... the most miraculous one of all/
is the one I thought could never be/
God has given a brain to me...
I was thinking about miracles as reported in the Tanach and the Midrash. It's certainly easy to brush off a miracle as an impossibility - after all, doing things that are outside the normal operating procedures of nature seems to be the very definition of a miracle. So, while one may say "the sea splitting? How could you believe such nonsense?!," others simply view it as a miracle that happened - God caused the sea to split to let the Jews escape from the Egyptians.
There are numerous miracles mentioned in Tanach - the sea splitting, the flood, the manna falling from the heaven, the sun stopping for Joshua, Elisha's raising of the dead. That is by no means a complete list. There are plenty of miracles that are mentioned outright in Tanach. Let's call those "primary miracles."
In order to support those primary miracles, however, one must also accept the premise of "secondary miracles" - miracles not mentioned directly in Tanach, but which have become associated with the prime miracle, and, in some cases, must be accepted if the prime miracle is to make sense at all.
The Mabul (flood) is a primary miracle that seems to be rife with secondary miracles. Problems with spatial dimensions, logistical problems concerning feeding, waste disposal and disease, gathering up all the animals (and then returning them to their proper habitats afterwards!), are all matters that one must ascribe to "secondary miracles" if one is to believe the primary miracle.
In some cases, believing in the secondary miracle makes some sense - for example the miracle of the manna falling. The Midrash teaches several miraculous qualities that the manna possessed (it's taste could be altered, it did not possess waste material, etc.). Personally, I'm inclined to accept these since as long as we're positing God miraculously bringing food to millions of people daily (talk about a delivery service!) then it's not too much more of a stretch to say that the food itself was miraculous.
Other secondary miracles, however, strain the credulaty of the story. I suppose the Mabul (Noah's flood) is one of the main stories that feature these types of "secondary miracles." The water itself, I suppose would be the primary miracle - there simply isn't that much water in the world - so God created it to destroy the world. Fine, there's the primary miracle.
The secondary miracles, however, abound like rabbits. Spatial problems, logistical miracles concerning feeding, ventilation, waste disposal and disease, the problem of gathering animals from far away locations (and returning them there once the flood was over!), and many others are "secondary miracles" that are attributed to the flood.
Some of these secondary miracles make sense to the average reader - after all without them the story could not happen. So, how did Noah get all those animals in the ark to fit? It was a miracle. How did the carnivores survive for a year on vegetable matter? It was a miracle. How did disease not spread with the bottom level of the ark containing waste for an entire year? It was a miracle. How did animals from specialized environments survive out of their environment for an entire year? It was a miracle. You get the picture. In order to accept the flood story at face value, you have to accept many, many other miracles along with the main story.
Some of these "secondary miracles" however, don't make any sense. How did the animals from the Americas and Australia get to the ark in the first place? I suppose they came on their own (miracle?), as the Torah seems to indicate. But the Torah gives no indication of how they got back to where they came from. How did the llamas get back to South America? How did the kangaroos get back to Austrailia? Did the penguins fly back to Antarctica? What about the dodo - how did it get back to Mauritius? The Torah makes no mention of this, and, oddly, neither does the Midrash (to the best of my knowledge - if someone knows differently, please feel free to let me know). The way the story seems to read is that Noah simply opened the doors of the ark and let everything out to migrate back to it's proper location. (We'll leave off how they would survive in their proper location if it was devestated by the flood - that's another question for another time). And I'm still not aware of any reason why God would erase geological evidence of a world wide flood.
Another example of incredible "secondary miracles" surrounds Og, king of Bashan. Here is a creature which the Torah describes as a giant. OK, well, giant means different things to different people. The Midrash takes this to an extraordinary degree. The Midrash pegs Og's height at thirty amos (cubits) tall - at the ankle!
Well, surely the existence of such a creature is surely a miracle. No creature on earth is that tall or massive. Not even the blue whale, the largest animal creature to ever exist on earth can compare to that. But what about all the secondary miracles needed to explain Og?
Such a creature, under normal circumstances, should not have been able to move. It should have collapsed under it's own weight - even taking into account the added muscle that it surely must have had (remember, while area doubles by the square, volume doubles by the cube - Og would have much more weight bearing down on each square inch of his feet than you or I would).
In addition, one has to account for the fact that a creature of that size would need to consume a great deal of food to survive - possibly more than the region could produce and sustain the nation living upon it. Could the area have supported such a creature? And if so, was it a miracle?
Of course, one of the most vexing issues that I have with Og's reported height is the complete lack of him in any extra-Biblical or extra-Midrashic text. A creature that size would have been a legend for hundreds of miles around. In addition, assuming that Og was able to move (the Midrash reports him as being able to lift a mountain over his head!) I'm surprised that Bashan wasn't the superpower of the region. After all, what ancient nation, possessing a weapon as formidable as Og would not conquer it's surrounding nations? So, then, how do you explain the absence of Og from any extra-Biblical or extra-Midrashic literature? I suppose one could attribute it to a miracle, but then one must also ask "why?" What purpose would there be in God deleting Og from all places except Torah literature? It just doesn't make sense.
Assuming, of course, that one accepts "primary miracles" as having happened (more or less) as reported, how does one treat the secondary miracles? Certainly some of them are believeable and perfectly within the "scope" of the story. But some of them are just way out there and I find them very difficult, if not impossible, to believe.