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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A kernel of truth, 22 Nov. 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
This book by Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral and one-time candidate for the bishopric in England, is a fairly popular book in Britain - I am surprised it is not better known in the United States. John, experienced as a scholar and a pastor, has the intention of connecting church experience, learning and scholarship to local pastoral situations, and this book serves that purpose well.
His introductory chapter highlights 'a tale of two cities' of a sort - the tale of two Religious Education teachers. Mr Davies was a strong, fundamental, literalist reader of the bible: 'had they only appeared in its pages, he would have believed in leprechauns, King Arthur and Father Christmas too.' On the other side was Miss Tomkins, who embraced modern scholarship in its skeptical sense - she tended to see miracles as convergences of natural phenomena, and healing as being done for those largely with psychosomatic illnesses: 'Miss Tomkins loved the word "psychosomatic",' John writes.
These are two approaches that may seem diametrically opposed, but John sets forth a case whereby neither of the two really get to the heart of the matter. Beyond the debate of 'how' a miracle occurred, the deeper theological meaning comes from 'why' a miracle occurred, and what meaning is intended to be given to those of us who read the story of the miracle. John cites Augustine as having concern that 'hearers of the Gospel miracles habitually got stuck on the "wonder" element and on speculating whether such a thing could possibly have occurred.' John takes up several elements for discovering the meaning in the miracles - context (particularly that which comes from the Hebrew scriptures), the idea of inclusion of the excluded (a recurring theme in the New Testament message), a challenge for principalities and powers, and the issue of faith.
John's book concentrates on gospel miracles - there are many more miracles beyond those which occur in the gospels, both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the New Testament writings outside the gospels. However, it is in the gospel that the most direct connection for Christians takes place. 'All the miracle stories contain profound teaching which is of indispensable relevance to Christians and the Church today, teaching that all too often gets passed over because we do not get past the "miraculous" packaging and the endless issue of "did it happen?" '
John collects many of the miracles - the healing of the leper, the wedding at Cana, the feeding of the thousands, the various blindness and deafness healings, the withered fig tree, and even the resurrections (not Jesus own, but of others). These miracles are presented in chapters which explore context, text variations in the gospels to a small degree, commentaries from others, possible meanings for today's reader, and elements for prayer and meditation that relate to the story. There are eighteen short chapters, each devoted to a single miraculous incident or miraculous type.
John, being a good Anglican, straddles the middle way between opposite approaches in many cases; he doesn't dismiss the literalist or the reductionist ways of reading miracles, but looks for deeper theological and pastoral meaning that goes beyond these opposites. John confesses that the combination of the Mr Davies and the Miss Tomkins types turned him off to church, religion and the Bible for a long time, as they were often mistaking the shell for the kernel of the truth.
This makes a good book for private study, for group study, and for sermon preparation assistance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meaning of Miracles, 26 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
A great pleasure to read, this short but comprehensive little book brought me a different perspective on the Jesus miracles. Jeffery John illustrates how Old Testament prophecy illuminates the meaning and significance of the account of the miracles in the gospels revealing the purpose of their inclusion in the Jesus narrative. A book I should have read a long time ago.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars miracle, 23 Dec. 2011
By 
C. Mcgowan (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
So much to think about in this book. Insights via the context, understanding what was relevant to people at the time, as well as what these miracles mean to us today. Not always comfortable reading, because it often invites us to look at the prejudices and mean-spiritedness that still exist in our own times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Charts a third way between rationalisation and literalism., 18 Aug. 2014
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An excellent book on a difficult subject. Treats the miracles seriously but not literally. Charts a third way between literal acceptance on the one hand and out and out rationalisation of the other. Concentrates on the richness of meaning in these ancient stories rather than speculation as to 'what really happened'. The event has gone, is irrecoverable, and we are left with its impression.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and stimulating., 5 April 2013
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This book really helped me understand the meaning and significance of the miracles. Clearly written and not too complex in its theology for the average reader, highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I am only half way through the book and am ..., 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
I am only half way through the book and am finding it fascinating, giving me lots of insight into the meaning of the miracles and a completely new take on some of them. I/m recommending it to friends.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning in the Miracles, 24 May 2014
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
It is intelligent, thorough, and a compelling witness. We are using it in our house group study. One of our members started to read the first chapter and couldn't put it down!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking, 10 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
An excellent book. A must-read for everyone who is interested in learning more about the bible. Jeffrey John writes in an accessible way without being condescending.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written and very insightful, 20 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
Brilliantly written and very insightful!. Can only highly recommend it!. I learnt quite a lot that was very deep and thoughtful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A grown up's approach to miracles, 30 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Meaning in the Miracles 2002: The Archbishop of Wales' Lent Book (Paperback)
This book is worthy of study by progressives and literalists alike. It is a worthwhile purchase for the first chapter alone. Jeffrey John writes as he preaches - directly, thoughtfully and respectful of his audience while at the same time provoking the reader to new insight and deeper understanding. A good book to give to anyone who finds the traditional approach to scripture sometimes too restricting and wants to look beyond the Sunday School level of study.
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