appointment of the seven, Stephen's defense, and his martyrdom, providing insight into the early Christian community and its challenges.
  • The lesson is about the early events of the Church of Jerusalem and the role of the seven men chosen to serve the community, the first major persecution of the Christian Church, the spread of the gospel, and the conversion of Saul to Paul.
  • The lesson covers the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem and beyond following Stephen's death, including Philip's preaching in Samaria, conversion of Simon and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the challenges faced by early Christians.
  • This lesson provides an overview of Saul's conversion and the events that took place on the Damascus road, including his baptism and ministry, and the implications for our lives today.
  • This lesson provides an understanding of the events leading to the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Christian church and the spread of the gospel to non-Jewish people.
  • This lesson explores the early Christian church's growth and challenges through the events of Acts 12 and 13, including the arrest and deliverance of Peter, Herod's death, the mission of Barnabas and Saul, and the first missionary journey.
  • The First Missionary Journey in Acts 13-15 provides insight into the early Christian church through covering the team sent out, their ministry, and the results of their ministry.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about the major issue that arose in the early Christian church regarding the relationship between Gentile converts and Jewish customs, the decision of the Jerusalem Council, and the implementation and response of the Gentile churches.
  • In this lesson, you'll learn about the spread of the gospel in Philippi through Paul and Silas and the conversions of Lydia and the jailer, showcasing the gospel's power.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about Paul's encounter with the philosophers of Athens and his message to them about the one true God, the judgment of humanity, and the resurrection of Jesus.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive overview of Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth, including the challenges he faced, the Lord's encouragement, and the significance of this episode in the book of Acts.
  • This lesson provides insight into Paul's second missionary journey and his preaching, as well as the importance of the Holy Spirit's work and the ministry of the Word.
  • The lesson provides an overview of Paul's journey to Jerusalem and the events that took place during his arrival in Jerusalem, the incident at the temple, his arrest, and his appearance before the Sanhedrin and its significance in the early Christian church.
  • The lesson covers Paul's defenses in the final four chapters of Acts and his navigation of political and religious tensions while remaining faithful to his beliefs and mission.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome, including details about the voyage and shipwreck, the aftermath of the shipwreck, and the significance of Paul's ministry.

The book of Acts portrays, in a narrative way, the life of the early church. The theme of the book is, "the mission of the early church." It tells how Jesus continued to carry out his mission that he started as recorded in the book of Luke, by working through the people of the early church. Dr. Keeener discusses the growth of the church from its Jewish roots through reaching the ends of the earth to fulfill the Great Commission. 

Dr. Craig Keener
Themes in Acts and the Credibility of Miracles
Lesson Transcript


1. Style, Message and Preparation for the Book of Acts

a. Parallels in Acts

In previous sessions we have looked at some historical features of Luke and Acts. These are important insofar as we are interested in historical information in which we should be looking at the Book of Acts as a historical monograph. Keep in mind that when we talk about historical information, a lot more has happened in history than we can demonstrate historically. The texts by historians are a form of evidence; when we look for collaborating evidence, we don’t always have it. As far as we can say in historical terms, Luke is a very good historian. As Christians we are inclined to say more than that as Acts is part of our Canon. God speaks to us through this as Christians. I’m trying to survey as we can approach using historical methods available to us. But now I want to look at something that is characteristic of Luke’s writing. Luke is writing a two volume work and there was actually a genre of parallel works. Plutarch would write parallel biographies of Alexander and Caesar, a Greek and Roman conqueror. The comparisons were not entirely well deserved. Caesar just had some good propaganda. He often had parallel Greek and Roman biographers. It was so popular that some people wrote imitations of them. In the Old Testament, you see Elijah and then you see Elisha repeating many of Elijah’s works. You don’t have two volumes for that. You also have Joshua repeating some of Moses’ works, like the parting of the Red Sea in the parting of the Jordan River. And sometimes there are literary parallels between them. But Greeks developed this to a great extent and Luke was able to make use of that kind of technique. It is not that he leaves out anything there are no parallels for. But Luke likes to emphasize parallels where he has material that fits. So, it helps us to read Luke and Acts together and obviously on the level of authorship, there is very little question that Luke wrote both volumes. But in terms of parallel lives, there are a lot of similarities between the Gospel of Luke and that of Acts. Obviously, the setting is quite different. There was rural Galilee for much of the Gospel and urban centers in the Eastern Mediterranean world for much of the second volume.

