5 Famous Bible Stories With Logical Scientific Explanations
If you pause faith for a moment and look at the Bible through the cold, unfeeling monocle of science, it doesn't hold up. Right? Well, let's not be so hasty. It turns out that there are fairly plausible scientific explanations behind some of the most famous stories you learned in Sunday School. We're not saying that miracles don't exist or anything. We're just saying that, in the last few thousand years, science got crazy good at explaining miracles. Such as how ...
Goliath's Gigantism Could Have Been Due To A Medical Condition
The struggle of the Israelites against the Philistines came to a head at the Valley of Elah, where for 40 days the Philistines sent out their champion, the giant Goliath, to challenge any Israelite to single combat. And for 40 days, the Israelites violently shit their pants in terror and did nothing.
That is, until young David stepped up to the plate armed with nothing but a stick and a sling. Against all conceivable odds, David flung a pebble and landed it straight between Goliath's eyes. It's literally the original underdog story.
And millennia of men were relieved to hear that size doesn't matter.
The Non-Miraculous Explanation:
Malcolm Gladwell, author of David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, points out that clues in the verses where Goliath is introduced suggest that he suffered from acromegaly -- the same pituitary disorder that's plagued extraordinarily large individuals throughout history. First off, there's the fact that Goliath lumbers his way onto the battlefield led by an attendant. Why would the Philistines' mightiest warrior need an attendant? Possibly because, as is often the case with an enlarged pituitary gland, Goliath couldn't see for shit. This is further reinforced by how, once he finally spots David, Goliath taunts him with, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" David was only carrying a single shepherd staff, which Goliath refers to in the plural -- double vision is also associated with the disorder.
Then he inexplicably called David "four eyes," and David really got pissed.
And then there's David. He was a shepherd with years of practice defending his flock from lions and wolves with his sling. And a sling was not some primitive weapon at the time -- slingers were the artillery units of a Biblical army. Add in the fact that the stones David picked up in the Valley of Elah were "twice the density of normal stones" due to the chemical makeup of rocks in the area, and he was packing a weapon "roughly equal to the stopping power of a handgun." Goliath, an already handicapped opponent, brought a sword and a spear to a gunfight.
It's an underdog story, all right -- but the underdog in this case happened to be seven feet tall, so everybody took one glance and immediately started rooting for the little guy with the howitzer to blow the shit out of the cripple.
God's Wrath Could Have Been Earthquakes
If Old Testament rules still applied today, Las Vegas would have been swallowed up by sandworms twelve times over by now. Because when God decided your city had turned south, he cranked his wrath dial up to 11. That's one more than ten. One more wrath.
"You see, most deities, you know, will be wrathing at ten. Where can you go from there? Where?"
Jericho was the first city to fall when the Israelites, led by Joshua, conquered their promised land. After crossing the miraculously dried-up Jordan River, they marched the Ark of the Covenant around the city, blowing their horns until, on the seventh day, a particularly excessive horn-blow sent the city's walls a-tumbling down. And of course, we all remember Sodom and Gomorrah, where God rained fire and brimstone on every citizen -- man, woman, and child -- all because a few dudes were into butt stuff.
The Non-Miraculous Explanation:
Earthquakes, plain and simple.
Jericho was located smack dab in a rift valley, an unstable area prone to seismic activity. And according to Dr. Amos Nur, a Stanford University geophysicist, the events described in the biblical story are absolutely consistent with known earthquake activity in the region: "The combination, the destruction of Jericho and the stoppage of the Jordan, is so typical of earthquakes in this region that only little doubt can be left as to the reality of such events in Joshua's time." And if a convenient earthquake tears down the walls of the city you're currently laying siege upon, what do you do? Why, you march right on in, flick your thumb toward the devastation, and say, "We meant to do that."
To this day, North Korea claims credit for Godzilla.
Similarly, Sodom and Gomorrah are said to have been located in another earthquake-prone area along the edge of the Dead Sea. Forensic anthropologist Mike Finnegan has discovered Bronze Age remains of men who died via squishing there, indicating earthquake activity right around the time the story would have taken place.
We'll leave to your imagination exactly what the men were squishing.
Furthermore, an earthquake could have destabilized the ground and put pressure on underground deposits of asphalt, which would in turn spew up, be ignited by surface fires and hit the city as thick, burning rain. The complete annihilation described in the Bible was recreated in models at the Cambridge University Centrifuge Laboratory in England, where it was proven that a quake of sufficient magnitude could cause the very ground under the cities to liquefy and carry them to the bottom of the sea.
Moral of the story? If you're planning on building a town infamous for its wickedness, don't do it right on the edge of a sea that has "dead" right there in its goddamn name.
Jesus Could Have Walked On Water Thanks To A Layer Of Ice
After feeding a hungry crowd with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish (it's all about portion control, people), Jesus retreated to a mountaintop to rest up from a hard day of miraclin'. His rest would prove short-lived, however, when his disciples decided to cross the Sea of Galilee. Night fell, and a storm threatened to introduce them to their maker. But right when things looked most dire, they saw Jesus walking on surface of the water, coming to their rescue, presumably in slow motion and to the theme of Baywatch.
