I was surprised to read that writers such as Origen, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus reported examples of "miraculous gifts" as late as the second and third centuries. Is this related to the pre-canonisation of the New Testament? Do you think these writings are more reliable than modern miracle accounts? If so, how does this dovetail with the view that apostles were the "passers" of the gifts? --Angus McFarlane (Adelaide)

The perspective of the early church--let me define early church as believers during the first century after Pentecost--seems to be that the supernatural gifts (not the natural gifts) eventually faded out. Justin was writing at a later time, while Irenaeus and Origen are better known as third century writers. Sometime in the second century, the growing cult of martyrs permeated the church. Moreover, heretical groups often claimed miraculous power to legitimize their churches. To describe this as an increasingly superstitious age is putting it mildly!

In other words, I do not necessarily accept the "signs and wonders" of the later second and third centuries as authentic. As for the New Testament, though it is not the case that all congregations necessarily possessed every N.T. document by the close of the second century, certainly by this time the entire N.T. corpus had been written and widely distributed. So I doubt that the reported "miracles" of the period you are referring to have anything to do with the canonization of scripture.

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