Examples of parallel lives that we have; Jesus was anointed and we see this language in Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 and it is applied to Jesus again in Acts 10:38. But also the church is empowered by the Spirit. Joel 2 being quoted in Acts 2, toward the beginning of their public ministries, statements from the Old Testament. For Jesus, we have again Isaiah 61 and for the church Joel 2. We have Jesus’ signs and many of those are repeated with Peter’s and Paul’s sign with the healing of the paralyzed person. You have three trials of Jesus which is only in Luke’s Gospel; two before a governor, one before Herod and you have three trials of Paul toward the end of Acts; there were other trials on the way though, these three trials were with two before governors and one before Herod Agrippa II. Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 24). Of the four Gospels, this is only in Luke. How does the first martyr in Acts respond; ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’ Jesus said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.’ And Stephen following the example of his Lord in Acts 7, ‘Lord, receive my Spirit.’ So, you have these parallels; some people will look at the parallels and say that it’s made up. However, things like, ‘into your hands, I commit my Spirit,’ Luke doesn’t make a deal of this; he may not every have known this, but we have evidence that at that time of day, it was one of the regular prayers that Jewish people prayed from a Psalm that says, ‘I commit myself to you.’ So, that language would fit Jesus’ own historical context. And would a martyr want to follow the example of Jesus? Usually, when we are persecuted, we try to follow Jesus’ example. The fact that Luke emphasizes the connection is the point I want to bring out.

b. Writing Length

Often writers created the symmetry of book of roughly equal lengths. When you have multiple volumes; in fact they were often limited to certain lengths. That is why Josephus, when he gets to the end of a volume, he says that he had run out of space and then would continue in another volume. Luke and Acts in regards to the number of words in them and also in Matthew’s Gospel, they are roughly of the same length. Mark is roughly half that length; John is roughly two thirds of that length. We are dealing with standardized lengths of scrolls. Those could be very expensive. The Book of Romans has about sixteen chapters, about the length of Mark. Recent scholars estimated that the Book of Romans would be something like two thousand dollars in current US currency in terms of price of the papyrus and the scribe. (Tertius in Romans 16:22 was a volunteer scribe.) In the case of the Gospels, there were major literary under takings for people who weren’t part of the elite. So they were probably using scrolls of standardized lengths with Matthew, Luke and Acts, each being close to the maximum length for normal scrolls, between thirty two and thirty five feet long. Acts was probably about thirty two feet long. Some people think that the Book of Acts is unfinished in certain places.

c. Publication Facts

Normally, ancient works were published after they were written; they might have had two original copies made. There would be public readings at dinner parties. For the church, the Lord’s Super was kind of the banquet in the early house churches. There would be entertainment with some of these banquets with perhaps dancing and music and often it is would include readings. In this case, the early church would be having readings from the Scriptures of the Old Testament but also from the memoirs of the apostles, the Gospels. Because of the feedback writers would get during these readings, they were often able revise their work. As people heard about these, the people who liked them could have other copies made. Of course, you didn’t have ways to mass produce them except scribes copying them. One of the possible purposes in Acts was legal; not necessarily for Paul’s trial but to record consistent precedence in favor of early Christians. Every Roman court that is recorded in the Book of Acts and as well in the Gospel of Luke declared them not guilty. Some people think that Acts was a court brief for Paul, but this is probably exaggerated. But it was probably written for the same reason that Josephus’ history of Judaism, to argue that Christianity should be legal and not be persecuted. Legal ammunition for when you are in the circumstance like Luke 21:15 and being brought before the governors and rulers for my sake; you don’t have to think beforehand what have to say but this will give you equipment in advanced of which you can draw. This paves the way for later Christian lawyers and philosophers, people like Tertullian and Justin who were arguing against Christians having to be persecuted.

