The context of this article is about miracles in general and is not an exhaustive explanation of every miracle. The Virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ will not be discussed here as those are discussed elsewhere. Only referring to the “miracles” of the New Testament.
It is important to note that, none of the miracles Jesus did are specific. The people at that time could not give a specific diagnosis for anything. The nature of the disease that was cured, the depth of the water Jesus walked on, the exact conditions and temperature of the weather, exact way Jesus touched them, and so forth is vague and/or missing completely.
There is no way to judge just how miraculous the miracle was in comparison to today’s understanding. We only know that they believed it was miraculous with what limited knowledge the witnesses of that day had. In other words, what is miraculous for them is most likely not miraculous for us today.
How does God work miracles?
God works by “means,” “An action or system by which a result is brought about; a method.” It is by two or more events that happen on a timeline that cause a great or memorable event to occur.
An example of this is Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. While Joseph was in slavery, the jews gradually found themselves in a drought and starving. The Jews fled to Egypt to get help only to find Joseph had become a great Egyptian leader. Joseph ended up being the one who saved the jewish people from starvation.
Thus, it was miraculous that Joseph saved the Jews from starvation, seeing as the chances of him being reunited with his people was contingent on many conditions.
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
(Gen 50:19-20 NAS)
Jesus told the disciples to take a coin out of a fishes mouth from the first fish they caught.
But, lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.
(Mat 17:27 NAS)
Jesus did not “poof” the coin into the mouth of the fish. Two parallel events happened. As the disciples were gathering to go fishing, someone dropped a coin into the water that the fish tried to eat. While the disciples were going on the boat, the fish swam towards their direction. By the time the fish reached the boat, the disciples had the conversation and Jesus told them to catch the fish. They caught the fish and retrieved the coin.
Jesus knew because He has knowledge of both these events. Some may consider this irrational; but, this is how God works. Paul states,
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
(Rom 8:28 NAS)
This is not “Divine Intervention”; but, God’s providence in making everything in the world work according to a purpose through means.
Are irrational or contradictory beliefs false?
Holding an irrational or contradictory belief does not make your belief false. It just means the belief cannot be fully, logically explained.
The mathematical constant pi (π) is an irrational number and is much represented in popular culture.
Wikipedia.org – Irrational Numbers
In mathematics, the square root of negative one comes up frequently. This cannot be rationalized, so the “Imaginary number i” was created in order to solve complex problems.
Light is shown to be made of waves and particles.
Wave–particle duality is the concept that every elementary particle or quantic entity exhibits the properties of not only particles, but also waves.
Wikipedia.org – Wave–particle duality
Physical paradox, Quantum mechanical paradoxes, Causality paradoxes, and Observational paradoxes are irrational. There are a few Observational paradoxes.
A brief list of these yet inadequately explained observations includes observations implying the existence of dark matter, observations implying the existence of dark energy, the observed matter-antimatter asymmetry, the GZK paradox, the heat death paradox, and the Fermi paradox.
Wikipedia.org – Observational paradoxes
These paradoxes violate the “the laws of logic” because they contain contradictions. I am under the conviction that the “laws of logic” are not correct and are outdated thinking. Contradictory concepts in science happen and are true.
But this does not mean every hysterical irrational view is just as acceptable as Pi. We can only weight the evidence presented and apply deductive reasoning to come to the determination whether the claim is reasonable, rational, unreasonable, or irrational. If something is irrational, it still may be true, we simply cannot rationalize it with our current information, if ever.
Is Eyewitness testimony considered evidence?
Eye witness testimony is acceptable as evidence in a court of law.
The testimony of a witness that he saw the accused commit or participate in the commission of the crime for which the accused is being tried shall be admissible in evidence in a criminal prosecution in any trial court ordained and established under article III of the Constitution of the United States.
18 U.S. Code § 3502 – Admissibility in evidence of eye witness testimony
Eyewitness testimony is accepted in court today; however, it is becoming questioned by “cognitive psychologists.”
This recollection is used as evidence to show what happened from a witness’ point of view.
Wikipedia.org – Eyewitness testimony
Note! The “miracles” in the Bible are only proven by eyewitness to have taken place. The eye witness account does not necessarily have the capability of knowing how miraculous it is. The knowledge of disease and cures for disease during Bible times were primitive. Even if an explanation was given to the eyewitness at that time, they wouldn’t understand it because their knowledge was primitive. That is why the Bible text does not have enough information on the exact nature of the miracle, or what was done.
Eyewitnesses to the Miracles of Jesus
John personally witnessed the accounts he wrote about.
This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.
