The term “supernatural” has also come into use in reference to miracles. “Super” comes from the Greek word huper that means “above.” When we say that something is “supernatural” we are referring to that which is above natural law. A miracle is an extraordinary happening that is above, or beyond, the ordinary occurrence of natural laws that govern this physical universe.
The English term “miracle” comes from the Latin word miraculum. This word was used by English translators to translate the Greek words dunamis and semeion. Both words were originally used in language to refer to that which causes wonder and astonishment. They were words that were used to refer to that which was extraordinary and unexplainable by empirical definitions.
Though the words “miracle” and “supernatural” are used today to refer to all the work of God both past and present, the biblical interpreter must understand the common error that we make for ourselves by reading our present-day experiences into the Bible. We define words by our experiences in everyday life. The word “miracle” is commonly used in our society to refer to any unusual event that people experience. For example, what is easily understood as a physiological condition of epilepsy is often defined by some to be demon possession. A nervous condition on the part of some individuals is sometimes referred to as demon possession by others. Some hallucination that one might experience at a time of emotional distress is often defined by some to be a vision from God. Unusual dreams are sometimes considered to be visions from God. All such experiences are also defined today with the words “miracle” or “miraculous.”
The problem is that our experiences are read into the Bible where the word “miracle” is used. This is the problem many have in understanding the miracles of the Bible. They define the miraculous work about which we read in the Bible with the experiences of their own lives.
If one assumes that God works today in the affairs of man as He has always worked in a miraculous manner two millennia ago, then it is easy to assume that He miraculously works today in the same manner. If we assume that He continues to work in our lives as He did in the life of Isaiah or Paul, then it is only natural to assume that miracles occur today in our lives in the same manner they occurred in the lives of the Bible characters.
However, the problem with this method of interpreting the Bible is that we do not allow the Bible to speak for itself. We want it to speak according to our own experiences. Nevertheless, we must allow the Bible to be its own dictionary of the miraculous work of God. In other words, we must allow the Holy Spirit through the inspired words of the Bible to define the miraculous work of God. We cannot use our own experiences as the definition of God’s work. If we do, then our own experiences become the foundation upon which we interpret the word of God, and subsequently base our faith.
Since it is easy to be deceived by our own experiences and environment, it is imperative that we allow the Bible to define the miraculous work of God. It is imperative that the Bible be the only guide by which we understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the affairs of man. The following are Greek words that were used by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament in order to define the miraculous or supernatural work of God in the affairs of this world:
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