A miracle (from Latin: miraculum, "something wonderful") refers to an act or event that goes against the ordinary laws of physics, which are especially notable within the context of religious belief and practice. Such amazing and extraordinary events are often attributed to divine intervention, or to the work of a demon (as in the case of Simon Magus). The reporting of alleged miracles was common in the ancient world among Christians and non-Christians alike. Even today, the canonization of a saint in the Roman Catholic Church still requires two posthumous miracles.
Although many religious followers and texts confirm witnessing "miracles," it is disputed whether or not such events are scientifically confirmed occurrences. While some miracles have been proven to be fraudulent, others (such as the Paschal Fire in Jerusalem) have not proven unverifiable. Some groups are far more cautious about proclaiming apparent miracles genuine than others, although official sanction, or the lack thereof, rarely has much effect on popular belief.
In casual usage, "miracle" may also refer to any statistically unlikely but beneficial event (such as the survival of a natural disaster), or even to anything that is regarded as "wonderful" regardless of its likelihood, such as birth. For example, some people speak of life itself as a 'miracle.'
According to the philosopher David Hume, a miracle is "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent." For many religious practitioners, miracles represent actual real historical events, which affirm both the power of divinity as well as substantiate the veracity of their religious claims. Many adherents of monotheistic religions assert that miracles are "proof" of the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent god. However, while the existence of miracles may imply the existence of a supernatural miracle worker, that supernatural miracle worker need not be an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-benevolent god; it could be any supernatural being. Thus, miracles only prove that gods might exist, not that there is a monotheistic god. Secondly, miracles, if established, are evidence that a perfect god ironically violates his own laws of nature.
Liberal believers in the world's religions often consider scriptural miracle stories to be figurative in nature.
Miracle workers were common in the ancient world. In fact, miracle workers were so common that miracles were not necessarily considered to be an authoritative sign of divine power. Indeed, some miracles were seen to be the work of magicians or demons, and religious texts contained warnings not to take all miracle workers seriously.
Additionally, it was common for many figures in the ancient world to be associated with the miracle of a virgin birth. Jesus, therefore, was not the only figure in this category. For example, the god Mithras was said to be miraculously born of a rock, known as the petra genetix, among many others.
The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) describes many alleged miracles in which God intervenes in the laws of nature. God may suspend or speed up the laws of nature to produce a supernatural occurrence; create matter out of nothing; breathe life into inanimate matter, or part the Sea of Reeds (in Hebrew Yâm-Sûph; often mistranslated as the "Red Sea"). The latter incident occurred when Moses and Israelites fled from bondage in Egypt, to begin their exodus to the promised land. The book of Exodus does not state that the Reed Sea split in a dramatic fashion. Rather, according to the text, God caused a strong wind to slowly drive the shallow waters to land. There is no claim that God pushed apart the sea as shown in many films; rather, the miracle would be that Israel crossed this precise place, at exactly the right time, when Moses lifted his staff, and that the pursuing Egyptian army then drowned when the wind stopped and the piled waters rushed back in.
In rabbinic Judaism, many rabbis mentioned in the Talmud held that the laws of nature were inviolable. The idea of miracles that contravened the laws of nature were hard to accept; however, at the same time they affirmed the truth of the accounts in the Tanakh. Therefore some explained that miracles were in fact natural events that had been set up by God at the beginning of time.
In this view, when the walls of Jericho fell, it was not because God directly brought them down. Rather, God planned that there would be an earthquake at that place and time, so that the city would fall to the Israelites. Instances where rabbinic writings say that God made miracles a part of creation include Midrash Genesis Rabbah 5:45; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 21:6; and Ethics of the Fathers/Pirkei Avot 5:6.
These views are held by both classical and modern thinkers.
