Neil Godfrey posted today about Maurice Casey’s treatment of the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Casey very carefully defines what a historian (as opposed to a believer in a religious tradition) can say about an account of a “miracle,” and that the performance of a “remarkable deed” by someone believed to be endowed with special power by, or in close contact with, a deity, is something that historians need not dismiss (Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth, p.239). Indeed, even today one can find eyewitnesses who will testify to having witnessed the raising of the dead, the healing of all sorts of illnesses, and the driving out of demons. And so it is clear that there is no particular reason why a historian needs to doubt that people believed that Jesus did such things, and that they believed they saw him do such things. Whether from our perspective we wish to invoke as explanations for what they saw such things as psychosomatic illnesses, misdiagnosis, psychological and psychiatric factors, hypnosis and/or mass hysteria is another issue.
Godfrey’s post, like most of his posts on the subject of mythicism, nicely illustrates the “illness” that is at the heart of mythicism: a chronic inability to realize that rejecting the possibility of miracles doesn’t require rejection of the possibility that ancient people (like quite a few modern ones) believed miracles could occur, or that rejecting the messianic status of Jesus doesn’t require rejecting the historical conclusion that his followers, or perhaps even Jesus himself, held such beliefs about him.
Whether any faith healer can heal mythicists of this illness, or any proponent of rational thought or historical methods can exorcise the demon that seemingly possesses them, is another question. As for me, I’ll believe it when I see it.