Why then would miracles be of any interest in the controversy regarding Old vs. the New Translations? Why would any translator or theologian change the report or interpretation of 'miracles'? The motives truly have to be examined to begin to understand why there was such a push on the part of European, particularly German and Vatican translators to work towards a 'New Bible'.
The words for 'miracle' in the bible vary: leaving aside the Greek and Hebrew for the moment, the usage of the word is mostly interchangeable with words such as 'wonder(s)' , signs, or others used less frequently, which point to the supernatural, unexpected and often astonishing events which occur in the presence of God's work and people. Curiously, while 'miracles' is a term assigned as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, miracles are more frequently called 'wonders' in the Old Testament (Tenach) and almost exclusively occur in the life of the Old covenant prophets. Hence, we see such events as Elijah and Elisha bringing a child back to life, making oil and meal last due to obedience to a prophet, an ax head floating to the top of the water, the water parting by the work of Joshua, Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and the countless other events mentioned, with the greatest mention of miracles being in the life of Moses as he, by God, led Israel through the wilderness to Canaan. The word miracle is used 27 times in 27 verses, miracle: 10 times in 10, wonder: 15 in 15 and wonders 55 times. With those terms alone, independent of the description of events which do not use those words but are 'miraculous' we can see the frequent mention, indicating doctrinal salience.
The Tubingen School & Miracles
Long before WWII, the advent of the Tischendorf manuscripts, before Westcott and Hort's Revised Version, or the Kittels in Germany, the move began to 'de-mythologize' the bible. The reasoning bears the language of unbelief: theologians trained in a science of theology, began to implicitly agree that the modern mind could not 'handle' miracles, though they really meant that they were too sophisticated and well-reasoned to believe in supernatural events. As early as 1812-1820, the German school of theology which has come to be known as the Tubingen School, (named for the University housing its theology school in Bavaria), began to see a succession of scholars whose main thesis was:
1. That Jesus was either human, enhanced humanity, or his historicity was doubtful, andThe process in the beginning was the direct offshoot of the Cartesian Enlightenment, which many mistake for a godless move of human reason, but which truly, under Rene Descartes was an attempt to move away from religious blind obedience, though it was under Descartes and others that the idea came about that one did not have to receive the blind authority of the scriptures, but one could use one's intellect to decide either what passages meant, or whether they could be accepted under human rationale. The error which was introduced (though blind interpretations have always been a problem to believers) was the affront to Scriptural authority, and the inerrant, infallibility of the Word of God.
2. That which was difficult to the modern mind (e.g. miracles, healing, wonders) could be reinterpreted as archetype, symbol or parable for the sake of moral edification, but could not be taken literally.
The generations of scholars which followed would take the iasue of 'fides et ratio' even farther, (for Descartes himself was at least a professing believer): Baur (1792-1860), Schleiermacher (1768-1834), and several others in the crossover of the centuries, began to try and reconcile the Enlightenment with Christian theology, although Spinoza (1632-1677) had already begun to apply the principles in Judaism, where he was met with the constant criticism of 'hellenization'. (Spinoza eventually left Europe and went to a rabbinate in Turkey which allowed for more liberal ideas.)
The idea though that now, instead of Scripture being interpreted for the sake of belief and obedience, that man, with his 'god-given' rationale, could study and even defy canon and teaching based upon inductive human intellect instead of deductive theology or the study of revealed truth. By the time Baur passed away, Tischendorf had already returned with the Sinaiticus (1849) and just 30 years after Baur's death, Westcott and Hort, English bishops, would incorporate the Sinaiticus and other controversial and previously rejected texts in their 'new' or Revised Version.
Simultaneously, the time period saw the emergence of a renaissance in German/Nordic culture and interests in paranormal phenomena, the emergence of theosophy, the dismissal of the Jesuit order from 25 countries, and the introduction by the Vatican of the doctrine of Papal infallibility, asas well as the reintroduction of Mariology as a discipline. These seemingly separate incidents become important later to understand the shift in theology from traditional forms of textual criticism to what became known as "Higher Criticism" championed by two well known Tubingen scholars: Rudolf Bultmann, and later, Albert Schweitzer.
The culmination of the foundation for Higher Criticism would come in the text by Schweitzer In Search of the Historical Jesus in which Schweitzer develops the argument that whatever the outcome, the 'historical jesus' was different from the religious ideation of Jesus, but his implicit premise comes across as 'if he existed as all' and that it did not matter whether or not he did, clearly a position of unbelief. He would in later life develop the concept of "reverence for life" which in his mind formed an alternative for modern man who could not receive the supernatural events of the Scriptures, but could still hold to a reverent 'life principle'.