d. Apologetical Information

This leads us to talk about the apologetic purpose. It was done on different fronts: Roman Law Courts, Greek philosophers, rural famers and the Jewish objections. The Jewish objections are actually relevant to the Roman law counts also. It was important to show that the people that were bringing them before these courts were not the ones being consistent with their ancient traditions. It was actually Jesus’ followers who were being consistent with the ancient traditions. That was an in-house Jewish debate. One of the themes in the Book of Acts is that nothing can stop it. The word ‘hinder’ and ‘unhindered’ appears a few times in the Book of Acts. For example, ‘what can hinder me from being baptized,’ the African court official says in Acts 8 or in chapter 10, ‘who can forbid that they can receive baptism?’ But in Acts 28:31, it ends on this note, ‘Paul continued to share the Gospel openly and unhindered.’ As long as you were dealing with the normal Roman system and not after Nero had gone mad and everyone knew him as being totally abusive and Tyrannical. They were able to do thing openly and unhindered. The relationship to Judaism was also very important; ancient religions were respected for their age and believers in Jesus were able to say that the Old Testament was their book also and that they were an authentic voice of Judaism. So, Luke emphasizes the fulfillment of Old Testament motifs even though he does it somewhat differently. Both emphasize the fulfillment of God’s promises and of course Luke is also writing because he cares about history, otherwise he wouldn’t choose this genre in which to write.

e. The Message

I’m going to mention just a few of the themes, just some samples; prayer was a huge issue in Luke and Acts. You could see this in Luke 1, 3, 5, 6, 9 etc. Signs and wonders were a major feature for getting attention for the Gospel. The Spirit is mentioned over seventy times in Luke and Acts. Obviously Luke has a heavy emphasis on the Spirit and its performance. Evangelism or witness appears nearly thirty times. The marginalized is also a major emphasis in Luke’s Gospel, emphasis on the poor, etc. You have some of that in the Book of Acts, but the main marginalized group in Acts is the gentiles. The Pharisees mocked the times Jesus spent with sinners in the Gospel of Luke and complained about it. You come to the Book of Acts and you see that the Spirit moves Peter to respond to the needs of the gentiles. In Acts 11 Peter is told off for his actions by his fellow believers. The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t that they were Jewish and not even that they were Pharisees, it was that sometimes as religious people, we get ideas in regards to the way things needs to be done and God doesn’t always work within those preconceived boxes. You have the people of the Jerusalem church in Acts, Jewish believers who disapprove of what Peter does. But he replied that the Spirit was poured out on these people and he acted accordingly. There is also a heavy emphasis on cross-cultural communication. Mission is the central emphasis of the Book of Acts.

For prayer, Luke 1:10 we see Zechariah praying in the temple. In Luke 3:21, we see the Spirit come on Jesus. We see a number of other times where his disciples ask him to teach them to pray in Luke 11 as John taught his disciples. In Luke 18:1, people should pray and not faint and Luke 21:36 we are encouraged to watch and pray. In Luke 22, he calls the disciples to watch and prayer and they are gathered together in Acts 1:14 waiting for the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:42, the disciples and believers are praying together and then during the hour of prayer in Acts 3:1. In Acts 6, they pray before they appoint successors and in Acts 8:22-24 they pray before the Spirit is poured out. In Acts 9:11 Paul is praying before he received the Spirit and healing of his sight. So, prayer is a big theme in the Book of Acts. There is also a major focus on the evangelization of the world and this seems to be the major emphasis in Acts.

