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Signs and Wonders vs. Wisdom

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  • Bob Schacht
    [This is an abridged version of the original version, on XTalk] Paul wrote, NRS 1 Corinthians 1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,... I got to
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2012
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      [This is an abridged version of the original version, on XTalk]

      Paul wrote,
      NRS 1 Corinthians 1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,...

      I got to wondering (again) about these key words,
      but today I got to wondering if these key words
      would also help us identify target audiences. So,
      for example, when the evangelists talk about
      "signs," are they addressing a Jewish audience?
      Would they use "wisdom" more often if addressing a Greek or gentile audience?

      "Signs" (semeia), of course, carries some serious
      religious baggage, beginning in the OT with Moses.


      NRS John 4:48 Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you
      see signs and wonders you will not believe."

      GNT John 4:48 ei=pen ou=n o` VIhsou/j pro.j
      auvto,n( VEa.n mh. shmei/a kai. te,rata i;dhte( ouv mh. pisteu,shteÅ

      NRS Acts 4:30 while you stretch out your hand to
      heal, and signs and wonders are performed through
      the name of your holy servant Jesus."

      GNT Acts 4:30 evn tw/| th.n cei/ra, ÎsouÐ
      evktei,nein se eivj i;asin kai. shmei/a kai.
      te,rata gi,nesqai dia. tou/ ovno,matoj tou/ a`gi,ou paido,j sou VIhsou/Å

      NRS Acts 5:12 Now many signs and wonders were
      done among the people through the apostles. And
      they were all together in Solomon's Portico.

      GNT Acts 5:12 Dia. de. tw/n ceirw/n tw/n
      avposto,lwn evgi,neto shmei/a kai. te,rata polla.
      evn tw/| law/|\ kai. h=san o`moqumado.n a[pantej evn th/| Stoa/| Solomw/ntoj(

      NRS Acts 14:3 So they remained for a long time,
      speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to
      the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them.

      GNT Acts 14:3 i`kano.n me.n ou=n cro,non
      die,triyan parrhsiazo,menoi evpi. tw/| kuri,w|
      tw/| marturou/nti Îevpi.Ð tw/| lo,gw| th/j
      ca,ritoj auvtou/( dido,nti shmei/a kai. te,rata
      gi,nesqai dia. tw/n ceirw/n auvtw/nÅ

      NRS Acts 15:12 The whole assembly kept silence,
      and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of
      all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.

      GNT Acts 15:12 VEsi,ghsen de. pa/n to. plh/qoj(
      kai. h;kouon Barnaba/ kai. Pau,lou evxhgoume,nwn
      o[sa evpoi,hsen o` qeo.j shmei/a kai. te,rata evn toi/j e;qnesin diV auvtw/nÅ

      NRS Romans 15:19 by the power of signs and
      wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so
      that from Jerusalem and as far around as
      Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ.

      GNT Romans 15:19 evn duna,mei shmei,wn kai.
      tera,twn( evn duna,mei pneu,matoj Îqeou/Ð\ w[ste
      me avpo. VIerousalh.m kai. ku,klw| me,cri tou/
      VIllurikou/ peplhrwke,nai to. euvagge,lion tou/ Cristou/(

      NRS 2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true
      apostle were performed among you with utmost
      patience, signs and wonders and mighty works.

      GNT 2 Corinthians 12:12 ta. me.n shmei/a tou/
      avposto,lou kateirga,sqh evn u`mi/n evn pa,sh|
      u`pomonh/|( shmei,oij te kai. te,rasin kai. duna,mesinÅ

      NRS Hebrews 2:4 while God added his testimony by
      signs and wonders and various miracles, and by
      gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

      GNT Hebrews 2:4 sunepimarturou/ntoj tou/ qeou/
      shmei,oij te kai. te,rasin kai. poiki,laij
      duna,mesin kai. pneu,matoj a`gi,ou merismoi/j kata. th.n auvtou/ qe,lhsinÈ

      NRS Ester (Greek) 10:9 And my nation, this is
      Israel, who cried out to God and were saved. The
      Lord has saved his people; the Lord has rescued
      us from all these evils; God has done great signs
      and wonders, wonders that have never happened among the nations.

      NRS Wisdom 8:8 And if anyone longs for wide
      experience, she knows the things of old, and
      infers the things to come; she understands turns
      of speech and the solutions of riddles; she has
      foreknowledge of signs and wonders and of the outcome of seasons and times.

      NRS Baruch 2:11 And now, O Lord God of Israel,
      who brought your people out of the land of Egypt
      with a mighty hand and with signs and wonders and
      with great power and outstretched arm, and made
      yourself a name that continues to this day,

      From this long catalogue, several things are clear:
      * "Signs and wonders" are often associated with God.
      * God may show signs and wonders through his
      chosen people, e.g. Moses, or the disciples (e.g. NRS 2 Corinthians 12:12)
      * But signs and omens can also be performed by false prophets:
      NRS Matthew 24:24 For false messiahs and false
      prophets will appear and produce great signs and
      omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

      In the New Testament, the phrase "signs and
      wonders" appears about a dozen times:
      * Acts, 4x (Chapters 4,5, 14 & 15)
      * GJohn, 2x
      * Not at all in the Synoptic Gospels!
      * Romans, Hebrews, and 2 Corinthians
      But Paul didn't emphasize signs and wonders, but signs, which are mentioned
      * 11 times in Acts
      * 6 times in John
      * Not at all in the synoptic Gospels!
      * Once in Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Hebrews
      So from this narrow perspective, it would seem
      that Acts had the most Jewish audience, followed by GJohn.

      *Wisdom* (sophia) is much more common in the
      Bible as a whole, and may be found once in Mark
      (6:2), 3 times in Matthew, 4 times in Acts, and 7
      times in Luke, but not at all in GJohn.

      Thus we have an interesting comparison:
      * Signs (and wonders): Used in GJohn & Acts, but not the Synoptic Gospels
      * Wisdom: Used in the Synoptic Gospels, & Acts, but not GJohn
      Can it be that GJohn was primarily an appeal to
      Jews, but the Synoptic Gospels were primarily designed for a Gentile audience?

      I'm sure that others must have looked at this
      issue. Who, and where can I find it?

      Thanks,
      Bob Schacht
      Northern Arizona University




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