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Naturalistic vs. spectacular supernatural
MemberDecember 30, 2020 at 4:58 am
I think the term “spectacular supernatural” is my distinction from PoE: Red Sea Miracle II interview 🙂 It is good to distinguish between ‘naturalistic’ and ‘spectacular’ miracles. Faithful people understand that there are many acts of God that appear to be part of the natural course of events with explicable causes and effects. We rely on these ‘naturalistic’ interventions when we pray for divine help and guidance. When it comes to biblical stories, however, many expect that all acts of God must break with the laws of nature and be ‘spectacular’.
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 11:57 am
There has been much good discussion in this group and I’ve been unable to follow all of it, but I wanted to address this original post since I think there’s a few elements that haven’t been brought up (at least, that I’ve seen).
First, I appreciate and agree that the distinction between supernatural/natural is, itself, a very materialistic one. It assumes that the “norm” is a sort of self-sustaining naturalism and that the miraculous refers only to those semi-rare occasions when God peeks in and tweaks something in a non-“natural” fashion. That view a foreign to Scripture. Creation is upheld by God (Colossians 1:16), and the natural order itself works according to God’s decrees with the purpose of proclaiming his glory (Gen 1:14, Job 38:32, Psalm 19, Romans 1:20, etc). So then it is perfectly fair to say that God’s ordering and commanding over elements of his creation are truly “miraculous”, regardless of how “spectacular” a particular observer finds them. I love the Patterns series, but Mahoney’s repeated return to his favorite Cecil DeMille depictions of the Read Sea crossing as the drive for his preference of a deep water crossing is a weakness in my opinion – Hollywood is a poor reference for determining the necessary level of “spectacle” to qualify as a Biblical miracle!
However, the reason that I (and many others) are inclined towards a “spectacular” event during the Red Sea crossing is because that seems to be plainly what the Hebrew text depicts. Yes, a “strong east wind” is clearly involved (suggesting that some natural forces were certainly at work in this miracle), but the results are extraordinary. The sea is “cleaved” (בָּקַע), a strong term that connotes a violent parting and breaking of the waters (note the same word in particularly strong contexts like 2Chronicles 25:12 (bodies broken from a high fall), Amos 1:13 (massacring of expectant women), Zechariah 14:4 (splitting of the Mount of Olives), as examples). The water stood as a wall (חוֹמָה) on their right and left (the same forms of both words are used only once more, speaking of Gideon’s infantry in Judges 7:20, to describe their equipment held in either hand). The Hebrews walked on “dry land” (יַבָּשָׁה) a very specific term (taken from the root יָבֵשׁ, “to dry up”, or “wither”) indicating that the sea bottom was somehow “dewatered” and a dry surface.
There’s probably more I could add to this (I just went over the Hebrew text now and only got through v21-22). The point I think is that, if one comes to this text with a view of God’s total sovereignty over the created order, and of his purposes in saving the Hebrew people with a “strong hand and outstretched arm” (God’s preferred motif in the Pentateuch for the events of the Exodus), it is difficult not to understand the Red Sea crossing to be a truly spectacular event that cannot be entirely accounted for through a “miracle of timing” through natural forces. What’s fascinating to me is that natural forces clearly are a part of all this – there’s a strong east wind for some reason! So I think this view is perfectly parsimonious with your point – there need be no hard distinction between miracles of God worked through natural phenomena and those that seem to go far and beyond what natural phenomena would normally do. God can and does do both – harnessing the creation and the forces he decreed, while also bringing to bear his own unique power to go even beyond his regular order. I don’t think God even makes much a distinction himself – however, we as humans can and do distinguish between acts of “providence” and those that involve truly unique, spectacular phenomena (like “cleaved” seas, walking on water, and the resurrection of the dead). And I think the Bible indicate that God, at times, intentionally goes above and beyond for the purposes of making a demonstration, a “show of force” if you will, so that his people will remember these particular points in the history of redemption. That doesn’t make the “everyday miracles” any less miraculous – it simply means that God knows we are inclined to take him for granted, and periodically he does something so “over the top” that there’s no missing the point. As one commentator (who I’d rather not name) said in the documentary, “It was something God did to blow their minds.”
<font face=”inherit”>Of course, God’s reasons for performing a “spectacular miracle” are, in one sense, neither here nor there – the reason I hold to them (while not denying that there are also miracles involving the working natural </font>phenomena<font face=”inherit”> in the Exodus) is because the text of Scripture clearly describes them. Given that’s what the text states, and that the Bible clearly ascribes to God the power and wisdom necessary to perform such acts (as well as a clear </font>motivation<font face=”inherit”> to do so, in the case of the Exodus), I see no reason to prefer a “less spectacular” explanation. Cecil DeMille may not have given us the most accurate depiction, but in this particular case, I think the reason the story grabbed his artist’s mind is because it was </font><i style=”font-family: inherit;”>intended<font face=”inherit”> to do so – as Moses proclaimed to the nation at Sinai (</font>Deu<font face=”inherit”> 4:34), “</font>has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?“
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 12:11 pm
Zachary, I really like the way you have expressed the conundrum regarding ‘natural’ vs ‘miraculous’. Have a look at this thread for some thoughts re the different biblical accounts of the Red Sea crossing. https://historicalfaithsociety.com/forums/discussion/the-miraculous-sea-crossing/#post-46156 Maybe you can re-post some of your comment over there.
MemberMarch 19, 2021 at 2:48 am
Zachary, if you repost your comment or part of it on The Miraculous Sea Crossing thread (linked above) we could discuss some of your points from the text.
MemberJanuary 1, 2021 at 11:15 pm
It would be good to hear from people as to why they prefer a ‘spectacular’ supernatural Red Sea crossing, i.e. vertical walls of water, compared to a ‘naturalistic’ supernatural crossing, i.e. tidal/ wind setdown /tsunami effects.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 1:46 am
I prefer the spectacular miracle for the Red Sea crossing because the text seems to be speaking of a great miracle. In your opinion is there enough good evidence scripturally to point to a naturalistic miracle? If so, I’d love to hear it if you have the time. 🙂 May God bless you Deborah!
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 6:54 am
Thankyou for the blessing, Jevan. Every petition to God, including ‘blessing’, is a request for, and an expression of faith in, miracles. So, as noted here and on the “Are miracles still happening today?” thread, the question to a person of faith is not whether there are miracles or not. Of course there are. Rather, we might discuss whether they are ‘spectacular’ or not, and to what ‘degree’ they defy the laws of nature.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 8:35 am
Jevan, in regard to your preference for the ‘spectacular’, do you think the greatness of the miracle is the total destruction of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army OR the ‘special effects’ in regards to the water-parting? In other words, is the spectacular nature of the miracle more in the Means or the End? Which would Israel care about more? The ‘wow’ factor of the walls of water or the relief of deliverance and freedom?
MemberJanuary 9, 2021 at 7:17 am
I prefer the spectacular miracle for the Red Sea crossing because the text seems to be speaking of a great miracle. In your opinion is there enough good evidence scripturally to point to a naturalistic miracle? If so, I’d love to hear it if you have the time.
Jevan, I have a Red Sea crossing miracle which abides by the laws of nature so does not have towering vertical walls of water, and yet is still ‘spectacular’ AND is well able to have drowned an army. But it would be better in The miraculous sea crossing thread and maybe not right now. It is a subject to work up to, I think.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 2:03 am
I’ve yet to see the two movies on the Red Sea Crossing. My tight finances combined with my desire to get all the extra material in the Collectors Editions contributed to this decision to wait. However now that the Collectors Edition of the first of the films came out. I ordered it. But tracking indicates it has been stuck for a few weeks awaiting processing at a backed up postal facility. And so I wait. I’d like to get more info and came close to ordering Dr. Fritz’s books, I’ve held off repeatedly on that too. However I can say that the gulf of Aqaba according to my independent knowledge is part of a rift zone (where the earth is pulling apart). That means the area is spreading and hence sinking. (Some rift zones have magma coming to surface and make volcanoes other areas sink.) The Dead Sea just to the North is the lowest point on land on earth because of tectonic rifting. I can’t rule out some further rifting activity sucked down a bunch of water in the gulf of Aqaba into the ground. Not sure whether that angle was covered in the film or not. By itself it is a lot to ask for a rift event alone to move back a thousand feet of water. Yet the bible speaks of a wall. How high was that? Growing up on the coast I’m also familiar with waves crashing and creating walls of water where they hit. I’m not saying that was the case I’m just speculating. The Egyptians also complained that God was turning their chariot wheels. I’m not sure what that meant. Earthquake activity? Maybe the land bridge (typically underwater) was closer to the surface at that time and during the crossing the dirt started sliding deeper away, particularly as the tectonic zone could have sucked in more dirt and maybe a landslide while the Egyptians were crossing (or subsequently) decreased the height of the land bridge also making that crossing seem like a harder miracle for God to have performed. The land bridge in the past across the Aqaba might have been higher. Any number of possibilities.
