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Re: [XTalk] Re: Walking on the Sea [was Intellectual climates etc.]

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  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
    ... Please excuse me if I missed Eric saying this, but there is also a tradition from I believe Dio Cassius, that speaks of Caligula walking on the sea .
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 28, 2003
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      "mwgrondin " wrote:

      > Eric,
      >
      > I bow to your greater knowledge and perspicacity. My only intention,
      > as you perceived, was to provide a plausible symbolic interpretation
      > of the Walking on the Sea stories, and you seem to have done a far
      > better job than I.

      Please excuse me if I missed Eric saying this, but there is also a
      tradition from I believe Dio Cassius, that speaks of Caligula "walking
      on the sea". Apparently he joined a series of rafts together and then
      strode back and forth over them shouting "take that, Poseidon!" in an
      attempt to demonstrate that he had more power than the sea (my
      recollection of this is derived from a conversation with Wendy Cotter
      who wrote a book on Miracle stories in antiquity that is published by
      Polebridge).

      Now if this is so, and if the story was in wide enough circulation to
      have been known to Mark and his readers, do we also have some anti
      imperial polemic going on in Mark's walking on the water story? It
      certainly would give it the "symbolic" background that Antonio was
      looking for.

      Yours,

      Jeffrey
      --

      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

      1500 W. Pratt Blvd. #1
      Chicago, IL 60626

      jgibson000@...



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Eric Eve
      ... Jeffrey, It s okay, you didn t, for I didn t! But thanks for the idea. ... I wonder if 2 Macc 5.21 would also be relevant in this connexion, which in a
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 28, 2003
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        Jeffrey Gibson wrote:

        > Please excuse me if I missed Eric saying this,

        Jeffrey,

        It's okay, you didn't, for I didn't! But thanks for the idea.

        > but there is also a
        > tradition from I believe Dio Cassius, that speaks of Caligula "walking
        > on the sea". Apparently he joined a series of rafts together and then
        > strode back and forth over them shouting "take that, Poseidon!" in an
        > attempt to demonstrate that he had more power than the sea (my
        > recollection of this is derived from a conversation with Wendy Cotter
        > who wrote a book on Miracle stories in antiquity that is published by
        > Polebridge).

        > Now if this is so, and if the story was in wide enough circulation to
        > have been known to Mark and his readers, do we also have some anti
        > imperial polemic going on in Mark's walking on the water story? It
        > certainly would give it the "symbolic" background that Antonio was
        > looking for.

        I wonder if 2 Macc 5.21 would also be relevant in this connexion, which in a
        sarcastic side-swipe at Antiochus IV talks of him 'thinking in his arrogance
        that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea.' I suppose if one were
        thinking typologically one might think of linking Caligula and Antiochus
        Epiphanes, particular if you were thinking from a Jewish perspective, and
        not least since both rulers had threatened the integrity of the temple (2
        Macc 5.21 begins, "So Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from
        the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance..."). The
        passage does at least suggest that 'walking on the sea' is the kind of
        pretension one might sarcastically attribute to a ruler with overly arrogant
        ambitions.

        That said, I'm not sure I see how the anti-imperial polemic would be
        functioning at the level of Mark's narrative; at least, if it's there, I'm
        not sure it would be the main point (which I still think has more to do with
        OT allusions); but perhaps it could be a kind of bonus point for those who
        spotted it (Jesus does in fact what strutting Caligula couldn't and with
        what one writer sarcastically credits Antiochus with believing he could do;
        hence Jesus is the true king/messiah as opposed to those with earthly
        imperial pretensions).

        Is this the kind of thing you had in mind?

        Regards,

        Eric
        -------------------------------
        Dr Eric Eve
        Harris Manchester College
        Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD
        Tel: 01865 281473
      • Brian Trafford <bj_traff@hotmail.com>
        I would like to thank Mike, Eric and Jeffrey for offering some thoughts on the potential symbolism behind the walking on water miracle as reported in Mark,
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 28, 2003
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          I would like to thank Mike, Eric and Jeffrey for offering some
          thoughts on the potential symbolism behind the walking on water
          miracle as reported in Mark, Matt and John. The question did come up
          in my discussion with Antonio, and when I asked him what
          the "obvious" symbolic meaning of this particular miracle happened to
          be, I was not denying that it had no such potential meaning. I
          happen to think that it did have such a meaning, and more on that
          below. But I wonder at the "obviousness" of the symbolism,
          especially as Mark, Matt and John give us quite different
          presentations of this story. Moreover, I was curious as to how any
          potential symbolic meaning for the story could serve to somehow
          disqualify the actual historicity of the event itself.

          In any case, some interesting points have been made, and since I
          opened this can of worms I thought that I might give my 2 cents as
          well.

