Miracles are unexplained changes in the natural order. They defy the impossible and are by definition rare. From Moses parting the red sea to Jesus resurrecting from the dead, the Bible is chock full of the miraculous, and for centuries, scholars have wondered how they could have happened. While science tries to explain the natural world and not the miraculous, occasionally scientists weigh in on the science behind Biblical miracles. Ready to hear what they have to say? Here are 25 Bible stories with logical scientific explanations.
Man Made from Clay
In the book of Genesis, it says humanity was formed from clay. A Cornell University research has proposed that clay may have been the starting place of life. Clay absorbs water and creates an ideal environment for chemicals to react with each other and create proteins, DNA, and eventually living cells. Scientists also found that clay hydrogel could have protected the chemical processes until these living cells had time to be enveloped with a cell membrane.
The Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel is a story where the people of Earth decided to create a tall tower and God scattered them across the world by using different languages. For some time it was believed buildings such as a tall tower was impossible for ancient people. However, scientists have pointed to the ancient ziggurats in Babylon, especially the ziggurat known as Etemananki, as the possible Tower of Babel. Ziggurat can be translated as “to rise high” and Etemananki is historically considered one of the most significant and labor intensive projects in Babylon.
The Virgin Birth
The virgin birth also called the Immaculate Conception was told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke and tell of Mary conceiving a child from the Holy Spirit. While there are many theories about this miracle, science claims there’s a possibility Mary may have experienced “parthenogenesis,” a process in which a mother essentially clones herself. This has been shown to happen in insects, snakes, komodo dragons, sharks and mice. The problem with this theory is that the parthenogenetic outcome would be female (because it would have to have two x chromosomes like the mother).
Parting of the Red Sea
In the book of Exodus, the Israelites are escaping Egypt, but to do so they have to cross the Red Sea. In the story, Moses parts the sea with his staff and they are able to cross on dry land. A scientist named Carl Drews has put forward a possible answer to how this happened. According to his master’s thesis, the Israelites crossed the “Sea of Reeds” when 60 mph winds blew through the region causing “wind setdown” which could blow the water apart. This has occurred at other places like Lake Erie.
Turning the Nile River to Blood
In Exodus, it says God turns the Nile river to blood. Scientists have proposed its more likely a “red tide” of toxic red algae washed into the Nile. Another researcher proposed that a deadly single celled organism could have killed all the fish and their blood filled up the river.
The Ten Plagues
As Moses frequently asked the Egyptian Pharaoh to let his people go, he refused. In turn, God punished Egypt for it, causing ten plagues starting with the Nile turning red with blood. Afterward, the area was covered in frogs, lice, wild animals, diseased livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness for three days, and death of the firstborn. Scientists have claimed they may have found the source for these plagues. They discovered evidence of an ecological disaster hundreds of miles away that could have brought the plagues to Egypt.
Water from a Stone
With the Israelites out of Egypt and walking around in the desert, they were desperate for water. In the story, Moses strikes a rock and water comes pouring out. Scientists have explained limestone rock, which is rather abundant near Mount Sinai, is soluble and can hold tons of water.
Burning Bush - Part 1
While Moses was in the wilderness by himself, he witnessed a burning bush and it spoke to him as the voice of God. Scientists theorize it’s possible Moses witnessed an “Earthquake Light,” a bizarre phenomenon after or before an earthquake occurs. The light looks like a luminous burning flame.
Burning Bush - Part 2
However, the Earthquake Light theory doesn’t explain a physical bush burning or that it says the bush burned without being burnt up. Another scientific theory explains the bush was likely under a volcanic vent which makes the ground incredibly hot. Researchers from Norway discovered this phenomenon and found similar burning bushes that wouldn’t stop burning.
Moses Speaking to God
About that whole “speaking to God” thing at the burning bush. Scientists have an opinion on that as well. A professor of psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said Moses could have been under the influence of a plant called “Ayahuasca” which can cause serious hallucinations.
Manna from Heaven
While the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years, they needed something to eat to survive. In the story, God provided manna from Heaven. The scientific explanation is that it was likely a sweet secretion of plant lice that infected shrubs in the area. It also could have been algae or wind-dispersed lichen.
Reversal of Hezekiah's Sundial
King Hezekiah asked the prophet Isaiah for a sign from God, and Isaiah pointed to the sundial. Hezekiah could ask for it to move backward or forward. He chose forward, thinking it would be the greater sign. God granted the request and moved the sundial forward. A scientific explanation of the event points to clouds and light refraction as a possible way the sundial pointer moved forward.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
In Genesis, it states God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven on to Sodom and Gomorrah. Researchers who cracked an ancient cuneiform tablet discovered an astronomer back then who recorded seeing a meteor. They believe this could have been around the same time Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, explaining a meteor was the cause for their destruction.