However there are other miracles in the Bible that involve the sun. One of them was as a sign to Hezekiah when the sun went back seven steps it had gone down. God didn’t put the whole earth on a rewind. Later when the Babylonian envoys came to visit the recuperated Hezekiah they asked about the miracle that “had occurred in the land.”
Another miracle that is astonishing is when Joshua told the sun and the moon to stand still and it did for about a day. Yet during this time a battle was raging and God threw down massive hail stones that killed more of the enemy than the Israelites did. Question: was the sun visible during this time? This is more massive than any storm I’ve been through in my life time. So there may have been either a massive thunder storm so big that you wouldn’t even see the sun and moon, or this was a cluster of icy comet debri from out of space. In either case whether from the extreme electrical activity of a more localized storm giving light (and then clearing up a day later) or icy (even perhaps methane ice mixed in) comet debri heating up the sky enough to give light or some such thing that would both cloud up the sky and cause it to glow. I’m not giving an answer. I just know that the Israelites couldn’t have had their eyes on the sun and the moon during this time that the sky was pelting down all this material. And the Bible doesn’t say when the sky was cloudy and when it cleared up in this particular event. So in this case I’m going with overcast sky during the whole time and some form of naturalistic lighting. Even strong sun flare activity can create strong auroras that light the sky at lower latitudes. Though many of us are familiar with the glowing sky during the Carrington Event there are records in history of even stronger solar flares, solar storms hitting the earth. And astronomically such things happen on other stars too. Again a bright night that might have seemed like an adequate fulfillment of Joshua’s request which was to extend the day so he could keep on fighting.
The timing of events in the Book of Esther has no mention of God intervening or doing anything at all. Yet we see his hand. Another example, further back in time in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Ahab died because someone shot an arrow at random. Yet the prophecy of Micaiah showed this was God’s intention all along.
I suppose I could go on. We don’t understand science itself yet. We moderns act like we do but when it comes to things like quantum entanglement(?) or the existence of dark matter and dark energy, science is still unsure about all this. Most of stuff in the universe scientists say we don’t understand. Talk about matter fluctuating in and out of existence in “quantum fluctuations” … at least I don’t understand this stuff. Our universe has evidence of design. Even atheists say the universe has “the appearance of design.” Some scientists also suggest (though I don’t believe this) that other universes pop in and out of existence in these fluctuations. Which leads to the idea of us creating new universes. But if a universe can be created can’t it be then be entered into by its creator? If you can make something then you can modify it. So if God can make a universe he can enter into it or do whatever he wants in it. This leaves me wondering how anyone who believes a universe can be made by a super-intelligent being could turn around and say there is no such being that made our universe and also that miracles are impossible.
Shifting gears again. Just to toss some humor into this comment. There is as story about a poor widow in her house crying out to God to “send bread.” Some kids going by thought it would be funny to throw some bread through her open window into her house. Of course, the widow thanks God and the kids try without success to convince the widow the bread didn’t come from God but just from them. Of course we can say God used both. Paul talks about government officials doing God’s work. People might complain at times about the government doing this or that unjustly but rarely do people give thanks that total anarchy (the absence of Government) isn’t dominating our society.
So maybe this comment doesn’t answer much. However, God can use many methods to do his will. Paul the apostle, said in a speech to some unbelievers that God did things like send them food and joy.
Maybe we get used to the normal miracles. The way the body works. The way the sun gives light, heat and energy to the earth. Understanding these things is just as amazing as the seas splitting apart. But if the sea just split apart randomly we’d just have a weird phenomenon. But if this happens in a context of God’s hand being revealed to protect his fleeing people it has meaning and shows his love.
Some day I might write about the Burckle crater and its speculated correlation with Noah’s flood. I believe it, but I don’t have a bunch of scientific evidence for it really hasn’t been researched. A bit like some of the top Israeli archaeologists who believe we are “past” looking for evidence of Biblical ancient Israel, research regarding Noah’s flood has fallen out of professional academic favor among archaeologists which makes it hard to examine the scope of that flood on the land. The crater itself in the Indian ocean (12,500 feet deep or so) and eighteen miles wide or so (from memory I’m writing) hasn’t been explored. Tantalizing little bits of stuff found here and there were available to look at that give some supporting evidence for this.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 7:07 am
TD: “Maybe we get used to the normal miracles. The way the body works. The way the sun gives light, heat and energy to the earth. Understanding these things is just as amazing as the seas splitting apart. But if the sea just split apart randomly we’d just have a weird phenomenon. But if this happens in a context of God’s hand being revealed to protect his fleeing people it has meaning and shows his love.”
This paragraph stands out to me, Thomas. Love the term “normal miracles”. We are living in one big miracle made up of a gazillion miraculous phenomena. The ‘laws of nature’ by which some would like to explain away God’s hand in this are miracles in themselves. The maths, the physics, and the chemistry required for life are all amazing. God constantly manipulates those laws in ways both invisible and visible to us, usually invisible and (it seems) only occasionally visible in the present moment.
MemberJanuary 9, 2021 at 1:20 am
Hi Deborah. So far everything you wrote has been thought provoking and this is no exception. Quoting from your response above,
“The maths, the physics, and the chemistry required for life are all
amazing. God constantly manipulates those laws in ways both invisible
and visible to us, usually invisible and (it seems) only occasionally
visible in the present moment.”
I’m trying to learn the fancier features here in the reply box. Ok regarding what you said, it gets even more amazing understanding how God operates out of time. David wrote in a Psalm that all his days were written out before any of them came to be. Judas’s betrayal was prophesied in the Old Testament. There are incredible distinctions between things being pre-ordained and or just known before hand. I used to think about such things more than I do now. What did David go on to say/write? “Such things are too wonderful for me.” This is a very theological and philosophical topic (God and time). I remember hearing or seeing a response that Physicist Stephen Hawking made on the topic of whether we had freewill had or not. He didn’t think we did, but then he also thought it didn’t matter because for all intents and purposes we live like we do. I’m intrigued that Christians have the same questions about freewill and all that. The Bible even has some answers… but when you get into looking at all the scriptures some statements are simplified for human understanding. In Proverbs 16 it says stuff like “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” And another in the same chapter goes something like this. “A man’s heart plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.” And yet a few other scriptures in the New Testament speak of the Lord judging and interacting with us even through the word of God which like a sword interacts in our deepest being referencing things like bone and marrow and whatever else was written there.
Science writer and now also semi-apologist Fred Heeren once compared the different creation scenarios this way. [Whether he came up with this description or passed it on — I don’t know.] He does believe in the theory of evolution though he didn’t always. He journeyed from a young earth creationist to an intelligent design advocate to a believer in evolution. The old earth Intelligent Design view (or at least a subset of that view) has God creating different animals from scratch throughout geological time. As he transferred to a fuller acceptance of the theory of Evolution he wrestled with the thought of God’s involvement in all this. The first thought people have is that if God creates new life throughout time via special creation miracles it shows his handiwork. So compare the scenario of God creating life regularly vs him not being involved and clearly what is called “Intelligent Design” better shows God’s handiwork. Fred compared that theory to a person playing pool who takes a shot and puts a ball in the pocket. And so one thing after another shows God’s handiwork. Now that he stepped back from that theory to fully embrace evolution (if I’m representing his viewpoint correctly) he now describes God’s amazing skill as being like a pool player who takes one shot at the setup balls and gets all the balls to go in pockets with that one shot. We are just coming on the scene as humans who were born just yesterday (borrowing a line from one of Job’s friends) and we see the pool balls moving around and they look all random to us. God’s purposes are sometimes clear to us. Sometimes we are blessed physically by him. Sometimes we are bewildered as well. Listening to the Bible on CD I’m coming across some verses where God says “I am going to sweep away the righteous and the wicked.”
God’s destructive power is also miraculous at times. I think it is the Book of Lamentations where it is written something suggesting that among the nations or among the Kings of the world no one believed that the Babylonians would be able to take Jerusalem. On paper it didn’t add up. They might have remembered Hezekiah’s time when the Assyrian army took over Judah yet didn’t even get around to shooting an arrow at Jerusalem (if I’m remembering correctly). God told Jeremiah though that even if the inhabitants of Jerusalem fought bravely and defeated the entire Babylonian army and only wounded men were left that the wounded soldiers would still come out and take Jerusalem. Later Babylon was destroyed. At another time the city of Nineveh was destroyed. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.”
One of things we find in scripture is that Jesus asks us to pray for “our daily bread.” James warns us not to trust in our riches but in God. Paul even urged us to pray for leaders. He was preaching during the time of Nero, if I understand this correctly. All these things are requests for God’s provisions and not to trust our riches. David who wrote that God trained his hands for war (or wrote something like that) also said he didn’t trust in his sword. In Ecclesiastes it says something like we don’t know whether good or bad awaits us. And it says something like God doing this so that we will fear him. Wisdom is good according to scripture. Yet even so bread isn’t always to the wise. Nor the race to the swift etc. Time or chance happens to all … or you can also think of it as God’s hand. A random arrow shot by a soldier killed Ahab.
