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Other religions claim that (their) God or other individuals have performed miracles either on behalf of a person(s) or entire nations.

Growing up I was taught that the Jewish people are God's special, chosen nation. I was further told that miracle claims by non-Jews were simply false. For example Jesus simply did not turn water into wine.

Theologically, how does Judaism view claims from other religions that God or a person has performed a miracle on their behalf? Does Judaism allow for the belief that God does miracles for non-Jews?

Please note: I am not asking about miracles performed by Non-Jews through the use of magic, divination or other forbidden practices (eg. Bilaam, the witch of En-Dor) that involve manipulation of natural or spiritual forces.

  • It is my understanding that Judaism does not deny God has provided non-Jewish nations their own prophets. Although I cannot find a source at the moment, I am rather certain that Judaism recognizes that God has performed miracles directly or through prophets of Nations other than Israel – JJLL Dec 26 '17 at 21:45
  • @JJLL related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/25666/8775. – mevaqesh Dec 26 '17 at 22:06
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Your question implies belief in magical forces that apparently aren't a proof of some other religion, or set of beliefs. If, indeed, one subscribes to such beliefs, then any story of miracles ought not present a problem, as even if true, they could be the result of such magic.[i]

Significantly, Rambam writes emphatically (Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah 8:1) that belief in Judaism is not based on miracles, (but on the Sinaic revelation which the entire nation experienced), for miracles can be dismissed as magic or the like.

Accordingly, miracles occurring to members of other religions shouldn't pose a theological problem.

Indeed, the Torah itself (Deut. 13:2-6) describes a false prophet who promotes avoda zara, and performs miracles. Although this is probably referring to a Jewish "prophet", the message seems to be clear; miracles are not proof of legitimacy.

Regarding whether the miracles could be miracles, or must assumed to be fake, Midrash Tannaim (Deut. 13:3) records a dispute between R. Yossi the Galilean, and R. Akiva. R. Yossi suggests that the aforementioned false prophet could do an actual miracle, like stopping the sun. R. Akiva, however, considers it inconceivable that God would perform a miracle for a sinner. (Therefore R. Akiva suggests that the verse refers to a lapsed prophet who previously performed miracles when he was righteous).

It seems that according to R. Akiva, miracles performed by sinners (which doesn't necessarily include non-Jews) should be assumed to not be real, while according to R. Yossi, it could be an actual miracle.

However, even in light of R. Yossi's view, demonstrable miracles are few and far in between (cf. James Randi's million dollar challenge), so it is probably safe to assume that no miracle has taken place absent compelling proof to the contrary.

This Tannatic dispute also appears in Sifrei (Re'eh 84) and Sanhedrin (90a).


[i] Not that the existence of magic necessarily has to be accepted at all. See here regarding different approaches to the witch of En-Dor, and magic in general.

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer but I don't believe it addresses my question (perhaps you can help me word the question better). I am not claiming or asking if miracles performed in other religions would 'pose a theological problem' for Judaism, but rather I am asking how Judaism relates to those claims. Ie are they automatically assumed to all be false (or true), or perhaps it is on a case by case basis wherein one miracle claim can be accepted while another cannot. I am familiar with Maimonides position, but I do not believe it is normative or widely adopted – rikitikitembo Dec 26 '17 at 22:23
  • @rikitikitembo as mevaqesh quoted Judaism doesn't base belief on miracles. So even if a "prophet" does a miracle that doesn't cause us to believe him. We aren't saying a miracle did or didn't happen, only that, it is irrelevant to our beliefs and actions. – mroll Dec 26 '17 at 22:43
  • @mroll I am not asking how a miracle claim by another religion impacts a Jews belief in Judaism, I am asking if Judaism has a default position visa vi the claim itself. As a Jew if I hear of God doing a miracle for someone of another religion (or an entire nation) can/should/may I believe that the event in fact happened? – rikitikitembo Dec 27 '17 at 14:13
  • Even with the edits I don't see how this answer relates to the question. The portion you site regarding R' Yossi and R' Akiva relates to sinners being able to perform miracles (as you state yourself) not to the person's status as non-Jew. It may perhaps imply the opposite (that a righteous non-Jew can in fact perform a miracle) – rikitikitembo Dec 27 '17 at 14:16
  • regarding Maimonides, the concept that belief is not necessarily tied to miracles - which is besides the point in this question - is itself not normative or widely adopted. Furthermore the Sinaic revelation was itself a miraculous occurrence. – rikitikitembo Dec 27 '17 at 14:19
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Did God perform a miracle for so-and-so (Gentile)? Perhaps. Why not? It happens throughout Tanach, why not post-Tanach? If God cares enough for the people of Ninveh to send them a Jewish prophet (Yonah), then a miracle is not so far-fetched, especially if they are repentant.

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