COATPEG Miracles

COATPEG Miracles February 28, 2015

Features of Jesus Miracles - COATPEG

Paul Regnier came up with an acronym for remembering key aspects of Jesus’ miracles as depicted in the New Testament, which is adapted from an A-Level textbook by Gwynn ap Gwilym. Here’s how Regnier explains the acronym in greater detail:

Command – Jesus performs some miracles with only a verbal command. This is the case with nature miracles, but also elsewhere, e.g. the possessed man in Capernaum synagogue. 
Only where there is faith – Faith is a common feature of the miracle stories, while both Mark (6:5) and Matthew (13:58) tell us Jesus performed few miracles in his home town because people did not believe in him. 
At a distance – Jesus does not need to be present to perform a miracle, for example, the healing of the centurion’s servant.
Touch – Jesus is able to perform miracles by touch, such as healing the ear of the high priest’s servant. 
Pity for suffering – The miracles demonstrate Jesus’ compassion for suffering humanity. Healing miracles are good examples of this, as is the feeding of the 4,000, where Jesus says he has compassion for the hungry crowd.
Evidence not always accepted – Those who did not believe in Jesus attribute the miracles to Satan, e.g. the teachers of the Law in Mark 3:20-30.
Glorify God – The purpose of Jesus’ miracles is to bring glory not to Jesus, but to God. For example, when the widow of Nain’s son is resurrected, the people glorify God.


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  • John MacDonald

    COATPEG is an interesting acronym. Since Jesus miracles seem to reflect the criteria of the acronym, I guess from a “form criticism” point of view we would “bracket” the historicity of the miracles (they may or may not have happened).

    Miracles are problematic generally when engaged in historical reasoning. For instance, regarding trying to establish the historicity of the resurrection, Ehrman points out:

    —–To claim that God raised Jesus from the dead requires a large number of presuppositions that are not shared widely among historians who do this kind of work – for example agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Jews, and so on (some of whom may agree, personally, with *some* of these presuppositions, but not with all of them, and with none of them when they are doing historical work as opposed to doing theology). These presuppositions include: that there is a God, that he sometimes intervenes in this world, that Jesus was uniquely pleasing to this God, that God suspended the natural order to make Jesus come back to life, that Jesus then became immortal, that Jesus now dwells with God as an immortal being. That all may be true – but you can’t establish it through the historical disciplines — no matter *how* multiply attested it is. In cases such as this, it is not a question of multiple attestation. Multiple attestation is a criterion that gets applied to events that *are* acceptable as “historical” explanations of the past. It is inapplicable for events that are *not* acceptable as “historical” explanations. Believing that Jesus was raised from the dead (even if it did happen in the past) is a matter of faith, not historical demonstration. Because history can only be done on the basis of shared presuppositions about our world and the past, and Christian beliefs are not among those shared presuppositions.—- (Bart Ehrman)

    • John MacDonald

      One last thought. In a post yesterday, Ehrman provided a useful example as to why historians avoid claiming a miracle has happened. He writes:

      — This is not a problem for only one kind of historian ‑‑ for atheists or agnostics or Buddhists or Roman Catholics or Baptists or Jews or Muslims; it is a problem for all historians of every stripe. Even if there are otherwise good sources for a miraculous event, the very nature of the historical discipline prevents the historian from arguing for its probability. Take a hypothetical example. Suppose that three otherwise credible eyewitnesses claimed to see Reverend Jones of the Plymouth Baptist Church walk across his parishioner’s pond in 1926. The historian can certainly discuss what can be known about the case: who the eyewitnesses were, what they claimed they saw, what can be known about the body of water in question, and so forth. What the historian cannot claim, however, at least when discussing the matter as a historian, is that Reverend Jones actually did it. This is more than we can know, using the canons of historical knowledge. The problem of historical probabilities restrains our conclusion. The fact is that we all know several thousand people, none of whom can walk across pools of water, but all of whom at one time or another have been mistaken about what they thought they saw, or have been misquoted, or have exaggerated, or have flat out lied. To be sure, such activities may not be probable, especially for the upstanding members of the Plymouth Baptist Church. But they would be more probable than a miracle that defies the normal workings of nature. Thus if we as historians can only say what probably happened, we cannot say ‑‑ as historians ‑‑ that the good Reverend probably performed a miracle. — (Bart Ehrman)