(John 21:24-25 NAS)
Luke collected data from witnesses.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
(Luke 1:1-3 NAS)
So we see eyewitness testimony is acceptable enough to be substantiated in today’s court. The main problem is interpreting what the witnesses actually saw.
Basic Christian Christology
While it is true Christianity teaches that Christ is 100% God and 100% Man, we also teach that, Christ laid aside His divine powers during His earthly life. Paul states,
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Phi 2:5-8 NAS)
Christ was human in every respect.
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
(Heb 2:17-18 NAS)
This means that, Christ did not do anything during His life (Prior to His resurrection) that a normal human could not do. The only difference is that Christ had exceptional knowledge and prescience of events and peoples thoughts.
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
(Mat 9:4 NAS)
Christ made it a point that He was not going to give a “divine miracle” when He said,
And as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah.
(Luk 11:29 NAS See also Mark 8:12; Mat 12:38-40, 16:1-4; John 2:18-19)
This means, other than His resurrection from the dead, no sign would be given to the people. In this sense, sign meaning, extraordinary action beyond what a normal human can do or “Divine Intervention.” The temptation of Christ is an example of how Christ would not divinely interfere with His human life.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, Lest You strike Your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
(Mat 4:1-11 NAS)
Christ did not change the stones to bread so He could eat, He ate food that was provided just like a normal person. So this means the “Walking on Water,” the “Water to Wine,” “Multiplying the bread and Fish,” and so forth, are events with a possible explanation. From the perspective of the witness who saw the event, it was not explainable.
Christ’s miracles, with the exception of His rising from the dead, do not prove Christ’s divinity. The apostles performed miracles and they are not divine.(Act 19:11; Act 8:13) Even those who do not believe in God or are false prophets can do miracles.(Mat 7:22; Rev 13:13) Christ’s miracles prove that Scripture was being fulfilled. (Mat 11:1-5; Luk 24:44, Joh 6:12-14) Jesus even said His apostles would do greater miracles than His.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. (Joh 14:12 NAS)
Looking back at the previous society
Many of the miracles Jesus did are rather trivial in our time. Today we have technology and medical advances that can do many of the miracles He did. There will be a day in the future where society will be able to do the same miracles with ease. We have Fizzies that turn water into soda. Wine Fizzies will be here soon, if not already. Looking back at previous technnology and scientific knowledge will always generate a laugh.
It does not take much to see that as society advances, we look back and cringe at the previous society’s medical procedures and knowledge. It was not long ago society practiced Trepanning which is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the human skull. George Washington believed in bloodletting, which was a practice to remove the “bad” blood. This resulted in George Washington’s death.
How would the apostle Peter describe an iPad?
What would the Apostle Paul’s explanation be of a motorcycle?
The future society will look at our society today and think we are simple and primitive. A few hundred years and we will look like complete idiots to humanity.
Yet, there is always a few individuals that stand out in society that will be regarded as brilliant. For example, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Philo, and many more who had extraordinary knowledge. Even though, the society they lived in was extremely ignorant and unintelligent, there were brilliant noteworthy people who would rival the knowledge of people today. There is plenty to warrant the belief in Christ’s extraordinary knowledge, works, and teachings.
Proper Biblical Hermanuetics
There are necessary rules to follow when interpreting any document from any age. The historical and semantic aspects must be considered to come to any conclusion. Modern interpreters of Scripture are constantly putting their modern thinking into the Bible. As if the people during the Bible times had the same meanings we have today. See my article What did the Apostles believe about Heaven during Christ’s time?
What was Society like during Jesus times
The people of Christ’s time were not only unknowledgeable, ignorant, and darkened in their thinking, Christ called them,
An evil and adulterous generation (Mat 12:38-40 NAS)
O unbelieving and perverted generation (Mat 17:17 NAS)
This generation is a wicked generation (Luk 11:29 NAS)
This perverse generation (Act 2:40 NAS)
They could not even understand the common sense to help someone who is injured on the side of the road. He spent most His time explaining common sense things like the good Samaritan. (Luk 10:33-37) If someone had a sickness, they had to get it approved as safe by the Priest or they would be put into quarantine. When Jesus healed people, He had to try and conceal it so the Priest would not come to Him with accusations.(Mat 8:2-4 NAS) Nobody would help each other. No hospitals, charity, outreach, or anything.
The amazing thing is that “Leprosy” back then is not the leprosy we know today. Any form of skin problem that made them think you had “Leprosy” got you quarantined. Of course being quarantined with a bunch of diseased people would eventually lead to the person getting some disease. Even though what he had was nothing more than a skin problem easily remedied with soap.