In Numbers 22 is the story of Balaam and the talking donkey. Many hold that for miracles such as this, one must either assert the literal truth of this biblical story, or one must then reject the story as false. However, some Jewish commentators (e.g. Saadiah Gaon and Maimonides) hold that stories such as these were never meant to be taken literally in the first place. Rather, these stories should be understood as accounts of a prophetic experience, which are dreams or visions.
The descriptions of most miracles in the Christian New Testament also usually involve God (incarnated as Jesus) intervening in the laws of nature. In St John's Gospel the "miracles" are referred to as "signs" and the emphasis is on God demonstrating his underlying normal activity in remarkable ways.
Jesus turns water into wine; creates matter out of nothing by turning a loaf of bread into many loaves of bread. He revives the lives of people considered to be dead, and rises from the dead himself.
According to the canonical Gospels, Jesus worked many miracles in the course of his ministry, which may be categorized into cures, exorcisms, dominion over nature, three instances of raising the dead, and various others. To many Christians, the miracles represent actual historical events, while Liberal Christians may consider these stories to be figurative. Critical scholars generally concede that empirical methods are unable to determine if a genuine miracle is historical, considering the issue theological or philosophical.
In most cases a religious text, such as the Bible or Qur'an, states that a miracle occurred, and believers accept this as a fact. Most Christians accept the resurrection of Jesus as fact, indeed defining being a Christian with a belief in the resurrection.
Summarizing the table below, there are 47 miracles of Jesus recorded during his life-time, 40 of them recorded in the canonical Gospels and 7 recorded only in non-canonical sources. The chronological order of the miracles is difficult to determine, so this list should not be viewed as a sequence.
|Annunciation||Luke 1:26-38||Qur'an 3:45-51, 19:16-26|
|Miraculous baptism||Matt 3:13-17||Mark 1:9-11||Luke 3:21-22||John 1:32-34|
|Angels protected Jesus in the desert||Matthew 4:11||Mark 1:12-13|
|Miraculous conversion of Nathanael||John 1:45-51|
|Turned water into wine||John 2:1-11|
|Exorcism in Capernaum||Mark 1:21-28||Luke 4:31-37|
|Healed every disease||Matt 4:23-25||Mark 1:39|
|Caught large number of fish, converted fishermen to "fishers of men"||Luke 5:1-11|
|Jesus' name exorcises demons and performs many miracles||Matt 7:22||Mark 9:38-40,||Luke 9:49-50,||John 1:12-13. , , ,||Acts 3:6, , , ,|
|Cured a leper||Matt 8:1-4||Mark 1:40-45||Luke 5:12-16||Egerton Gospel 2, Qur'an|
|Miraculous conversion of a Samaritan woman||John 4:28-29|
|Cured a centurion's boy-servant||Matt 8:5-13||Luke 7:1-10|
|Cured a royal official's son||John 4:46-54|
|Cured Peter's mother-in-law's fever and drove out many evil spirits||Matt 8:14-17||Mark 1:29-34||Luke 4:38-41|
|Drove 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene||Mark 16:9||Luke 8:2|
|Calmed a storm at sea by rebuking the wind and waves||Matt 8:23-27||Mark 4:35-41||Luke 8:22-25|
|Healed the Gerasene Demoniac||Matt 8:28-34||Mark 5:1-20||Luke 8:26-39|
|Cured a paralytic at Capernaum||Matt 9:1-8||Mark 2:1-12||Luke 5:17-26|
|Cured a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda||John 5:1-18|
|Raised the son of a widow at Nain||Luke 7:11-17|
|Raised Jairus' daughter by saying Talitha koum!||Matt 9:18-26||Mark 5:21-43||Luke 8:40-56|
