Alternatives to miracles performed by Jesus

I’m thinking that you are probably familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the crowd with only a loaf of bread and a fish. Apparently, Jesus blessed the food,and when it was passed around the crowd it fed everyone who reached into it.

Now the alternative I have heard is that everyone in the crowd came with enough food for themselves, but were unwilling to expose this in fear of others wanting some. The boy who originally offered what he had brought stirred the emotions in everyone enough so that when the basket came to them they unpacked there "picnic baskets’ and put some of it in with the original loaf and fish. And so everyone was fed.

I personally don’t believe the whole bible, but do enjoy the bible for its stories and morals it instills. So every time I run into a miracle or some faith required situation in the bible I get frustrated. Anyone else know of explanations to miracles in the bible. Say walking on water and the such? (other than the observers of these miracles were on drugs or drunk.)

Actually, I did this once. I was in Nigeria about a year ago and I came across a group of village of just children who were all nearly feral, hunting small prey with just their hands and sticks. I had brought a few supplies just for myself, but certainly not enough for all of them. But then as I started to cut the food up into pieces, for every bit that I handed out there seemed to be two more to replace it until there was enough food for everyone.

Of course, now that I’m gone and back in the US, those kids are probably starving again.

(My post is my cite. Peace.)

Seems to me that the simplest answer is that these stories were made up by the writers of the Gospels (or stories that got embellished over time) and never actually happened in the first place.

George Carlin’s take was the best; it turns out the people didn’t like like the loaves and the fishes - they kept putting them back.

There is a time-honored tradition (Paul Bunyan, George Washington) of telling stories about someone real whose real-life accomplishments and traits are admired, ascribing to those persons some other accomplishments and skills and characteristics that range from the massively unlikely to fundamentally impossible.

George Washington was a genuinely existent person. He really did lead the American troops in the US War of Independence, really did do a pretty impressive job at it, and did indeed serve as 1st US President. It is, however, unlikely that he pitched a dollar coin across the Potomac River, and it is unlikely that, as a fundamental aspect of his character, he was incapable of telling a lie and never did so during his entire life.

Paul Bunyan may have been a real-life lumberjack. No solid evidence supporting that, but he may have been. If he was, I am comfortable saying he did not create the great lakes in order to make a drinking trough for his ox, Babe.

I believe Jesus of Nazareth existed. I believe he gave the sermons known as the Sermon on the Plains and the Sermon on the Mount. I believe he took on the establishment of his time, forcing a showdown over the centrality of the Law in the officious rule-following legalistic sense versus the spirit it (attempted to) express. I do not believe he raised people from the dead, walked on water, or came back to life after being executed.

Sure. And Chuck Norris is just a movie star.

While “it was simply made up” is of course the easiest and most probable answers, another possibility would be something like:

Jesus goes to a group of people. He does some preaching and sermonizing and convinces them that he’s divine. Then he offers them each some food, cutting it down very very small so that it serves everyone. And as he does so, he tells them each that inside their stomachs it will transform itself into a full meal and satiate them. It’s certainly not enough to survive on, but everyone takes the food and suddenly they feel full.

Why would they feel full, if only given the merest grain of food? Because humans are like that. Homeopathic cures, for instance, can be perceived as being effective if the person receiving the treatment believes in it strongly enough (AKA the placebo effect.) Sikhs who practice Yoga have believed that they have been able to float off of the ground. The ability of the human mind to deceive itself is largely limitless. But, it still is a deception. And if everyone else around you is acting like they’ve been satiated, most people will go along with it and say they are too.

Sigh… every year, some priest who thinks he’s being original will tell us that the “true” miracle of the loaves and fishes was that Jesus touched people’s hearts and got them to share their food with the less fortunate.

For crying out loud, this was the Middle East, where even today, hospitality is EXPECTED of everyone. You’d be regarded as a real asshole if you DIDN’T share your food.

The idea that everybody would have selfishly, stingily hoarded their food until Jesus inspired them to share shows an absurd lack of regard for traditional Middle Eastern hospitality.

This explanation does not address the leftovers.

Cite? I’m pretty sure this was a misunderstanding/result of poor translating.

Maybe, and this is just speculation and opinion on my part, the miracle here was an occurence of the ancient practice of passing the plate/hat. The Magic Bag myth in practice. Like any good traveling priest, he might have advertised a lunch and sermon- Lunch with a small donation at the door. Pretty amazing how much money can be raised with a a small contribution from a big enough crowd. After the admissions were in, he probably just sent Peter to get the best bulk rate at the market.

