Philosophy of Religion
Miracles in the Bible (Part 1): Introduction
Information: This article considers the notion of miracles from the biblical perspective. The article begin with some introductory thoughts on the matter, and a list of some of the miracles we find recorded in the Bible. Part 2 of this article looks at further issues related to the idea of miracles in the Bible, as well as considering how some Christians have responded to and have reinterpreted these events. A version of this article was originally published on the website www.faithnet.org.uk.
In Bible there are numerous examples of miracles being performed. Now although there have been many debates as to exactly how people should interpret these events (i.e. whether they literally happened as we read about them, or sort of happened like that, or did not happen like that at all), the assumption throughout the Bible is that God can and does perform miracles, and as such this is reflected in the way these accounts have been written.
However, in saying this the biblical accounts of miraculous events were not written down as they happened. Rather, the normal means by which these stories were 'passed on' was first and foremost through oral tradition (i.e. telling stories), which were then passed down through subsequent generations before being written down (often because people wanted to make sure that they were being remembered correctly). Now although 'oral tradition' is said to have been passed on accurately, only the most interesting or significant of these stories was ever going to be re-told. That this is the case can be seen in the Gospel of John. For the miracles recorded there were 'edited' and 'selected' and finally written down by him, for the purpose of leading people to faith in Jesus:
'Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus in the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' (John 20:30f)
So the passing on of stories through oral tradition, the way these stories were selected and re-told for a particular reason, and the fact that it was some time before we had a written 'fixed' account of them, should all be kept in mind when thinking about the record we have of miracles occurring in the Bible.
Examples of miracles from the Old Testament
Miracles can be found from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Some examples from the Old Testament are:
The miracles of Jesus
Some of the most well-known miracles, were those said to have been performed by Jesus (in the New Testament).
Later on the in the New Testament, the Apostles are also said to have performed miracles. For example, the Apostle Paul is said to have healed a crippled man (Acts 14:8-10), cast out a demon (Acts 16:16-18), brought someone back to life (Acts 20:9-12) and does not die despite being bitten by a poisonous snake (Acts 28:5). We should not be surprised that Jesus' followers claim to be able to do such things, as he is recorded as saying that they would be able to do so.
'In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.' (Mark 16:17f - see also Acts 2:43)
Today, many Christians claim that they and others can (and do) perform miracles for this reason.
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