According to many Bible theologians, magic differs from religious miracles in three ways: its philosophy is unsophisticated with limited concepts of God and morality; the motive for magic is usually some immediate gain; and the results are guaranteed if the controlling rituals are performed accurately, i.e., the ritual compels God. Religious miracles, in contrast, usually result from moral behavior without guaranteed results despite correct performance of the ritual, emphasize the moral long-range intent of God, and are contained within a religious philosophy. In sum, the province of magic is to meet immediate goals without further moral obligations. If a believer in magic had "ethics," it was not for a moral position as part of a group, but because his or her religious "purification" increased the chances of accomplishing a successful ritual.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Yet some magic beliefs, such as voodoo in Haiti, do contain philosophical thinking. Furthermore, while most prudent magicians would not guarantee results, some aspects of religions do offer guarantees, such as the certainty, for the believer, that the wine and wafer of the Catholic mass become the body and blood of Christ and, within Mormonism, some of the temple ceremonies that are guaranteed except under exceptional circumstances.
In short, how does one distinguish between religious miracles and magic, symbolically represented by the miracle-producing phrase, "Hoc ist Corpus Meum" and its corrupted "magical counterpart, "Hocus pocus"? For a concise summary see John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 303-11, who, with other Bible historians, believes that the single decisive factor is that a miracle is performed within an established religion while magic is performed by fringe groups. This view establishes both Joseph Smith and Jesus in his day as magicians. The distinction lies not between the rituals or results, but between the orientation of the viewing groups.
As one historian has written, "'Jesus the magician' was the figure seen by most ancient opponents of Jesus; 'Jesus the Son of God' was the figure seen by that party of his followers which eventually triumphed; the real Jesus was the man whose words and actions gave rise to these contradictory interpretations. 'Jesus the Son of God' is pictured in the gospels; the works that pictured 'Jesus the magician' were destroyed in antiquity after Christians got control of the Roman empire. [Similar to how the image of Joseph Smith the magician has been destroyed by the Mormon Church in favor of the image of Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer. Indeed those that remind us of Joseph Smith's magic are excommunicated for so doing.] We know the lost works only from fragments and references, mostly in the works of Christian authors." Also: "Such private dealings with supernatural beings make up most of what we call 'magic' as well as what we call 'private religion.' There is no clear line between the two. ... For instance, spells for destruction of an enemy are commonly supposed to be magical, but there are many in the Psalms. The cliche, that the religious man petitions the gods while the magician tries to compel them, is simply false." See Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician, vii, 69, 83-84, 91-2.