Did Jesus walk on water? Or ice?
Scientist says Sea of Galilee could have had frozen patches in Jesus' day
One of the best-known stories in the New Testament, related in Matthew 14 and in this Gustave Dore print, tells how Jesus walked on water. Now a scientist says rare patches of ice might have formed on the Sea of Galilee's surface in Jesus' day.
Updated: 5:28 p.m. ET April 4, 2006
Rare conditions could have conspired to create hard-to-see ice on the Sea of Galilee that a person could have walked on back when Jesus is said to have walked on water, a scientist reported Tuesday.
The study, which examines a combination of favorable water and environmental conditions, proposes that Jesus could have walked on an isolated patch of floating ice on what is now known as Lake Kinneret in northern Israel.
Looking at temperature records of the Mediterranean Sea surface and using analytical ice and statistical models, scientists considered a small section of the cold freshwater surface of the lake. The area studied, about 10,000 square feet (930 square meters), was near salty springs that empty into it.
The results suggest temperatures dropped to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius) during one of the two cold periods 2,500 to 1,500 years ago for up to two days, the same decades during which Jesus lived.
With such conditions, a floating patch of ice could develop above the plumes, resulting from the salty springs along the lake's western shore in Tabgha. Tabgha is the town where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been found.
"We simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," said Doron Nof, a Florida State University professor of oceanography. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."
This simple model shows a plume of heavy water entering Lake Kinneret from salty springs and sinking to the bottom. A layer of cold, fresh water remains above the salty layer, and at the top, patches of "springs ice" would form in freezing temperatures. In this model, the ice layer would be 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick. The key is that the water directly above the plume does not convect.
Nof figures that in the last 120 centuries, the odds of such conditions on the low-latitude Lake Kinneret are most likely 1-in-1,000. But during the time period when Jesus lived, such �springs ice� may have formed once every 30 to 60 years.
Such floating ice in the unfrozen waters of the lake would be hard to spot, especially if rain had smoothed its surface.
"In today's climate, the chance of springs ice forming in northern Israel is effectively zero, or about once in more than 10,000 years," Nof said.
The findings are detailed in April's issue of the Journal of Paleolimnology. Nof has posted a PDF file of the research to his Web site.
Eric and all,
I guess Peter was walking on thin ice! I'm joking. Another rational explanation is that Jesus was walking in low water near the shore. In John, just after they see Jesus walking on the water, they hit shore. But the sense of the story of Matthew is that Jesus was walking on water -- doing the impossible.
I've been thinking about the "facts of life" and the Kingdom of God. Here are two facts of life: 1. conception of life requires a sperm and an egg. 2. After death, the physical body decays, returns to the earth.
Matthew and Luke imply that Jesus was born without benefit of human sperm. The empty tomb stories imply that Jesus' dead body did not undergo decay.
From the vantage point of accepting the facts of life, I'm frankly skeptical of the virging birth and the resurrection of the body. And yet I "believe" that Jesus was born of a virgin and raised on the third day. Why do I believe, I ask myself. I come down to this: The "mytical" stories signify not only Jesus' unique relationship to the Father, they also remind us, children of God, of our dependance on the Father. Yes, we were born of sperm and egg, but in another sense -- and this is the sense that counts in our spiritual journey -- by grace, we are born of God. Yes, our bodies will decay at death, but in another sence, we have already died to the world. We are living in the resurection, and that is the rooting will continue to bear fruit after we pass.
Thanks for listening to my statement of faith.
Gentlemens . . .
You have, no doubt, heard of levitation. It's not common, but it has been well-documented at different times. In fact, I had a woman call me a few years ago, claiming that it had become a nuisance to her -- that she had to be accompanied to the grocery store, for example, to have someone hold her down or else she'd float up in the air and create a "scene."
What we call "psychic gifts" were very much active in Jesus. These were, for him, probably as accessible and within his control as focusing our senses or imagination is for us. If one accepts this possibility (and I don't see why not, as many Saints and Eastern masters manifest something similar), it's not really so difficult to affirm that he probably, really did walk on the water.
I posted this article to point out, that once again science is trying to explain Biblical events. It is nothing new, I know. But it is troubling when a popular news site like MSNBC runs the article.
Really? What is most real, the material or the spiritual? I can see that we might have a litte different angle on this one epistemologically. I trust we have enough in common to have a respectful difference if there is one.
OK, here is one of the "facts of life:� Things heavier than air don't float in air. That is real to me, but not, by far the only reality.
In a moment of weakness once, for a split second, I thought I must be levitating simply because it felt exactly as if I was levitating. Next split second I had a sort of Pauline unknowing: I didn't know whether I was in the body or not in the body. Next, it was clear, "I" was rising above my body while retaining some body-like senses.