|Healed a woman with a hemorrhage who touched the fringes of his garment ||Matt 9:20-22||Mark 5:24-34||Luke 8:43-48|
|Healed two blind men, a mute, and every disease and ailment||Matt 9:27-35|
|Twelve Apostles given authority to exorcise demons and raise the dead||Matt 10:1,||Mark 3:13-15,||Luke 9:1|
|Unspecified miracles at Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum||Matt 11:20-24||Luke 10:13-15|
|Healed a man's withered hand||Matt 12:9-13||Mark 3:1-6||Luke 6:6-11|
|Healed huge crowds||Matt 12:15-21||Mark 3:7-12||Luke 6:17-19|
|Healed a blind and dumb demoniac||Matt 12:22-32||Mark 3:20-30||Luke 11:14-23;|
|Fed 5000||Matt 14:13-21||Mark 6:30-44||Luke 9:10-17||John 6:1-14|
|Walked on water||Matt 14:22-33||Mark 6:45-52||John 6:15-21|
|All those who touched the fringes of his garment were cured||Matt 14:34-36||Mark 6:53-56|
|Exorcised a Canaanite (Syro-Phoenecian) woman||Matt 15:21-28||Mark 7:24-30|
|Healed a deaf-mute by saying Ephphatha!||Mark 7:31-37|
|Healed large numbers of crippled, blind and mute||Matt 15:29-31|
|Fed 4000||Matt 15:32-39||Mark 8:1-10|
|Restored a man's sight at Bethsaida||Mark 8:22-26|
|Transfiguration||Matt 17:1-13||Mark 9:2-13||Luke 9:28-36||2 Peter 1:17-18|
|Exorcised a possessed boy||Matt 17:14-21||Mark 9:14-29||Luke 9:37-43|
|Payed temple tax with a stater coin taken from a fish's mouth||Matt 17:23-27|
|Healed a woman on the Sabbath||Luke 13:10-17|
|Continued to cast out demons even though Herod Antipas wanted to kill him||Luke 13:31-32|
|Raised Lazarus||John 11:1-44||Qur'an|
|Healed a man with dropsy||Luke 14:1-6|
|Healed ten lepers||Luke 17:11-19|
|Healed large crowds in Judea||Matt 19:1-2|
|Healed two blind men||Matt 20:29-34|
|Healed the blind beggar Bartimaeus||Mark 10:46-52||Luke 18:35-43||Qur'an|
|Blind man given sight||John 9|
|Healed blind and lame at Herod's Temple||Matt 21:14|
|Cursed a fig tree||Matt 21:18-22||Mark 11:12-14,|
|Transubstantiation of bread and wine||Matt 26:26-30||Mark 14:22-26||Luke 22:14-20||John 6:48-66||1 Cor 11:23-26|
|Satanic possession of Judas||John 13:26-30|
|Healed High Priest's servant's ear||Luke 22:49-51|
|Darkness like a Solar eclipse during Passover, see also Crucifixion eclipse||Matt 27:45||Mark 15:33||Luke 23:44-45|
|Many of the dead resurrected when Jesus died||Matt 27:50-54|
|Empty tomb||Matt 27:62–28:15||Mark 16:1–8||Luke 24:1–12||John 20:1-10||Gospel of Peter 8:1-13:3|
|Resurrection appearances||Matt 28:9-10,||Mark 16:9-18||Luke 24:13-49||John 20:11-23||Acts 1:1-8, , Romans 10:9, 1 Cor 9:1,|
|Ascended to Heaven||Mark 16:19-20||Luke 24:50-53||Acts 1:9-11, 1 Peter 3:21-22, Secret Book of James 10:1-3|
|Doubting Thomas||John 20:24-31|
|Catch of 153 fish post-resurrection||John 21:1-14|
|Miraculous conversion of Paul||Acts 9:1-19, ,|
|Descended into Hell||Ephesians 4:8-10, Acts 2:27, , 1 Peter 3:19-20, , Apostles' Creed, Ante-Nicene Fathers|
|Sent Paraclete/Holy Spirit||Matt 3:10-12||Mark 1:8||Luke 3:16-17||John 14:16, , ,||Acts 1:5, , , , , Qur'an|
|Rich young man raised from the dead||Secret Gospel of Mark 1|
|Water controlled and purified||Infancy Thomas 2.2|
|Made birds of clay and brought them to life||Infancy Thomas 2.3, Qur'an 3:49|
|Resurrected dead playmate Zeno||Infancy Thomas 9|
|Healed a woodcutter's foot||Infancy Thomas 10|
|Held water in his cloak||Infancy Thomas 11|
|Harvested 100 bushels of wheat from a single seed||Infancy Thomas 12|
|Stretched a board that was short for carpentry||Infancy Thomas 13|
|Resurrected a teacher he earlier struck down||Infancy Thomas 14-15|