I’ve veered well off from a simple description of a miracle. Yet I think of more now. George Washington participated in the French Indian War (If I’m getting all this correct). He tried to rally his losing troops by riding back in forth in the line of battle and with his vest and jacket flying open 13 holes or so were shot through them. (There may have just been four musket balls that did all this.) In the Civil War General Grant and a few other Generals who got distracted by the planning they were doing suddenly had to flee from the area as the enemy was advancing there. General Grant wrote that one of the Generals had a horse shot out from under him, another had to flee and not pick up his hat and General Grant later discovered the sword he was wearing had gotten shattered by a musketball (and it may have protected him). So weird things happen in war too that seem like miracles. One sword not worn that day could have meant the death of the Unions’ best general and hence cost Lincoln the war and American could be two nations today which get along like India and Pakistan. Or George Washington could have been picked off and history taken yet another turn. In Ecclesiastes it says no one knows all that goes on under the sun. One could talk about the weather on D Day. Or talk about the storm that blew the Spanish Armada off course. And I’m frightened that I’m writing so much. I believe I need to stop this.
MemberJanuary 9, 2021 at 6:19 am
One sword not worn that day could have meant the death of the Unions’ best general and hence cost Lincoln the war and American could be two nations today which get along like India and Pakistan.
Thomas, it seems ‘America’ is actually approaching that horror scenario in the early 21st century! And that is as political as I will get.
I am trying to work out the features here too. I seem to have found out how to quote another post. I see there is a formatting button.
Yes, there are so many examples of the course of history being totally changed by small events that looked totally ‘natural’ and ‘random’ and yet were not. It is the historian’s art to highlight these pivot-points and their effects. This is what the Pentateuch has accomplished in highlighting the more obvious acts of God (those we call ‘miracles’), though of course there were so many more invisible interventions necessary for the whole saga to play out as planned. I like your citation of Stephen Hawking (accurate or not) regarding free will:
I remember hearing or seeing a response that Physicist Stephen Hawking made on the topic of whether we had freewill had or not. He didn’t think we did, but then he also thought it didn’t matter because for all intents and purposes we live like we do. I’m intrigued that Christians have the same questions about freewill and all that.
Divine intervention is all a mystery for sure. Also for sure is the conclusion that we cannot separate biblical events into ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’… we can only (subjectively, fallibly) opine on whether, and to what degree, each event was ‘naturalistic’ or ‘spectacular’.
MemberJanuary 10, 2021 at 5:27 am
Hi Deborah, I just woke up from a nap and before getting up I spent a few hours (it seems) pondering questions like miracles and varying degrees of whether or not they were spectacular, or highly significant, and whether they might have natural causes or truly required a more radical set aside of natural law.
A more undeniably supernatural type description of an event in the Bible is when God gave Moses the ability to throw down his staff and have it turn into a serpent. In the Bible account though, the miracle was only mildly impressive. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing with there magic arts. The scriptural account can either be seen as cute story inserted into a legend or this minor “miracle” shows God at work, also allowing a high level spiritual adversary (Satan?) to do powerful work in this world. It is a little cute little story in the Bible (“The Battle Of The Staffs?”) and this requires acceptance of the idea that the universe we are in is just a part of a larger picture, larger forces and larger powers outside what we typically see and personally observe through our senses. Yet again, it is a rather mundane miracle in the overall scheme of things. Perhaps it is just powerful enough to allow Moses to keep having an audience with Pharaoh whenever he chooses.
A powerful miracle in the Bible is Elijah building/(repairing?) an altar on the top of a hill and pouring water all over and around the offering and then fire falling from heaven consuming it all. Yet we think top of hill? Where would lightning strike? And like Hezekiah we might think something like “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go forward ten steps, rather make it go back.” Though lightning is spectacular to our modern way of thinking it certainly wouldn’t be considered miraculous. We know about lightning and even any number of comet or asteroid remnants could explain such a fall of fire from the sky.
Sampson having super strength might be considered miraculous. Jesus healing people and the apostles healing people… while considered miraculous to modern humans aren’t really typically the target of Biblical and anti-supernatural critics because we have all heard of various stories of healings and even read about dead people coming back to life if they weren’t dead too long.
Jesus cautioned or greatly criticized against miracle mongering. “A wicked and adulteress generation seeketh after a sign and none will be given it…”
I’m not saying that is what is going on here in this discussion. Most of the motivation for the conversation we are having here is just to see if the Bible account is reasonable in various contexts.
Some of the super-long lifespans of the lineage of Adam through Jacob are startling. I’ve wrestled with that question and I now tentatively accept the earlier long life spans of humans from Adams line. From a scientific standpoint would just a longer chain of something called “telemeres(?)” and maybe another genetic modification or two be sufficient to explain such a thing? The problem with being a deep thinker is that I can make a powerful case either way. Working from Joseph and Jacob backwards through Abraham I can kind of see the long life spans in scripture continuing back. When Jacob was introduced to Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked about how old he was and Jacob answered that his days were “few” compared to his ancestors. Yet I was also prepared to see the round numbers in the early genealogies and its rounding of numbers to hundreds, tens and fives and the other numbers obtained by just adding a seven onto a number that ended in five or zero. That is statistically improbable. I’m not saying it is wrong, just that it could be genre thing. And various uses of the number seven in scripture appear to be imprecise. I think there was a scripture somewhere saying David was the seventh son of Jesse. Yet he really was the eighth. In the story of Samuel coming to anoint on of Jesse’s sons it says that Jesse brought his seven sons before Samuel and Samuel told him “The Lord has chosen none of these. Do you have another?” I don’t want to get too bogged down about all this. When the scripture later mentions David being the seventh son … there could be all sorts of explanations and it really isn’t important to me. What is important is that some issues can’t be easily answered. Some things would be nice to have nailed down. For example if I could nail down the date of the Biblical flood perhaps the earth’s orbit could be fixed to where it was at that time and it could be determined if it also happened to be crossing the dead center of a dangerous meteor stream, which is beginning to be believed to have many dangerous possible impact objects. On a related note, slowly and steadily the idea of comet impact on the North American ice sheet roughly about 12,850 years or so (if my memory is correct) is gaining traction. Several critics of the theory have flipped to embrace it. Other critics lament that the theory is like a zombie theory. The critics who boast they have killed the theory then keep seeing it coming back from the dead. Hence some of them have ridiculed the theory as “zombie.” This theory called The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis is now being pushed or supported by over 50 scientists in different scientific disciplines. I’m not saying this was the cause of Noah’s flood. Way too many directions for this conversation to go in here. If the Historical Faith Society continues to grow in numbers and if a certain number of people with a particular interest in “really early history” have an interest in the topic and want to participate maybe a separate group could be spun off. This topic would be more than looking backwards in time to astronomical or special events in scripture it could also look forward. Much of the book of Revelation deals with what now can be seen through a scientific lens. The book Comets of God is highly researched, but also has a tone of high redundancy and is a bit boring. Yet it has some high reviews by knowledgeable people for its content.
The Bible predicts some really spectacular things to happen … which until now probably sounded fantastic. Now so many scriptures that seemed impossible to fulfill can … with just one disrupted Centaur entering the inner solar system in an earth crossing orbit create havoc. Typically in the past I might read in Isaiah about the whole world reeling like a drunkard and not understand it … but it can really happen. A good thump from a significant size object from out of space will create shaking around the whole earth. I’m not going to get too deep into all that here.
Some miracles like Moses throwing down his staff will just to have to keep being thought of as miracles. Some miracles end up being understood in a scientific context. Maybe we just have to be careful not to put God in a box. We who tend towards embracing science may need to allow that God can act in ways that break physical laws. Those who tend towards wanting to see things in a more spectacular display of God’s power may need to see that God has already displayed his power and can use the laws he has already set up. In the Psalms the “works of the Lord” includes things like storms coming and going and weather patterns changing and switching up well-watered areas and previously dry areas. I’m stressing this latter point because some don’t want to examine God’s role in things that appear mundane. Young Earth Creationists are often good at pointing out the marvels of some very complex life forms. (Now maybe some evolutionists do this too … but likely most of them don’t give explicit credit to God.) Some evolutionists (I think) don’t want to talk or write too much about miraculous features of life because it is difficult to explain the origin of this and fear it might give support to some version of creationism or intelligent design.
These are the type of comments I can get away with making in this rather quiet backwater on the internet where I haven’t encountered excessive hostility from anyone to anyone else. Yes, a little bit of stuff was thrown at you Deborah a while back, but it wasn’t horrid.
