On prophets and miracles

By
Israel Drazin

 

As I wrote in my discussion about the origin of evil, I am convinced that God
created the world out of nothing or formed it out of preexisting and eternal
matter, set the laws of nature in it, and then stopped being involved in the
earth and its people. God is transcendent. God is not engaged in what is
occurring on earth, and is not revealed in nature and the daily affairs and
history of people. This raises the question: Doesn’t the Bible seem to say the
opposite? Doesn’t it seem to say that God communicated with Moses and other
people, that there were prophets who informed the Israelites what God disclosed
to them?

 

Moses Maimonides, who was also convinced that God is transcendent and not involved in
the daily affairs of this world, addressed this question in chapter 48 of his
masterpiece Guide of the Perplexed.
Maimonides wrote that whenever the Bible states that God said or did something,
the reader must understand that this is figurative language; God did not say or
do what the Bible says he did.

 

Why then does the Bible describe God making the statement or performing the act? For two reasons.
First, because people need to think that God is involved. Second, because the
statement is, in a sense true: while God did not directly say or do what the
Bible mentions, God is the ultimate cause of it because what occurred did so
because of the laws of nature, and God created the laws of nature.

 

Thus, God never communicated with prophets. Maimonides tells us that a prophet is an
individual with a higher than average intelligence, who understands matters
better than the average person, with a strong sense of right and wrong that prompts the
prophet to tell the understanding to the people, and a highly developed
imagination that helps him or her to communicate clearly. The prophets may have thought that their insights
came from God or, more likely, because of their intelligence, realized the true
human origin of their understanding, but said the ideas came from God because,
as Maimonides explained, God is the ultimate, but not direct, source of
everything.

 

This explains why there are no prophets today. Actually, there are still people with
better understandings of events, morale drives, and imagination, but they
recognize that what they know is the result of their thinking and not a divine
communication.

 

Thus, also, there never were miracles in the sense of God interfering with and
changing the laws of nature. I elaborated on Maimonides’ view of prophecy and
miracles, with many examples, in my book, Maimonides
and the Biblical Prophets.
I explained, for example, why the crossing of
the Red Sea, the falling of the walls for Joshua at Jericho, and the sun
standing still for him during the battle at Gibeon, were natural occurrences.

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