For my write-up today on Robert Grant's Miracle and Natural Law in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Thought, I'll focus on Grant's comments regarding Mark 11:23, which states (in the KJV): "For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."
reads Mark 11:23 in light of Zechariah 14:4, which states: "And his feet
shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before
Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst
thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very
great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north,
and half of it toward the south." Grant notes that the Hebrew word for
"toward the west" is literally "to the sea". Grant's point is
that Jesus in Mark 11:23 is talking about the fulfillment of
eschatological promises about the moving of mountains. Presumably, in
the same way that Jesus through his ministry was fulfilling
eschatological promises in the Hebrew Bible about (say) the blind
seeing, so likewise did Jesus believe that his disciples would carry out
other eschatological promises through their faith.
Grant contrasts the attitude in Mark 11:23 with that of the first century Roman Stoic Seneca, who in Scientific Problems
said: "Countless 'miracles' move and change the face of the earth in
various places, bring down mountains, raise plains, swell valleys, raise
up new islands in the deep. It is worth while to investigate the
causes from which these things happen. You may ask, 'What will the
value of their endeavor be?' The greatest value of all, to know
Grant believes that there is a difference between Seneca and Jesus: "The
event, an earthquake, is presumably the same in each case. Seneca sees
in it an occasion for scientific investigation or philosophical
speculation; Jesus looks forward to it as an event in which the hand of
God will be revealed."
I guess one could then ask the
question: Could an earthquake (not all earthquakes, but an earthquake)
be both a sign caused by God, and also something natural, since God can
use nature? In my opinion, if an earthquake is the result of
natural causes that build up, that somewhat undermines the notion that
God is simply causing earthquakes by snapping his fingers.