This piece is in reply to Godless Cranium’s response to my rebuttal of his article.
1. Godless Cranium (GC): “I’m not going to respond to it all, because after reading his rebuttal a few times, I find myself wondering whether he actually read my entire post before responding.”
Reply: I did read his article a few times over. If in fact I misread a point or skipped something I will leave it to GC to bring it to my attention (either in a separate post or in the comment section below).
2. Godless Cranium (GC): “Okay, so keep in mind he doesn’t think I know that the bible was written by multiple people. But in the last point he’s responding to, I literally wrote this: “Have one person writing the bible. You could solve so much with this one alone. Hell, better yet, why not do the writing yourself. Ummmm…clearly I understood the bible was written by many people…because that’s exactly what I said in point 5 of my original post.”
Reply: Fair enough. I did miss that but it remains irrelevant for his recommendation remains a non-sequitur. However, GC needs to be more specific than to simply write that: “This book is not to be taken literally”. Well, which book? Leviticus or the Gospel of Mark? He certainly can’t be referring to “the Bible” because the Bible isn’t a single book. I am therefore hardly surprised I misunderstood him.
3. GC: “Come on man. Do you take me for a fool? Of course most people don’t think Jesus was a literal wooden door. It’s freaking obvious.”
Reply: No, I don’t take GC for a fool but the point is that GC is rather unspecific. I know no-one (hopefully) would take Jesus to be a literal wooded door based off of his saying, however I used an overtly obvious example to drive the point home. Again, it comes down to the fact that it appears that GC’s wording suggests that believes the Bible to be a single book (Slap a warning label on that bad boy that says, “This book is not to be taken literally.’”) although he knows it to contain many books. Maybe he should have initially written “Slap
warning labels on those bad boys that says, “These books are not to be taken literally.” That would have cleared up the confusion.
4. GC: “However, you’re second assertion is false. You can easily find many people who argue that the whole feeding 5000 people thing was an allegory. For example, you have this one here:
“The five loaves represents the five books of Moses, in which we find five refreshments for the soul. The first loaf is the rebuking of sin by contrition; the second is the laying bare of sin in confession; the third is the abasement and humiliation in satisfaction; the fourth Is zeal for souls in preaching; the fifth is the sweetness of our heavenly home in contemplation.”
Reply: GC is almost certainly wrong here as I think that this is an attempt to explain away Jesus’ miracles by trying to find parallels that don’t exist.
Since this miracle passes the criterion of multiple & independent attestation by being attested to in at lest two independent sources (all the gospels mention this event, however, Luke & Matthew drew their story from Mark while John is independent of the Synoptics. So, we have at least two sources affirming this event) I’d like to know how both Mark & John would have come up with the same “symbolism” representing the “the five books of Moses.” An analogy might be made here to help us. Some have suggested that Jesus’ flight into Egypt as a baby with his parents was molded upon the Old Testament narrative of Moses leading God’s people out of Egypt. Let’s assume that Jesus’ flight into Egypt is merely symbolic. Now, we only find the narrative of Jesus’ flight in Matthew and it has been suggested that it suited his purpose to include this metaphor for his Judean audience (1). However, we don’t find this episode mentioned in Luke’s gospel probably because such symbolism did not suit his purposes for his educated Greek-speaking audience (2). Bearing this in mind I am lead to ask just how do both Mark & John include an event that is allegedly “symbolic” when they are writing to different audiences and for different purposes (Mark wrote to a gentile audience of Greek-speaking Christians whereas John writes to a Jewish Christian audience)? Most scholars hold that John & Mark are entirely independent from one another. So, I think on the grounds of multiple & independent attestation that the authors are merely describing a “symbolic” miraculous event of Jesus is highly unlikely. It’s not impossible but it is highly unlikely, Barnett tells us that since this miracle is attested to in two independent sources they are “each resting in all probability on independent eyewitness recollection”(3).
Also that the criterion of undesigned coincidences applies here strongly negates that this is merely some symbolic event. What this criterion argues is when one account of an event leaves out a bit of information which is filled in, often quite incidentally, by a different account, which helps to answer some natural questions raised by the first. Jesus miraculous multiplication of fish and bread to feed 5000 people is a classic case of this. For example, consider John in full (emphasis mine):
“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (6:17)
We ought to note that Philip is a minor personality in our gospels and he receives very little attention. With that considered we should then wonder why Jesus did not consult one of the more prominent disciples in his group, perhaps the likes of Peter or John. However, we get a clue as in John 1:44 we read that: “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” Bear in mind that Philip was from Bethsaida.