Yet as time goes on remarks like the one I just made will start getting pushback from people who have had wonderful teaching/learning experiences with teachers who were fully secular and enjoyed pointing out the marvels of the universe, even if they didn’t see or realize God was behind it. Or maybe someone had in their spirit a sense of God, but swapped that aspect out for something else or put a new label on their spiritual thoughts due to some indoctrination. Also, I’m not entirely confident how accurately I’m understanding the current state of teaching or if I’ve been more indoctrinated by a prior background of listening to Christians belittle evolutionists in one way or another.
You referenced the (politically?) polarized atmosphere of America in something you wrote. There are a lot of topics that people have strong and one-sided opinions on. There is a scary context in which discussion seems not to be allowed. Now people are using the term “Cancel Culture.” Is it though much different from certain Christian circles? One scholar who you had a disagreement with seemed to be from such a background … and though I can’t quote exactly what he said – the idea was that no such questioning of a teachers authority (or rather his/her specific teaching?) was allowed in his educational circle. Maybe I’m overstating it — and hopefully I am. But whether or not I am, charity to those with different opinions is going to be needed. I’ve been a prolific commenter (on just a handful of blogs) over the years. And I’m greatly aware of the need for accuracy and balance in making comments. And you Deborah have got decent skill in making comments and I’ve enjoyed the various bits of knowledge that you’ve shared. And by no means am I saying “decent skill” in a demeaning way. So far this Discussion area of HFS has been a nice quiet backwater. (I got my start online in an entirely uncensored religion/science oriented forum where anyone could share views. Became kind of a long-time pen pall of one of the atheists there and married one of the few Christian women who participated there. )
I look up at all I wrote and understand it might be too long, and probably too wordy. What I write I understand others will read and for that reason this comment may be triple the length it would be if I was just writing for an audience of one. I apologize for any laziness or unwillingness yet, to start segmenting my thoughts by starting a separate comment. A while back you remarked to me about how the replies can get complicated. (It was in the context when I hadn’t mentioned Doug’s name when I failed to put my reply in the screen under his comment.)
Yet, now that I’ve gone up above and edited my writing a bit and added just a few things, I feel less apologetic now. I have frequently over the years composed long posts or comments and then just dread what I wrote, or find I’m unsure anything good will come and I just trash it. Usually, I have fair amount of enthusiasm about posting but I sometimes get to a stage where I find 8 or as many as 13 straight posts I have worked on that I just delete without posting and I think God is giving me a hint to stop this. Even this particular comment has taken me hours to complete. Around 36 years ago I was in a Spokesman Club and had to give a speech introducing myself. I was quiet and my sister told me, “You should tell them you don’t say very much.” I sporadically write a lot. I finally got The Red Sea Crossing Collectors Edition Volume 1. Right near the end they had about a five second clip of you and Tim. It was perhaps a teaser clip or a bridge to transition to part II. This very topic was mentioned by you as you questioned him back. Sometimes David waxes a bit poetic in the Psalms. And was it Mirriam’s song that referenced walls of water? Was there any optical effects at the time of the crossing that looks like walls of water? Some scriptures are human centric. Two great lights in the sky. One actually isn’t a light, but merely reflects. Lots of things are really brighter, but they are far away. Being overly literal with the Bible isn’t always the best answer. “This is the last hour.” Yes, it is perhaps true literally if you stand at the edge of a blackhole and the intense relativistic affects of super strong gravity bring time to a near stop. But I doubt John had that in mind when he wrote that. Maybe I’ve spent four hours writing this comment. Let me leave this comment as it is…
MemberJanuary 10, 2021 at 5:50 am
I wrote above, “It is a little cute little story” but I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t saying it didn’t happen. I’m more inclined to believe it (But still I think it is a “cute” story) or a cute incident. Rather the fact a miracle like this would have occurred, and this type of thing is NOT frequent in the Bible, does (in my mind) attest to the importance of this whole battle in human history but most importantly as a key incident in God setting the stage for his working out of great things. I think one of the scholars in the film on the crossing of the sea part one, pointed out that God wasn’t merely planning to get the Israelites out, he really wanted to make a statement about his great power. That bit of logic can be used to support a more spectacular crossing.
I’m not an expert on the crossing, so I don’t feel qualified to offer an opinion at this time. I haven’t even looked at all the scriptures to see their contexts. A celebratory song could be one way to look at it. Other scriptures talk about a wall of water that have a different context? I’m not sure on all that. Haven’t even looked up that word “wall” yet. And do I care right at the moment? Not really. I’ve spent a long time at the computer and I’ve likely neglected a number of household tasks. Failing drastically to fulfill family responsibilities is quite warned against in scripture. And I’ve got a lot of failings in that area. But whatever. I might look all this up another time. I feel like I’ve got to moderate or curtail all this writing I’m doing. Yet on the other hand I’m good at it and these discussion forums could use another knowledgeable (or less knowledgeable) voice than yours. You’ve carried a significant amount of the energy in creating discussion.
MemberJanuary 10, 2021 at 6:22 am
There are a lot of new ideas in your post, Thomas, and each of them could start a discussion. Yes, I have puzzled over the rod/snake miracle, and why the Egyptian magicians could do it, and also turn water to blood, and could produce frogs but not gnats (I would think gnats were rather easier to conceal in pot or sleeve).
I finally got The Red Sea Crossing Collectors Edition Volume 1. Right near the end they had about a five second clip of you and Tim. It was perhaps a teaser clip or a bridge to transition to part II. This very topic was mentioned by you as you questioned him back.
Yes, that little clip was a ‘teaser’ for RSM II. You will see more of me when you get the next collectors edition. For that interview, I didn’t expect to be answering questions regarding miracles or the pillar of cloud and fire. I am glad I did the ‘Jewish’ thing and answered a question with a question… and look! we have this whole discussion out of it! My specialty is the wilderness itinerary, but as I recall there were not many questions on that. I wait to see what Tim and Steve create for the next in the Patterns of Evidence series, The Journey to Mount Sinai.
MemberJanuary 11, 2021 at 2:41 am
Hi Deborah. I watched THE RED SEA MIRACLE part 1 and the nearly eight hours of extra bonus or indepth material in the Collectors Edition yesterday and during the night. While I’m a bit overwhelmed with all that I saw from everyone, I think there were three or more segments where you were adding your thoughts and giving information on a variety of topics in the other four or so DVD’s. There was a section on the number of people who were involved in the Exodus, a section on the route of the journey after leaving Sinai … and I’m forgetting something else. In all cases you presented yourself well. Yet Tim Mahoney masterfully assembled a variety of viewpoints and there were a number of other scholars who shown presenting their views. Some of the views were similar to yours and some were different. If you haven’t ordered the Collectors edition I think it would be worthwhile. As a rough guess perhaps there was three minutes of discussions with you in the extra material.
MemberJanuary 11, 2021 at 2:56 am
Thomas, I have yet to order my Collector’s Editions for RSM I and II. There are 8 hours of extra material for RSM I?! I have only seen what made it into the documentaries. I look forward to seeing all the other interviews. This is a vast field.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 10:12 am
Deborah, I would say the greatness in the miracle would be both. Or, I should say that it should be both. The spectacular sign of Gods ability to protect them and to show them that they are that special to Him should be heart warming. Taking out Pharaoh and his army should be another sign of love and a warning to the people that they should follow and obey God and those who don’t will end up being destroyed in the end. It also shows us that God performs many signs to led the sinner to God and that His mercies will end eventually. I think Israel should care about both. Israel was commanded multiple times to not forget what God had done for them during this time. We see that this is important to God also and He sees these events as special and something to be remembered. The means and the end would be an amazing sign to those who live in the land that Israel is commanded to conquer. I think the bigger the miracle the more God shows himself as merciful to the people groups who live in the land that Israel will possess. If God parted the sky and told the world to give today’s Jews all of their old land back or else God would destroy them. The people who would fight against God and the Jews would be considered in the wrong because they did not obey God. The miracle would be so big that they would be without excuse. I think what God did in Egypt, the Red Sea and even into the conquest was so spectacular and amazing that Israel and the those in the land should have obeyed God. Not only did God do spectacular miracles but the miracles that could be considered natural were done to show that God has power over the fake gods of Egypt.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 10:23 am
Jevan, when replying to a particular post you need to hover the cursor over the R corner of the post and click the Reply arrow when it shows, and then the reply won’t ‘fall’ to the bottom of the forum.