Star of Bethlehem
In the gospel of Matthew, there are three wise men, or Magi, who saw a star in the east. They followed the star and found baby Jesus in Bethlehem. An astronomer at the University of Sheffield has thoroughly studied this and believes it’s likely they didn’t see a star at all but a triple conjunction when Jupiter and Saturn align in a short period of time.
Jesus Walking on Water
In the gospels, as the disciples are fishing in the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appears to them walking on water. US and Israeli scientists explain a cold spell in the region could have partially frozen the sea, allowing Jesus to walk on the ice.
Elijah and Fire from Heaven
As the prophet Elijah faced off against the worshipers of Baal, he set up a competition to see whose god is actually real. As he set up his altar, Elijah poured gallons of water on top of it. When finished, he prayed and God immediately sent down fire from heaven on a clear day. Anvil lightning is the most likely scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Anvil lightning frequently stretches across the sky as if from nowhere and pouring tons of water on wood on a mountain would certainly make the altar a major conductor of electricity.
David and Goliath
The battle between David and Goliath is one of the most famous stories in the Bible, symbolizing a fight between the underdog and a behemoth. But many wondered if Golitah actually could have been a giant or as tall as the Bible claims. A scientific study points to it being genetically possible. According to PubMed central, two doctors claim it’s likely Goliath inherited a pituitary disorder called familial acromegaly, or Gigantism.
The Walls of Jericho
In the book of Joshua, as the Israelites are entering the promised land, they battle against the great city of Jericho. As they marched around the city, the walls came tumbling down, allowing them to conquer the city. Believed to be a miracle, some scientists think the wall came down because of an earthquake based on new analysis of recent excavations in the area.
The Prophecies of the Apocalypse
In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John describes having visions of the end times in great detail, describing step by step what will happen in very cryptic and symbolic language. Scientists explanation of this phenomenon? Similar to Moses, the Apostle John was likely on some very serious drugs. Scientists did a study connecting psychedelic drugs and many ancient religious stories describing some bizarre and trippy events.
Cain and Abel
The story of Cain and Abel is the first murder in the Bible. Cain was a farmer while Abel was a herdsman. Some have speculated this story could be an ancient retelling of how the Neanderthals were murdered by Homo sapiens. It’s well known that Neanderthals wandered from place to place while Homo sapiens stayed put, pointing to the herdsman and farmer analogy. This story could be an oral retelling of how eventually the humans committed genocide against the Neanderthals.
The story of Noah’s flood is legendary. For many years, scientists discredited the idea that such a cataclysmic flood could occur. However, geologists studying the river valleys of Washington state discovered it was created by a giant glacier in Montana. The flood waters would have been enormous to create it. It could be possible that a glacier started the flood in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was the center piece of the Israelites and the McGuffin in the movie Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ancient Israelites who inappropriately handled it were immediately struck down by God. An engineer from the Lewis Institute of Technology studied the construction of the ark as explained in the Bible and determined it was a perfect simple electric condenser. With the right conditions, this condenser could potentially hold 10,000 volts of electricity and easily electrocute someone.
Speaking in Tongues at Pentecost
In the Book of Acts, it says on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they all began to speak in different languages. “Speaking in tongues” is a common tradition through various sects of the Christian church and neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania did research on five women while they spoke in tongues and discovered their frontal lobes were quiet as well as the language centers of their brain. Perhaps the Apostles were harnessing this aspect of the brain?
In the gospels, Jesus does many miraculous healings, including curing the deaf, the blind, and people who couldn’t walk. So, how did he do it? New research in the placebo effect has argued that mind-body healing is very real. Dr. David Kallmes of the Mayo clinic performs a treatment called vertebroplasty to help his patients spine. Kallmes decided to do a trial of a placebo effect of his surgeries on 130 patients, randomizing who gets the real treatment and who gets the placebo. In the study, many patients with the placebo treatment healed just as well as those that had the real treatment.
The Resurrection of Jesus
The story of the resurrection of Jesus comes around every Easter and is in all the gospel narratives in the Bible. After he died on the cross, Jesus was put in a tomb and after three days rose again and ascended into heaven. In the “Swoon Theory,” scholars have proposed Jesus didn’t die on the cross but rather passed out, was put in the tomb, and then was freed three days later.
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