If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
Bible Denies that Miracles are Signs
The Bible says God wrote it.
It provides "evidence" that he did. The evidence is the miracle tales. God did miracles so that we would know it was he who was communicating to us in case we would mistake man's word for his word. The big sign according to the Old Testament was Israel's miraculous delivery from slavery in Egypt. Se Exodus 10:2, 12:13, 13:19, Numbers 14:22, Deuteronomy 4:34, 6:22, 7:19, 11:3, 26:8, 29:2-6, 34:11, Joshua 24:17, Psalm 78:43, 135:9, Jeremiah 32:20-21.
Not all the Bible stories of miracles are taken literally by those who say they believe. They often pretend the story if a miracle was never meant to be considered historical but that is just a way of getting around how ridiculous the Bible is.
The Joshua story of the sun standing still and keeping the land dark is said to be a metaphor. Joshua didn’t want daylight to come for he was battling and the dark gave his side the advantage. So dawn came but the suns rays never reached the land for they were blocked by hail. Then he won the battle. This understanding claims that the sun standing is just a colloquial way of saying that it remained dark. This interpretation is still taking the text literally and seeks evidence where colloquialisms have been used. Today, many who give a natural interpretation for some of the Bible miracles do not admit they are guessing. Just because a story of a talking donkey is ridiculous to us or to many people does not mean it was ridiculous to the person who wrote it in the Bible. We have no right to try and make the Bible look sane by forcing fancy interpretations on texts we do not like. That is just getting away from what the author was really saying.
Jesus said to the Jews that they will not believe unless they see signs and wonders and miracles. They want the message sanctioned. Is Jesus just stating the way it is or is he complaining about their attitude or both? It is both. Jesus believes that people should not need miracles in order to love the truth.
On philosophical and commonsense grounds we Atheists know that no miracle can be a sign that verifies any religious doctrine. The Bible teaches the same thing but, typically, forgets itself and then makes a dogma out of the complete opposite. Miracles are not great signs if they back up a book that can’t even consistently back itself up. They supposedly back it up as the word of God.
The Bible purports to be the word of God and infallible for he is its source. The Bible claims to be the written word of God and speaks with God’s authority and all Christians believe that if God does miracles it is to point to it.
Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the World and God's own voice on earth. He said that his miracles and good works were done by God through him to show that he who claimed to be he was (John 5:36;10:25). He made a paralytic walk again to convince bystanders that he had power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10-12). He cured lepers so that the Jewish priests would see them and know that a sign from God had come (Mark 1:44). He spoke of the sign of Jonah that he would perform (Mark 16:4). If you read his words you will see that he stated that the sign of Jonah, meaning his resurrection for Jonah probably died inside a fish and came out on the third day just like Jesus rose on the third day from the dead, would be the only sign, that is the only real miracle, he would give – this slip indicates that the gospellers invented all the other signs. The apostles preached that Jesus’ miracles proved his word and were his credentials (Acts 2:22). Jesus was the Son of Satan if he didn’t offer evidence that he was God’s Son. It is wrong to follow the leader blindly.
OCR Philosophy of Religion for AS and A2, Matthew Taylor, Editor Jon Mayled, Routledge, Oxon, New York, 2007 page 322 observes that there are so so many stories about Jesus' miracles in the gospels. The book says the gospels were overemphasising the miraculous nature of Jesus' miracles rather than dwelling more on their nature as signs and what their meaning was. It gives the example of Jesus healing a crippled man in Mark 2. There Jesus heals the man to prove that he can forgive sins. The book concludes that this is linked with the belief that being paralysed or ill could be caused by sin. So Jesus heals the man to prove that the man must be forgiven when he is healed. In other words, the man brought his paralysis on himself as punishment for sin. Taking away the sin was the cure. The wonders were about the show.
In relation to this, it is true that the gospels focus on the wonders as wonders and often give no explanation of how they are signs and what they mean. I would say that the belief of critics that stories were invented about Jesus to make him match the pagan gods in magical powers is correct. The gospel and Church treatment of Jesus' miracles isn't even dignified.
It is certain too that the bystanders when Jesus' healing miracle was performed would have taken the interpretation the book takes. Jesus encouraged the malicious view that suffering was a punishment from God. Obviously he never expected to end up on a cross himself. What adds probability to the book being correct in its interpretation, is that Jesus didn't need to prove to anybody he could forgive sins. The man needed to be forgiven but he didn't need to know it was Jesus who was forgiving him. And anybody could say they are forgiving sins. Nobody can see if they really can do it.
The gospels say that Jesus only did what God wanted him to do (John 5:19). He healed people and told them not to tell and made them promise they wouldn’t, but they went and spread it all over the land anyway. They were far from honest when they promised and broke it. (You don’t disobey and let down a miracle-worker in case he reverses the miracle. It is no wonder I think their behaviour shows that the whole story is a fabrication.) They were ungrateful to him for the favour for he must have enjoined secrecy for his own sake. Nobody mature or sane would have believed in Jesus on the witness of such unreliable people though I am contradicting the gospels here for they wouldn't have set these stories down on paper if they didn’t. This shows that Jesus did not have magical powers for he couldn’t stop them telling by psychically manipulating their thoughts and feelings. These miracles contradict the fact that if miracles happen then they are marks of the religion of truth.