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 10:35 am
Thank you Deborah! 🙂
MemberJanuary 7, 2021 at 10:55 am
Jevan, I understand why you expect the ‘spectacular’ in both the Means (the water-parting) and the End (the destruction of Pharaoh). But weigh against that the reality that many ‘miracles’ of the exodus era were not particularly ‘spectacular’ even in their description. The quails, for example, behave just as described in the Sinai Peninsula. Water that may be accessed by striking a rockface is a feature of limestone karstic systems. The Jordan River crossing is commonly accepted to be caused by a landslide of the marl in the Jordan Valley near Tall Damiya (biblical town of Adam) as a result of an earthquake, also common in the Rift Valley. And an earthquake also probably brought down the walls of Jericho. Now, a city collapsing in an earthquake in the Rift Valley is ‘spectacular’ I guess, but not really surprising. The miracle is in the timing. What are the odds of a major earthquake happening after the Israelites’ 7th circuit of the city on the 7th day?
MemberJanuary 8, 2021 at 4:18 am
Regarding the water from a rock, there is this amusing account by a 20th-century explorer of the Negev and Sinai:
Jarvis, Claude S. Yesterday and Today in Sinai. London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1938. pp. 174-75. Read online at:
 “The striking of the rock at Rephidim by Moses and the gushing forth of the water sounds like a veritable miracle, but the writer has actually seen it happen. Some of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a wadi and were digging in the loose gravel accumulated at one of the rocky sides to obtain water that was slowly trickling through the limestone rock. The men were digging in the loose gravel accumulated at one of the rocky sides to obtain water that was slowly trickling through the limestone rock. The men were working slowly, and the Bash Shawish, the Colour-Sergeant, said, “Give it to me,” and seizing a shovel from one of the men he  began to dig with great vigour, which is the way with N.C.O.’s the world over when they wish to show their men what they can do, and have, incidentally, no intention of carrying on for more than two minutes. One of his lusty blows hit the rock, when the polished hard face that forms on weathered limestone cracked and fell away, exposing the soft porous rock beneath, and out of the porous rock came a great gush of clear water. It is regrettable that these Sudanese Camel Corps, who were well up in the doings of all the prophets and who were not particularly devout, hailed their N.C.O. with shouts of “What ho, the Prophet Moses!” This is a very feasible explanation of what happened when Moses struck the rock at Rephidim, and, what is more, Moses–being an extraordinarily knowledgable man–had probably a very shrewd idea that something of the sort would happen.”
His point about Moses’ local experience is supported in the detail that Moses had been a shepherd in this same wilderness for 40 yrs before liberating the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. He probably knew all about how to discern and access water from the karstic channels in the limestone bedrock. This also puts a new interpretation on Moses’ sin in striking the rock when he was instructed on the later occasion to just speak to it (Num 20:2-13). In effect, God was insisting Moses do a ‘real’ miracle, by *not* striking the rock. Moses struck the rock anyway, claiming that “we” (he and Aaron) had produced the water and berating the people for their anxiety. In the circumstances, this would indicate that Moses did not believe that water from limestone was a miracle and also did not expect water to come without a good whack on the rockface.
MemberJanuary 8, 2021 at 11:49 am
Do you believe that there were any supernatural miracles during that time?
MemberJanuary 8, 2021 at 7:29 pm
These events were ALL miracles, from the mundane to the spectacular. They were all timed and manipulated by God to have the desired effect. But note they are all economical in “special effects”. Nothing is more spectacular than it needs to be. The means serve the ends. This is what distinguishes the biblical stories from pagan myths… the contextual plausible reality. God doesn’t rain literal bread (baked and buttered) from heaven. Manna is probably the sweet exudations from the tamarisk which is abundant throughout the region. The water comes out of the ground (and the rockface) in the usual way for the region. People die from plagues (probably gastro after the quail), always a problem in a large population living close together, and not, say, by lightning strikes. The meat provided is quail (genius! local, seasonal, mobile). The Jordan is interrupted in the usual way, earthquake. Jericho fell to an earthquake in the Rift Valley. The spectacular judgement on Korah et al was probably also an earthquake effect, right over a fault line where the earth can open and close. This whole region near the Rift Valley is riven with fault lines. But yes, these are all miracles because the exodus event was foundational to God’s salvation plan and the biblical narrative. Noting a known mechanism does not detract from the power and significance of the miracle. And isn’t this exactly the way things work in our own lives? Isn’t this the work of faith, to see ‘normal’, ‘natural’ developments for the acts of God that they really are?
MemberJanuary 10, 2021 at 5:38 pm
Does proof that Jericho’s walls fell and the city burned prove either way that God did or didn’t have anything to do with it? Only two gps of people know that answer; –those on both sides of the wall when it fell.
Is it a miracle that the Egyptian army drowned in the depths of the Red Sea as walls of water caved in on them, or in 6 inches of mud water 200 miles NW of it? –Either could be argued to be or not be a miracle even given absolute evidence of either.
What we absolutely can’t do is disprove God’s “miracles”. Everything he does however can be scoffed at in an attempt to explain away the presence of God, to worship “TIME” instead which all by itself according to faithless science is declared to be naturally responsible everything anyway.
Is love a spiritual or a chemical reaction? Do we have faith or not? In what? Are we free or not? Do we have choice or not? “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16-9
MemberJanuary 10, 2021 at 7:49 pm
James, the historical quality of the biblical accounts is one thing… whether the events described were acts of God is another. It was common in the ANE to attribute historical events to the gods. Nearly all accounts of military campaigns invoke and credit the gods for both victories and defeats. The Hebrew scriptures are not exceptional in that regard. Our task is to decide if the claims of the Hebrew scriptures are more credible than those on the monuments of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
On your point re Jericho, the existence of a destruction layer is not proof that God had anything to do with it. But, if that destruction layer is in the right archaeological era (according to the standard chronology it is not) it is evidence that the biblical account (at least in this instance and detail) is historical.
On your point re the drowning of the Egyptian army, the men and horses could not drown in a small depth of water, so I consider all crossing sites in the north of the Suez Isthmus to be very doubtful. I will post something over in The miraculous sea crossing to start discussion.
MemberFebruary 1, 2021 at 8:05 am
Last week we previewed the January focus video on the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. It was an excellent video. In the footage, Mr. Mahoney interviews Eric Lembcke, who pointed out that if you undermine one miracle (like the Red Sea crossing), you make room to undermine all of the Biblical miracles (especially Jesus’ Resurrection, the hallmark of our faith).
We were reminded of that point this morning, during our daily family worship/Bible time. In reading Mark 4, the disciples are on a boat that is tossed to and fro by the wind and waves of a huge storm. They awoke Jesus, who was asleep in the boat. The raging sea and howling wind immediately ceased when Jesus said “Peace, be still”. Conservative commentaries, like Matthew Henry and Charles Spurgeon, describe this for what it is, a miracle. The disciples, according to the text, even marveled at the supernatural power of this man that could stop the power of the storm and sea. Being both God and man, such supernatural ability was in his power.
Thank you @Tim Mahoney and @Eric Lembcke.
“…<font size=”2″ face=”Arial, Helvetica”>the ship that has Christ in it, though it may be tossed, cannot sink”–Matthew Henry </font>
MemberFebruary 2, 2021 at 8:09 am
<font face=”Verdana”>It is a painful fact, that there are never lacking professing Christians who try to explain away our Lord’s miracles. They endeavor to account for them by natural causes, and to show that they were not worked by any extraordinary power…</font>The best and simplest answer to such skeptical objections, is a reference to the plain narratives of the Gospels…
J.C. Ryle, Commentary on Mark
MemberMarch 14, 2021 at 9:15 pm
Supernatural Miracle Alert:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on1 its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! (Joshua 10:12-14 NIV)
Or a natural one?:
As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. (Joshua 10:11 NIV)
These miracles are both part of the same account. Joshua and the Israelites routed the Amorites. Question what was the duration and nature of this event that caused large hailstones to rain down on the Amorites and kill more Amorites than the swords of the Israelites? Did this all happen with clear skies? Were the Israelites clearly seeing the sun and moon stand still while large hail was pelting down? I don’t recollect ever being in a deadly hailstorm. Was there massive electrical activity in the sky lighting up the sky for such a long duration that would have provided light for the fleeing and pursuing armies? Would the sky have been so dark that it would have shielded the view of the sun and moon? How many people reading this have experienced such a deadly hail storm before? Of maybe instead of a massive earth based storm producing these huge hail storms there was a comet debri field, and comets are mostly liquid (water) based. This is what is suggested by Jeffrey Goodman Ph.D. in his book Comets Of God.
MemberMarch 14, 2021 at 9:30 pm
All miracles are supernatural by definition, Thomas, unless we are using the term so loosely as to mean ‘unusual [natural] event’. I think our confusing terminology may drive the debate about miracles to some degree, and also our ignorance about what is actually possible according to the natural laws of the universe and what is not.
Those are all good questions and suggestions regarding the Joshua event. I have no idea what that may all be about. For the hail to be part of the same “sun and moon” event does indicate some major local disruption. For the sun and moon to be visible at once (if that’s what’s implied by the moon ‘stopping’) it would have to be close to sundown, yet the record says midday. So it is very confusing.
MemberMarch 14, 2021 at 10:29 pm
Deborah, the moon is hard to see during mid day, but looking carefully I can sometimes find it.