2. Miracles in Acts

a. Attitude toward Miracles

If speeches take up a quarter of the book, then miracles and exorcism stories take about a fifth of the Book of Acts. I did research on a two volume book of miracles which was meant to be part of my Acts Commentary. The research ended up being much larger and so I developed it into a two volume book. In the research I ask how reliable was the sources? In dealing with ancient biographies in case of the Gospels or ancient historical monographs, in case of Acts; the sources are reliable and I believe that they were careful in their collection of information. If people see a miracle, what are they going to do? Some people became hostile but most gave thanks to God, if they believe in God. So, looking at Jesus’ miracles constitute about a third of Marks Gospel and about twenty percent of the Book of Acts. But in the west, we have a circular problem; one of the reasons western scholars question the Gospels and Acts to begin with is that they include reports on miracles. What is wrong with this? Earlier western scholars said that eyewitnesses never claimed dramatic miracles such as those in the Gospels. Were they correct? Well, in many parts of the world, people would say that’s absurd. That is not correct and says that this is a western problem. For those who are western, they may gain from what I’m about to say. David F. Strass in the eighteen hundreds argued that the Gospels consisted of a lot of myth and legend. Because he thought that over the course of multiple generations, no eyewitnesses would actually claim these kinds of miracles. These stories came from nothing. What most people don’t know about Strass is that he had a friend by the name of Edward Morake. Morake had a diagnosed spinal problem which made him unable to walk. But after Morake had spent some time with Yohan c. Bloom-heart, a German Lutheran pastor known for praying for the sick and for exorcism; Strass’ friend Morake was cured. The next letter Strass gets from him, he is hiking in the mountains. And Strass writes a letter to another mutual friend saying that Morake has gone over to superstition now and that we have lost him.

b. Examples of Miracles

Think about this! Strass says that miracles must arise only from legionary accretions and yet one of Strass’ own friends was healed. Strass attributed this to purely psychosomatic causes despite the medical diagnosis. But Strass didn’t say, well this is merely a legend that took generations to evolve. Are their credible eyewitness reports today? Let’s look first at some of the medical sources. Doctor Rex Gardener wrote a book called, ‘Healing Miracles.’ He is a physician himself and wrote about some of this for the British Medical Journal. One of his accounts is of a nine year old girl; she was deaf from auditory nerve damage. If she didn’t have her hearing aids, she couldn’t hear anything. But praying for healing, she was instantly healed and the audiologist, who tested her the day before, said it was impossible since it was auditory nerve damage. It doesn’t just go away and so he didn’t have any explanation for it. The next day, test showed that her hearing was normal. Eyewitnesses, some of whom I know report healings of deaf non-Christians in Jesus’ name in Mozambique. People will go into villages where there is no church and they will preach about Jesus and sometimes they call people forward for prayer and they are healed and sometimes, they are just preaching about Jesus. And before they are finished with their preaching, some people start getting healed. I have talked to eyewitnesses about this. It has been so dramatic, especially with healing of deafness, that one entire region classified as non-Christian is now classified as predominantly Christian. It was documented with medical tests; the information was published in the Southern Medical Journal in the USA in September of 2010. Naturally, critics not pleased with this, responded on the internet that the testing conditions weren’t ideal in rural Mozambique; and this is true, testing conditions weren’t ideal. But one of the offices, a professor at Indiana University published a book on Testing Prayer, published by Harvard University Press in 2012. She doesn’t say that these were miracles brought by God but she gives more evidence that was behind the study and it is quite convincing. If you don’t start with a bias that miracles can’t happen, you wouldn’t be convinced about what happened. People went from being deaf to hearing, from blind to seeing when they were prayed for. The testing was done before and after.

