The Bible says that Jesus walked on water, but a professor of oceanography at Florida State University in Tallahassee has developed a controversial theory: He claims Christ was actually walking on a floating piece of ice.
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John tells the story familiar to Christians: When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them: "It is I, do not be afraid." (John 6:16-20)
Reuters reports that FSU professor Doron Nof credits this miraculous act to an unusual combination of water and atmospheric conditions in what is now northern Israel that could have led to ice formation on the Sea of Galilee. Using statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee (now known as Lake Kinneret) and records of surface temperatures of the Mediterranean Sea, Nof determined there was a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago. He says this could have included the time in which Jesus lived.
Had the temperature dropped below freezing, it could have created ice to form in the freshwater lake that was then called the Sea of Galilee. And that ice would have been thick enough to support the weight of a man. What's more, it might have been impossible for distant observers--especially in the dark as the Gospel of John reports--to see that it was actually ice surrounded by water and not just water.
Nof calls this a "possible explanation" of how Jesus walked on water. "If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don't," Nof told Reuters. "Maybe somebody walked on the ice, I don't know. I believe that something natural was there that explains it. We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."
Nof acknowledges he has received hate mail for espousing this theory.
The study findings were published in the Journal of Paleolimnology.