Many English translations of the Bible translate tzaraath as “leprosy,” a confusion that derives from the use of the koine cognate “Λέπρα” (which can mean any disease causing scaly skin) in the Septuagint.
Wikipedia.org – History_of_leprosy “Leprosy” in the Bible
If they had modern soap for washing their bodies they probably would have called it the “Miraculous Stone of Healing.”
The use of modern Soap
The Jewish people at that time had lye for cleaning their clothes but they had no idea about the modern use of soap and how it prevents bacteria and disease. Some people quote Jer 2:22 and Mal 3:2 as proof they had soap; however, these show it was for laundry. The use of lye was for their clothes but not for their body.
In modern times, the use of soap has become universal in industrialized nations due to a better understanding of the role of hygiene in reducing the population size of pathogenic microorganisms.
See Wikipedia.org – Soap
A society that does not even know about washing with soap could not possibly understand the cause or severity of any disease.
The gross and rampant misdiagnosis and medical error at that time was quite staggering. Even today we have a gross negligence in medical misdiagnosis. This is not just true during that time, it is prevalent today with all our “Scientific” knowledge.
A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection, or other ailment. Globally it is estimated that 142,000 people died in 2013 from adverse effects of medical treatment up from 94,000 in 1990
Wikipedia.org – Medical error
Even more so back then were people diagnosed with diseases that they most likely did not have. Another form of malpractice back then, and even happens today, is “Premature burial.”
While someone may be “clinically” dead, they may actually not be dead. This is how people are buried alive.
Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive. Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally or intentionally.
Wikipedia.org – Premature burial
It’s a good idea to delay a burial for this reason, especially, If someone appeared to be dead after a sickness. People were buried fast in ancient times to prevent the spread of disease.
Premature burial was such a concern during the 18th and 19th century that the “Safety Coffin” was made which contained a bell on a string that the person in the coffin could ring in case they were buried alive. There are modern examples of autoresuscitation after death which is called the “Lazarus syndrome.” See, Wikipedia.org – Lazarus syndrome
Christ knew when people who died that autoresussitated, by God’s means, after being buried alive. He knew because He knows; but, knowing is not the same as “Divine Intervention.” God revived them through “means.”
Self Induced or Stress related Illness
Many of the illnesses appeared to be self inflicted. Because of a mental problem they think they are sick.
Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder that causes an individual to self-inflict injury or illness or to fabricate symptoms of physical or mental illness, in order to receive medical care or hospitalization.
Medical-Dictionary.com – Munchausen Syndrome
There are plenty of physical illnesses that can be caused by stress. Stress caused by a traumatic experience is a major cause.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as major stress, sexual assault, terrorism, or other threats on a person’s life.
Wikipedia.org – Posttraumatic stress disorder
In many cases, Christ relieved the mental problem of the person He talked to. He would say that the persons faith healed them.
Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.
(Luk 17:19 NAS)
He did not say, I healed you because of your Faith; but, his faith healed him. So the man believed he could not walk and that is why he was paralyzed. This is why casting out evil spirits is associated with mental illness. (Mark 5:1-15)
Semantical use of miracles and wonders and signs
The most common problem with some christian interpretations of scripture is their usage of words. They will equivocate words throughout the Bible. An example of this is found at ChristianAnswers.Net.
In the New Testament these four Greek words are principally used to designate miracles:
1. Semeion, a “sign”, i.e., an evidence of a divine commission; an attestation of a divine message (Matt. 12:38,39; 16:1, 4; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18, 23; Acts 6:8, etc.); a token of the presence and working of God; the seal of a higher power.
2. Terata, “wonders;” wonder-causing events; portents; producing astonishment in the beholder (Acts 2:19).
3. Dunameis, “might works;” works of superhuman power (Acts 2:22; Rom. 15:19; 2 Thess. 2:9); of a new and higher power.
4. Erga, “works;” the works of Him who is “wonderful in working” (John 5:20, 36).
So according to this Christian view, signs, wonders, mighty works, and works are all referring to miracles. When each of these words are defined and matched in the Bible, they actually do not mean “divine intervention.” The Bible shows that signs, wonders, and miracles are all separate events.
Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst,
(Act 2:22 NAS)
Acts 2:22 shows that signs, wonders, and miracles are different acts.
The Definition of a Miracle or Mighty Work
The word “miracle” also does not always mean “divine intervention.” ChristianAnswers.Net define miracles as,
Dunameis, “might works;” works of superhuman power (Acts 2:22; Rom. 15:19; 2 Thess. 2:9); of a new and higher power.
