Original Research

Historians and miracles: The principle of analogy and antecedent probability reconsidered

Michael R. Licona, Jan G. Van der Watt
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 65, No 1 | a129 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v65i1.129 | © 2009 Michael R. Licona, Jan G. Van der Watt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 March 2009 | Published: 18 June 2009

About the author(s)

Michael R. Licona, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Jan G. Van der Watt, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Most Biblical scholars and historians hold that the investigation of a miracle report lies outside of the rights of historians acting within their professional capacity. In this article, I challenge this assertion and argue to the contrary: Historians are within their professional rights to investigate miracle claims and to adjudicate on the historicity of the events. I present a positive case for the historian’s right to adjudicate on miracle claims and address two major objections to this conclusion: the principle of analogy and antecedent probability. At times I use the resurrection of Jesus as an example. This is the first of two articles. In the second, I will address three additional common objections: the theological objection, the lack of consensus and miracle claims in multiple religions.


miracles; principle of analogy; antecedent probability; historicity of miracle stories; Biblical hermeneutics


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