Lisa Lariyah was dying with a degenerate bone disease; her parents took her to a meeting of a healing evangelist. The healing evangelist didn’t actually have a chance to pray for her, but in this atmosphere where people were praying for healing, Lisa suddenly jumped out of her wheel chair and ran around, yet before she wasn’t actually physically capable of doing that. She was tested afterwards which showed not only she was healed from the disease but her bones had been healed also. This isn’t something that naturally happened on its own. Bruce Finotta was crushed when a semi-truck fell on him. Most of his small intestines were destroyed and after several surgeries he had only a small among of those left. He dropped from hundred and eighty pounds to a hundred and twenty-five pounds as he was slowly starving. But someone felt lead to fly from their home in New York to Wisconsin and pray for Bruce. He came to him in the hospital and they felt led to command his small intestines to grow in Jesus name. Bruce felt something like an electric shock through his body. The medical documentation which is available showed that it had now growth back. The small intestines are longer than it needs to be in order to function properly. It grew from a 116 cm to 275-300 cm long. The small intestine can widen in an adult, but it can’t grow longer; so this was a miracle.

Carl Cockerrow, a member of an American Baptist church in Michigan, broke his ankle in Missouri and was put in a cask and held in the hospital overnight. He felt that the Lord had appeared to him and healed him. The doctor said that he could go back to Michigan if he wanted but he needed to see the doctor there. In Michigan, they did a new radiology report and it showed that he had never had a broken ankle. Another case; Joy Waterford had a classic case of Vertical Heterophobia, so classic in fact, that it was her picture that was used on the pamphlet advertising the condition. And yet when a student at Tailor University was praying for her, she was instantly and completely healed after years of this condition. She also had a dramatic spiritual encounter. She no longer needed glasses and now had 20/20 vision and she was healed of all the other problems of Vertical Heterophobia. Another doctor from Cuba was sharing with me about severe burns that within a half an hour of prayer, the hand became completely normal as if it hadn’t been burned. The Catholic Church has kept careful medical documentation for many miracles that it reports. In many cases, these are very convincing.

c. Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness testimony is very important even for people who are not doctors. It is a form of evidence in sociology, anthropology, journalism, and historiography and in Law. There are many things that we couldn’t do or know if we couldn’t use eyewitness evidence. With miracles being events within history, they are not something that can be replicated. So there is eyewitness evidence of many situations involving miracles. I have many examples of these eyewitness accounts of which I will give you a few. One principle that I follow is that a small number of eyewitnesses should count more heavily than a greater number of skeptical non-witnesses. We would apply this to most other kinds of claims. For example, at least in my culture, if there is a traffic accident, the police officer will want to interview witnesses who were present at the accident. If someone comes up and says that is not what happened! I wasn’t there, that is how I know nothing happened the witness would say. We wouldn’t take such a person very seriously. So, why would we take someone seriously if they said that miracles don’t happen because they have never seen any miracles happen? When we have millions of people who do claim that they have seen miracles happen. Shouldn’t we start by exploring some of those claims? Some of them may not prove to be genuine miracles. If any claims do prove that miracles took place then we need to take miracles very seriously. I don’t want you to misunderstand me now, I am not claiming that everyone that is prayed for gets healed; for myself, I have to wear glasses and I have a lack of hair and on a more serious note, my wife and I have experienced miscarriages. Not everybody that gets prayed for gets healed, but God sometimes does it and sometimes he does it in dramatic ways. Sometimes people say that we don’t have any credible witnesses. That was David Hume’s argument.

