Wonder - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Wonderteras (G5059) Wonder
semeion (G4592) Sign
dynamis (G1411) Power
endoxon (G1741) Glorious Thing
paradoxon (G3861) Strange Thing
All of the following words are used to characterize the supernatural works that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry: semeion (John 2:11; Acts 2:19), teras (Acts 2:22; John 4:48), dynamis (Mark 6:2; Acts 2:22), megaleion (Luke 1:49), endoxon (Luke 13:17), paradoxon (Luke 5:26), and thaumasion (Matt. 21:15). The first three words are the most common and are used to describe both the supernatural works performed in Christ's power by his apostles (2 Cor. 12:12) and the false miracles the antichrist will perform (2 Thess. 2:11). These words do not depict different kinds of miracles. Rather, they portray the miraculous from different perspectives.
Teras and semeion often are used together in the New Testament and even more frequently in the Septuagint, where teras is the equivalent of môpet(G4159) and semeion of 'ôt(G226). This also is the case in secular Greekin Josephus, Plutarch, Polybius, Philo, and others. The distinction the ancients were fond of drawing between these two words, however, will not bear a moment's serious examination. This distinction was clearly expressed by Ammonius: "Teras differs from semeion, for teras occurs contrary to nature and semeion occurs contrary to custom." Theophylact said:
Semeion and teras differ in that semeion is spoken of in matters according to nature, although occurring in an unusual manner, as in the immediate healing of Peter's mother-in-law when she had a fever (Matt. 8:15), while teras occurs in matters not according to nature, as in the healing of the man who was blind from birth (John 9:7).
Upon examination, this distinction breaks down so entirely that it is difficult to understand how so many (by repeating it) have given it credence. An earthquake, however rare, cannot be considered contrary to nature and therefore cannot, according to the distinction made above, be called a teras. Nevertheless, Herodotus used teras to describe the earthquake that he had experienced in Delos. Neither can a serpent that has been snatched up in an eagle's talons and dropped in the midst of the Trojan army be referred to as something that is beyond and beside nature, though Homer described such an event as "a teras of aegis-bearing Zeus." In Scripture, events that were beyond and beside naturethe healing by a word of a man who had been lame from birth, the feeding of many thousands with a few loaves, the raising of a man who had been dead for four daysare all described as semeia (John 6:14; 11:47; Acts 4:16).
Therefore the distinction between teras and semeion must be sought elsewhere. Origen was incorrect to find a prophetic element in semeion that is not present in teras. According to Origen: "Those are called semeia in which, although there is something wondrous, also something of the future is indicated. Terata, however, are those in which only something wondrous is displayed." Viewed from one perspective, a miracle is a teras; viewed from another, it is a semeion. These words most often refer to different qualities of a miracle, not to different classes of miracles. According to Lampe:
The same miracles can be called semeia, insofar as they teach something either hidden or of the future, and terata, insofar as they present something extraordinary which arouses surprise. Hence it follows that semeion is a broader concept than teras. All terata are semeia, since they are sent by God for revealing a secret. But all semeia are not terata, because in pointing out heavenly things at times also common things are displayed.
Teras usually is understood as related to tereo (G5083), as something that is likely to be observed and kept in the memory because of its extraordinary character. Teras is translated "wonder" in the Authorized Version. Teras depicts a miracle as a startling, imposing, and amazing portent. Elsewhere, teras is used to refer to strange appearances in the heavens and even more frequently for monstrous births on the earth. Teras is used with much the same meaning as the Latin monstrum (omen) by Virgil ("Nor has Minerva given these signs with doubtful omens [monstris]") or the Homeric sema ("There appeared a great omen [sema], a dragon"). Origen noted that terata is never used alone as a New Testament word for wonder. Instead, it always is used in conjunction with some other term for wonder, such as semeia or dynameis or in phrases like terata kai semeia and (more than once) terata, semeia, kai dynameis. This observation was well worth making. It is eminently characteristic of the New Testament that the title that more than any other was related to the portents of the heathen world never be used except in the company of some other title that necessarily suggested a higher meaning.
Miracles also are referred to as semeia, which Basil the Great defined this way: "Semeion is a manifest deed, having in itself an explanation of something hidden and secret." Later Basil wrote: "Scripture however calls semeia what is contrary to expectation [paradoxa] and indicative of some mystic account." Of all the terms used to describe miracles, their ethical end and purpose are brought out most distinctively by semeion and least distinctly by teras.Semeion declares that the prime objective of the miracle is to lead us to something beyond itself; the miracle is a kind of sign-post that points to God (Isa. 7:11; 38:7). The miracle is valuable not so much for what it is as for what it indicates of the virtue and power of the one who performed it, of his immediate connection with a higher spiritual world. Lampe well noted:
Semeion designates by its very nature something not only unusual and upsetting to the senses but also such a thing which presents a tokenand a semblance of something else, possibly absent and in the future; hence signs of the weather (Matt. 16:3) and tokens (Matt. 12:39; Luke 11:29) and also holy acts as in circumcision (Rom. 4:11) are accustomed to be expressed by the same name in the New Testament. Therefore most fittingly this word is used for miracles to indicate not only that something has been performed in an unusual manner but also that it has been directed and ordained by the most wise plan of God, so that at the same time there might be displayed the characteristics of the Messiah by which he must be known, the marks of the teaching which he was presenting, and the benefits of grace offered through the Messiah, and also the types of God's ways and the circumstances through which such benefits are obtained.
It is unfortunate that semeion is not always translated "sign" in our Authorized Version and that in the Gospel of John "sign" too often gives way to the vaguer "miracle," which sometimes results in a serious loss of meaning.
But in the New Testament, miracles also are seen as "powers," as the result of the outpouring of God's mighty power that is inherent in Christ, the "great Power of God" after whom Simon blasphemously allowed himself to be named (Acts 8:9-10). Christ only lent these powers to those who were his witnesses and ambassadors. We should regret that the Authorized Version translates dynameis as "wonderful works" (Matt. 7:22), "mighty works" (Matt. 11:20; Luke 10:13), and even more frequently as "miracles" (Acts 2:22; 1 Cor. 12:10; Gal. 3:5). In some cases this produces tautologies such as "miracles and wonders" (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:4). It always causes something of the true intention of the word to be lost. Dynameis always points to new and higher forces that have entered and are working in this lower world of ours. Delitzsch wrote: "Every miracle is a display of power of the world of salvation about to enter the moribund created world." The term megaleia, which occurs only in Luke 1:49 and in Acts 2:11, is closely related to this idea. Like dynameis, megaleia portrays miracles as outpourings of the greatnessof God's power and glory.
Miracles also are called endoxa (Luke 13:17), works where the doxa (G1391), or glory, of God and his Son are displayed. They are paradoxa (Luke 5:26) in that they are "new things" (Num. 16:30) not previously seen (Mark 2:12) and thus beside and beyond people's opinions and expectations. Miracles are thaumasia (Matt. 21:15) in that they provoke admiration and astonishment.Although never called thaumata (G2295) in the New Testament, miracles often are referred to in this way in the writings of the Greek fathers. It took time for a word used so long by conjurers, magicians, and impostors of various kinds to be put to more noble uses.