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Talking Dogs and Resurrected Slaves

As I indicated yesterday, for the next few days I have decided to post the new “boxes” that I am including in the seventh edition of my textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.  Since these are relatively short – most of them 300-400 words – I will be doing two-posts-a-day.  (I don’t want to combine two boxes into one post, since they are all on completely different topics from one another; but I want you to get your money’s worth on the blog and so don’t want to have very short posts each day.  So, two a day.)


Another Glimpse into the Past

Box 5.1  Talking Dogs and Resurrected Slaves


When Christians were spreading their oral traditions, trying to convert pagans to the new faith, what did they say or do to convince them?   The apostle Paul indicates that his great miracles made all the difference, as he himself did “signs, wonders, and miracles” among his converts (2 Corinthians 12:12).   And in fact we have later oral traditions – highly legendary, to be sure – about the apostles and their great miraculous deeds.

One of the most intriguing involves the apostle Peter and a talking dog.   In the apocryphal set of tales called …

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  1. Avatar
    jogon  October 24, 2018

    What miracles do you think Paul thought he was performing?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      I wish I knew! It must have been something his readers were familiar with. But what??

  2. Avatar
    flcombs  October 24, 2018

    I’m impressed that Simon Magus, not having the power of god, was able to kill someone with just one word! I don’t know of any Christians even today claiming powers that can even do that! It’s always been interesting to me that those that claim miracles are proof of not just god, but the RIGHT god, are always sure that THEIR miracle is from the RIGHT one. Once you go down the “miracles as proof” path many gods and spirits are proven true so they cancel out.

  3. Avatar
    fishician  October 24, 2018

    In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul refers to healings, tongues and “miracles,” i.e., works of power. In 2 Corinthians 12 he claims to have performed “miracles.” We know from modern experience that people can gain a reputation for healings and speaking in tongues without having any actual supernatural abilities, but do we have any reliable information on what he meant by “works of power?” The book of Acts and the later stories seem legendary; do we have any believable records of what kind of works he, or other apostles, performed? (If any.) Exorcisms, perhaps?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      I’m afraid we don’t really know what he was doing (or thought he was doing, or what others thought he was doing!). We have no other records, apart from his words (where he doesn’t tell us what he has in imnd), the book of Acts, and later legendary accounts. Would that we did!

  4. Avatar
    jhague  October 24, 2018

    “The apostle Paul indicates that his great miracles made all the difference, as he himself did “signs, wonders, and miracles” among his converts (2 Corinthians 12:12).”

    We know that Paul did not really perform miracles and yet he states that his miracles made all the difference. Is Paul exaggerating his abilities in order to corvert Gentiles?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      I wish we knew! His readers seem to “know” that he did such things, whatever they were….

      • Avatar
        jhague  October 26, 2018

        I know this is speculation but it seems that Paul claims to have performed miracles and because his readers trusted him, they “know” that he did such things. But from a supernatural point of view, we know that he did not do things against nature. Plus, we only know what his readers “know” based on what Paul writes, correct?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 28, 2018

          Technically speaking we only know what Paul claims they knew (which itself is based on what he thought he knew which is based on what he thought they thought they knew)

  5. Avatar
    Hormiga  October 24, 2018

    > Miracles convert.

    Hey, given a really good miracle or two, I’d certainly review my current opinions about the nature of the world! 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Duke12  October 24, 2018

    Would have loved to have seen that debate on Youtube! 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Pattylt  October 24, 2018

    I’d have been happier and more impressed if Peter had raised the dog! Human resurrection was all the rage then but dogs deserve it, too! 😂

  8. Avatar
    wostraub  October 24, 2018

    Bart, the talking snake and talking donkey are more believable. C’mon, whoever heard of a talking dog?!

    • Avatar
      randal  October 30, 2018

      Maybe some of the Bible authors were having delusions due to schizophrenia. That would explain it.

  9. Avatar
    anthonygale  October 24, 2018

    Do you think the historical Jesus and Paul believed they could perform miracles? Perhaps that’s a strange question, but so much is debated I wonder if even that is solid. Certainly many stories where told about Jesus and quotes placed on his lips that were later legends. And how often is Paul specific about the “miracles” and “signs” he did?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      I don’t know about Jesus, but Paul appears to have done. He mentions it explicitly three times.

  10. Avatar
    petersilie  October 24, 2018

    These days this sort of “experimentation” happens in “science” labs–cf Peter Ward on using hydrogen sulfide to lower body temp.
    Where do humans get the idea that they get to boss everyone else around?

  11. Avatar
    RoddyN  October 25, 2018

    I saw an apologetic argument about Paul’s letters and his miracles. The argument essentially stated that Paul would have come off as foolish (to the readers) writing a letter indicating he did miracles in the church he was writing to, if he did not indeed do such miracles (Corinthians was the letter stated in the apologetic). Not having my Bible handy, what do you make of the argument?

    On a side note, where do I get a copy of your new textbook after it gets printed?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      Yes, I think if Paul is reminding his readers about what he did in their presence, he probably is referring to something they’re familiar with.

      Textbook: sometime in the summer?

  12. Avatar
    godspell  October 25, 2018

    Obviously, if they ever made a movie out of this, Peter would have to resurrect the dog as well. I’m certainly not going if they don’t rewrite that.

    I think the real Peter would have found these stories very embarassing.

    And the real Simon Magus–did they have the concept of libel back then? (checks) Calumnia. Close enough. Though he’d have liked that they said he could kill with a word.

  13. Avatar
    Matt2239  October 25, 2018

    Interesting that most of the miracles that made the cut were decidedly upscale. Water into wine, feeding the poor, healing the sick, calming the sea, restoring an ear that had been wrongly cut off. A miracles contest involving talking dogs and intentionally killing someone doesn’t sound very uplifting.

  14. Avatar
    dwcriswell  October 27, 2018

    What is the significance of the dog dying?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 28, 2018

      I suppose it’s that he had fulfilled his divinely appointed mission.

  15. dschmidt01
    dschmidt01  November 5, 2018

    hi Dr Ehrman, why do you think Paul converted and traveled all over starting churches? I’ve begun to think of Paul as a charlatan. He didnt preach Jesus message, he made up his own religion, he performed fake miracles. He almost sounds like L Ron Hubbard. I assume he wasn’t in it for the money. do you think he really believed in what he was doing? thanx

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