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The four gospels, the book of Acts and the epistles by the apostle Paul affirm very clearly that the early Church was endued with power from on high. Christians during the apostolic age had access to all the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and were able to perform signs and wonders to confirm the message of salvation they were preaching.

What are the strongest apologetic arguments for believing all this? Are there sufficient reasons to believe that the apostles and the early Christians in general had access to supernatural power from the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, signs and wonders and to operate in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit?

Are the anecdotes recorded in the New Testament reliable (and if so, according to what standard)? Is there any corroboratory extra-biblical evidence? I'm open to any kinds of lines of reasoning and evidence giving credence to the scriptural accounts of miracles in the early Church.

Another way to put it: how can we convince a skeptic that supernatural things happened during the apostolic age, or at least that it is not unreasonable to believe that they did?


Answering questions in the comments

Q. What in your opinion is the difference between 'apologetic arguments' and 'arguments' in general?

A. By asking for 'apologetic arguments' I'm basically expecting arguments that people would present if they were in a formal debate as an apologist against a skeptic and they had to make a case for their belief, in front of an audience. If a dedicated Christian apologist has already addressed this specific question, citing their arguments would be highly encouraged and appreciated as well.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 3 '21 at 14:32
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This will be a very brief attempt at an answer. Others are invited to post more elaborate ones.

The best arguments, to the best of my knowledge, would be the following:

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Use one miracle to prove another!

The Gospel of Matthew alone contains dozens of prophecies, many of which have already come true. These fulfilled prophecies demonstrate the New Testament's:

  • truthfulness
  • miraculousness

One example which directly relates to a miracle concerns the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14. First some background on the structure of Matthew. In original analysis (which I shall be publishing this year), I discovered that Matthew is presenting Jesus as one greater than Solomon. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon's poem speaks of twenty-eight times: a time to be born, a time to die, etc. The Gospel of Matthew consists of twenty-eight chapters. Each chapter corresponds, in the same sequence, to one of Solomon's times. In like fashion, each chapter of Matthew corresponds to an era of history which embodies that time (in a metaphorical way, as with any good parable). After detailed historical analysis, it seems that each quartet of times runs for 321 years, so a single time is just over eighty years long.

Starting with Pentecost in 33 AD, that would mean that Matthew chapter 14 corresponds to the years 1076-1157 AD. In Ecclesiastes, that would be "a time to gather stones". Arguments abound over what it means to gather stones:

  • Pull stones from a field so you can plow?
  • Gather stones to build a wall or house?

The looser sense seems to be cooperation among people. What was the church cooperating in? This period was early in the Medieval Warm Period, at a time when many improvements in agricultural tools and techniques reached northern Europe. These included the heavy plow, horse collar, water-driven mills, three crop rotation, horseshoes, and others, plus the cessation of Viking raids (because many Vikings became Christians). In short order, grain production doubled, the net food available for human consumption tripled, population doubled, and life expectancy increased by ten years or more.

Thus the miracle of feeding the 5,000 was both a miraculous sign and a parable that prophesied societal improvements that would bless and expand the church a thousand years later!

One more thing about stones. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" So Jesus did not give the church a time to gather stones. He gave it a time to gather bread!

A similar analysis can be performed for Jesus walking on water. That miracle was a sign pointing to the time when the church would literally walk on water - cross the Atlantic to spread Christianity to the Americas and elsewhere. However, the pattern that connects this miracle to a time in history is not from Ecclesiastes, but from Matthew's gospel. That Gospel reveals a sevenfold harvest pattern:

  • preparation (by consecration or exile, the Apostolic age)
  • plowing (through suffering, like the Roman Persectution)
  • planting (the Word)
  • pouring (the Holy Spirit)
  • plucking (by the Father, who removes distractions via discipline and miracles and transforming the social order)
  • producing (a harvest, evangelism in the great missionary age, abolition of slavery)
  • peace

Matthew is divided into seven sections: Introduction, Five Discourses, and Conclusion (with the trial, crucifixion and resurrection). Each of those sections corresponds to a larger section of history. In this case, Matthew 14 is part of the fifth part of the harvest, plucking. The fifth era of church history (1438-1780 AD) saw the Father massively restructure human society and the church, with the fall of Constantinople, invention of the printing press, age of exploration, Protestant Reformation, wars of revolution, age of Enlightenment and the American Revolution.

So the miracles of Jesus were also signs, parables and prophecies of things to come during the church age. The miraculous fulfilment of the prophecy side (recent history) proves that the original miracle occurred.

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