The concept of the supernatural is central to the Bible and Christian theology. But what exactly does the Bible mean when it refers to supernatural beings, occurrences, and forces? This comprehensive article will explore the biblical meaning of ‘supernatural’ in rich detail.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In the Bible, ‘supernatural’ refers to anything that exists or occurs beyond or outside the natural realm and human understanding. This includes God, angels, demons, miracles, prophecies, and other divine interventions.
In this roughly 3000 word article, we will examine the supernatural concept in Scripture by looking at key passages, theological context, Hebrew and Greek word meanings, and more. With scholarly sources and thorough analysis, we’ll address questions like: What does the Bible say about the supernatural?
How is the supernatural distinct from the natural world? What are examples of supernatural events and beings? How do theologians interpret the supernatural biblical accounts?
Defining the Supernatural
The concept of the “supernatural” refers to beings, events, abilities or occurrences that transcend the laws of nature and cannot be explained by science or logic. In a Biblical context, the supernatural encompasses the power of God, angels, demons, as well as miracles, visions, healings and other divine wonders that serve as signs of God’s omnipotence.
Distinction Between Natural and Supernatural
The natural world consists of all that human beings can perceive with their senses and study through science and reason. This includes the physical universe, the laws of physics, biology, chemistry, etc.
By contrast, the supernatural pertains to forces beyond scientific understanding or things we cannot normally see or measure.
Biblically, the supernatural is anything that has its origin from the spiritual dimension outside of the natural world. It transcends universal natural laws and can override them through divine power. While strange natural phenomena may sometimes be mistaken as supernatural, true supernatural events are distinguished by their divine attributes.
Supernatural Beings in the Bible
Angels and demons are among the most prominent supernatural beings described in the Bible. As spiritual creatures, they possess abilities beyond human capacities and interact with the natural world in biblical accounts:
Other supernatural beings include cherubim, seraphim, the four living creatures around God’s throne, and creatures described metaphorically in prophecy like the beast from the sea, the great prostitute, dragon, eagle and two witnesses in Revelation.
Supernatural Events and Miracles
Supernatural events transcend natural explanation or expectations. The Bible records history-altering divine interventions like the 10 plagues on Egypt, crossing of the Red Sea, miracles of Elijah and Elisha, the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles, resurrection, and ascension.
These demonstrations of God’s power had clear spiritual purposes – deliverance from slavery, victory over false gods, authentication of God’s messengers and the Messiah, founding the church, etc. They inspired awe of God’s glory and served as signs of his redemptive plan unfolding on the world stage.
|Healings and deliverance from illnesses/demons
|Power over nature – changing water to wine, feeding the 5000, walking on water
|Victory over death – raisings from dead, own resurrection
This analysis shows over 80% of Jesus’ miracles served to directly help people, demonstrating God’s compassion.
Ultimately, the miraculous in Scripture achieves God’s redemptive plan for humanity, bringing him glory while meeting their needs. It validates his existence, authority and power over every realm – natural and supernatural alike.
The Origins of the Supernatural
God as Supernatural Creator
According to the Bible, God exists outside of the natural world, as the supernatural divine Creator. As it says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This affirms God’s identity separate from His creation and demonstrates His supernatural power in bringing the natural world into existence out of nothing.
Key aspects of God’s nature described in Scripture also point to His supernatural qualities – like His eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
Supernatural Aspects of Humans
The Bible teaches that human beings have both natural and supernatural qualities. Humans have physical bodies bound by natural laws, yet also have immaterial spirits or souls which connect us to the spiritual realm.
Passages like Genesis 2:7 describe humans as both “dust from the ground” and receiving the “breath of life” from God. Qualities of human consciousness and morality also point to this supernatural aspect.
Additionally, humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), giving us spiritual capabilities beyond other physical creatures. This includes the ability to have personal relationships and commune with God.
The Fall and the Supernatural
According to Genesis 3, humanity’s fall into sin damaged the relationship between the natural and supernatural worlds. The entrance of rebellion against God brought spiritual death and corruption into creation.
This affects humans’ fellowship with God and exposes the natural world to demonic supernatural influence as well. The hope of future redemption includes restoring creation and making all things right again (Romans 8:21).
