Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alternative Explanations for the Miracles of the Bible

Let's start with the New Testament, since Christians are nuttier about believing the Bible to be historically accurate than Jews.

Virgin birth. There are many possibilities here.
  1. It's a meme of the religions of the time, and could easily have been attached to the mythology around Jesus after the religion started taking off. This story added credibility to Christian claims, because it's something the people would expect of a deity.
  2. Mary, or Joseph, or the family, or the followers, LIED. Not as likely as #1 above, but possible. Getting people to believe it wouldn't be as hard as it would be today.
  3. Mistranslation. The first writers/transmitters never said this but it got translated this way. And Catholicism loves it that way so they perpetrated it.
Food and Beverage Miracles.
  1. Completely made up.
  2. Something unusual happened that wasn't very impressive, so it was exaggerated to be worthy of mythical/miraculous status.
  3. Trickery.  The disciples put wine into water barrels, or had a stash of bread and dead fish at the ready. 
  4. Numerology.  Any time miraculous numbers are mentioned in the Bible you have to suspect a total dissociation from reality due to possible magic numbers being used to make some point.

 Healing. Really? We don't have to look further than examples of faith healing today to know that they could have been false then but here goes: 
  1. Lies. Gotta convince the masses to convert, so some miracle stories are in order. Easy stories to make up. It's not like people in Italy or even Lebanon would have been able to verify something like that.  How many people were named Lazarus?  You would be hard pressed even in a well documented society to figure out which one was named.
  2. Fakes. Shills brought out to fool the crowds. How hard would it be to fake a withered hand? Blindness? Lameness?
  3. Spontaneous healing, due to the effect of faith on the mind of the believer, not intervention by a deity or a magical power. Or, the person is so swept up in the moment they have momentary improvement. Did anyone follow up on these people a year later? No, of course not.
  4. Actual sick people being made to look more healed than they are. The disciples support the lame person in such a way that they seem to be walking, or straighten out the "withered hand" by force.
  5. Confirmation bias. Would Jesus' followers really document the many times he was unsuccessful? (assuming any of it is historical)
Miscellaneous points

The fig tree. My favorite. Jesus couldn't make the tree bear fruit out of season so he zapped it. Wouldn't making the tree bear fruit have been a much better miracle than setting it on fire? If this is historical at all, what is the time frame? Could it have been a set-up? Could it have been the highest point during a lightning storm?

Calming the storm. This sounds a lot like Moses parting the sea, so right there I suspect it's fabricated. If the writers are trying to convince the heathens that Jesus was indeed the heir to the Judaic tradition, having him do something Moses-like would be a good start.  This is probably the easiest thing to make up, and not being able to find witnesses wouldn't prove anything because lack of evidence would just be lack of evidence.  Could a storm suddenly stop on its own? Sure. It happens often enough that a coincidence is possible if there's historical accuracy to this story.  Confirmation bias here, too.  If you tell the sky to shut up often enough, one day it will obey you.

Turning water to wine.  This one is just stupid. It's not that hard to switch containers.

If you're going to believe the miraculous claims of one group of bronze-age people without question, you have to believe all of them.  I don't see Christians pointing to the miracles of other religions as evidence that miracles happen, only the ones from their own religion.


Never Was An Arrow II said...

"The fig tree. My favourite."
Of course it's your favourite because you don't understand what's happening here. Judgment against Israel is being pronounced through this action of Jesus.

"Virgin birth. There are many possibilities here."

No, they're aren't. A virgin birth was absolutely necessary to fulfil Scripture. If you have a Jamnian derivative version of the Bible…the OT reference to virgin is mistranslated as young girl. So just about every Protestant alive gets the Mary stuff wrong. Jesus quoted from the LXX, but the Protestant reformers and Jews look to the Masoretic Text. When Jesus said, "search through the Scripture" (Jn 5:39) he meant the Septuagint. When he read prophesy in the synagogue, it was from the Septuagint's Isaiah (Lk4:16-21). The Apostles also quoted from the Septuagint.

The first century Jews were faced with a real problem as Jews became Christians in droves.

Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai solved it. At Jamnia. With a selected team of rabbis, he removed from the Septuagint those books, or altered those passages in the Septuagint that supported Christian claims of the divinity of Jesus, and his identity as the Christ.

Actually without Jochanan ben Zakkai's falsifying Scripture…it is doubtful any Jews would be around today! His action preserved present-day Judaism in a somewhat literal-fundamentalistic and radical form, the form of the Sadducees. The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of dead and life everlasting because they reject the oral Torah. It's sad-u-cee but they were the Jewish heretics of Jesus's day.

Protestants later co-adopting the Jamnian Canon have caused all sorts of problems for open-minded people trying to understand Christianity.

The Protestants/Evangelicals are in a real theological pickle. They accept the claim of the Jews that there are only 66 books in the OT. The Catholic Church says there are 73. Yet these same Jews say the NT is not inspired! But the Protestants/Evangelicals accept the Catholic Canon of the NT. The Catholic Church actually weeded out several books that some wanted included in the NT, but the Church judged them as not inspired. So they accept Catholic authority on one hand — and refuse it on the other! Those schizoid non-Catholic Christians!

So atheists bear in mind that a lot of Evangelicals and Protestants are just as confused as YOU ARE when it comes to the Bible! It's not just about science that they're confused.

To have a sampling of how to understand Scripture PROPERLY see this downloadable exegesis of Mary and Jesus (it was the only suitable on-line sample I could find-we wouldn't normally start here) that explains a lot of things that Evangelicals are quite ignorant about…but at least you'll see how Scripture is meant to be looked at.

SEE: http://abmp3.com/mp3/gerry-matatics.html

'nuff said.

ex-minister1 said...

the Hebrew old testament says young girl. The translation to the greek was poorly chosen as virgin. Because of that the gospel writers thought they had to made Mary a virgin.

krissthesexyatheist said...

I agree w/ex-Min. When translated from Greek, they meant 'young woman.' Great post "L.A."


Never Was An Arrow II said...

MANY OF THE OLDEST Biblical fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly those in Aramaic, correspond MORE CLOSELY with the LXX than with the Masoretic text. This confirms the scholarly consensus that the LXX represents a separate HEBREW-TEXT TRADITION from that which was later standardized as the Masoretic text!

French (Gaul) Bishop Irenaeus, of the second century, noted that Jewish translators (Aquila and Theodotin) removed parthenos—"virgin"— from Isaiah 7:14. The Septuagint clearly writes of a virgin that shall conceive. They inserted, neanis, which is rendered "young woman". And the good bishop wasn't the only one to notice these improvised passages as Jamnian versions of the OT started to become locally accessible.

Course, you won't learn that at Jimmy Swaggert's Bible University…