September 22, 2008 No Comments
Is the Bible full of myth or miracle? The answer you get depends on who you ask. For a long time, critics have taken aim at the Bible for the supernatural claims it makes. Miracles don’t happen, they say. Everything in the world can be explained naturally. Reduced to myth or fable is anything that looks or smells like a miracle in the Bible.
Paul instructed Timothy not to pay attention to myths (2 Tim. 4:4), and the apostle Peter made sure that his readers understood the nature of what he wrote. “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:16).
Thomas Jefferson thought the supernatural claims of the Bible were bogus, as did most deists in his day. Jefferson took out his pen knife and edited all miracles out of the Bible and came up with something called The Jeffersonian Bible. I don’t recommend it, but you can still purchase Jefferson’s thin Bible at his Memorial in Washington D.C.
Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and the Savior of the world. He was also a supernaturalist by all accounts. He punctuated his Messianic claims with miracles that proved he was who he claimed to be. Of course, Jefferson’s Bible presents an emaciated Jesus who performed no miracles.
Some people want their biblical cake and eat it too. They respect the Bible and its moral teachings but deny its supernatural claims. In doing so they treat the Bible like the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. We don’t know if George actually chopped down the cherry tree, and when caught, said to his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” But it doesn’t matter because there’s a good moral to the story.
Myth has no basis in real history. The people, places and events in a fable or fairy tale are not real. But the Bible is not like Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The people and places in the Bible are real. The events actually happened, at least that’s the way Jesus viewed them.
Before the higher critics, Jefferson and others came along and denied the supernatural, Jesus spoke of many Old Testament miracles as historical fact, including creation (Matt. 19:4), Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5), Noah and the flood (Matt. 24:37-39), and Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 12:39-41). Jesus also said (are you ready for this?) the story of Jonah and the great fish really happened.
Jesus hitched the historicity of his own resurrection to the greatest fish story ever told. He said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-41). Jonah and Jesus were both “three days in the belly.”
If Jonah is a fairy tale then so is Jesus’s resurrection. But there’s no need to go there. The greatest miracle that ever happened is no myth.