Maybe Jesus was just a really good fundraiser?

A guy my dad knew and his wife both claimed to have done it. I can’t say beyond that without Googling.

Well, I think that was only ever supposed to be an experience, not a physical fact AFAIK. Tied into other yoga ideas which… we can skip so we can continue on about Jesus.

A guy I worked with had a theory that Jesus was given some drug in the vinegar that made him present as dead. The spear stab yielding gushing water was explained away too. Basically this guy’s theory on the resurrection was that Jesus never died in the first place.

Yeah, but that’s my point. The story grows in the telling.

The truly intriguing bit, IMHO, is that Matthew and Mark and Luke don’t even mention the spear; it’s just Jesus up on the cross for a while, and after a while he guzzles some stuff, and then he slumps over, and he eventually comes to in the cave. Without the retelling in John, that maybe wouldn’t even qualify as a magic trick; instead, it’s almost as if that became obvious and a late addition to the story became needed.

As for the rest, isn’t it about time to mention the idea that Jesus was just a big ol’ shroom enthusiast who’d routinely slip his homegrown supply of relaxant-slash-increased-suggestibility-slash-mild-hallucinogen goodies into water to (a) make instant wine, and (b) amateur hypnotherapist to repressed folks with hysterical conversion syndromes who just need to be told that all is forgiven by the supercharismatic faith healer, with a side of © hey, everyone, after I’m gone you should all have a big wine-and-bread service where you all laze around talking about how great it would be if I were still with you – and by “wine” I mean “that stuff I brewed up this morning”, and by “bread” I mean “these broad flat mushroom caps that look like pitas”.

I’ve heard that theory before, included with the claim that crucifixion victims were normally beheaded if/when their bodies taken down. The idea being that one of Jesus’s followers apparently bribed some Romans to take him down and stick him in a tomb before he was really dead, and without making sure he was dead. And that he wasn’t “recognized on the road” because he was in disguise.

As for my opinion? It’s a story about a heavily mythologized figure that was set down by true believers who weren’t actually there trying to sell a religion, many years after the events took place. “Unreliable narrator” to the extreme. The most likely answer to how some Biblical miracle “occurred” is that the story about it was wildly distorted from what actually happened, or outright made up. At this late date, how could we tell if some preacher lied, or if somebody’s grandpa told the kids some tall tales?

Numerically or Arithmetically, it might have to do with some mystic ratio?

5000: 5, 2, 12

4000: 7, 4, 7

Perhaps its a formula of a certain economy or maybe it’s an index for Servers of a banquet and getting the best deal at the market?

How much were a fish and a loaf in shekels back then?

Back then they had prophets on every corner, just like in the Monty Python movie. You were nobody if some miracles could not be credited to you. At least to boost the legend.

I happen to think this entire thread is wrong-headed, and that John Mace has the right idea: IF you’re determined to believe that Christianity is a fraud, then by all means, dismiss the whole thing as a pack of lies. Why try to find tiny kernels of “truth” in the whole story, and then come up with non-supernatural explanations for them?

But, if you want examples of that kind of thinking, you’d have heard hundreds of them at any Jesuit high school, where the priests I knew took it for granted that nothing miraculous ever takes place, and that every apparent miracle in the Bible had a more mundane explantion.

Among them:

  1. Jesus walking on the water. The text is ambiguous, and COULD easily be interpreted as saying “Jesus was walking BY the water.” Why the gospel writer would have thought Jesus walking BY the water was interesting enough to include in the narrative is beyond me, but there you have it.
  1. Jesus casting out demons. The demonically possessed people were epileptics, or afflicted by Tourette’s Syndrome. Jesus was highly charismatic, or had a calming influence, and this temporarily led to an easing of the symptoms.

  2. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Well, Lazarus probably wasn’t REALLY dead. People didn’t have EKGs in those days, and he was just buried prematurely.
    Or, from the Old Testament:

  3. Daniel in the lion’s den. Lions generally sleep 20+ hours a day. So, maybe lucky Daniel got tossed to the lions at a time when they were sleepy, and not very hungry.

  4. Moses striking the rock to get water. Desert nomads have long known that SOMETIMES there are water deposits trapped behind limestone, and that if you look hard enough, you may be able to break open the rock and get at that water.