|Healed James' viper bite||Infancy Thomas 16|
|Resurrected a dead child||Infancy Thomas 17|
|Resurrected a dead man||Infancy Thomas 18|
|Miraculous Virgin Birth verified by midwife||Infancy James 19-20|
The Roman Catholic Church is hesitant about extending validity to a putative miracle. The Church requires a certain number of miracles to occur before granting sainthood to a putative saint, with particularly stringent requirements in validating the miracle's authenticity.  The process is overseen by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Muslims consider the Holy Qur'an itself to be a miracle, as a perfect copy of what was written in heaven and existed there from all eternity. The verses of the book are referred to as ayat ("sign" or "a miracle") in the Arabic language.
The Qur'an claims that Muhammad was illiterate and neither read a book nor wrote a book ([Quran 7:157], [Quran 29:48]) and that he did not know about past events nor could he have possibly known the scientific facts that are mentioned in the Quran.([Quran 3:44], [Quran 11:49], [Quran 28:44]). This is used as an argument in favor of the divine origin of the book. On the other hand, some scholars have stated that the claim about Muhammad's illiteracy is based on weak traditions and are not convincing. 
According to the Qur'an, a miracle is a supernatural intervention in the life of human beings, which are present "in a threefold sense: in sacred history, in connection with Muhammad himself and in relation to revelation." The Qur'an does not use the technical Arabic word for miracle (Muʿd̲j̲iza) literally meaning "that by means of which [the Prophet] confounds, overwhelms, his opponents." It rather uses the term Ayah (literally meaning sign).  The term Ayah is used in the Qur'an in the above mentioned threefold sense: it refers to the "verses" of the Qur'an (believed to be the divine speech in human language; presented by Muhammad as his chief Miracle); as well as to miracles of it and the signs (particularly those of creation).
According to historian Denis Gril, Muhammad was not granted to perform miracles in their traditional sense "as they were not, ipso facto, sufficient to convince unbelievers." Miracles in traditional sense, are still, however, reported in the Muslim tradition.
A systematic definition of Miracles performed by apostles can be found in the work of the Muslim scholar al-Īd̲j̲ī Mawāḳif, historian A.J. Wensinck states. The main purpose of miracle is to prove the sincerity of the apostle and has to satisfy the following conditions:
The Qur'an does not mention any miracle for Adam as he was not supposed to convince anybody. Verses [Quran 11:40] and [Quran 23:27] mention miracles of Noah, "The oven (tannur) out of which the water burst and announced the flood". Hud, the first of five Arabian prophets of the Qur'an, prophet for the ancient tribe of 'Ad does not have any particular miracle (thus according to historian Denis Gril prefiguring Muhammad). See [Quran 7:69] for his response when he was rebuked for not producing a miracle. 
In the religions of Indian origin, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the cultivation of meditation can allegedly lead to powers (siddhi), which allow the practitioner to perform miraculous abilities such as levitation and telekenisis. Followers of the Indian gurus Sathya Sai Baba and Swami Premananda claim that they routinely perform miracles. However, the dominant view among skeptics is that these are predominantly sleight of hand or elaborate magic tricks.