1). Praying for Accidents

Wangsuck is the director for mission studies having a phD at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. I was talking about this at a conference at Oxford one time and walked over to the center during a break and told him that I had shared his story. In any case, they reported seeing a number of healing with one that you don’t have to be a doctor to recognize that this was something dramatic; a large goiter instantly disappeared while they were praying. Another case involved Luther O’Conner; he was the assistant professor of United Methodist Studies and United Theological Seminary. He prayed for a woman in the Philippines and she had an unbendable metal implant in her leg and couldn’t bend her leg. After being prayed for, she felt heat in her leg and suddenly he was able to bend her leg and she was completely healed. Now, I don’t have the medical results here, so I can’t tell you what happened to the metal implant. If it was still there, then she was able to bend it. I ask Danny McCain because we worked together in Nigeria for three summers, but he had been there for decades doing ministry there. I assumed that he was going to give me an eyewitness report from Nigeria. He is a Wesleyan minister. I am trying to show you that these miracles are reported in a wide range of Christian circles. Danny gave me an account of something that he had witnessed in the United States when he was a boy. His baby brother fell into a tub with boiling hot water; he was burned so badly that when the doctor was trying to take his clothes off, his skin was coming off also. So they were praying for the boy and while they were praying, the boy had stopped crying. He looked and saw that the boy’s skin was now bright and pink; completely new. Danny says that he remembers it as if it was yesterday. And of course, there were many other witnesses. My brother, Chris and I witnessed something when I was still a young Christian along with my brother. We were both fairly new believers and helping in a nursery home Bible study. There was a woman there named Barbara and every week she would say that she wished that she could walk. One day, the leader of the Bible study, Don said that he was tired of hearing this. So, he walked over to Barbara and grabbed her by the hand and said, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. I was horrified; if faith is said to be bias, then I can’t be accused of it. The expression on her face showed that she was horrified also. I thought that she was going to fall flat from the expression on her face. But, he walked her around the room and from that point on, Barbara could walk.

2). Praying for the Blind

I found some three hundred and fifty reports of blindness being miraculously cured. Some of these are very trustworthy; some instances were from Dr. Rex Gardener. But there are people that I know who witnessed this. In 2004 Flint McGolfland, who is Director of Transforming Business at Cambridge University, prayed for a blind man in northern India with clouded eyes and the man was instantly healed; others were with Flint who witnessed this. The man ranged in circles praying to God. He was telling a story and he began to weep and one of the Americans who were there asked why he was weeping. He said because I always heard children had never before seen their faces. Doctor Cot Toe, a friend of mind; we worked together on ethnic reconciliation issues. I asked whether or not he had ever seen anything; he replied Oh yes. Years ago when he was much younger, they were out doing evangelism in a village. They brought a woman to us in her sixties or so who was blind and she ask us if we would pray for her. Nothing else had helped her; she had tried medical and even traditional healing. This wasn’t part of their church tradition but we came that God might be glorified. So, we prayed to see what God would do. They prayed for about two minutes and she began shouting, I can see, I can see! And she began dances around and remained able to see for the rest of her life. One of students, a Baptist from Cameroon, he did his Doctor of Ministry at a seminary where I used to teach. Paul McCocky prayed for somebody that was blind and their eyes were opened. He had a number of miracle stories; so, this was one that he brought to my attention. But one of my other students, an African-American student named Jelonda, happened to be visiting Cameroon and happened to witness this. She told us about it and I asked Paul about it and he replied, yeah, that happened. We have a number of accounts from Ethiopia and one especially from Greg Spenser. Greg was going blind because of e-macular degeneration and this isn’t something that normally reverses itself. So, he was going blind; at this point he was legally blind and had been put on disability and had received some training on how to function as someone who was blind. He went to a retreat where he was praying for the healing of his mind. He wasn’t praying for the healing of his sight, but God not only healed his mind but when he opened his eyes, he could see. He was tested and found to be okay. However, the Social Security Administration wasn’t readily persuaded and they thought that he had been pretending to be blind. But after a year of study and consulting doctors, they issued a report acknowledging what had happened.

