First, he claimed that the Bible was written in a style to excite and inspire human imagination, not to persuade the intellect. Second, a proper reading of Scripture requires peeling back the layers of phrases and metaphors. In other words, the Bible did not record miracles but reported events robed in hyperbole and exaggeration. The seeds of Spinoza’s doubts later blossomed in nineteenth-century liberal interpretations of the Scriptures. Some New Testament scholars claimed, for example, that Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand was no miracle. Rather, Jesus stood before an opening of a cave, which was concealed by His long, flowing robe. His disciples then fed loaves of bread through the sleeves of His robe. The feeding was no miracle but rather a sleight of hand—a well-intentioned ruse meant to inspire selflessness.
In his Theological-Political Treatise, Spinoza argued that the will of God is synonymous with the laws of nature. On the other hand, a miracle is a violation of the law of nature. God’s will is unbreakable; therefore, miracles are impossible. Some philosophers, such as David Hume, simply dismissed miracles because of disbelief. Hume maintained that the testimony of Christ’s resurrection, for example, was likely false. Such testimony was therefore invalid for establishing the historicity of the resurrection. In the present, New Testament scholars such as Bart Ehrman make similar claims. Ehrman defines a miracle as improbable. Historians, however, can establish only what probably occurred in the past. Thus, a historian can never ascertain the historicity of a miracle. Regardless of the variations, the simple truth behind the rejections of miracles is unbelief—a rejection of God’s Word.