I didn’t think of this till you mentioned it. But if we can get some idea of the relative locations Joshua was at when he noted the position of the sun and the moon this can help narrow down the time of month when this event took place. Someone would have to figure out where Joshua was standing and the relative positions of the moon and the sun which were said to be over.
"Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."
In another comet I just made I noted how some astronomers had retro-calculated the position of Halley’s comet making an extremely close pass by the earth. They had a date. But then again unless the date can retrocalculate the position of the moon (which is easy enough to do) the comet might have a wide tail and maybe a debri field that isn’t exactly on center with the core of the comet. And then you have a different date in mind for the Exodus… I think…
This is like a big puzzle with lot’s of pieces to put together. Maybe I should get some sleep?
MemberMarch 14, 2021 at 10:30 pm
Umm… I made a funny typo. “in another comet” I meant in another comment.
MemberMarch 15, 2021 at 12:41 am
ah I was thinking of the full moon, but the Joshua account doesn’t specify, does it? This moon and sun event is the main example people give of an undeniable cosmos-disrupting large-scale spectacular miracle. They may be right. But that does not dismiss the many less spectacular miracles that have a plausible natural explanation.
MemberMarch 16, 2021 at 8:01 pm
Mr. Ken Ham, president, CEO, and founder of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter, (which, by the way, if you haven’t gone to the Ark or the Creation Museum, they’re something worth visiting. They are absolutely top-of-the-line museums.), once stated that everyone seems to know when a day doesn’t mean a day (in reference to a literal 6 24-hour day Creation), but nobody can tell him when a day does mean a day.
In the the same vein, it seems everyone knows when a miracle is not a “spectacular supernatural miracle.” Can anybody say when a miracle is a “spectacular supernatural miracle” then? And how do we know? What is the difference? What objective authority is appealed to? There has to be one, absolute objective standard. Unfortunately, fallen man’s mind is not it. What about the Resurrection, the hallmark of our Christian faith? If all the other miracles of God’s Bible can be explained away supposedly by natural causes, then what basis do we have to assume the Resurrection was different? The events are in the same Book, written by the same Author. Of course, Christians should not believe the Resurrection was just a natural occurrence, so we need to consider seriously where this thinking leads. Jesus inspired Paul to write,
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins…if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable”(1 Corinthians 15:17, 19).
Is this what we want to be?
MemberMarch 17, 2021 at 12:46 am
H Family, I agree that the judgement on whether a miracle is spectacular or not is quite subjective. Thus, what may be an amazing conversion (or confirmation) experience to one person may be unimpressive to another, as we see all the time in the varying perception of miracles throughout the Bible. But all miracles, ordinary or extraordinary, invisible or visible, explicable or non-explicable, are acts of God. Even trying to decide which events in human history are miracles or not is a pointless venture… God ‘fiddles with the dials’ all the time, as I understand it. If not, what is the point of praying for any change, whether in soul or circumstance?
Christ’s resurrection was absolutely a miracle. And a spectacular one at that. And even then there were many who did not believe. We do not need to make all miracles spectacular in order to defend those that are. If there is a natural mechanism that God has used to effect His purpose, well, fine, why not? The exodus was a miraculous enterprise from the start (except there was no start because the whole saga had been set up over generations beforehand) and many of the divine provisions for that migration go almost unremarked in the text. For example, the deaths of the three sibling leaders, Miriam at Kadesh, Aaron at Mount Hor, Moses at Mount Nebo. Perfect timing, but not really ‘spectacular’ as, say, a resurrection would be.
So there is no “absolute objective standard” for ‘grading’ miracles. There are all sorts of divine interventions; probably most of them go completely unnoticed and yet are miraculous all the same. You don’t need to be threatened by these observations… it can be just as reverent an attitude to see how God manipulates His own creation to bring about His will.
MemberMarch 17, 2021 at 12:46 am
(quoting the H Family) “Mr. Ken Ham, president of… once stated
that everyone seems to know when a day doesn’t mean a day (in reference
to a literal 6 24-hour day Creation), but nobody can tell him when a
day does mean a day.”
I don’t think I can answer that either. Most people familiar with all these type of discussions are probably familiar with all the discussions on various sides about the Hebrew word YOM (day) and also whether it is linked to ordinals.
Reading Genesis 1 in the Hebrew is kind of cool. Whatever your view on it, the words are specially crafted and it is BEYOND a typical prose account. I’m not saying that to prove or disprove exactly how literal it is to be understood.
There is a well-known scripture in Peter where Peter states that with God a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. Yet, I feel stretching out the Genesis days into these time frames doesn’t work well from any perspective. It can be done, but, to me, it just creates as many problems as it tries to solve.
Each of the creation days are concluded with “And there was evening, and there was morning — the [first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth] day.” The Hebrew days start at sunset. I was confused until about an hour ago why the scripture ended along those lines. I don’t think these passages are meant to indicate the conclusion of each day. Now, I’m looking at it from a different perspective having just heard some talk about the documentary hypothesis. I don’t really buy into the hypothesis, but one of the people talking about it noted that editors compiling the Bible followed a principle of maximum conservation of the original texts, even if storyflow would get disrupted or seeming contradictions would get introduced.
From that perspective the Genesis creation account perspective makes more sense. The days are mentioned apart from what was created each day. Each day itself starts at evening [continues all night] and has a morning [which continues for the rest of the day, until evening] and then the Hebrew day changes. Jewish people and the many observers of the Biblical Sabbath all start their observance of Sabbath at Sunset. Many Christians prefer to rest on Sunday, and Paul pointed out another valid view is to consider “every day alike.” (Romans 14:5,6)
I’m not touching the creation account in this comment, but just reflecting a little bit about days and hours. I just wanted to expand the topic beyond the well-trodden arguments that have typified the debate over how to interpret Genesis 1’s days.
Hours in scripture, are subject to a kind of time-warp in a few scriptures. Most clearly “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18 NIV) Linguistic parsing beyond my ability is needed to discern whether hours in scriptural text are meant to be literal or figurative, or hyperbolic (or whatever words experts could apply to explain) in clarifying this matter. Context and science, for me are helpful in understanding this scripture. One doesn’t need to be an Einstein to know that we aren’t in the last literal hour. We’ve all lived a number of hours. We can make the scripture fit our understanding without trying to develop linguistic rules for how hours should be interpreted in scripture. If someone made a solid scriptural, Biblical and literary argument for John’s “last hour” to be taken in an extreme literal sense, we’d all reject it because it makes no sense. Even John could not have meant it literally because no one would have been able to read it. The letter could not have even been delivered within an hour.
Another scripture in Revelation has ten kings (Revelation 17:11) who will reign one hour with the beast. Though reading the passage my mind automatically tries to take this in a literalistic fashion, I’m not sure if any political event of such short duration would warrant wasting space in scripture. I certainly am not going to stake anything on a literal one hour for the reign of the ten kings. In our modern society, bound by electronics, a lot can happen in an hour, but I’m inclined not to view this literally, but to me the science has settled that John’s “last hour” can not be determined by examining textual usages of “hour.”
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 8:28 am
At the very end of John chapter 5, Jesus told His listeners that if they refused to believe what Moses had written in the Torah, they would not believe His own words either; for Moses had written about Him. It’s interesting to note that in the next three chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus pulls three specific events from Moses’ written history of Israel’s wilderness-wanderings (all three of which were miracles — defined by Noah Webster as “an event or effect contrary to the established constitution or course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event … effected only by the direct agency of Almighty power, and not by natural causes”); and He uses those three miracles to illustrate a spiritual truth about Himself and His work. This is spoken of by Frederick Brotherton Meyer, a British preacher that is remembered for his evangelism and mission work on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 1800s and early 1900s; he authored numerous articles and 75 books, biographies, and devotional commentaries on the Bible. In his two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, he states:
The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the march of the pilgrim hosts through the desert, fed by manna for their food; supplied with water from the smitten rock for their thirst; guided by a pillar of cloud which had at its heart a torch of fire – though this was only apparent when night had veiled the glaring light of the sun, and it brooded tranquilly over the camp. Our Lord compared Himself to the first of these symbols in the sixth chapter [of John], to the second in the seventh, and to the third in this [eighth chapter]. He declares that to all the pilgrim hosts of men, He is what the cloud – with its heart of fire – was to that [group] of desert-wanderers.
As to its functions, the work of the fire-cloud was threefold – to lead, to shield, and to illumine.
1. It led. The wilderness was a trackless waste to the hosts of Israel, and they were absolutely dependent on the cloud to show their path, and to find out a resting-place each night… When the cloud gathered itself up from the Tabernacle on which it brooded, the hosts must strike their tents and follow. However desirable the site of the camp, they must leave it. However difficult the desert paths, they must traverse them. However uninviting the spot where it stopped, they must halt there, and remain just so long as it tarried… The cloud might be taken up by day or by night; but there was no choice except to follow, or to wander in a trackless waste and die. For the manna fell, and the water flowed, and the Divine protection was enjoyed – only where the cloud rested.
