Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Two Essays on Biblical and on Ecclesiastical Miracles

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Two Essays on Biblical and on Ecclesiastical Miracles

Article excerpt

Two Essays on Biblical and on Ecclesiastical Miracles By John Henry Newman. Edited with an introduction and notes by Geoffrey Rowell. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2010. Pp. xlviii, 457. $40.00. ISBN 978-0-268-03607-2.)

In April 1826, Newman completed an article on scriptural miracles that had been commissioned for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. In it, he maintained that the age of miracles was limited to the Old and New Testaments, ending with the end of the apostolic age. He argued that miracles were only necessary at the beginning of the Church to secure its foundations. In the preceding month he had completed another article for the Encyclopaedia on "The Life of Apollonius Tyaneus, with a Comparison of the Miracles of Scripture and Those Elsewhere Related"; Apollonius was a neo-Pythagorean philosopher credited with many miracles that Newman consigned to the category of magic. Newman pointed out, although miracles are anomalous events in the natural world as we understand it, they may be quite normal in the divine scheme of things. He realized that miracles would not convert the atheist. Miracles are only likely on the "antecedent probability" that the Creator is likely to intervene in his creation - just as some occurrences are unlikely to qualify as miracles, because, for example, their object is trivial.

Newman's second essay on miracles appeared as the preface to an 1842 English translation of The Ecclesiastical History of M. L'Abbé Fleury. His acceptance now of the postapostolic miracles that he had rejected in the earlier essay simply reflects the development of his own ecclesiology from a Protestant to a Catholic sense of the supernatural nature of the Church. …

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