Saturday, May 06, 2006

Jesus on Thin Ice?

Well its settled. We now know how Jesus managed to walk on water on the Sea of Galilee. It wasn't a miracle after all. Jesus was on thin ice, and probably near the shore line of the Sea of Galilee.

The Journal of Paleolimnology (who knew there was such a journal?) has an article written by a Florida State scholar Doreen Nof and others in which he things he can now experimentally prove that Jesus walked on ice. Nof and his colleagues point out that in the Galilee region in the past 12,000 years unusual freezing conditions probably occured from time to time on parts of the freshwater lake called the Sea of Galilee.

Acknowledging that this hasn't happened recently, nonetheless they note that there were cold stretches 1,500 to 2,500 years ago. The scientists added that Galilee has warm, salty springs along the western shore, an area Jesus frequented. The water north of the springs does not convect when it is cold, and so they hypothesize that ice thick enough to support human weight could have formed in this area. Nof adds that from a distance it would have appeared Jesus walked on water. Furthermore, they suggest if it had recently rained, it would have left a smooth watery coating on the ice, which would make it look like water. These scientists don't insist it happened this way, they are just claiming it is possible.

I have a few questions---1) Did the ice reach out far enough from the shore for Jesus to step into the boat where the disciples were rowing?; 2) Was Peter's attempt to walk on water while in the lake, likewise skating on thin ice, and he fell through?; 3) What the heck were they doing playing row, row, row your boat on the lake during the worst ice storm in 1,500 years?

Mark Twain had a different idea. When he visited the Holy Land at the end of the 19th century with a tour group there was a boatman who offered to take the group across the Sea of Galilee in his boat for a fee. When Twain asked what the fee was and was told $50 (a huge sum in those days) he quipped "I now see why Jesus walked across this lake."


Jeremy Pierce said...

(4) Not only would Jesus have had to look to be walking on water from a distance. Peter would have to have had the feel of walking on something that he thought was water rather than slippery ice and the look of walking on water up close, since he was right on top of it.

RC said...

This story is ridiculous...Nof the guy who came up with it is the same guy with the red sea naturally parting in the early 1990s.

I too blogged about this crazy story the beginning of April...

Strange Culture: Jesus Walked On Ice (Not on Water)

It's ridiculous.

--RC of

Mark F said...

On the positive side, he has admitted that the Bible is true. He just seeks a non-divine explanation of what was seen.

I just find it hard to believe that thousands would have been out on an exposed hillside to hear an wandering preacher in such bad weather.

Or as my brother would say... "It would have been too cold for a fish fry.:

Ben Witherington said...

Or as my granny used to say "Don't be so open minded that your brains fall out."


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Perhaps Jim West could be persuaded to host an e-forum with Doreen Nof :-)

Chong Choe said...

It always amazes me how some people go to great lengths to come up with the remotest of possibilities and yet refuse to even consider a supernatural cause.

As you and others noted, the "thin ice" theory is entirely inconsistent with the biblical account. According to Matthew, the disciples had been in the boat for a while and the boat was "a long way from the land" (Matt. 14:24). Mark says the boat was in the middle of the sea (Mark 6:47). Also, even under extremely cold conditions, the agitation from the waves likely would have broken the thin layer of ice.

I suppose people like Nof don't care about being consistent with the biblical texts. But the gospels are based on some evidence (eye-witness accounts), while their theory is based on pure speculation.

Ed Brenegar said...

Of course there was ice, they were all there for Israeli Stanley Cup playoffs. The oars were hockey sticks. It is just the Gospel writers were soccer fans and didn't want to encourage winter sports. Of course that's the way it happend.

Joshua Brainard said...

Dr. W, I hope you don't mind me asking a random piece of advice on your blog. I'm going to present Craig's arguments for the resurrection to my brother's girlfriend tomorrow, but my own wrestling with the faith causes me to feel that it would be inappropriate not to present the opposite side of the coin. Ludemann's 'Visionary Hypothesis' seems to be the best naturalistic explanation. The one thing I don't get is Ludemann doesn't concede Craig's point that Paul, as a 1st century Jew, couldn't conceive of a spiritual "resurrection" with a corpse still in the ground. Adela Collins referred to Ludemann when I spoke to her essentially saying the same thing. An appeal is made to later in I Cor 15, but "change" indicates the incorporation of the initial physical thing. Is there some reason, other than bias, that makes them think it plausible that Paul had in mind a purely spiritual resurrection? Whats the deal? I want to be confident tomorrow when I speak to my brother's girlfriend.


Ben Witherington said...

Hi Josh:

Yes there is reason to be confident that you are right about this. There is even evidence that some ancients thought that 'spirit' was a lesser sort of material substance, as is pointed out by Dale Martin's The Corinthian Body. So even Ludemann is certainly not right that we could read 1 Cor. 15 to refer to a non-material body in the phrase spiritual body.