Teresa of Avila, like the yogis, is said to have levitated. She also had raptures, like the yogis. Significant coincidence? I think so! She also expresses some Pauline unknowing about some moments when it was not clear whether she was in the body or not. It would be easy to say her reports of levitation are accurate as subjective accounts only while inaccurate objectively. Except that there were witness who saw her levitating!
What is that about? Let's assume, for the sake of a "facts of life" side of the argument, gravity still holds. How might others get the impression Teresa was floating? Here is a hunch. They had a gift of second sight analogous to the gift of interpretation of tongues. So, when Teresa came to her senses and said, "I was floating," they could reply accurately that indeed they saw her floating. They didn't just imagine it -- Teresa felt what they witnessed!
Similarly, when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, their seeing was objective in the sense that it was confirmed by a locution, "it is I," it was confirmed by association with the calming of the storm, and it might have been confirmed by Jesus later when they met him on the other side of the sea -- he might have walked there faster than they could sail given the averse winds -- He could say, yes, I was in prayer, I sensed your distress and I prayed for your safe passage. So it is confirmed, what they �saw� was real.
Ryan, I do agree there are often alternative explanations for "miraculous" phenomena, and one can posit all kinds of explanations. It sounds like you don't give much credence to psychokinesis (I posted a good link above); I do believe it happens, and that Jesus was in full possession of the range of psychic gifts. As I mentioned in my post above, levitation was not merely a theoretical problem with a woman who called me around 15 years ago; her experiences seem very similar to what Teresa of Avila recounted.
How to explain? Do we want to give mind and spirit a little more "room to wiggle" in their manner of influencing matter? Or do you think we're pretty much stuck with what the chemists say? My position is the former, and so we might just need to agree to disagree on this one.
I hadn't read the link, but I see I covered some of the accounts. The case of Home is new to me. I would need to learn more to judge, but on the face of it, I don't find his story inspiring of faith and charity, which I'm assuming was also the case for the church officials who excommunicated him. I�m inclined, in his case, to an explanation that could include self-delusion and perhaps even fraud.
Even if I doubt a literal reading of the biblical walking on water story, I don�t see it as �fraud�. It is more like enthusiasm. The disciples who passed on the account were trying to express something so earth shakingly important that they used unselfconscious physical references. And for the reader who is able to suspend disbelief (even if only temporarily) for the sake of receiving spiritual significance, the account is rewarding.
Does psycho kinesis really happen? Setting aside the particulars of levitation for a moment, I confess I think there is something to the broad �theory of an existence of a force (simply, an universal force) which belongs to another, nonmaterial reality, and manifests itself in the material world.�
I would question the meaning of �nonmaterial� here. Are radio waves nonmaterial? They are imperceptible without the necessary technology, but they are definitely material. In a similar way, I know that I am connected to others psychically. I know things at a distance and trust that prayer at a distance has a physical effect. I�m persuaded that chi energy can be felt at a distance and can be used in healing and self-defense. Here the boundaries between my notion of material and nonmaterial get confused.
How far does it go in moving objects? Once I had a phase of things falling off shelves with no apparent push, and when it seemed meaningful to my inner process, I wondered if my inner process had caused it. Looking back, I see it more likely as synchronicity and even precognition rather than psychokinesis.
That said, I could nevertheless grant that levitation might not be impossible in some terribly rare spiritual/material conditions that I have not been directly privy to. But even then my skeptical side adds that it is improbable, and, with respect to biblical and historical interpretation, I�m disinclined to defend the physically improbable as integral to growth in faith and charity.
I understand where you're coming from, Ryan, and what you share does make sense. It's just that, re. the case in point, we are talking about Jesus, whose human/divine consciousness is quantumly superior to ours in his understanding of "non-material" forces. What's curious indeed in the Gospel account is that they referred to him as "a ghost." Maybe he transmuted to a higher vibrational state to overcome the forces of gravity on his physical body? Matter and energy are, after all, two sides of the same coin. Did Jesus have a mastery over this that we don't? I think it's quite possible.
Or perhaps "ghost" just shows the disciples being unnerved by a human being walking on water. One would assume they'd have been less frightened by somebody walking on ice.
"I say mate! There goes somebody walking on the ice slabs again. Let's give him a hand . . . "
Phil, That is an interesting possibility. Thanks for the conversation. I enjoyed it.
"I say mate! There goes somebody walking on the ice slabs again. Let's give him a hand . . . "
LOL! Oh my. . .
Not an easy feat, no matter if that was the case. Poor Peter . . . he just lost his balance when he tried, I guess.
Or an easy feet . . . .
Ok, I'm done.
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