It was the second-coolest thing Jesus ever did with water.
The Non-Miraculous Explanation:
Jesus could have been walking on ice -- which, technically, is still walking on water. But anyway ...
According to a study by a team of U.S. and Israeli scientists, the salty springs near the generally accepted site of the "loaves and fishes" event, along with Game-Of-Thrones-esque cold spells lasting hundreds of years at a time, add up to the perfect conditions for "springs ice" -- patches of ice just under the surface of the Sea of Galilee that would be nearly invisible to someone observing from a distance. Doron Nof, professor of physical oceanography at Florida State University, places the chances of there being such ice on the water in the timeframe of the biblical story as "very, very high."
The only competing mundane theory is that the disciples were very, very high.
For a modern demonstration of what such a feat might have looked like, look no further than these two hikers who happened upon a transparently frozen lake in the mountains of Slovakia:
with like me.
Now, try to forget all the knowledge that two millennia of collective human experience has imparted onto your brainsmarts, watch that video again, and imagine how it would have affected a casual observer back then. In those circumstances, "God did it" is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
The Dead Could Have Risen Because Medical Knowledge Was Basically Nonexistent
In the New Testament, Jesus brings three people back from the dead before reanimating himself like some sorta meta-Frankenstein. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Luckily for said saints, all this took place a couple thousand years before Night Of The Living Dead, so they weren't greeted with machetes and headshots.
Instead, they were greeted with trumpets and tubas ... which is maybe worse.
The Non-Miraculous Explanation:
Keep in mind that, until relatively recently on the human timeline, it wasn't all that unusual for a presumed corpse to jump up and find themselves in attendance at their own funeral. In the early 20th century, English businessman and OG antivaxxer William Tebb decided to create a ledger of such events, and he found "219 instances of narrow escape from premature burial, 149 cases of actual premature burial, 10 cases in which bodies were accidentally dissected before death, and two cases in which embalming was started on the not-yet-dead."
The hills were alive with the sound of coffin scratching.
This isn't relegated to ancient times, either; it totally still happens today. As recently as January of 2015, in fact. A young Kenyan man who swallowed insecticide woke up in a morgue 15 hours after being declared dead, sending the staff running and screaming for the door. And if modern doctors can still utterly fail to distinguish a living guy from a dead one, imagine how common it must have been a couple thousand years ago, when medical science consisted of poking a guy, waiting for him to say "quit poking me," then, if he didn't, pronouncing him dead.
The Ten Plagues Of Egypt Were An Environmental Disaster
When Moses approached the Pharaoh to demand his people be set free, the Pharaoh seemed to need a bit of encouragement in the matter. Which God happily delivered in the form of ten plagues: water turning into blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, thunderstorms and hail, locusts, darkness, and finally, the death of all the firstborn sons in Egypt. God's methods may be questionable, but the dude is a serious motivator.
Second only to Charlton Heston.
The Non-Miraculous Explanation:
According to a whole plethora of scientists, the ten plagues could have been the result of a string of environmental disasters. By studying the makeup of stalagmites in Egyptian caves, climatologists have determined that Rameses II ruled during a period when the climate was warm and wet ... but then came a drastic change. Things dried up and temperatures rose, leading to the Nile shrinking and being overrun with a freshwater bacterium known as Burgundy Blood algae. To a people who didn't know a bacterium from a boil on their ass, the water would have appeared to become blood.
Seriously, every miracle featuring water is a lie.
These conditions could also have directly led to plagues two through six: The toxic water caused the frogs to abandon ship, the lack of frogs caused an explosion in insects (lice and flies, for instance), and insects have a tendency to spread disease, thereby leading to all the sickly livestock and unsightly boils.
It would take something bigger to kick off plagues seven through nine ... like "one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in human history." Four hundred miles from Egypt, on the Greek island of Santorini, a volcano named Thera puked billions of tons of ash into the sky. Atmospheric physicist Nadine von Blohm says that the volcanic ash combining with thunderstorms could have caused horrific hailstorms. Biologist Siro Trevisanato says that the higher humidity from the volcanic fallout would have caused a veritable baby boom in the locust population. And the billions of tons of ash would obviously account for that darkness.
Legally, still an act of God.
The tenth and final plague would be created by a snowball effect of all those before -- should the food supplies become contaminated, the firstborn of each family would be the first to chow down on poison, thanks to a custom dictating that they would be the first to receive their deadly share.
The Angel of Death has a name, and that name is E. Coli.
Of course, there are a few ways of looking at all this stuff:
A.) Uneducated people saw a ton of bad luck and wrote it into the Bible as God's will.
B.) God made all this stuff happen and we're just trying to explain it now with science.
C.) These are a bunch of fun theories and conjecture that only provide entertainment and ultimately don't affect anybody's daily lives in a serious way.
D.) It's time to fight about religion on the internet. Again.
You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we found in the Bible. Did you know that God gives advice on how to hold your load? Read about it in The 6 Raunchiest Most Depraved Sex Acts From The Bible and if that disturbs you, wait until you read about Ezekiel and his zombie army in 5 Superpowers From The Bible That Put Marvel And DC To Shame.
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