Ben W.

Joshua Brainard said...

Thanks, thats an interesting point about "spiritual body." But, I assume you're also saying that there is no hint that some Jews believed that there could be a resurrection that didn't involve the corpse?

By the way, 240 bibliographical references for "Jesus, Paul and the End of the World" is a bit overkill, no?

Ben Witherington said...

As for the overkill on the biblio, you can thank my editors for that. And as for your other comment, I am saying that resurrection always believed to involve a body whether it involved the raising of a dead one or the transforming of a living one. One more interesting tidbit--- the phrase in 1 Copr. 15 is literally "resurrection from out of the dead ones" not resurrection from the grave or from death. This implies the dead ones are still in Sheol/the Land of the Dead/Hades.



Joshua Brainard said...

From among the "dead ones"? In other words, Jesus has received the same kind of resurrection that they later anticipate?

Hey, as long as I'm shamelessly taking up space on a major scholar's blog begging for answers, whats one more? I only promised my brother that I would make a case tomorrow for his girlfriend so she can make up her own mind. I'm still kinda shaky myself. I've got a mound of difficulties with the Bible throughout, but the resurrection evidence is hard to ignore. Have you ever felt it unreasonable to believe what looks like solid evidence for the resurrection because of other Bible difficulties (the end of Daniel 11, sensus plenior, Gen 1-11, synoptic problems, etc)? Is it really reasonable to discard major doubts for the resurrection evidence? Do I have to live with this cognitive disonance the rest of my life or can I really study enough that I will feel the doubts probably aren't a big deal?

Joshua Brainard said...

I discovered that on the 4th day of creation God put the heavenly bodies "in" the firmament that seperates the waters above and below. This shattered my view of Gen 1 cohering with reality. It could be taken as a framework, but it is difficult to believe that the original author didn't intend it literally. Anyway, I feel like dominoes of idealism about inspiration are starting to fall. I feel as if I should be running from historical critical commentaries lest more dominoes fall. Am I on the slippery slope to neo-orthodoxy, or is there a path back to the Bible being God's reliable word?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Joshua:

I think you can reach a point where you will have assurance about the big issues, but you will never have all the answers in this life. God reveals enough of himself and his will to give you hope, but not so much that you don't have to exercise faith and trust.

The problem however mainly Josh is that you bring some of the wrong sort of assumptions about the text. Genesis 1 involves poetry. It is not an early example of scientific description. The point is that God made it all, made it in an orderly fashion, and it was all good.

Sometimes we bring modern questions to texts that were never intended to answer some of these questions. Its not a question of the truthfulness of the Bible, it is a question of reading it in its proper contexts, and avoiding reading certain modern assumptions into the text.

Blessings on your witnessing,


revdrron said...

If Jesus was walking on thin ice, what say Brother Peter! (slippery?)

enjoy, ron

Greg said...

I guess then we'd have an unrecorded miracle that took place as well. Because if Jesus was walking on thin ice, and then Peter fell in, then I guess Jesus would have to heal him from hypothermia.

Interesting that science depends on its own faith to create an explanation it can believe in.


Jason Ng said...

This argument assumes that the disciples actually went out on the lake and Jesus really "walked" up to them. What makes no sense at all in this story is how did the disciples manage to row a boat through ice thick enough to support a human being walking all the way from the shore to the middle of the water? This was a tiny wooden boat, not a giant ocean liner. Maybe this will convince a few lapsed Christians with virtually no critical thinking skills, and I truly feel sorry for anyone suckered into believing this.

kpstrat35 said...

All of you are missing the true oxymoron indicated here - "Florida State scholar". I expect more critical reading from this group in the future.

Brett Royal said...

I wish people would at least be intellectually honest and say that there were no miracles in the Bible, rather than trying to explain them away so they can still say they believe the Bible.
There were miracles in the Bible, and they were a means to validate that someone was from God. If they can be explained away, then the truth of scripture is slain.

see-through faith said...

erm I think if it was iced over, Jesus was in Finland :)

see-through faith said...

oh and the miracle of hypothemia made me laugh too

be blessed

Steve T said...

On Josh's issues with the Genesis account:

Another major theme in the early chapters in Genesis is going after ANE (ancient near eastern) religious beliefs. Not unlike the plagues in Exodus, which seem aimed at undermining the authority of the Egyptian gods, there are several elements in the creation account that contradict pagan cosmogony. I think this was far more significant in the mind of the author than providing a detailed scientific account.

See Jim W. Adams' article, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph Smith?", in Beckwith, Mosser, and Owen, The New Mormon Challenge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), for an introduction to this subject.