In Mark 9, the disciples tell Jesus that they tried to stop a man doing miracles because he was not in their group. Jesus told them off. The man may have been a follower of Jesus though not one of the disciples. He may not have had different religious beliefs. So it is wrong to take this episode as evidence that God can perform miracles in a false religion meaning that miracles prove nothing. We just don’t know. The gospels are not clear if he was or wasn't any kind of follower of Jesus. The apostles would have known if he was for he would have been a popular man. So perhaps it does show that miracles can take place outside the Christian context and are not signs. Jesus said that whoever does a miracle in his name cannot speak ill of him. This means that the man was praying in Jesus’ name not that the man was a member of Jesus’ faith. But it can be said that the man praying and doing miracles in Jesus' name was indeed giving a sign that Jesus should be followed. The episode can be reconciled with the notion of miracles taking place outside the Church to defend the faith of the Church.
In Matthew 7, we read that evil people on judgment day will tell Jesus they cast out demons in his name and did other miracles. He will then tell them that he never knew them for he never knew them as allies. Some say, “Notice that these are unreliable people who called him Lord though he was not Lord to them so we are meant to disbelieve their boast of having miracle powers. Many people think they can do miracles when the truth is that they are only deluding themselves. The passage affords no justification for the view that these people did real miracles from God or from Satan. It does not say that Jesus agreed that they could do miracles. When they were godless it is most likely that when he rejected these people he was denying that they did any real miracles.” But Jesus never hinted that they were that unreliable. He said several times that the worst people are not the prostitutes and tax collectors but those who seem good and do loads of good works but who are not open to God in their hearts and they might preach God’s truth as if they believe in while they don’t. Jesus believed that the Devil could do miracles and trick people. So in Matthew 7, Jesus was indeed saying that people could do miracles as if they were messengers from Jesus and not be messengers at all. They call him Lord though they know they can’t fool him so clearly these are people who have used self-deceit to follow a false Christianity – their dogmas may be correct but that doesn’t mean they have been touched by God and his grace and mercy.
Jesus told the Jews to believe in his works if they could not believe in him so that they will see that God is in him (John 10:38). Does this say that Jesus’ works do not imply that he is from God? But then he said they prove that God is in him so that is not right. He meant that if they did not trust him then they should focus on the evidence that he was from God. He was asking them to investigate his works.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus to drive home the point that only the Bible is needed to get the word of God. The rich man goes to Hell to feel the torment of fire forever and Lazarus is saved and happy. The rich man's pain is so bad that he madly desires a mere drop of water on his tongue. He asks for Lazarus to be raised from the dead to warn his brothers about the torment of Hell so that they might be avoided. He is told that his brothers don't need anybody to rise from the dead for they have the Law and the Prophets. So the Old Testament is sufficient. Catholics say this means the Bible shouldn't have the New Testament if the Old Testament is enough. So does that entitle them to ignore what Jesus taught? The New Testament claims that its message is in the Old Testament and that the gospel is in it. All the New Testament does is bring that out but it is not necessary. Nevertheless it is the word of God too according to non-Catholic Christianity which has no problem in accepting anything in this paragraph.
To stress the point that only the Old Testament is enough Jesus says that somebody rising from the dead to persuade bad people to repent is a waste of time when they have the scriptures. Then they have no excuse. He is saying he will not send visions and miracles to persuade people to turn to God. He will not send them even to draw people to the scriptures. That is people's own affair. Anybody then that does not study with and learn from the scriptures will be held accountable for it. Jesus is saying that the scriptures stand for themselves without miracles to draw attention to them and or verify them.
Would that suggest that we have a memory here of a tradition that Jesus never did miracles? I think so. But Christians would say that Jesus is saying his miracles were predicted in the Old Testament. Therefore he is only doing them to obey and uphold the Old Testament. They would have to argue then that miracles such as those of Lourdes and Fatima and Medjugorje and Garabandal, in short the miracles reported by the Catholic Church are not prophesied. They would have to conclude that these miracles are precisely the kind of miracles Jesus said are useless and therefore not from God. They are as useless as raising Lazarus from the dead to plead with sinners to repent. They are a distraction from the duty to study and learn from the Old Testament.
When Jesus said even a saint rising from the dead with God's message is useless and not even worth thinking about when the scriptures are there we know that he indicated that less impressive things such as tradition and miracles of healing and apparitions are even more useless and beneath divine dignity. By doing them God would be denying the sufficiency of the scriptures.
The Bible by denying (at times) that miracles are signs shows that we have no reason to believe that it is the word of God at all. It also shows that Christianity is a religious farce. No reasonable person would believe in such a faith.
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24
Further Reading ~
A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997