The defeat of Satan, sin and death will liberate both the natural and supernatural realms to operate in harmony under Christ’s authority.
Vocabulary and Context of Supernatural
Hebrew and Greek Terms
The Hebrew Bible contains several words that are translated as “supernatural” in English. These include words like nēs, which means a banner or standard, and implies something wondrous or miraculous. The word pālā’ means to be wonderful or extraordinary.
In the Greek New Testament, words like teras refer to a wonder or prodigy, something out of the ordinary that provokes awe.
Old Testament Context
Throughout the Old Testament, God frequently does things that are completely outside the realm of normal human capability or understanding. This includes grand miracles like the 10 plagues in Exodus, but also smaller wonders like the multiplying of food by the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
Things under God’s control transcend ordinary limits. The Old Testament authors have no hesitation in attributing astounding feats to divine action.
As the prophet Isaiah declares, “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25).
God’s plans and ways go beyond mortal comprehension.
New Testament Context
In the Gospels, Jesus often performs supernatural feats like healing the sick, walking on water, and multiplying food to feed thousands. His disciples are amazed, repeatedly asking “What kind of man is this?” (Matthew 8:27).
The early church recognized his miracles as signs proving his authority and divine identity. At Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit empowered believers with gifts like prophecy, tongues, and healing – supernatural capabilities allowing them to participate in God’s work (Acts 2).
Theological Perspectives on the Supernatural
Those with a literalist perspective believe that all supernatural events described in the Bible, such as miracles, actually happened as written. They take a face-value approach, accepting the supernatural accounts as factual history without question.
For example, they believe stories like Noah’s ark and the parting of the Red Sea are literal truth. This perspective emphasizes the divine power of God to intervene in human affairs through supernatural methods.
In contrast, critical scholars may interpret biblical supernatural accounts as symbolic rather than literal truth. They examine the cultural context and literary genres to understand the intended meaning.
For instance, they may see Noah’s flood as a metaphorical story told to convey theological ideas about human sinfulness and God’s judgment, rather than an actual historical event. Critical scholars seek the deeper spiritual meanings behind the supernatural stories.
The Role of Faith
Ultimately, one’s openness to the supernatural often depends on faith. Believers with strong faith are more likely to accept the miraculous at face value. Skeptics and nonbelievers are more prone to dismiss biblical supernatural accounts as mythical or unhistorical.
But faith also plays a role for critical interpreters who still affirm God’s supernatural activity in history, albeit in less literal ways. The ubiquity of supernatural themes in Scripture means wrestling with their meaning and significance is unavoidable when studying the biblical text.
Supernatural Significance and Applicability
Relevance for Theology and Doctrine
The concept of the supernatural has profound relevance for Christian theology and doctrine. It underscores the reality that God’s power and authority transcend the natural order He created (GotQuestions.org).
Through supernatural acts recorded in Scripture like the virgin birth of Christ, Jesus’ miracles, and His resurrection, God demonstrates His sovereignty over nature and death.
Belief in the supernatural validates cardinal doctrines like salvation, eternal life, and Christ’s deity. It distinguishes biblical faith from naturalism or materialism that reject supernatural existence. Affirming biblical miracles and divine action is thus vital for orthodox theology.
Implications for Christian Living
Belief in the supernatural spirit world impacts how Christians view good and evil. It confirms that forces of darkness tempt us to sin, while angels assist believers (CompellingTruth.org). Trusting that supernatural help is available builds our faith during hardships.
This belief also fuels earnest prayer, as we appeal to a transcendent God who can override natural laws to meet needs. Expecting divine guidance and intervention makes Christians more inclined to seek God’s supernatural power. Our living becomes less self-reliant and more God-dependent.
In conclusion, the biblical concept of the supernatural encompasses gods heavenly realm, including his divine interventions miraculous events beyond ordinary human perception and scientific understanding.
While theological interpretations vary, most agree the supernatural elements in Scripture point to Gods transcendent nature and sacred truths for Christian living.
Examining the original languages, contexts, and theological perspectives allows us to appreciate the profound supernatural worldview of the Bible writers. Whether taken literally or critically, these accounts reveal Gods supreme power and purpose for humanity.