Beliefnet
For Bible Study Nerds

Was Jesus Christ really just a shaman, a secretive sorcerer healing people with magic tricks and demonic help? That’s what many of his enemies believed, and continued to believe for hundreds of years.

In ancient Jewish society, demons were credited as the “causes of various ailments, such as blindness, deafness (and muteness), and a host of other maladies.” It’s no surprise, then, that Matthew 9:27-34 lumps together accounts of Jesus giving sight to the blind and healing a deaf-mute along with the exorcising of demons. None of Jesus’ enemies could deny that these things had happened—the evidence of empirical and obvious.

Rather than accept the evidence for what it was—and what it meant in regard to the deity of Jesus—they searched for another, more plausible explanation. And so they accused Christ of sorcery, which meant being a trickster in league with the devil (Matthew 9:34). This accusation stuck around for centuries.

Later rabbinic literature tried to discredit Christ’s healing miracles by saying, “Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic, and led astray and deceived Israel.” A second-century critic name Celsus also preached that Jesus was a phony and a sorcerer, saying, “It was by magic that he [Jesus] was able to do the miracles that he appeared to have done…He was brought up in secret and hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and having tried his hand at certain magical powers he returned from these, and on account of those powers gave himself the title of God.”

The historical evidence doesn’t bear out any of these absurd claims. In fact, there’s no evidence at all that Jesus practiced magic—he never used incantations or spells or called on any power other than himself to heal. This hearsay appears to be a case of Christ’s enemies deliberately deceiving themselves in order to justify their presupposed disbelief. Very sad.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 200-201, 247]

 

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