The gospel narratives straightforwardly present the stories of the feeding the multitude miracles as something that really happened and witnessed by thousands of people (i.e. not symbolic, not mythical, etc.) despite the narratives having several teaching points (beyond simple reporting) to show how:
- Jesus came from heaven
- Jesus is the bread of life
- the miracle is greater than Moses and Manna from heaven
For commonsensical people, who are the audience of the gospels, the core of the miracle itself (the multiplication) either happened, or it did not. The genre and the framing of the narrative itself assumes this type of audience (as opposed to Plato's dialogues where the inferred audience can be used to argue that Socrates's speeches were literary, not historical).
I'm interested in the arguments used by scholars who dispute the historicity of the 2 miracles really happening. One possible argument is from the angle of fabricated documentation, such as attributing it to forced fulfillment of a prophecy, painting Jesus as a certain type, exaggerating the numbers of people, adding miracles to bolster the teaching that Jesus is divine, etc.
Because I'm focusing on the core aspect (i.e. the multiplication) of the miracles I want to make the following assumptions that should not be central to the argument:
- God can work miracles, so arguments from laws of nature is out of scope
- It maybe that only the apostles knew that the feeding was a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish (let's say the distribution was by the 12 apostles, as portrayed in the Gospel of John movie, for example). If that's the case, the thousands of people involved in the day's event should have at least still bolstered the historicity of the event itself.
- arguments from trying to explain the miracles away (such as people eating their own food) is out of scope
- minor discrepancies of the reporting in the 4 gospels should not be used against the historicity
- that Luke and John record only one feeding instead of two feeding in Mark and Matthew should not be used against the historicity of at least one really happened
- the existence of some teaching points beyond simple reporting should not count against it, although fabrication for the sake of teaching points only is a valid argument
The full question: Excluding the assumptions listed above, what arguments do scholars use to dispute the historicity of the core aspect of the two feeding miracles (i.e. the multiplication by Jesus)?