169, 2016 July)
Six more miracles
Tyrese Biggums (Investigator 168) lists a further six "miracles" in the
Old Testament and wants natural explanations for them.
previous editions of Investigator
I interpreted about 30 miracles as
being in part natural occurrences which happened at the right time to
achieve religious goals or motivate faith.
rely on science and history and therefore cannot go faster than the
information is discovered.
discover explanations for the thirty or so "miracles" took science
thousands of years! To find natural or partly natural explanations for
all the other "miracles" might require thousands more years!
two of the six "miracles" Biggums listed, already have possible
explanations. First, the water from the rock:
20 reports that the Israelites feared they would die in the desert from
lack of water. The account continues:
7 The LORD spoke to
Keller (1974) writes:
the staff, and assemble the congregation, and you and your brother
Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus
you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide
drink for all the congregation and their livestock.
So Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he had commanded him.
Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he
said to them, "Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of
Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff;
water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock
drank. (Numbers 20:1-13; Exodus 17:1-7)
Moses is said to have
taken his rod and produced water by striking a rock Ex.176) an action
which has been regarded, and not only by skeptics, as quite
incomprehensible, although the Bible is merely once more recording a
perfectly natural occurrence.
M. Lamsa (translator of the Lamsa Bible) writes:
C. S. Jarvis, who was British Governor of Sinai in the thirties, has
seen it happen himself. He writes: “Moses striking the rock at Rephidim
and the water gushing out sounds like a genuine miracle, but the writer
has actually seen this happen. Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had
halted in a dry wadi and were in the process of digging about in the
rough sand that had accumulated at the foot of a rock face. They were
trying to get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the
limestone rock. The men were taking their time about it and Bash
Shawish, the coloured sergeant, said: ‘Here, give it to me!’ He took
the spade of one of the men and began digging furiously in the manner
of N.C.O.'s the world over who want to show their men how to do things
but have no intention of keeping it up for more than a couple of
minutes. One of his violent blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth
hard crust which always forms on weathered limestone split open and
fell away. The soft stone underneath was thereby exposed and out of its
apertures shot a powerful stream of water.
In Arabia and other
arid lands where water is scarce, wells and other sources of water are
hidden in order to discourage roaming tribes from encamping, grazing
the area, and using the scanty water supplies. Then again, in all parts
of the Near East wells are covered to prevent animals and men from
falling into them and to keep the drinking water clean. Large stones
are placed upon the mouths of the wells and water sources, and are then
covered with earth. Therefore, hidden wells are not easy to locate. God
told Moses where to strike, and when he struck the rock or uncovered
the mouth of the well, he found abundant water for the people to drink
and for the herds and flocks also.
on the Wall
"Writing on the wall" incident is narrated in Daniel 5.
was the last night of Babylon's independence before its conquest by
Persians and Medes.
only King Belshazzar saw a hand write on the wall — "The king was
watching the hand as it wrote." (5:5) Others saw the words but no-one
could read them. (5:8) It required Daniel to identify the four words
and read them out. (5:24-28)
Eddie (1996) writing on "Simulacra" says:
Adelaide has been
agog recently with reports of a miraculous event taking place in the
small southern township of Yankalilla [south of Adelaide]. The faithful
have been witness to the manifestation of the Madonna and Child
appearing on the rear wall of the small local Anglican Christ Church,
an appearance which many claim is a great miracle…
5:5 mentions the "plaster on the wall" and it's known that one source
of "simulacra" is damaged or bubbled plaster. The writing happened
"next to the lampstand" — therefore lighting and shadows played a part.
King Belshazzar was "under the influence of the wine" (1:2) as was
everyone at the banquet. (1:3) And with Babylon besieged by enemies
(5:28-31) the situation was highly tense and everyone therefore
natural explanation, given these circumstances, is that shadows
produced by flickering light were interpreted by the intoxicated King
as a finger and hand, whereupon he interpreted damaged plaster on the
wall as unreadable writing. After one person sees a "simulacrum",
especially an important person such as the King, others will likely see
what he sees, or at least agree. Since only Daniel could read the
words, nobody was in a position to disagree with Daniel.
"miraculous" aspect that remains is the timing.
sorry to disappoint the believers, but the "apparition" at Yankalilla
appears to be nothing more than a common type of visual illusion, what
is called a simulacrum, an abstract pattern which produces the
impression to people viewing it of some recognizable shape…
are quite common and can be "seen" in a diverse range of locations,
such as patterned dies or wallpaper, in clouds, on hillsides, or in
rock formations. Another very common location is amongst trees and
rocks. Some examples … have been elfin faces, a sleeping puppy, and the
Madonna. One can even see the simulacrum of a running man in the
opening screen of Windows '95.
light, shadows and intoxication happened all the time. It is only on
this one night, the night before Babylon was conquered, that the King
saw a hand write words on the wall, words which Daniel interpreted as
predicting the King's imminent death and loss of his kingdom.
decades I've argued that we can examine the Bible's statements on
"miracles" or astronomy or history or zoology or genetics or pediatrics
or geography or futurology or ethics, etc, and in every area we find
statements supported by science.
on such results I claim that the Bible is trustworthy even in matters
we cannot yet confirm or test. It is simply a matter of extending the
observed trend i.e. extrapolating.
is actually the logic — called "inductive logic" or "inductive
reasoning" — that everyone uses all the time. If we need surgery we
have to select a surgeon based on his past performance since we cannot
see his future performance. If all pigeons so far observed are white we
expect the next pigeon we see to be white also. If the laws governing
sunrise have been consistent in the past we expect the Sun to rise
tomorrow. And so on. If someone argues "I won't believe the Sun will
rise tomorrow unless you show me tomorrow's sunrise today" we cannot
satisfy him, nor can science.
and science can presently explain or confirm only some of the
"miracles" Biggums listed in #164 and #168. I’ve seen no natural
explanation yet of how the three Jews survived Nebuchaddnezzar’s
I do when pertinent discoveries come to my attention, is show that more
of the Bible is getting proved, and critics disproved, as time passes.
Anyone who observes this trend has a rational basis for faith.
L. Simulacra: It's All in the Eye of the Beholder, Investigator Magazine #50,
W. 1974 The Bible As History,
Hodder & Stoughton
G.M. 1964/1978 Old Testament Light,
Aramaic Bible Society (1964), A.H. Holman edition (1978)
THREE MORE MIRACLES
(Investigator 170, 2016 September)
Here are some
other miracles Anonymous may have interest in finding scientific
The widow's oil
consumed on Mount Carmel 1 Kings 18:30-38
THREE MORE MIRACLES
171, 2016 November)
(#170) listed three more Bible miracles and requests scientific
understanding for them.
I've come across
suggested explanations for all three including the sacrifice consumed
on Mount Carmel, but do not personally find them convincing.
before, when I investigate the Bible I rely on science and history and
therefore cannot go faster than the information is discovered and comes
to my attention.
3000 people named in the Bible, 100 at most are so far archaeologically
or historically corroborated — i.e. about 3% of the total. Of
approximately 1000 geographical locations named, possibly up to 500 are
confirmed — i.e. about 50%. Theologians and students have produced
lists of "miracles" reported in the Bible but disagree regarding which
biblical stories to include or exclude. If 200 is a rough and ready
estimate of the number of "miracles" that the Bible suggests had human
observers, then about 15% were natural events or partly natural and
have some support in science.
We can also
estimate percentages of statements confirmed in other areas of research
such as astronomy, botany, ethics, history and zoology and again find
that scientific confirmation is incomplete but increasing.
This is the
current state of the scientific evidence available to people who want
to “prove the Bible”.