Usually, the healing of blindness isn’t psychosomatic; it is only very rarely that a person might be psychosomatically blind. In the raising of the dead, normally, people are not considered to be psychosomatically dead. Now, a person can be misdiagnosed as being dead; sometimes it is wrongly assumed that a person is dead. But we don’t assume that it happened on a very common basis because if it did, we would have been burying a lot of people prematurely. So, I don’t know how often it happens; he wouldn’t expect it unless we were burying lots of people prematurely. And yet, when I began asking around, for I didn’t know this before. We learned of at least ten people that we knew fairly well who had witnessed or experienced such resuscitations. What are the odds, if you say one chance in ten that we would know somebody and for us to know of ten people, that increases the odds and so this is probably not just a co-incidence? So, in circles where people pray, these things sometimes happen. We have a number of these reports through history; especially from the church fathers. A number of times Irenaeus talks about this part of the church where people have false doctrines and he condemns them. But this other part of the church, the true church and they had reported a number of people raised from the dead. So God was clearly at work in the true church. John Westley, there is an experience that seems to be a person being raised from the dead in his journal. So, this was first hand recorded when it happened in Dec 25th, 1742; we prayed for a person by the name of Myrick who appeared to be dead and he revived. We have reports from doctors; one from a Doctor Crandle, a cardiologist in West Palm Beach. A man named Jeff Markin checked himself into the hospital and died; he had been dead for forty minutes by the time Dr Crandle was called; he had flat-lined having no heartbeat. They had tried to revive him but there was nothing else they could do, so Doctor Crandle was called in to certify the obvious as a cardiologist. He certified it and started to return to his rounds but felt that the Holy Spirit was prompting him to go back and pray for this man. This was obviously very rare. He went back and one of his colleagues went with him and he prayed saying, God, if you want this man to have another chance to know you, I pray that you will raise him from the dead. The nurse was staring at him like he was crazy. But Doctor Crandle turned to his colleague and asked him to shock him again with the paddle. The other doctor said that we had agreed that he was dead; his fingers were already turned black. So, they shocked him with the paddle one time and something remarkable happened, the man immediately had a normal heart beat. The nurse began screaming, Doctor Crandle, what have you done? This was a Saturday and on Monday, Doctor Crandle returned to the hospital and went in to visit the man, he didn’t have brain damage. The man recovered and this is a picture of Doctor Crandle participating in Jeff Markin’s baptism. He did have another chance and Jeff did come to know the Lord.

3). Praying for the Dead

Another person, a doctor died in the presence of other doctors; he had a heart attack and they had spent fifty five minutes trying to revive him and finally there was nothing that they could do. They said to his wife who had been with him to go in and say her goodbyes. She knelt down and prayed that God would restore him; immediately his heart started to beat. One of his colleagues said that this was the worst thing to happen because by the time his brain would have been damaged. It did take a while for his restoration to be complete, but he didn’t have any brain damage and was practicing medicine again. For those who say that these things would never happen in the United States; doctor Debra Watson, she was my colleague in New Testament at a seminary where I used to teach. Debby grew up in a home of a Baptist ministry, her father was a Baptist minister and her little sister when she was a baby was in a bassinet perched very high and somehow it moved and the baby fell and landed on a concrete floor on the back of her head. They ran to her, seeing now sound and movement. Her father picked the baby up and the back of her head felt crushed. They took her to the doctor, frantically praying all the way. The doctor took her aside to work on her and returned after a few minutes and asked where the skull had been crushed. Having put his hand on the back of her head, he felt nothing wrong. She was fine from then on and is now in her forties. We have a number of claims of raisings from the dead from India. In one dissertation, talking about a people movement; people turning to faith in Christ among a tribal people; back when there were very few Christians. There was a government official whose son was dying and sacrifices to different gods had failed; medical help hadn’t worked either. The Pharmacists suggested that he pray to Jesus, the Christian God and said that he had raised someone named Lazaret from the dead. The official returned and his son was now dead, but he said Jesus, you are the Christian God who raised Lazaret from the dead, I will follow you if you raise my son. This is what happened and in this case, his son came back to life, he became a believer and began a people movement among this tribal people and the spreading of the Gospel to this tribe had been attributed to this miracle.