ChristianAnswers.Net – Miracles
The problem is that the references they use do not mean superhuman power:
- Acts 2:22 is talking about the miracles of Jesus.
- Rom 15:19 is talking about the miracles of Paul.
- 2 Thess 2:9 is talking about the miracles of Satan.
Nowhere does the Bible teach superhuman abilities. The Bible is not Marvel Comics. Nor is it DC Comics for you DC fans. The definition of this Christian source is completely incorrect. In English, the word “miracle” can mean,
An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
Websters Dictionary Miracle
But that is an etymologically based usage from Religious perspectives. The word “miracle” also means,
An extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
Websters Dictionary – Miracle
The latter definition is accurate to what the Bible is teaching and not “superhuman powers.” ChristianAnswers.Net has equivocated the word “miracle” and used a lexical ambiguity fallacy.
The Definition of Sign
The word “sign” does not mean a divinely wrought miracle either.
An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else:
Example: flowers are often given as a sign of affection
Oxford Dictionary – Sign
ChristianAnswers.Net defines a sign as follows.
Semeion, a “sign”, i.e., an evidence of a divine commission; an attestation of a divine message (Matt. 12:38,39; 16:1, 4; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18, 23; Acts 6:8, etc.); a token of the presence and working of God; the seal of a higher power.
ChristianAnswers.Net – Miracles
The problem with this is that the word “sign” is:
- interchanged with the word miracle. (Act 4:22; Joh 12:18)
- used in regards to healing (Joh 4:50-54)
- used as a seal of God’s people (Rom 4:11)
- referring to speaking languages or Prophecy (1Co 14:22)
- used as a signal that an event will happen (Phi 1:28; Mat 24:3; Mark 13:4)
- used to point a person out (Judas’ kiss) (Mat 26:48)
Clearly when examined the word sign means to point to something else and not “divine intervention.” ChristianAnswers.Net has equivocated the word “sign” and used a lexical ambiguity fallacy.
The Definition of Wonder
The word “wonder” does not mean a “divine intervention.”
A strange or remarkable person, thing, or event:
Example: the electric trolley car was looked upon as the wonder of the age
Oxford Dictionary – Wonder
ChristianAnswers.Net defines a wonder as follows.
Terata, “wonders;” wonder-causing events; portents; producing astonishment in the beholder (Acts 2:19).
ChristianAnswers.Net – Miracles
This is a better definition than their other definitions; however, it does not support the conclusion they are trying to defend that a wonder is a miracle. A wonder is simply something to marvel over or that is astonishing.
The Definition of Works
The last word ChristianAnswers.Net uses is “works.” They state,
Erga, “works;” the works of Him who is “wonderful in working” (John 5:20, 36)
ChristianAnswers.Net – Miracles
They say that the following verse is teaching that works are “divine intervention” miracles.
“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.
(Joh 5:20 NAS)
It does not take much to find in the Bible that this is not the meaning. James states,
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
(Jam 2:14-16 NAS)
Works actually means good deeds, actions, or behavior. Christ would heal people, feed them, teach them, cure their mental illness, and live the life he preached.
Conclusion to the miracles in the New Testament
God works by means, “An action or system by which a result is brought about; a method.” It is by two or more events that happen on a timeline that cause a great or memorable event to occur. Holding an irrational or contradictory belief does not make your belief false. Eye witness testimony is acceptable as evidence in a court of law.
While it is true Christianity teaches that Christ is 100% God and 100% Man, we also teach that, Christ laid aside His divine powers during His earthly life. The people of Christ’s time were not only unknowledgeable, ignorant, and darkened in their thinking; but, there is no possible way they could explain the events in an intelligible way. Many miracles back then are not so miraculous today and in the future they will be even less so.
When defining the words in the Bible used to support “divine intervention” or “superhuman powers”, they actually cannot be defined that way. Many Christians use equivocations and lexical ambiguity fallacies in their definitions. This leads to incorrect conclusions.
Because people focus on the proving “divine intervention” and extra curricular theological points, they miss the point completely.
Did Jesus perform Miracles? Yes.
Was it verified? Yes
Do we know the exact information on the event that led to the necessity of the miracle? No.
Did the people of that time have the ability to describe anything in terms we can relate to today? No.
The point is that Jesus lived what he preached. He didn’t say to help someone and not help people himself. The works He did were fulfilment to promises in the Old Testament. He confronted those who were against helping, forgiving, and teaching others with His superior knowledge, truth, and wisdom. He did this to the point where the society killed Him and He was innocent.
He set in motion the way our world views helping people and charity.