Were the ancient people stupid and superstitious? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Recently, I’ve been debating on an article that Dr. Gary Habermas wrote for the Washington Post for Easter on reasons Jesus rose from the dead. Consistently, an argument that I have seen is one that says that the ancient people believed in a lot of this superstitious nonsense and that this didn’t happen in an age of science where people know better.
For the sake of those with that mindset, I’d like to point out to you some activities that the ancient people did.
#1-Ancient people had sex.
Yeah. This might seem like a shocker, but ancient people were really interested in having kids. After all, that was how you had a productive home life and made sure your family name was passed on. Their preferred method of getting to have kids was through having sex. They didn’t sit around and wait for virgins to get pregnant and then be overjoyed at the thought that they were now parents. Even back in Abraham’s day when he was told he should have a kid through Hagar by Sarah, he decided to sleep with her. When Lot’s daughters wanted to have kids without another man around, they got their Dad drunk and slept with him. They seemed to realize that there was this connection intrinsically between sex and babies.
#2-Ancient people built boats.
Sometimes, ancient people wanted to travel on the water. There was a whole industry for this and the ships would be used for battle as well as transport. In order to be able to move on the water, the ancient people built boats. They realized quite easily that when men start to walk on the water, they don’t last too long. They could not explain why this was, but they figured if they want to move on the water, they’d better build something that can.
#3-Ancient people grew food.
Believe it or not, ancient people worked long hours just to make one loaf of bread for their families. They planted seeds and cared for them in the hopes that they would have a good harvest. Why did they do these things? They did them because they did not expect food to just instantly pop up on their doorstep. They had this strange idea that they would actually have to work to produce food.
#4-Ancient people made wine.
Ancient people loved to drink wine, and they did not expect that if they just left water in a jar in the house, that it would suddenly turn into wine. Instead, they went through a long process in order to get the wine that they wanted. Once again, it’s a strange idea to some today I’m sure, but the ancients did it.
#5-Ancient people had doctors.
Of course, their doctors weren’t as good as ours today, but they had doctors who sought to have natural theories. Galen, for instance, believed that there had be a balance between the four humours of the body. He was wrong, but this theory was one that was perfectly natural. Like in any age, there were some quacks, but there were some who did seek those natural treatments.
#6-Ancient people buried their dead.
When someone died, the ancient people would bury them. Why? They didn’t need much experience to know that dead people stay dead. No one expected that when uncle Jacob died, that he would by some chance suddenly wind up on their doorstep within a week. They were dead and that was it. They had abundant evidence for this. People staying dead seemed to be a consistent pattern.
Why do we say all of this? Because ancient people would know what a miracle was. They had a basic idea of the natural order even if they couldn’t explain how it all worked. We can say they were wrong about miracles taking place, but we cannot say they were wrong in being able to tell what would qualify as a miracle. Suppose they were wrong about Jesus coming back from the dead. That would not mean that they would not know that had He come back, it would have been a miracle.
Were some people superstitious? Sure. So are some people today who read their horoscopes and such. Were they superstitious because they believed in miracles and deities? No. To have such an approach is to beg the question in favor of an atheistic worldview as being the only rational worldview through a circular argument.
By all means, say the ancients could have been wrong, but let’s not establish idiocy to them where it is not due.