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Signs and Wonders vs. Wisdom

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  • Bob Schacht
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2012
      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:

      NRS Exodus 7:3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart,
      and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.

      NRS Deuteronomy 4:34 Or has any god ever
      attempted to go and take a nation for himself
      from the midst of another nation, by trials, by
      signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and
      an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays
      of power, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

      NRS Deuteronomy 6:22 The LORD displayed before
      our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders
      against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.

      NRS Deuteronomy 7:19 the great trials that your
      eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand
      and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your
      God brought you out. The LORD your God will do
      the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.

      NRS Deuteronomy 26:8 The LORD brought us out of
      Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,
      with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders;

      NRS Deuteronomy 34:11 He was unequaled for all
      the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to
      perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and
      all his servants and his entire land,

      NRS Nehemiah 9:10 You performed signs and wonders
      against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the
      people of his land, for you knew that they acted
      insolently against our ancestors. You made a name
      for yourself, which remains to this day.

      NRS Psalm 135:9 he sent signs and wonders into
      your midst, O Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants.

      NRS Jeremiah 32:20 You showed signs and wonders
      in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel
      and among all humankind, and have made yourself a
      name that continues to this very day.

      NRS Jeremiah 32:21 You brought your people Israel
      out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders,
      with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror;

      NRS Daniel 4:2 The signs and wonders that the
      Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount.

      NRS Daniel 6:27 He delivers and rescues, he works
      signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he
      has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."

      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,

      NRS John 6:26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I
      tell you, you are looking for me, not because you
      saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

      GNT John 6:26 avpekri,qh auvtoi/j o` VIhsou/j
      kai. ei=pen( VAmh.n avmh.n le,gw u`mi/n(
      zhtei/te, me ouvc o[ti ei;dete shmei/a( avllV
      o[ti evfa,gete evk tw/n a;rtwn kai. evcorta,sqhteÅ

      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): GJohn & Acts, but not the Synoptic Gospels
      * Wisdom: Synoptic Gospels, & Acts, but not GJohn
      Can it be that GJohn was primarily an appeal to
      Jews, but the Synoptic Gospels were primarily an appeal to Gentiles?

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

      Bob Schacht
      Northern Arizona University

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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