What Jesus Did, Does, and Will Do: Gospel Miracles and the Ethical Problem of Human Augmentation

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Studies of Gospel miracles have concentrated on questions of historicity or, more recently, of meaning in relation to Jesus’ ministry. Both approaches have created typologies: cures, exorcism, resurrection, nature. Beginning with the Jesus Seminar view’s of the ‘psychosomatic’ healing of Bartimaeus by the historical Jesus (Mark 10.46-52), the paper begins by problematising the idea that his sight was ‘restored’, arguing that he could easily be understood as ‘receiving’ it for the first time, a miracle explicitly related in John 9.1-41. Miracles in which the blind from birth are made to see are not restorative but involve a new body coming into being. Molyneaux’s problem, first set out in1688, asks “would a person blind from birth recognise a shape they had only previously touched?” Surgery on children blinded from birth by cataracts has answered “no”, making it clear that Bartimaeus, if blind from birth and healed as described, could not have immediately followed Jesus as the Gospel narrates without the addition of a ‘fast processing element’, an augmentation absent from everyday humanity. (Such an argument may convince the Jesus Seminar to remove Bartimaeus from its list of six pink cures or it may rebound on my argument about Bartimaeus’s blindness, but nevertheless the seeing blind man of John 9, whether historical or not, remains!) Jesus’ role in so-augmenting such blind men foreshadows his ideological availability to those pursuing technological augmentation for humanity today. Jesus’s willingness to add a new thing to the man in John 9 without permission gives warrant to those who see our future as a cyborg utopia, with individuals being conformed by diverse forms of augmentation towards a single ideal format by those endowed with transformative powers. In contrast, however, Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus—“What do you want me to do for you?”—leaves open the possibility of refusing any proffered augmentation. These alternatives, the Jesus who would destroy biodiversity and the Jesus who would celebrate it, offer to us two ways to think about our possible futures in an technological age of human transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


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