2. It shielded – for, probably, when the people had pitched their tents on some exposed and scorched plain, it unfolded itself like a vast canopy; its base resting on the Tabernacle which stood in the midst of the camp, whilst its fleecy folds were spread out so as to screen the furthest extremities of the camp from the overpowering heat of the noontide sun.
3. It gave light. Whilst the camp was hushed in deep slumber, it watched over it like the eye of God. The people had no need of the sun by day, or of the moon by night; for the Lord had become their everlasting Light, and the days of their mourning might have been ended. There was a sense in which there was no night there, and they needed not candle or beacon-fire or torch; for the Lord God gave them light. Following the cloud, they had no need to abide in darkness; they already possessed the light of life.
All this, the Lord Jesus is willing to be to us! In Him, all the fullness dwells. In His many-sided nature, God has made all grace to abound – that we, having all-sufficiency in all things, should be abundantly filled and satisfied out of Him! In days of doubt, He will be our Guide; in days of trial, our Covert and Shade; in days of darkness, our Light.
Jesus clearly believed that Moses’ record of events – particularly the miracles – associated with the Exodus and wilderness-wanderings of the children of Israel were real historical happenings; and more than once, He used these miracles to paint a clearer picture of the real nature of His spiritual ministry and work for His people. Again, a miracle, by definition, is “a wonderful happening that is above, against, or independent of the known laws of nature” (Thorndike Dictionary). If one supposes that Moses’ record of these miraculous phenomena, like the cloudy and fiery pillar, did not really happen in the way that he described them; then doesn’t that undermine the authority of Jesus’ teachings? For example, He used the pillar of cloud and fire to show us how He is our spiritual Guide, Shade, and Light. But if that cloudy and fiery pillar was not really what the Old Testament describes it to be, then how could anyone ever be sure that Jesus really meant what He said when He used that pillar as a picture of Himself and His work?
“Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
– Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords, Sovereign Creator of the universe, Absolute Standard of truth, and Co-Author (with the Father and the Holy Spirit) of the inerrant Holy Scriptures
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 9:44 am
H Family: A devotional work of the 19th century, no matter how inspirational, is pre-archaeology, and even largely pre-exploration, and is, therefore of little value for historical or geographical insight. The writer exhibits a lack of knowledge of the wilderness regions of the exodus and wanderings. Just picking up on a few statements that ask to be challenged:
1. The wilderness was, and is not, a trackless waste. There were established ancient roads which are named in the texts. e.g. Way of Shur, Way of the Red Sea etc. For geographical reasons, these roads remained in use and unchanged for millennia. Even now they are paved for cars or graded as jeep tracks. The water-points are also long-established, and although degraded over the millennia, are still known today. The only times the Israelites made ‘dry’ camps is when traversing regions where the water-sources were very far spaced. These stretches are specified in the texts (3 days in the Wilderness of Etham, 3 days in the Wilderness of Paran, and I can add three more sections in the itinerary where the water sources are more than a day apart and hence no named stations are listed). If the cloud was their auto-pilot, why did Moses invite Hobab the Midianite to join the nation in order to advise them “where we should camp in the wilderness, and… serve as eyes for us”?
2. The water from the rock did not appear at every station despite the ‘reverse’ interpretation of the highly theological imagery of 1 Cor 10:4 “For they all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” The rock was struck for water twice: at Mount Sinai from which it flowed to Rephidim (Ex 17), and at Kadesh (Num 20), both occasions when it is specified that there was no water in the place. The other water ‘crises’ were met at Marah by sweetening bitter water with a tree (Ex 15), and at Beer by digging a well (Num 21). Other than that, the people got water in the usual way, from springs, wells, rock pools, cisterns (few of these until they got to Canaan), and mostly by digging in the wadi-beds for groundwater for their flocks, as the Amalekites did before them, and the Bedouin do even today.
3. The image of a cloud that spreads out to cover the furthest extremities of the camp at all times is a romantic image, and would be tremendously convenient, but is not so described in the many descriptions throughout the narrative. The only reference to the cloud covering them is in Psa 105:39 (and even there it gives no exact extent or details of the constancy or otherwise of such cover). As discussed elsewhere, there is a difference between the prosaic accounts of the narratives and the poetic references of the psalms and prophets. The events of the exodus and wanderings did really happen in the way that Moses described them (he had a scientific bent) but not quite in the way that the poets and prophets reinterpreted them for theological and devotional purposes. The conditions were harsh. Every single person of the exodus generation except for a select few were dead by age 60.
The dualistic idea of ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ is an artifact of our modern scientific expectations. It’s all supernatural, as Rob Bell says “everything is spiritual”… we are living in a miracle, spinning through airless waterless frigid space in a highly engineered survival pod under the constant supervision and intervention of the Holy Spirit. We can hardly discern which events are “above, against, or independent of the known laws of nature”, though there are a few we can be sure of. Raising the dead, the sun standing still (that’s if there isn’t another explanation for what actually happened), instant healings, multiplying the loaves and fish… these would all be clear divine interventions and disruptions in the expected course of events. But as I keep pointing out, there are scores of happenings in the biblical saga that would pass as ‘normal’ events (e.g. the deaths of the three leaders each at the perfect time and place) but are in fact divine interventions in no less a manner than the more ‘obvious’ phenomena of the story. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This is another time when Moses clearly stated the agent and process. But God also sent the king of Edom out against them (Num 20) to make them take the long way to Canaan, and the king of Arad to break the confidence of the Canaanites, and so on. These are all miracles. Why do we get worried if someone shows an agent or mechanism for some of them? What, the story has to be full of inexplicable special effects or our faith is in danger?
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 10:46 am
We realize that our example of Frederick Brotherton Meyer many seem to some as “pre-archaeology, and even pre-exploration, and is, therefore, of little value for historical or geographical insight.” However, can anyone from HFS tell us if there is another Rob Bell that is being referred to as an authority of supernatural or Biblical events or is this the same Rob Bell, who denies the doctrine of hell and believes all people are saved no matter what faith or religion they are even if they deny Jesus Christ? See below.
Yikes! If this Rob Bell is one and the same, then we will stick with our out-dated Frederick Brotherton Meyer and Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Man, who wrote all truth in Holy Scriptures.
“He says the Gospel is exclusive — but also inclusive in that people worldwide will be saved even if they have not professed Christ. He affirms heaven — but says that Scripture sometimes defines it as the present day. He says he believes in hell — but then says it’s not a literal place but simply a synonym for suffering in the modern world. In recent days, Bell has denied he is a universalist, but his book says otherwise. Technically, Bell may be more rightly defined as an “inclusivist,” which is a cousin of universalism and teaches that people who don’t even know Christ — including Muslims and Hindus — will nevertheless, unconsciously, be saved through Christ. “—Baptist Press
“I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet to a fiery hell … What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?”—Rob Bell
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 10:55 am
This is very amusing, H Family… do you deny that “everything is spiritual” just because Rob Bell said it? Paul also quoted Greek poets for a nice turn of phrase:
Act 17:28 For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.'
Bell is not wrong on this small thought: “Everything is spiritual”. Even Einstein concurs (E=MC^2). Meyer on his trackless wastes and wandering rock and umbrella cloud unfortunately is.
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 11:02 am
It is the same Bell, but I don’t think that Mrs (Dr?) Hurn’s argument depends at all on Bell’s beliefs (or lack thereof) regarding eternal punishment and universal salvation. The quotation was simply to illustrate Hurn’s argument that the “natural/supernatural” distinction is a modern concept and shouldn’t be assumed by Christians. You could entirely remove the references to Rob Bell (he’s certainly not a source I hold in high esteem), and it would do no damage to Hurn’s point.
It is also not valid to use the citation of a disliked source (Bell) to set up a false dichotomy (e.g., either we must embrace all of Rob Bell’s (unrelated) views or we may “stick with [Meyer] and Jesus Christ of Nazareth”). Rob Bell can be both right about some things and wrong about others – so can Meyer, for that matter! Only Jesus (and, I would argue, any/all divine revelation) can be regarded as entirely without error. In fact, if this citation was from a “different” Rob Bell, would “H Family” suddenly accept Hurn’s arguments? I doubt it (I don’t, at least not in its entirety), because the arguments do not stand or fall on Rob Bell’s quotation.
<font face=”inherit”>With regard to the Exodus miracles, I actually accept the traditional view espoused by “H Family” in this thread, but IMHO this is not the way to argue for it. I will elaborate </font>on my own thoughts in a separate post. <font face=”inherit”> </font>
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 11:21 am
Thank you for the feedback. Our family does not profess to be intellectual giants or eloquent speakers, but all of this comes down to one thing: Do you believe the Bible is true or not? Is God and what He wrote in His Word the sole authority or not? It is a world view issue.
