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by Catherine Frakas 08 Jul 2002

Truth QUESTION from Frances MacIntyre November 3, 1998 A friend at a neighboring parish has told me that her priest said(at a liturgy meeting)pentecost was just the apostles realization of Jesus' ressurection. In my parish a fellow catechist told me that to believe in Jesus having fasted for forty days in the desert(Lk.4:1) is like believing in the parting of the Red Sea or Jonah being swallowed by a whale. She said this is what the Fundamentalists believe? Please help me to understand. ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on November 7, 1998
Dear Frances:
Well, the people who are telling you these things, even the priest, apparently have a problem with faith.
First to the Pentecost. It is the teaching of the Church that the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles and indwelled them on the day of Pentecost. To say that it was only a mere realization is, in my opinion, a serious departure from the Church's teaching.
On the fasting of Jesus. We have no reason to believe that Jesus did not literally fast for 40 days. People do this today, it is not like it can't be done.
Same with the parting of the Red Sea. Why couldn't this have happened? Scientist, in fact, have postulate theories that would explain how the Read Sea was indeed parted – such as the explosion of a major volcano in the Mediterranean Sea known to have occurred about the time of the Red Sea Crossing. The scientists theorize that it would have been possible for the Red Sea to have parted at a section that is very shallow and which drops off in depth. The water levels could have changed in such a way as to part the sea just long enough for Israel to have crossed.
This is just one possible theory, but one that is possible. The parting of the Red Sea could have happened.
The story of Jonah, however, is generally considered to be a myth with the motivation of telling a religious truth. However, even this event is possible. In modern times whole animals have been found in the bellies of large whales.
The most important aspect of all stories in the Bible is their religious truth, not their historical accuracy. But, I have found that people who so quickly and readily dismiss these stories as mere myths are people who generally are lacking faith in other areas. They don't seem to give God the benefit of the doubt that he could indeed perform a miracle. Most of these people, from my experience also de-miracle-ize the Bible. Whether they know it or not consciously, I believe that many of these people are denying the power of God and trying to bring humanism into Scripture.
The statement that Pentecost was merely a realization of the Apostles and not an supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit is certainly a humanistic notion that one would hope would never come from a priest.
No, Frances, these things are not just what a fundamentalist believes, what they are saying is what a liberal humanist believes.
Ignore their imprudent dismissal of supernatural realities of God. But do keep in mind that many stories, like that of Jonah, are meant to express a religious truth and not be a historical record. But that doesn't mean that they are all myths.
I certainly believe that Jesus fasted for 40 days; I certainly believe the Red Sea was parted, and although scholars are in general agreement that Jonah is most likely a myth, I personally believe in the reality of the story myself.
It is not so important whether we agree on the historical accuracy of some of these stories, but it is important to agree upon the religious truths.
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