According to the Gospels, Jesus fed the 5000 with fives loaves, and two fish. But is this a legend, or a historically reliable account? I believe it is historical, largely due to the evidence of undesigned coincidences.
Philosopher Lydia McGrew defines undesigned coincidences as “a notable connection between two or more accounts or texts that doesn’t seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle.” These are hard to fake and even more unlikely to come about by pure chance in fictional or manipulated stories. Fictions and forgeries don’t normally converge. Or when they do, it’s in an obvious way that’s meant to be noticed.
Undesigned coincidences are what we’d expect to find in real accounts of the same event told by different people who knew what they were talking about. Taken cumulatively, they make a strong case for gospel reliability. There are dozens of undesigned coincidences in the New Testament, with several of them clustered in the feeding of the 5000.
Erik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and the co-owner of a vintage and handmade decor business with his wife, Dawn. He is passionate about the intersection of apologetics and evangelism.