Where do miracles fit into this shift in doctrinal approach to the Scriptures? As the Tubingen School over a hundred and fifty years developed and taught (worldwide) the acceptable dismissal of metaphysical aspects of the scriptures, the Church began to turn from a focus on faith and belief, to a focus on philosophy and good works. The problem for theology was whether one was to inculcate faith and belief in the Word of God, or whether one changed forrm criticism to a rather jaundiced view that truly none believed anymore in such events as walking on water, healing or the feeding of thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread. The Tubingen school of scholars essentially tabled the discussion of whether there could be real miracles and wonders, favoring instead the idea of 'archetype' or 'myth': that world religions, because they share alike in types and kinds of certain miracles (e.g. men or gods with powers, or messengers from God), rather than see them as a central one being true and the others having a kernel of truth, gravitated instead to the belief "none are true", but all share teaching principles, symbology, or archetypes, such as a 'Messianic figure'.
With the removal of the teaching of miracles as true, much else came under the scrutiny of the 'scientific theologians': doctrines such as the Chosen place of Israel could be debated, Eschatology could be assigned to the realm of 'many religions carry apocalyptic tales' [note] and not surprisingly, the Jesuit trained Darby, reintroduced Dispensationalism as a way to assign wonders, if they occurred to a short time period for a purpose, nonetheless diminishing the idea of the power and sovereignty of God.
The diminishing of metaphysical aspects of the Scriptures paralleled the attempt to 'dejudify' the Scriptures as well, the crux of which has been well expounded in this series. The diminishing of regard for wonders and miracles also has accompanied a teaching that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are 'not for today', though this is clearly not a Scriptural teaching. That the miracles of Christ and the Prophets are clearly taught is self evident: even from the time period Concordances, Lexicons and works such as Scriveners (which became Strong's) and even Thompson's Chain Reference Bible was first out in 1890, cataloging and listing miracles and healings.
The belief in and teaching of miracles and wonders is a foundational truth of the Scriptures: faith remains the 'substance of things not seen'---the school of Higher Criticism can 'reason' away the supernatural in the Bible, but fervent belief in any of the major doctrines of Christianity or Judaism almost never accompanies the position: the Tubingen School introduced in modern theology a form of essentially literary criticism applied to an ancient text as opposed to studying revealed truth. It is unfortunately the former which has prevailed today in the U.S.
How many changes have there been in the Modern translations regarding miracles? To date, I know of no direct study of pre-Tischendorf texts (though truly pre-Shoah texts work just as well for comparison) with Modern Translations regarding the treatment of words and expressions or idioms with regard to miracles, but it is only logical to posit that a school and area which had for 150 years attempted to 'demythologize' Christian theology and the Scriptures, and then was central in the re-collation of uncertain texts of Greek and Hebrew for new bibles, could only have continued this prejudicial process into translation and collation.
Certain beliefs and doctrines are so critical in the Scriptures, that if removed or reinterpreted, they sway other central doctrines with them. One, of course is a blood bought Salvation (also reinterpreted by the same men), another, the Incarnation, but following, if God is made Man in Christ, then the miracles are not flexibly dismissed: they demonstrate proof of the Messiah, are the signs of Messiahship, (e.g. healing of a man born blind) and are literally required for evidence in several Old Testament passages. (...the Jews require a sign...). The issue in modern translations is which direction they are taking: even the footnotes often guide away from belief in supernatural passages---they may equate vexation with mental illness, or real events with medical explanations. The issue though always boils down to belief vs. unbelief: our Modern Bibles are ALL based upon the Kittel 'Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia' and the Nestle Aland Greek: all three were of the Tubingen School, and were deeply involved in the genesis of Nazi theology. All three were the 'fathers' of every modern English Bible translation, noted for thousands of changes. Kittel was a noted Anti-Semite, and the Nestle line developed the introduction of Greek classicism into National Socialist thought, and into Gerhard Kittel's Worterbuch, or Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, now called the ISBE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Bromiley, ed.)
A noted atheist and friend of C.S. Lewis, was challenged by Lewis to really read the Bible. Upon further discussion, while the man made no profession of faith, he said that the one thing he could discern was that the Bible was a book of eyewitness accounts, not fable. He still did not choose to believe in the bible, but he was a man of letters, well educated, and knowledgeable regarding style: he knew the difference between fiction and report. The troubling influence of the Tubingen School has had the effect of gutting modern belief of faith in that which is above common understanding: the trouble is, that is the whole realm of God. Modern bibles based entirely on modern re-collations of Greek and Hebrew which include controversial and faulty texts, re-assembled by men with an agenda and clear prejudice toward human reason vs. divine reason, can only be a mistake.
till the next, ekb