Signs or Miracles: John 2:11


by James May[1]


John 2:11 in the King James Bible: This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.


John 2:11 in the New American Standard Bible: This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.


Benjamin Wilkinson, the 7th Day Adventist father of King James Onlyism, discussed the translation of John 2:11 as found in the English Revised Version of 1881 under the heading, “A Deadly Blow Against Miracles.” (Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, p. 186). He commented, “Modern religious liberalism finds consolation here. So the Revisers have exposed believers in the Bible to the ridicule of unbelievers because they describe the supernatural events of the New Testament by belittling words. To describe the supernatural in terms of the natural, indicates doubt in the supernatural.” (pp. 186-87). Had Wilkinson engaged in even the slightest research, he would have discovered that sign is an excellent translation of the Greek word which the KJV translators in this case render miracle. That word is semeion, and is tagged, for those English readers who wish to investigate, with the number 4592 in the Strong’s Concordance numbering system. If Wilkinson’s statement is correct, the AV 1611 translators themselves must have had significant doubt in the supernatural, for in 35 out of 61 occurrences of semeion in the Textus Receptus, they translated it as sign. Their usage is indicated in the following table:


Strong’s: 4592





Synoptic Gospels





Gospel of John










Pauline Epistles





General Epistles
















Using King James Only logic, we may imagine that we have an example of the translators “unbelief” in John 2:18-19:


18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (KJV)[2]


Can it honestly be supposed that the men of 1611 were casting doubt upon the resurrection of Christ as a supernatural event, believing it to be merely a sign, rather than a miracle? Although the idea is absurd, it is one which we must be willing to give some consideration if we apply Wilkinson’s crooked reasoning not only to the modern Bibles, but also to the King James Version itself.


[1] Copyright 2006, James Richard May. This paper may be reproduced in its entirety for free distribution. All other rights reserved.

[2] The interested student should make a careful study of the other occurrences of semeion in the New Testament, as the present paper is far too brief to do the word justice. Note Matthew 26:48, Luke 2:12, Romans 4:11, II Thessalonians 3:17 (non-miraculous), as well as Matthew 12:39&40, Mark 16:17&18 and Revelation 15:1.