Many scholars believe that the gospels are incorrect interpretations of the real Jesus. The gospels depict him to be “Jesus the Son of God”, yet most of the works that accurately described Jesus as a man in history were destroyed in antiquity (Smith). The few pieces that remain include the magical papyri and other fragments of work. The Magical Papyri is a grouping of writings, written during the late antiquity period, that contains the historical influence of what is now classified as ancient magic. For instance, spells found in the magical papyri are ones that were known to cure illnesses, such as fever, shivering fits, cough, and severe migraines and headaches, which could have been performed by Jesus when he treated individuals. In addition, one specific spell entitled, “spell for vision” (PDM 115) might have been used when Jesus healed the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-25). Also, many spells contain religious content similar to the words Jesus has spoken. For instance, the spell for acquiring assistance says, “But do not be afraid: [approach] the god and, taking his right hand, kiss him and say these words to the angel, and for he will quickly respond to you about whatever you want” (PGM I. 77-80). This sounds extremely similar to advice Jesus gave to not be afraid of him or God, and if individuals pray, God will listen to their prayers and grant assistance. Moreover, it is interesting to note that in the synoptic gospels the phrase “miracle” is not used, rather words such as, healing and saving are substituted. Additionally, in other ancient Christian texts, Jesus was depicted as a mischievous child, using his powers for evil by harming others (Cartlidge 255). Similarly, magic in the ancient world was often used for personal benefit, even if it meant people were hurt in the process. For example, Aristotle and Plato were believed to have performed magic by using voodoo dolls to attract lovers and cause harm to their enemies (Graf). Finally, ancient magicians were known to have connections or claim to have connections with the divine world (Graf). For example, some spells in the Magical Papyri begin with “I call upon you, lord” (PGM I. 199), which seems very comparable to something Jesus would say to God, considering the nature of their relationship that is described in the Bible.
Skeptics have tried to disprove the existence of Jesus Christ and God Himself, including one such argument that debates whether or not Jesus could have actually performed the miracles presented in the synoptic gospels. Of the arguments against Jesus’ ability to perform miracles, the argument that Jesus was actually a magician, is significantly more intriguing than the majority of other possible arguments. The argument for Jesus being a magician, however, lacks influence in the form of physical evidence to support the idea that Jesus was not divine in his works. Unlike the evidence, suggesting Jesus was divine, found in New Testament writings, evidence arguing for Jesus being a magician has been, for the most part, lost through time. Today, the major source for evidence to support this claim comes from a group of texts known as the Magical Papyri. Due to the nature of the writings of the Magical Papyri, interpreters of Jesus’ miracles use it to reference the notion that Jesus was not divine but rather a magician. The main issue with the argument that Jesus was utilizing magic when he performed the miracles is that the argument, based on ancient magic use, is being conceptualized from a modern perspective.
The main issue with the argument that Jesus was a magician rather than divine is that the “magic” in question is a construct of the modern era. During a resurgence of interest in “ancient magic” (1970s-1980s), scholars created an agreed upon concept of ancient magic by analyzing late antiquity documents concerning Greco-Roman rituals and cultural practices. The problem with constructing a modern interpretation of the practices of the ancient world is that there is no way to know how relevant the construct is in the ancient and world and whether or not the construct is completely inclusive of all aspects of the ancient world it claims to represent. In the case of ancient magic, there has been dispute between scholars over the content represented in the Magical Papyri. While some scholars have used the Magical Papyri to incorporate Jesus’ miracles into the category of ancient magic, it is not uncommon for scholars to feel that some of the writings regard ancient ritual practices and other cultural aspects of the ancient world, rather than this modern concept of ancient magic (Horsley, 165). Overall, the argument against Jesus’ divinity has no historical support. The concept of ancient magic was pieced together using sources from late antiquity, a much later time period than that of Jesus’ miracles. Because of this the concept cannot be applied to the events that took place four-hundred years prior.
Unquestionably, the concept of Jesus as a magician causes people from a Catholic background to feel extremely uncomfortable. Notably, no strong-willed Catholic wants to hear that the explanation of Jesus’ miracles was anything other than the fact that he was a divine being, sent down by God. God enabled Jesus to perform his many miracles and superhuman abilities, and there is no persuading devout Catholics otherwise because this is what they were taught to believe and not question from a very young age. Many churches preach that faith is not something that requires facts and evidence to support it, and may use sayings such as, “seeing is not believing”. In addition, classifying Christ as a magician comes across as exceptionally degrading and disobedient to God. In the Bible, through church teachings, and from family influence, Catholics are taught to believe that God is all powerful and highly capable of creating or doing anything He wishes. Additionally, magicians are pretty common in today’s world, which presumes Christ to not be of the utmost importance. Therefore, to assume Jesus was merely a magician, and not the superior being who created everything on earth, expresses disrespect, as well as ungratefulness. In conclusion, pinning Christ as an ordinary magician goes against all the Bible and the Catholic religion stands for.