Can't all Jesus' miracles be explained naturally?

by Matt Slick

Can Jesus' miracles be explained naturally?  It is certainly possible that some might be explained with non-divine answers, but can all of them?  I don't see how.

It could be said that the gospel accounts were simply altered to make it look as if Jesus was performing miracles which never happened.  This is a possibility, but it is not very probable.  Briefly, the eyewitnesses of Jesus' miracles were still around when the gospels were written and could have easily refuted such claims.  Yet, we have no record of any such refutations.  The disciples died for what they believed.  Remember, this is not simply dying for a principle(s) or philosophy like Buddhism.  They died for their belief in the risen Lord Jesus who claimed to be God and performed miracles in front of their very eyes.  This is far different from believing in something that wasn't tangible or was merely a belief for the sake of believing and being good.  Therefore, I will not address the idea that the disciples were deceivers in their attempt to recount Christ's work.  For further reading on this, please see Can we trust the New Testament as a historical document? and Since the NT writers were biased, can we trust what they wrote?

In the following outline, I have stated a miracle, then offered a potential explanation, and then rebutted the explanation.

  1. Jesus was born of a virgin (Matt. 1:25).
    1. It could be said that Jesus was born normally, and myth crept into the story of Christ's birth in order to make Him seem special.  After all, how do you verify a virgin birth?
      1. But, Mary, the mother of Jesus was probably still around when the gospels were written--as was James, Jesus' brother.  If the gospel accounts of Jesus' virgin birth were fictitious, certainly those who "knew" the situation would have refuted it.  Yet, we have no account of any such refutation.
  2. Jesus changed water into wine (John 2:6-10).
    1. It is possible that Jesus switched the water for wine or had some help in doing it.
      1. There is no indication in the account of John that would lead anyone to believe that this was the case.  Given that the six jars of wine were very heavy (minimum of 160 pounds each, maximum 240 pounds each), Jesus would have had help to do this.  But, if that is so, who was it and why?  Did Jesus secretly arrange for a large supply of wine to be delivered to a party long after it had begun? Again, there is no evidence of this.
    2. It is possible that the members of the party were simply mistaken about the wine running out.
      1. This is possible, but we have the wine steward tasting the wine and commenting on how good it is.  His speech displays clarity of thought, so he was not drunk.  Not being drunk, he was easily able to recognize the quality of the new wine.  Therefore, it is very unlikely that this was a mistake regarding the water for wine.
  3. Jesus caused the disciples to catch a large load of fish (Luke 5:4-6).
    1. The only explanation I can come up with to account for the time when Jesus instructed the disciples to cast their net into the water and they caught a large amount of fish even though they had been fishing all night long and caught nothing is that, from shore, Jesus was somehow able to see into the water and see the fish swimming there.  
      1. The problem with this is that Jesus told them to go out into the deep water.  Deep water is far from shore, and it is basically impossible for Him to have seen so far out into the water at any depth.  Remember, many of the disciples had been lifelong fisherman, and they knew how to catch fish.  If all it took was to look into the water to see fish, they would have long ago used that method.
  4. Jesus cast out demons (Matt. 8:28-32; 15:22-28).
    1. It is possible that demons were never cast out of anyone.  It is possible that the people were pretending to be sick and then appeared cured after Jesus did whatever He did to cure them.  
      1. Though this is possible, it is merely conjecture.  It isn't as though this is a repeatable experiment we can do in a laboratory.  After all, the existence of demonic forces is something that must be taken on faith.
  5. Jesus healed diseases (Matt. 4:23,24; 8:3  Luke 6:17-19; 17:14).
    1. Jesus had knowledge of herbs and roots that when applied to various ailments cured people.  Therefore, it would not be miraculous.
      1. This is possible, but where is the evidence of them doing that?  How can Jesus cure leprosy with herbs or heal a withered hand or raise the dead using herbs and roots.  Sure, maybe, just maybe some herbs and roots were applied to basic ailments, but such an explanation cannot account for many of the miracles accounted to Jesus.
    2. Jesus faked the healings
      1. I am not sure how it would be possible to fake the healing of leprosy and disease.  The people of the time knew what the disease was and what it looked like.  People's fingers and hands would fall off from leprosy.  How it would be possible to restore hands and feet and fingers and have it all be a trick would be an amazing thing to do.  I cannot think of any way to fake such a thing especially since so many of the lepers were known by the people around them and cures would have been obvious.
  6. Jesus healed the paralytic (Mark 2:3-12).
    1. In order to make it look as if Jesus healed a paralytic, it would require that the paralytic be willing to appear paralyzed in order to fool those around him.  This is possible since Jesus could have had enough time to employ the individual.
      1. In the account of Mark, the paralytic is let down through the roof because there were so many people that they could not bring him in on a stretcher.  Jesus then healed the man.  If the paralytic was in the employ of Jesus in some way, the men who lowered him through the roof must also have been in His employ since they helped to accomplish the ruse--if that is what it was.  But, simply stating that this is a possibility does not mean that it is a reality.  All the text says is that there was a paralytic who was let down through a roof, and Jesus healed him.  There is no information that would lead us to believe that collusion was occurring.
  7. Jesus raised the dead (Matt. 9:25; John 11:43-44).
    1. Those who were dead were really only appearing to be dead---given that the people of the time were not aware of many of the medical intricacies that can lead to people looking dead when they were not really dead. 