Two western sociologists who were studying global Pentecostalism, interviewed local people in one community including a village elder; it was reported that a woman had returned to life and pronounced dead. In another case, an Indian pastor prayed for a girl who was dead with worms coming out of her nose; so she was probably severely dead in this case; she came back to life and reported her after life experience; local newspapers covered the story and so it was well-known in the community. A pastor in Mumbai shared with me an account that happened at a retreat center that was for everyone. They were having a church retreat also going on. They found a Hindu boy lying at the bottom of a pool. A nurse and someone else took the boy off to try to take him to a hospital while the rest of the group stayed behind and prayed. They got to the hospital and the first doctor said that the child was dead and then they took him to another doctor and that doctor tried to revive the boy. So, an hour and a half later as they were coming back with the boy to where the others were praying the boy was alive. The boy said that he had heard the name Jesus and then was delivered. His parents were Hindu and he had never heard this name before. There was a sister in the Philippines who had been diagnosed with liver cancer in 1983 but unable to afford treatment, she had perhaps one aspirin the whole time. The next year she was taken to the hospital to finish dying; she was pronounced dead and sent to the morgue. An hour and forty five minutes later in the morgue, a Baptist minister was praying there with a friend. I asked what the minister was praying for but the sister didn’t know. It was like I was asleep and then I woke up. She returned to life and no longer had the cancer and the doctor who had told her that she was going to die initially didn’t believe it was the same person. But afterwards after realizing that it was the same person, that doctor was also converted.

This next account, I received from one of my neighbors from Indonesia and the account that he gave me was from a close friend of his. The pictures I have, shows a lot of blood. Damingus had his neck cut in a way where a person couldn’t normally survive. The people transporting the body not expected him to be alive. There were news pictures and he did need medical intervention but the doctors initially thought he was dead, but he had a vision of heaven that sent him back into the body. When the doctors realized that he was alive, they sewed his neck back and did a great job with that. He still has the scar to show it. Now, I was giving some of these accounts at a scholar’s conference because western scholars don’t often believe in these things. We come to the miracle stories in the Gospels and Acts and treat them as they are problematic. So it was suggested that perhaps if we listened to some accounts from the majority world, we might learn some things; at least a different way of looking at this. When I finished, one of the people who had a question or comment was a professor Leo in the United States who stood up in the back saying that when his son was born in 1981 was pronounced dead at birth. We prayed for him for half an hour and his son came back to life. There was no brain damage and his son has now finished his Master of Science degree at the University of London. Another friend, one that I worked with for three summers in Nigeria; he was a research officer in a ministry there. He had done a lot of ministry and research in different parts of the country; I decided to ask Leo, who said that he didn’t have very many. So he sent me seven pages of reports of miracles that he directly knew of. One of them was in a village in norther Nigeria where he was doing research. His host neighbors handed him their dead child. He took the child aside and prayed for a few hours he said. He finally handed the child back to the parents alive. Another example from the same ministry; Timothy Alonaday in 1985, he was in a series car accident and there were two people, one from each vehicle who was pronounced dead. The police found no pulse or heart beat; they took him to the hospital and then to the mortuary. Around 3 am in the mortuary, they found him moving and then sent him back to the hospital. He had been in this state for about eight hours. The doctors assumed that he would have severe brain damage. He did need medical help; he was in the hospital for three weeks before he was released. But he was alive and didn’t have permanent brain damage and the surgeon who was also a medical school professor there, said that there was no other way to explain this except as a miracle. Timothy is now a leader in the Nigerian mission’s movement. And I taught for three summers and come to know him well. He is also an Anglican priest at this point.

Now, you could say that if you pray for everybody who dies, once in a while you will have someone to come back to life. So, sometimes I ask people about this. Leo said that he had prayed one other time for a person to be raised from the dead. He had prayed for his best friend who had died. He didn’t come back to life. I ask Doctor Crandle about this and he also had prayed for someone once before. His own son died of leukemia and it was devastating. I prayed but he didn’t come back; but I determined that I was going to trust God no-matter what because God is worthy of our trust whether he does something we ask for or not and that is why I was ready when I felt the Spirit lead me to pray for someone else. In that case, it was the Holy Spirit leading him to do it. These are circles where for the Gospel’s sake and the leading of the Holy Spirit, God did raise somebody up.