No one is saying that everything has to be huge or unexplainable events to support our faith. But neither do we need a natural cause or event to explain everything for our faith. And if we do, we are undermining the authority of the Bible. And the original question on the the thread post was since Phd candidates on this site seem to know when a miracle is not supernatural then how do any of the rest of us know when it is supernatural? Don’t think that was ever answered.
MemberMarch 18, 2021 at 11:33 am
H Family, I absolutely believe the Bible is true. God and His Word is the sole authority. We don’t need natural causes (I prefer the word ‘mechanism’, ‘process’, or ‘law’ because God is the ultimate first cause), but it is folly to deny there are plenty of them in evidence in the biblical world. Miracles are (by definition) all supernatural in that God has effected them. Many apparently natural events are miracles all the same. We pray for them, don’t we?
MemberApril 25, 2021 at 10:34 am
Up ^^ the thread is a comment about the Jordan River crossing. It is commonly accepted to have been caused by an earthquake in the Jordan Valley (the Rift Valley) which caused a landslide near Tall Damiyah (Adam) that temporarily blocked the flow of the river. High dunes of unstable Lisan marl line the Jordan riverbed up to a kilometre’s width from Tall Damiya southward. The best place for a total blockage of the river would be about 25 km north of Israel’s camp where the dunes come within 30m on either side of the river bed.
I should practise due diligence and look up the BAR article referenced below, but I trust the author of this article in Christianity Today (Kevin Miller) to have cited Bryant Wood who in turn quotes Amos Nur regarding the frequency of earthquake-induced landslides that block the Jordan River:
 “In an intriguing article in Biblical Archaeological Review, he [Bryant Wood] cites Stanford University geophysicist Amos Nur, who documents a 1927 earthquake and mudslide in this century “that cut off the flow of the Jordan.” Nur adds: “Such cutoffs, typically lasting one to two days, have also been recorded in A.D. 1906, 1834, 1546, 1267, and 1160.” In the 1927 quake, writes Wood, “a section of a cliff 150 feet high collapsed into the Jordan near the ford at Damiya, [Adam], blocking the river for some 21 hrs.” Perhaps, he suggests, the collapse of Jericho’s walls resulted from an after-shock to the earthquake that blocked the Jordan River and allowed the Israelites to cross into Canaan.”
Miller, Kevin D. “Did the Exodus Never Happen? How Two Egyptologists Are Countering Scholars Who Want to Turn the Old Testament into Myth.” Christianity Today 42, no. 10 (September 7, 1998): 44–51.
Here is the account of the Jordan River crossing in the book of Joshua. Notice it doesn’t mention the cause (earthquake and landslide), only the effect, which is strangely described in terms of the water “rising up in a single heap” and not in terms of the dam of marl that held the water back.
Josh 3:15-17 NRSV
(15) Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water,
(16) the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
(17) While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.
Note Joshua’s direct and unqualified comparison of the Red Sea and Jordan crossings:
Jos 4:23 JPS [Joshua] For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up from before us, until we were passed over...
Note also how Joshua’s description of the Jordan waters “rising up in a single heap” (Josh 3:16) is similar to the Psalmist’s description of the water in the Red Sea crossing which God made to “stand like a heap”:
Psa 78:13 NRSV
(13) He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap.
Where am I going with this? Only to point out that we have two perfectly timed water-crossings that are compared and equated in both narrative and psalms. So why don’t we hear more about the Jordan River crossing? Because we know the likely mechanism. Also, no chariots were involved, no one died, so there was less drama 😉
Only Psalm 114 makes the role of the earthquake explicit. Here the Red Sea and Jordan River crossings are described in parallel and chiasm (as per the A, B, C, B’ A’ in the text below), almost as if they happened in the same way. Now, we know the two crossings had different ‘natural’ causes (Red Sea: “wind”, Jordan River: earthquake-landslide) but the psalmist attributes both to earthquake:
Psa 114:1-8 NRSV
(1) When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
(2) Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
..A (3) The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
...B (4) The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
.....C (5) Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
...B'(6) O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
..A'(7) Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
(8) who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.
Perhaps an earthquake was indeed somehow involved with the Red Sea crossing, though this is not hinted at in the narrative. The verbs are interesting too, but this post is long enough.
Finally, in the ‘drying up’ of the Jordan I see a hint that the ‘drying up’ of the Red Sea was also asymmetrical (i.e. the N side was driven up the isthmus, while the S side stayed in the lake-basin). When the landslide dam in the Jordan River was finally filled and then breached, the water came rushing back (this is just assumed in the narrative). So also for the Red Sea: when the wind stopped, the water held in place up the isthmus came rushing back (this is explicit in the narrative).
MemberApril 25, 2021 at 10:21 pm
I would like to expand on my last paragraph in the post about the Jordan crossing:
Finally, in the ‘drying up’ of the Jordan I see a hint that the ‘drying up’ of the Red Sea was also asymmetrical (i.e. the N side was driven up the isthmus, while the S side stayed in the lake-basin). When the landslide dam in the Jordan River was finally filled and then breached, the water came rushing back…. So also for the Red Sea: when the wind stopped, the water held in place up the isthmus came rushing back….
In Tim’s recent video on the Border Lakes, I said that the Suez Isthmus at the north shore of the Great Bitter Lakes was the equivalent location to @colin-humphreys Southern Arabah crossing site. But thinking about it since, I would rather compare the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea, especially seeing as that is where the Jordan River crossing took place. There is a strong literary connection between the two water-crossings, which Joshua and the Psalmist compare and even equate in nature:
Jos 4:23 NRSV For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over...
Psa 114:3-6 NRSV
(3) The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
(4) The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
(5) Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
(6) O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Now I can see some more similarities between the two water-crossing events. Both the Bitter Lakes and the Dead Sea are landlocked lakes. They are both salty to the degree that they receive their name from this feature. They both lie in earthquake-prone isthmuses associated with the great Afro-Asian Rift Valley where there are innumerable earthquakes. See my update photos for a seismic incident map in just the last century.
The crossing events are similar in that they both involve displaced water creating a dry passage for Israel to cross by. After Israel has crossed, in both instances, the reason for the water displacement ceases (wind) or is overcome (dam breached) and the displaced waters return to the lake basins.
Exo 14:26-27 NRSV Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers." (27) So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea.
Jos 4:18 NRSV When the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD came up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet touched dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.
So in both cases, we have:
- a large landlocked saline lake basin downstream from a freshwater canal (Suez) or a river (Jordan). There is theology in this, with the salty lakes representing death as the fate of all humanity which is represented in the freshwater flowing southward into the lake. God interrupts that flow for the faithful, firstly by the ‘staff’ of Moses, and secondly by the ark of the covenant.
- a low-lying isthmus (long valley) to the north of the lake through which water flows southward into the lake basin: i.e. a canal from the Nile in the Suez Isthmus (hinted by the name Pihahiroth); and the Jordan River in the Arabah.
- an excess of water. I gather the Bitter Lakes were full to overflowing at the time, hence the Hamsin SE wind could blow a lot of water out of the lake and up the isthmus; and the Jordan was in flood and “overflowed all its banks”. There is also theology in this, see #1.
- an interrupting mechanism: wind for the Suez Isthmus, earthquake-landslide for the Arabah.
- an interruption of some hours in the natural flow of the water, a gravity-defying event in both cases.
- a return of the normal flow of the water after the crossing is complete. It is possible a bore wave was involved in both returns as a large body of water is suddenly released above a shallow incline (only if the Lisan marl dam at Damiya collapsed and was not slowly broken down).
- the use of the same or similar verbs to describe the actions of the water in the two narratives: שׁוּב shûb “returned” (3x in Ex 14:26-28; also 15:19 in hiphil causative form; Josh 4:18); הָלַךְ hâlak “walk” (Ex 14:21 “go”; Josh 4:18 “flow”); The noun נֵד nêd “heap” also describes the displacement of the water (Ex 15:8; Josh 3:16, 17; cf. Psa 78:13. cp. 33:7). There is a nice use of נוּס nûs “flee” for the waters of the Red Sea used in parallel with the hiphil of סָבַב sâbab “turned back” for the waters of the Jordan (Psa 114:5). The Psalmist is a Pscientist 🙂 The same verb is used of the Egyptians (Ex 14:25, 27); oh the cross-referenced poetry!
So physically we have very similar principles for the “drying up” of the water in the Red Sea crossing the Jordan River crossing. In both cases, the floodwaters are held up northward in the isthmus for some hours, and in both cases, the displaced water flows southward to return to the lake basin. This is an asymmetrical action, nothing like two vertical walls crashing together. The topography and conditions of these related regions is a testament to the provision of Almighty God, who can create a functioning “stage set” for two important water-crossing events 1000s of years before they were needed.