      1. This explanation is certainly possible, but is it really that likely?  People in ancient times were far more familiar with death than we are.  Our people die in hospitals away from the families.  Undoubtedly, we are less familiar with death then they were.  It is more probable that they knew when people were actually dead, especially since the dead were left in stasis for several days as they were washed and prepared for burial.
      2. The John 11 account of Lazarus' resurrection
  8. Jesus restored sight to the blind (Matt. 9:27-30; John 9:1-7).
    1. The blind were not really blind but were working with Jesus in order to make it look as if He was able to perform miracles.
      1. This is a possibility, but it has no basis or evidence.  Furthermore, how can anyone account for the man born blind in John 9:1-7.  He was known, from birth, to be blind; and yet he was healed by Jesus.  How can anyone account for this other than to say that the man was healed?
  9. Jesus cured deafness (Mark 7:32-35).
    1. The deaf person was not really deaf.  It was a trick--a previously arranged setup to make Jesus look good.
      1. If this is the case, where is the evidence?  Simply saying this is what happened doesn't make it so.
  10. Jesus fed the multitude (Matt. 14:15-21; 15:32-38).
    1. The disciples had previously arranged a large stash of food sufficient to feed a great many people.
      1. This is a possibility, but we see no evidence of it.  Also, it means that the account is, basically, a lie which doesn't fit the character of Jesus and the disciples who wrote so much about integrity.
    2. The people had already brought their own food and were sharing it with each other at the urging of Jesus, so it was written to make it look as if He'd done a miracle.
      1. This, of course, has no evidence for it either.  The account simply states that Jesus fed the multitude with just a few fish and some bread.  What would be wrong with simply writing the truth, if it were true, that everyone had brought food?  Besides, that isn't what it says.
  11. Jesus walked on water (Matt. 14:22-24).
    1. There was either a ledge Jesus was walking on near shore, or He was in a low profile boat in which He was standing.  This way it only appeared that He was walking on water.
      1. Matt. 14:24 says that the boat was many stadia away.  A stadia is about 600 feet.  So, they were way out on the lake when the storm hit.  How could Jesus have gotten out into the middle of the lake during a storm and managed to find a ledge to stand on that happened to be close to the disciples' boat?  It is extremely unlikely.
      2. If Jesus was in a low profile boat out in the middle of a lake during a storm, it would have sunk long before He got out to them.  So, this wouldn't work as an explanation.
  12. Jesus calmed a storm with a command (Matt. 8:22-27; Mark 4:39).
    1. It was merely a coincidence.  Jesus grew up around the area and knew when storms were coming and going.  He simply knew what to look for, waited, and then commanded the storm to be quiet at the right moment.
      1. If Jesus, who was a carpenter, knew when storms were coming and going, then why didn't the disciples, who also grew up in the area and who were fishermen, also know this?  If they did, then they would have been very unimpressed by Jesus' command.  In fact, they would have thought He was pretending to be able to command the storm to stop when in reality He couldn't.  This would cause them to doubt Him--not to believe in Him more as the account suggests.
  13. Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:39; John 20:27).
    1. The disciples stole Jesus' body and lied about His resurrection.
      1. This is unlikely since the guards were there in front of the tomb.  Also, the disciples later died for their belief in the risen Lord.  Add to this the various persecutions they received during their lives and it doesn't make sense that they endured so much pain and suffering for what they knew was a lie.
      2. Also, what about the apostle Paul?  He claims to have seen the risen Lord as well.  Was he, a heavy persecutor of the church, conned by the disciples into joining with them, losing his place in Jewish culture and society, and also suffering persecution and martyrdom all for what he knew was a lie as well?  It makes no sense.
    2. Jesus never died in the first place.
      1. This is sometimes called the swoon theory that states that Jesus almost died.  But it does not fully consider the severe trauma that Jesus had undergone before He got to the cross, let alone the actual crucifixion itself which was incredibly painful.  Also, the Romans were experts at killing by crucifixion.  The evidence of the water and blood coming out of Jesus' side after being pierced is evidence enough that Jesus had died since that is a sign of blood flow having stopped.
  14. Jesus appeared to disciples after resurrection (John 20:19).
    1. This was because Jesus had never died.  He almost died. 
      1. This is sometimes called the swoon theory that states that Jesus almost died.  But it does not fully consider the severe trauma that Jesus had undergone before He got to the cross, let alone the actual crucifixion itself which was incredibly painful.  Also, the Romans were experts at killing by crucifixion.  The evidence of the water and blood coming out of Jesus' side after being pierced is evidence enough that Jesus had died since that is a sign of blood flow having stopped.
    2. Someone else who looked as if Jesus died in His place.
      1. This is an unsubstantiated and completely fictional fabrication.  There is no evidence of this at all.  Besides, the Jews and Romans knew exactly who Jesus was, along with the disciples.  They'd know if a "fake" was taking Jesus' place.
    3. The disciples lied.  Jesus never appeared to them.
      1. This has been answered here.  Since the NT writers were biased, can we trust what they wrote?
  15. Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9).
    1. Only the disciples saw this.  Therefore, they fabricated the ascension.
      1. It is possible that they lied; but then we are still stuck with explaining why they would lie, why they would continue in the lie, why they would preach and teach honesty and truth based upon a lie, why they would suffer persecution for a lie, and why they would die for a lie.  It just doesn't make sense.

 

 

 

 
 
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