04 May 2014
#89 Did Jesus walk on water?

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Here is the whole passage (Mk 6:47-52 NKJV) about "Jesus "walking on the sea" with my embedded comments.

And when evening came, the boat was in the middle the sea;
["in the middle of" is also translated as "in the midst of [= surrounded by, among]" (DARBY) or simply "out on" (RSV). The two later translations appear more accurate, according to what follows]

and he was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing,
[rather hard to see, if the boat was miles away from shore!]
 
for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night
[Roman division of time: 3 to 6 A.M.]
 
he came to them, walking on the sea.
[the Greek word used here for "on" is 'epi', which can also mean by as in Jn21:1a "Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by [Greek 'epi', but here, according to the context, meaning 'on the shore of'] the sea of Tiberias."]
 
and would have passed them by.
[if Jesus sees his disciples from afar, how could he pass them by? However this comment is very realistic if Jesus (absorbed in his thoughts?) was walking by the lake (which is lined up with beaches), when the fishermen, slowed down by the wind, were rowing close to shore]
 
And when they saw him walking on ['epi'] the sea, they supposed he was a ghost,
[very unlikely to have been thought by rural non Hellenized Jews, even if (as in the NIV Study Bible footnote) they may have believed in water spirits]
 
and cried out; for they all saw him and were troubled
[because of the 'ghost' thing, not the 'walking on water', as shown next]
 
But immediately he talked to them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." Then he went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. They were greatly greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure and marveled.
[because of the walking on water or the wind abatement? But if the disciples realized Jesus walked on water, they would be more than (only) amazed and marveling. "Matthew" "corrected" this as follows: "... those who were on the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God"" (Mt14:33) Then "Mark" himself suggested the disciples were (only) greatly surprised because they were not "open"]
 
for they had not understood about the loaves;
[the disciples (and the crowds) could not "see" and "understand" the miraculous feedings (Mk 8:17-21: see post #88). Consequently, they are described as unable to acknowledge other extraordinary signs (explaining why they would not report them!), as confirmed next]

because their heart was hardened
[NASB alternative translation: "their mind was closed, made dull, or insensible". The disciples did not notice 'the walking on water': they had closed minds! (but they were chosen by Jesus!) "Hardened" (Greek root 'poroo') can also be translated by "blinded" as in the KJV for Ro 11:7 & 2Cor 3:14]."
 
What can we figure out about that very ambiguous telling of this story?
An eyewitness (probably Peter) must have told an anecdote:
When rowing against the wind (and close to shore), they were surprised to see Jesus walking by the lake (i.e. on the beach). He boarded the boat (no need to say they headed for shore first, it was obvious), and then the wind ceased, which could be interpreted as a miracle (as in Mk 4:41 'the calming of the sea'). Also, the two occurrences of "walking on the sea" in Mk 6:48-49 are very similar of Da 12:6-7a "And one said to the man clothed in linen , who was above the waters of the river, "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river"
 
Note: here are some of the remarks from John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus (1992), Chapter 15, 'Walking on water':
"It is not even certain, as Julian Hills of Marquette University mentioned to me in conversation, that Jesus walked on the sea in this story. The Greek word is epi, and that is translated as "on the sea" in John 6:19 but "by the sea" in John 21:1."
 
From this sory, it is rather obvious "Mark" used eyewitness' anecdotal material (in order to provide an aura of authenticity) and then "suggested" within them wondrous signs, rather dubiously and tentatively, in order to elevate the stature of Jesus as an extraordinary entity.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {extraordinary miracles} {historical Jesus} {Mark's gospel} {walking on water}
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