In an article titled, “Was Jesus a wizard? Is actually a serious scholarly question,” Candida Moss tries to pull off a little Halloween magic of her own. She thinks we should seriously consider whether or not the Messiah was actually a magician.
She writes, “In 1978, Columbia historian Morton Smith published “Jesus the Magician” in which he argued that Jesus was one of many ancient magicians and that his ministry is best understood as wonderworking. He argued that while healing the sick, exorcizing demons, turning water into wine, multiplying bread, and walking on water read to us as signs of Jesus’s divine nature, in his own time sounded like a magician. If you transplanted Jesus to Hogwarts, it seems, he wouldn’t even stand out.”
Moss would have us believe Jesus was just a trickster and people who witnessed His miracles were unable to discern the difference between the sleight of hand, and an act of God. They were just gullible.
People who claimed to be magicians and practiced “magic” were rare but not uncommon in ancient times. Moss may be confused about who Jesus is but those who witnessed his miracles were not. People then as now can tell the difference between magic and miracles. The following story in the book of Acts is an example.
“Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’ And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed,” Acts 8:9-13.
In this account Philip is going through Samaria preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and many were responding and believing in Jesus and one of those who believed and was baptized was a powerful magician named Simon. Simon was following Philip and “was constantly amazed” at the “signs and great miracles,” God was doing through Philip.
If there was anyone who knew the difference between a magic trick and a miracle of God it would be a former magician. Simon knew he was witnessing something greater than the magic he had practice, the miracles Philip was doing was not something Simon could pull out of his bag of tricks; he was witnessing something he recognized as supernatural.
I can understand the desire to imagine Jesus is something different than He said about Himself, but the biblical record is clear. When Jesus returns as a King and Judge He will not be confused with anything as fanciful as magic.