One of the most famous example of miracles in Hinduism in modern times was the so-called Hindu milk miracle that occurred on September 21, 1995. Before dawn, a Hindu worshipper at a temple in south New Delhi made an offering of milk to a statue of Lord Ganesha and the liquid was seen to disappear, apparently taken in by the idol. Word of the event spread quickly, and by mid-morning it was found that statues of the entire Hindu pantheon in temples all over North India were taking in milk, with the family of Shiva (Parvati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya) apparently the "thirstiest". By noon the news had spread beyond India, and Hindu temples in Britain, Canada, Dubai, and Nepal among other countries had successfully replicated the phenomenon, and the World Hindu Council (an Indian Hindu organization) had announced that a miracle was occurring.
The apparent miracle had a significant effect on the areas around major temples; vehicle and pedestrian traffic in New Delhi was dense enough to create a gridlock lasting until late in the evening. Many stores in areas with significant Hindu communities saw a massive jump in sales of milk, with one Gateway store in England selling over 25,000 pints of milk, and overall milk sales in New Delhi jumped over 30 percent. Many minor temples struggled to deal with the vast increase in numbers, and queues spilled out into the streets.
Seeking to explain the phenomenon, scientists from India's Ministry of Science and Technology travelled to a temple in New Delhi and made an offering of milk containing a food coloring. As the level of liquid in the spoon dropped, it became obvious that after the milk disappeared from the spoon, it coated the statue beneath where the spoon was placed. With this result, the scientists offered capillary action as an explanation; the surface tension of the milk was pulling the liquid up and out of the spoon, before gravity caused it to run down the front of the statue. This explanation did nothing to reduce the numbers of faithful rushing to the temples, however, and queues of people carrying pots, pans, and buckets of milk continued to gather.
To those who believed in the miracle, further proof was offered when the phenomenon seemed to cease before the end of the day, with many statues refusing to take more milk even before noon. A small number of temples outside of India reported the effect continuing for several more days, but no further reports were made after the beginning of October. However, skeptics hold the incident to be an example of mass hysteria.
The "miracle" occurred again on August 20-21, 2006 in almost exactly the same fashion, although initial reports seem to indicate that it occurred only with statues of Ganesh, Shiva, and Durga. The first reported occurrence was on the evening of the 20th in the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, from where it spread throughout India like wildfire.  However, rationalists are heavily skeptical about the issue, attributing it to capillary action yet again. The phenomenon had reappeared only days after reports of 2006 Mumbai "sweet" seawater incident in which sea water turning sweet that led to mass hysteria in Mumbai.
The largest group of miracle stories mentioned in the New Testament are those concerning disease and disability. The Gospels give varying amounts of detail for each episode, sometimes Jesus cures simply by saying a few words, or laying on of hands, and at other times employs elaborate rituals using material (e.g. spit or mud). Generally they are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels but not the Gospel of John. (Fever, Leprosy, Long term bleeding, Withered hands Dropsy, Deafness, Blindness, Paralysis)
According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus performed many exorcisms of demoniacs. These incidents are not mentioned by the Gospel of John.
The Gospels tell another group of stories concerning Jesus' power over nature:
The Canonical Gospels report three cases where Jesus calls a dead person back to life:
While the raising of the daughter of Jairus is in all the Synoptic Gospels (but not in the Gospel of John), the raising of the son of the widow of Nain appears only in the Gospel of Luke, and the raising of Lazarus appears only in the Gospel of John. It has been argued by several scholars and commentators that the story of the raising of Lazarus and that of the Nain widow's son really refer to the same event, considered to derive from the raising of the youth in the original Mark.
There are numerous saints to whom the ability to fly or levitate has been attributed. The ability was also attributed to other figures in early Christianity. The apocryphal Acts of Peter gives a legendary tale of Simon Magus' death. Simon is performing magic in the forum, and in order to prove himself to be a god, he flies up into the air. The apostle Peter prays to God to stop his flying, and he stops mid-air and falls, breaking his legs, whereupon the crowd, previously non-hostile, stones him to death.
