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Gospel of Johns stays away from using the word "miracle". Instead the author prefers to uses the word "Sign". The occurrences of the word "Sign" during miracles in the book of John are as below:

  1. John 2:11 - Changing of water into wine at Cana
  2. John 4:54 - Healing of official's song at Capernaum
  3. John 6:14 - Feeding of five thousand
  4. John 12:18 - In context of raising Lazarus from dead

Why John preferred using the word "Sign" over "miracle" which were commonly used in Synoptic Gospel. Does John's usage of Sign has special significance?

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  • The Greek word σημειων, semeion is used by John in 2:11, 2:23, 3:2, 4:54, 6:2, 6:14, 6:26, 7:31, 9:16, 10:41, 11:47, 12:18, 12:37 (''sign' in KJV) and in 2:18, 4;48, 6:30, 20:30 ('miracle' in KJV).
    – Nigel J
    Jun 8, 2019 at 13:37

2 Answers 2

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The Greek word σημεῖον (sémeion) occurs about 77 times in the NT and according to BDAG, it has two basic uses:

  1. a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication. For example, Luke 2:12, 2 Thess 3:17, Matt 26:48, Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7, Matt 24:3, 30, 16:3, 1 Cor 14:22, Luke 11:29, 30, 2:34, Rom 4:11, 2 Cor 12:12a.
  2. An event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers, miracle, portent.
    (a) Miracle of divine origin: for example Matt 12:38, 16:1, 4, Mark 8:11, 12, 16:17, 20, Luke 11:16, 29, 23:8, John 2:11, 18, 23, 3:2, 4:48, 52, 6:2, 14, 26, 30, 7:31, 9:16, 10:41, 11:47, 12:18, 37, 20:30, Acts 2:22, 4:16, 22, 8:6, Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 7:36, 14:3, 15:12, Rom 15:19, 1 Cor 1:22, Cor 12:12b, Heb 2:4. Or a miracle of Satanic origin: Rev 13:13, 16:14, 19:20, Matt 24:24, Mark 13:22, 2 Thess:2:9.

    (b) Portent, for example: Luke 21:11, 25, Acts 2:19, Rev 12:1, 3, 15:1.

Thus, on the basis of just numbers, "miracle" is the most frequent meaning of the word σημεῖον (sémeion). This is just as true for the writings of Luke as it is for John.

Different Bible versions are quite divided about their consistency, or lack of it, in translating this word. It shows that very literal versions need to adjust their translation depending on context. Both "miracle" and "sign" are correct. In fact, I personally prefer the translation of (2a) above to be "miraculous sign" as conveying the Greek meaning most accurately.

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The word translated in the English as "sign" in John 2:11, 4:54, 6:14, & 12:18, is the Gr. "σημεῖον", or "sémeion", and means a sign, miracle, indication, mark, or token. (1)

The choice of translating it in one place as a sign and in another place as a miracle alternates between translations. The KJV uses "miracles" in John 2:11, whereas the ASV, RSV, YLT and others uses "signs. The CEV and NET have it as "miraculous signs".

The miracles were the signs that Jesus (Yeshua) had been given glory and power from the Father (YHVH) for the people to know who He was and who had sent Him.

"22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:" (Acts 2:22-23, KJV)

Miracles were always used for the sign, the mark, the indication of approval and authority from YHVH. They indicated His authority was extended to the one He had sent to the people, and were given to His prophets, and to the Messiah so the people would know to listen to them.

The miracles and signs were always for the purpose of confirming His word. Therefore, the English words "signs" and "miracles" serve the same purpose and are used interchangeably to indicate God's authorized messenger.

Notes:

1) Strong's Greek 4592, sémeion - Biblehub

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