In my previous post, I wrote about two magicians: Jim Munroe and Penn Jillette. There is one thing they have in common besides being professional magicians. Both freely admit to being charlatans, that there is nothing paranormal, or supernatural about the feats they do. Their only skills are the ability to perform elaborate trickery, sleight of hand, diversion of attention and so on.
Jillette is well known for his disdain of magicians who claim supernatural or paranormal abilities. He is following in the footsteps of the man who inspired him to become a magician, the performer known as The Amazing Randi. In 1964, Randi offered a $1,000 challenge to anyone who could demonstrate supernatural ability under an agreed upon testing procedure. Since then, with financial backing from sponsors, the prize has grown to $1 million. A number of challengers have failed to win the prize. Many famous people in his field have refused to even accept the challenge.
I admire the work of The Amazing Randi in exposing frauds and swindlers. Randi has also exposed a number of so-called faith healers and preachers who fraudulently claim to be receiving information or power from the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, these frauds place a black mark on Christianity. It is good that they are exposed.
(Note: this is different from the testimony of Lacey Sturm in the Billy Graham produced video linked to yesterday’s post. In her case, the Holy Spirit revealed a piece of information about her to the man leading the worship service, but he did not know who it was about. The Holy Spirit revealed more information to a second man who she encountered as she was leaving. This was during a regular worship service, not a meeting dedicated to supernatural revelation or healing. They merely acting on the information revealed to them, which turned out to be accurate.)
One of the biggest problems from frauds who operate in the name of Christ is that their exposure influences people to be skeptical about the Bible and Christianity. Jim Munroe was able to go beyond that skepticism. So far, Randi and Jillette have not.
Where I disagree with Randi on the subject is that when there is something in the Bible that he cannot explain, he merely dismisses it as too fantastic to believe. One of the cases he mentions is that, according to him, Adam and Eve only had two sons, one killed the other, and yet they were able to populate the whole world. He ignores the fact that Adam and Eve were able to have more children after Abel. Two of them were recorded by name in the Bible: Enoch (Genesis 4:18) and Seth (Genesis 4:25). Further information is added by these two verses: And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. – Genesis 5:3-5.
We do not know how long Eve lived or how long Adam and Eve were able to produce children. But we know they were able to do so after 130 years and continue to produce more children, both sons and daughters thereafter.
Debunking miracles because you cannot explain them is tautological: you don’t believe in miracles because you don’t believe in God, and you don’t believe in God, in part, because you don’t believe the accounts of miracles by the people of God.
I do not have a million dollars, or even a thousand dollars to spare to raise a challenge similar to the one Randi raised in 1964. So all I can do is offer an intellectual challenge. The challenge is to provide a scientific explanation for the miracle of manna.
Many have tried to identify manna by looking at substances naturally located in the wilderness region where the children of Israel wandered after they left Egypt. Some have tried to compare it to the resin of the Tamarisk tree. While there are similarities to the Biblical description, the comparison breaks down because the resin is mostly sugar. It would not have provided sufficient nutrition over many years and it would have been very difficult to make cakes from it.
Others have speculated that it was derived from certain lichens that are light enough to be spread by the wind. However, the taste is wrong. Still others speculate that it is a secretion from insects. A few different species have been mentioned as the possible source. Another theory is that it was a particular mushroom that is known for both producing spiritual experiences and for suppressing the appetite.
Every one of these explanations fails to address a key fact about the miracle of manna. I believe it was my God-given ability in math and my love for numbers that was the basis for God revealing this to me.
An entire chapter of the Bible, Exodus 16, is devoted to a description of manna. There is an additional description of manna in Numbers 11 where the Israelites grumble about the lack of variety in their menu. Ironically, the mathematical information I am writing about is stated in Exodus, not Numbers.
We are told that the children of Israel started grumbling against Moses because they left behind better things to eat in Egypt. The grumbling began in the middle of the second month after they left. Shortly afterwards, the Lord told Moses that He would send bread from heaven and the manna began to appear. We are then told that the Israelites ate it for forty years.
But here is what all the speculations about the source of manna cannot explain. There are certain additional facts about how the manna was delivered. A cursory reading of the Bible or a lack of focus on the extraordinary math involved, and the point may be missed.
We are told that for the first five days of the week, a daily supply of manna was available to every family. On the sixth day of the week, a double supply was sent. On the seventh day, the Sabbath, nothing was sent. We are also told that if people tried to save something for the following day on the first five days, it would spoil. It would breed worms and begin to stink. Yet on the sixth day, when a double portion was provided, a portion was kept over to the next day, because the work of gathering manna was not permitted on the Sabbath and God did not supply any manna on the Sabbath. The manna saved from day six to the Sabbath did not spoil.
At first glance, the response might be, “So what?” Such a response ignores the magnitude of what happened.
This occurred over a period of forty years. Since it happened on a weekly cycle, this is approximately 2080 weeks. Because it started a few weeks after the forty years began and there are some minor differences in the Bible as to the exact point when the manna ceased, let’s be conservative and make the numbers simple by calling it 2000 weeks.
Now picture this. For two thousand weeks, fourteen thousand days, the same cycle repeats over and over again: a single portion for five days, a double portion on the sixth day, none on the seventh day; anything left over on the first five days spoils; nothing left over on the sixth day spoils. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, over and over again, during the first year, the second year, the fifth year, the twelfth year, the seventeenth year, the twenty-eighth year, the thirty-sixth year all the way until the fortieth year, the cycle repeats.
Think back forty years in your own lives. For younger readers, think back ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, thirty years. Do you know of any natural phenomenon that occurs with such regularity? Yes, there are birds that fly south and then return north once a year. There are animals that hibernate every winter. Perennial flowers bloom again every year. But do they do so on the same day each year? For each of these examples, the answer is “no”. (Swallows flying south on October 23 and returning to Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19 is a tradition invented by man and not supported by fact.) There are some cicadas that only emerge from underground once every seventeen years, but they do not emerge on the exact same day each year. The day of emergence will vary according to climate conditions that year.
And even if a natural phenomenon of such regularity could be found, it still fails to explain two things. First, why is there a difference in the spoilage of the manna carried over from the first five days compared to that saved on the sixth day? Second, how would such a regular natural phenomenon have an abrupt beginning and abrupt ending?
There are two other directions one could take to explain manna. You could say it is a myth or you could say it is an outright lie. But you can’t simply declare it. You have to prove it.
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? – Genesis 18:14a