April 04, 2006

Journal of Paleolimnology: Did Jesus walk on ice?

Doron Nof, Ian McKeague and Nathan Paldor have published an article in the Journal of Paleolimnology in which they posit that patches of ice have (possibly in the time of Jesus) and can (however, not in modern times due to climate changes) form in Sea of Galilee, patches they suggest might account for the story of Jesus walking on water.

One set of those springs associated with the freezing is situated in Tabgha, an area where many archeological features associated with Jesus Christ have been found. On this basis, it is proposed that the unusual local freezing process might have provided an origin to the story that Christ walked on water. Since the springs ice is relatively small, a person standing or walking on it may appear to an observer situated some distance away to be ‘walking on water’. This is particularly true if it rained after the ice was formed (because rain smoothes out the ice’s surface). Whether this happened or not is an issue for religion scholars, archeologists, anthropologists, and believers to decide on.

This account appears to explain the first sighting of Jesus ‘walking on the water’ however it fails to explain how Peter too, walked on the water --- or how if there was ice --- how those in the boat would not have noticed when the (boat which came very close to Jesus) came into close contact with the ice. I suppose their theory would involve an ‘evolution’ of the story over time. But it is a pretty major detail that Jesus called Peter to also walked on out the water (which he did, then he fell but Jesus did not.) While the ice might not be expected on the Lake, surely after seeing it no one would think this was a miracle, and would be unlikely to pass on the story of Jesus walking on ice.

To be fair, the writers (who have also posited ideas concerning the ‘Flood’ and the parting of the Red Sea) stated:

We hesitate to draw any conclusion regarding the implications of this study to the actual events that took place at Tabgha during the last few (or several) thousand years. Our springs ice calculation may or may not be related to the origin of the account of Christ walking on water. The whole story may have originated in local ancient folklore which happened to be told best in the Christian Bible. It is hoped, however, that archeologists, religion scholars, anthropologists and believers will examine such implications in detail.

A PDF copy of the paper can he downloaded here, or you can read an article on MSNBC concerning the study. It is fairly detailed, and has a number of graphics and mathematic equations. The likely hood of this happing at the just-right time for Jesus to walk on, and the lack of a plausible explanation to the whole account and not just 1/3 of it, troubles me. The Peter issue really wasn't addressed in the slighest in the study, which is too bad --- but an interesting study non the less for Biblical scholars to look over.

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At April 05, 2006 8:42 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

Hey justin- I find it odd when people try to rationalize the stories of Jesus. It seems to me that one should believe them or not beleive them. The stories are outragous, so, rationalizations seem cheap, and are never very compelling for me. I've never heard the ice theory before, but I've heard about the possibility of oddly located sandbars.

what is your belief regarding the gospels? do all of the stories need to be authentic? can the ones that are similar be the same story told different ways or do they have to be multiple accounts?

For example, sermon on the mount/level place, feeding of 4 or 5 thousand, anointing Jesus feet by mary and an unnamed woman.

Is there any account of Jesus that you read as a literary construction?

At April 05, 2006 10:36 PM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...


Those are all really good questions, and I'd have to say perhaps a little bit of all those ideas.

On some level I think we have to hash out the differences in some stories, timelines, amounts, etc --- and perhaps even take view that neither “amount” or “timeline” need be exact. In effect both could be “wrong,” but both could reflect on a very true event. The idea of “authenticness” is, I think a separate issue.

What do I mean by that? Well I suppose you’ll need to wait until I can post on this since you’ve sparked my brain!


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