The phenomenon of levitation was recorded again and again for certain saints. Saint Francis of Assisi is recorded as having been "suspended above the earth, often to a height of three, and often to a height of four cubits." Saint Alphonsus Liguori, when preaching at Foggia, was lifted before the eyes of the whole congregation several feet from the ground. Liguori is also said to have had the power of bilocation.
Flying or levitation was also associated with witchcraft. When it came to female saints, there was a certain ambivalence expressed by theologians, canon lawyers, inquisitors, and male hagiographers towards the powers that they were purported to have. As Caroline Walker Bynum writes, "by 1500, indeed, the model of the female saint, expressed both in popular veneration and in official canonizations, was in many ways the mirror image of society’s notion of the witch." Both witches and female saints were suspected of flying through the air, whether in saintly levitation or bilocation, or in a witches’ Sabbath.
Littlewood's Law states that individuals can expect a miracle to happen to them at the rate of about one per month. The law was framed by Cambridge University Professor J. E. Littlewood, and published in a collection of his work, A Mathematician's Miscellany; it seeks (among other things) to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology and is related to the more general Law of Truly Large Numbers, which states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen. Thus, Littlewood's law states that individuals can expect miracles to happen to them, at the rate of about one per month. By its definition, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace. In other words, miracles do not exist, but are rather examples of low probability events that are bound to happen by chance from time to time.
Others have suggested that miracles are the products of creative art and social acceptance. In this view, miracles do not really occur. Rather, they are the product of creative story tellers. They use them to embellish a hero or incident with a theological flavor. Using miracles in a story allow characters and situations to become bigger than life, and to stir the emotions of the listener more than the mundane and ordinary. It has been suggested that]] the reports of alleged miracles were actually intended just as allegories, not as factual events. Healing the blind has been argued to be a metaphor for people who previously could not, or would not, see the truth being shown it; healing the deaf has been interpreted as simply meaning that people who could not, or would not, listen to true teachings were made to; similarly, healing paralysis has been interpreted as an allegory for rectifying inaction; and healing leprosy for removing the societal stigmatism associated with certain stances. It has also been argued that bar-Timai is a direct reference to Plato's Timaeus, a philosophical work, and that bar-Timai symbolizes the hellenic audience of Mark's gospel, and that curing his blindness is a metaphor for the Gospel giving a revelation to the audience.
Some modern scholars dismiss exorcisms as simply being cases of mental illness and afflictions such as epilepsy. Some scholars typically see these exorcisms of such illness as allegorical, representative of Jesus' teachings clearing even the most troubled mind. Out of the Canonical Gospels, Matthew adds several other episodes of Jesus healing people who are blind, deaf, mute, lame, or some combination of these four; many scholars see this as an example of the common trait of Matthew trying to portray Jesus as fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy, in this case Isaiah 35:5-6.
A study by the Jesus Seminar of what aspects of the Gospel accounts are likely to be factual, held that while the various cures Jesus gave for diseases are probably true, since there were many others in the ancient world credited with healing power, most of the other miracles of Jesus are nonfactual, at least in their literal interpretation from the Bible.
Concerning the resurrection, most non-Christian scholars point to the paucity of evidence, as well as the lack of evidence for other people having come back from the dead, and so reject the resurrection's historicity. The Jesus Seminar concluded: "in the view of the Seminar, he did not rise bodily from the dead; the resurrection is based instead on visionary experiences of Peter, Paul, and Mary."  Raymond E. Brown however argued that the seminar used an a priori bias against the supernatural and that events such as the resurrection had no chance of being admitted by the group as historical.
Many people believe that miracles do not happen and that the entire universe operates on unchangeable laws, without any exceptions. Aristotle rejected the idea that God could or would intervene in the order of the natural world. Jewish neo-Aristotelian philosophers, who are still influential today, include Maimonides, Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon, and Gersonides. Directly or indirectly, their views are still prevalent in much of the religious Jewish community.
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