On Talking Snakes and Donkeys

By Evan Minton

One criticism that’s become extremely common from atheists is the mention of talking animals in The Bible, specifically the snake in the garden of Eden and Balaam’s donkey. In fact, on Facebook pages and in forums, I’ve heard this complaint so much it’s coming out my ears! Their point is that we never see animals talk. Animals can’t talk in the same way that humans talk. We’ve never seen any animal have the ability to speak in a human tongue and therefore, The Bible is in err. This critique is actually question begging as it presupposes that atheism is true. If God exists, why couldn’t He give one or two animals the ability to speak? After all, He gave human beings the ability to speak when He created them. If God can give human beings the ability to speak, then why couldn’t He give Balaam’s donkey or a snake the ability to speak? IF atheism were true, then I would wholeheartedly agree with the atheist that any account of a talking donkey or any other animal would be absurd. But since I believe in an all powerful God, I don’t think it’s absurd to say that God acted upon Balaam’s donkey and temporarily gave it the ability to communicate with its master.

Question: If there is a God and He had the ability to create the entire physical universe out of absolute nothingness (as current astrophysical evidence shows), which is the greatest miracle reported in The Bible, would not causing a donkey to speak Hebrew be child’s play? Of course! The question “Is an account of a talking donkey absurd” all boils down to the question “Does God Exist”? If God does not exist, then miracles can’t occur. If Miracles can’t occur, then certainly no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking since that would be a miracle. In syllogistic form, it would go like this

1: If God does not exist, then miracles can’t occur.
2: If Miracles can’t occur, then certainly no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking since that would be a miracle.
3: God does not exist.
4: Therefore, Miracles can’t occur.
5: Therefore,  no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking.

If the 3 premises are true, the conclusion follows. I agree with the first two premises, but I deny the third premise. The question as to whether or not a donkey could ever spontaneously start talking all boils down to the question “Does God Exist”. Since Christians believe God DOES exist, this objection has little to no weight to it and it’s clearly question begging.  I think all Christians would agree that if God does not exist, then in fact all of the miracles in The Bible couldn’t possibly happen, be it Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, raising Lazarus, Moses parting the Red Sea, etc. etc. etc. But once again, and I cannot stress this enough, it comes down to question “Does God exist?” Is there a miracle working God?

Visit Evan’s blog at CerebralFaith.Blogspot.com

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9 replies
  1. Byron says:

    Respectfully, I cannot accept Premise #1 as stated. I don’t know that it’s true. First, which God? And second, why should a God be required for miracles to occur? Do miracles require a divine agent with a personal will and intelligence? There are a lot of questions here. I do get what you are saying, though. If the Christian God exists, then anything is possible, including “talking” animals, however that took place. I just see it as extremely unlikely, personally.

  2. Jenny Tokumei says:

    What you are doing here is the appeal to possibility combined with argument from necessity.

    Premise A: Someone’s donkey is reported to have talked.
    Premise B: A god can make a donkey talk.
    Conclusion: Therefore a god did make a donkey talk.

    This is also begging the question, because you’re routing back to the preassumed conclusion that a donkey talked, without actually establishing that a donkey did in fact talk. The appeal to possibility is merely the route you use to arrive back at the preassumed conclusion.

    • Austin Larger says:

      This article is a refutation of a common Atheist’s thought process and improper conclusion. The author, on the other hand, isn’t asserting the conclusion your comment implies. His statement was simply that it’s not absurd to believe animals could talk (miracles could/can happen) given God.
      Premise A: A donkey is reported to have talked in the Bible.
      Premise B: There’s a supposed Christian god in the Bible.
      Premise C: That Christian god of the Bible is said to have performed miracles, including created the entire universe.
      Premise D: Creating the entire universe requires more power/capability than making a donkey talk.
      Premise E: If the supposed God of the Bible exists, making a donkey talk as reported would be within his power/capability.
      Conclusion: Therefore a talking donkey reported in the Bible isn’t innately in err.
      To claim that miracles definitively did/do occur would require a whole different train of thought, one I agree couldn’t be circular in reasoning, but certainly you can see the above isn’t.

  3. Rachel says:

    1. Would a talking snake be a miracle from the hand of God? I thought that was Satan.

    2. Just throwing it out there, birds can speak. Also, Coco the gorilla could use sign language.

    • Robby Hall says:

      It is true the account in Genesis is of Satan taking on the form of a serpent. However, the account of Balaam is of a regular, run of the mill donkey being given the ability to speak by God. Ultimately, it comes down to an objection to miracles and the supernatural out of hand.

  4. Faithless Forrest says:

    Did Yahweh make Pharoh priests magic snakes?
    If so why?
    If not was an Egyptian God responsible?

    How about the flying horse?

    How about flying talking monies?

  5. Fred says:

    Scientific studies have proven animals have the ability to communicate. Given this fact, it is fair to say that animals are capable of language usage. Language only means use of the body systems to get a message across. Could it be possible that the donkey communicated the way donkeys do and was understood by Balaam? Not outside the realm of human possibility being that many people today even can communicate with animals. Many people assume the donkey spoke Balaam’s language. It could have been vice versa. Think of how many people understand a plethora of “languages” which mind you are not all verbal. Furthermore, since anytime words in the Bible are words that have no definite English equivalent, we must rely on approximation to get the jist of what is being stated and the meaning Macau be far different from how you or I understand it being that different language groups rarely translate perfectly across one another.


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