Now, in Luke’s parallel account of the feeding of the 5000 we read that: “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
According to Luke the feeding of the 5000 was taking place in Bethsaida, which was the town Philip was from. This then well explains why Jesus asked Philip where they would buy the bread to feed the 5000 instead of the other more prominent disciples. This would be because Philip would have been familiar with the area in which this event took place.
What this example of an undesigned coincidence does for us is that it gives the narrative a ring of truth. We can clearly see that the authors are recording a historical event and they even go to the unintentional lengths to fill in the gaps in details of the parallel accounts. Now, since this provides a degree of certainty of the event it does not prove the historicity of the miracle. But, what it does provide is strong historical basis upon which the miracle is the very focal point of the narrative. What we can know is that a large crowd followed Jesus, they became hungry, and Jesus somehow fed them. What would the best explanation be for that? Probably that Jesus really performed a miracle. This is certainly no symbolic event.
5. GC: “You’d think this God would know that the written word is a poor way to pass on a lifesaving message. Did He not know this was going to happen? Did he intend on not being clear?”
Reply: This is yet another non-sequitur. How God chooses to pass on his “lifesaving message” whether by written word or over the radio does nothing to negate the fact that he has passed on his word. To me the message of his written word is quite clear thus I don’t agree with GC that he did not intend on being clear.
6. GC: “A quick Internet search is all that is needed to show that not everyone thinks the feeding of 5000 people is strictly fact and not allegorical in nature.“
Yes, because a quick Google internet search is clearly a reliable medium for gathering scholarly data. “A quick internet search” also doesn’t sound very solid to me. However, I would further encourage GC to consult a compilation of 58 quotes from scholars on Jesus’ miracles that I have collected (mostly from books, theses & scholar sites/blogs that I have consulted), and not from “a quick internet search.”
7. GC: “Of course this is the case, because even some people of faith have a hard time convincing themselves of magic.”
Reply: I believe I have strong historical evidence that well attests to Jesus being a miracle worker. Having completed most of my thesis on Jesus’ miracles I found that one could make a historical case for Jesus’ status as a miracle worker without even using our gospel sources (and by using solely pre-gospel materials). I would encourage GC to give this a quick read.
Secondly, GC is factually incorrect about Jesus being a “magic” worker. There is a difference between a magic worker & a miracle worker. For example, Onias was alleged to use magic to cause it to rain. Basically, Onias draws a circle of which he does not move out of until God grants his request for rain. On the other hand Jesus’ power was alleged to have manifested from God himself & his authority was on an altogether different level than any alleged magic worker. According to our gospels Jesus has been given authority over all heaven and earth (Mat. 28:18), over demons (Mark 9:25, 16:9, Mat. 8:3132, 17:18, Luke 11:14), demons & diseases (Mark 1:34), over the gates of hell (Mat. 16:18), over life (John 14:6) to forgive sins (Mat. 9:68, John 20:19-24), to judge on the final day (John 12:48), to give spiritual life (John 6:55-59). Likewise he had have authority in his teaching (Mat. 7:28-29). Jesus’ miracle workings are hardly analogous to “magic.”
8. GC: “And you can take it as historical fact all you want. Please show evidence that anyone is capable of doing what Jesus supposedly did. Then I’ll believe you. Until then, I don’t believe in your magical story.”
Reply: Another non-sequitur. That other people cannot perform the miracles that Jesus did does not mean that he did not perform miracles or that we ought to doubt the historicity of his miracles. Secondly, this strongly points to the uniqueness of Jesus as the Messiah as, according to theologian Price, “the attestations of Jesus’ miracles are uniquely diverse and numerous” (4). Or as scholar Eve explains that Jesus is “unique in the surviving Jewish literature of his time in being portrayed as performing a large number of healings and exorcisms” (5). This uniqueness points strongly in the direction of Jesus’ deity. Thirdly, GC should certainly consider consulting academic studies on miracle testimonies. I’d recommend he start with Keener’s 2 volume investigation.
To be continued…
1. Harris, S. 1985. Understanding the Bible. p. 272-285.
2. Green, J. 1995. The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. p. 6-17.
3. Barnett, P. The Feeding of the Multitude. p. 273-93.
4. Price, C. 2004. The Miracles of Jesus: A Historical Inquiry.
5. Eve, E. 2002. The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles. p. 378.