The feeding of the 5000 is one of Jesus’ most popular miracles. If you grew up in church, you probably saw it depicted on many a flannel graph. You know the story: Jesus was in a deserted place where large crowds were hanging on his every word. When it started to get late, Jesus’ disciples asked him to disperse the gathering to the surrounding villages so they could grab a bite to eat. Rather than sending them home, Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed the multitude. The young lad who shared his food became famous that day and was sent home with 12 baskets full of leftovers.
Critics of the Bible tend to laugh at this miracle story. It sounds like a pious fiction meant only to teach that God can do a lot even when given very little. Or maybe it’s meant to make Jesus look like another Moses. Just as the children of Israel were fed with manna and quail from heaven under Moses, so Jesus miraculously provides a big crowd some Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. But what if I told you that this story has some real evidential basis? No, seriously. Hear me out for a sec.
The evidence for the feeding of the 5000 comes in the form of some internal evidence that goes by the funny name of ‘undesigned coincidences’.
WHAT ARE UNDESIGNED COINCIDENCES?
‘Undesigned coincidences’ is a phrase that was coined by the 19th-century writer JJ Blunt, who wrote a fascinating book on the topic that you can download for free. They’re called ‘undesigned’ because they’re incidental details that writers left out that raise questions, only to be filled in by another writer in an undesigned way.
Detective J. Warner Wallace is a former-atheist-turned-Christian after looking at the gospels in a similar way he’d investigate crimes. Reading these as a skeptic caught his attention. Here’s how Wallace describes undesigned coincidences:
“ When I first read through the Gospels forensically, comparing those places where two or more gospel writers were describing the same event, I was immediately struck by the inadvertent support that each writer provided for the other. The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail…