First, the Gospels are “supernatural,” that is, they contain numerous stories that are so remarkable that they would require the miraculous activity of God.
The Gospels are full of miracles from beginning to end.
If we no longer needed to appeal to “miracle” to explain why we got over the flu, or why it finally rained last week, or why the solar system was formed, do we need to appeal to miracle to understand the Gospels?
Some scholars of the Enlightenment thought that the answer was No.
On the contrary, the views I will be laying out here are those held by virtually every professor of biblical studies who teaches at every major liberal arts college or research university in North America.
Take your pick: Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Kansas, University of Nebraska, University of Minnesota, University of Florida, Amherst, Middlebury, Oberlin — literally, pick any top liberal arts college or state university in North America, and the views that I will be sketching here are pretty much the sorts of things you will find taught there.
The second stage in this history of the study of the Gospels happened during the Enlightenment, when scholars began to think about and look at the world very differently.
In the Enlightenment thinkers in Europe began to break free of the authority imposed by the Christian church and to develop new, rational ways of engaging in intellectual activity.
The first stage involved the study of the Gospels before the Enlightenment.
Prior to the eighteenth century, every scholar who studied the Bible maintained that the stories of the Gospels were what we might call “supernatural histories.” Both words in that term are important.