          Eric's theory is interesting, and I agree that Mark was probably
          trying to present this as a Christological pericope rather than an
          ecclesiastical one. I am doubtful that he viewed it in light of God
          passing by Moses in Exodus, however. That would be reading more into
          Jesus' intention to "pass by them," than seems warranted. In my
          view, had this been Mark's desire, he would have been more interested
          in connecting this miracle to Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of
          God as he does, for example, in the Transfiguration. More probably,
          Mark is simply telling us that Jesus had not originally intended to
          join the disciples in the boat, then does so in order to calm their
          fears, not to mention the wind/sea. Mark's conclusion that the
          disciples still did not understand the miracle of the feeding because
          of the hardness of their hearts is espeically interesting in its
          placement here. Of the two miracles, the walking on the water is
          clearly the most astonishing, yet Mark is still focused on the
          feeding miracle. From this, the symbolism Mark appears to be using is
          focused on the disciples lack of understanding that Jesus is the
          Messiah.

          Not surprisingly GJohn's symbolism is entirely different, even though
          he places the miracles the same context as do Mark and Matt. In John
          Jesus' purpose is to go directly to the boat where he will not only
          calm the disciples and the sea, but also cause the boat to reach the
          other side instantly. This is in keeping with John's higher
          Christology than the Synoptics, and shows Jesus' absolute and
          indisputable mastery over nature even more powerfully than does Mark
          or Matthew. There is nothing about any lack of understanding on the
          part of the disciples, however, so the contrast is rather stark
          between Mark and John here.

          Likewise, Matthew's symbolism is very different from either Mark or
          John. He wants to show Jesus' mastery over nature, of course, but
          also connects it to how other believers can achieve anything if only
          they have faith (by introducing Peter's attempt to join Jesus). This
          gives the story a spin that is entirely absent in either Mark or
          John, but one that would be compatible with either's Christology and
          theology. As with John, the lack of understanding by the disciples
          is entirely absent. Matt's concern appears to be with the faith of
          the disciples in Jesus, and in what that faith can do for them.

          Thus, we have three very different symbolic presentations of the
          walking on the sea by the three evangelists. Moreover, we have
          Luke's non-use of the story, causing us to wonder how he might have
          viewed it, and therefore why he chose not to report it. Here
          Jeffrey's comment about the story of Caligula might be instructive,
          as might Eric's point on the madness of Antiochus who, in his
          arrogance sought to make the sea "passable on foot" (II Macc. 5:21).
          Given that most educated people thought of Caligula and Antiochus as
          insane, it is little wonder that Luke might not have wanted to report
          this particular story. So in this case, we have negative symbolism
          that Luke probably wanted to avoid. Interestingly, this concern
          obviously did not occur to the other three evangelists, or, at the
          very least, it did not dissuade them from using the incident, and
          reporting it in an extremely favourable light.

          Thus, we have a multiplicity of potential symbolic meanings for the
          walking on the sea. Our speculations may or may not be on the mark,
          but it is obvious that we can attach them to this reported event.
          The problem is that the symbolism found within each of the reports
          (not to mention the potential symbolism that caused Luke to NOT use
          the story) are very different, making any claim for "obvious"
          symbolic meaning highly suspect. Moreover, using the fact that
          people find symbolic meanings within a story (or even that the
          authors of the story itself saw such symbolism) says nothing about
          the potential historicity of the event itself. Clearly actual events
          can be given symbolic meanings just as can stories that are entirely
          made up.

          At the end of the day the problem of historicity remains. Given the
          nature of this particular miracle, I see no potential method for
          testing its veracity. As a result, no historian can credibly
          maintain that it is historical. But at the same time, the historian
          should not be saying that it is impossible that such a thing happened
          or could ever happen. The latter is a metaphysical judgement, not an
          historical one.

          Peace,

          Brian Trafford
          Calgary, AB, Canada
        • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
          ... That depends on the supposed nature of Jesus, doesn t it? Was it a case of a human being tapping into hitherto unknown (and titularly divine ) powers,
          Message 4 of 4 , Mar 1 9:23 AM
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            --- Brian Trafford wrote:
            > At the end of the day the problem of historicity remains. Given
            > the nature of this particular miracle, I see no potential method
            > for testing its veracity. As a result, no historian can credibly
            > maintain that it is historical. But at the same time, the
            > historian should not be saying that it is impossible that such a
            > thing happened or could ever happen. The latter is a metaphysical
            > judgement, not an historical one.

            That depends on the supposed nature of Jesus, doesn't it? Was it
            a case of a human being tapping into hitherto unknown (and
            titularly "divine") powers, based on enormous "faith" (as Matt's
            inclusion of Peter seems to suggest), or, say, a case of an alien
            being exercising his inherent superhuman powers? Putting it a
            different way, was it something that _anyone_ could have done (at
            least theoretically), or something that only Jesus could have done?
            ISTM that not only is there nothing wrong with the historian saying
            that, as far as we know, no physical being heavier than water can
            walk on it, but historians of all stripes actually agree with that,
            since for the Christian historian, for example, that's precisely the
            point - Jesus wasn't your normal human being - nor even your normal
            extraordinary human being. In the hands of John especially - and all
            later theologians - Jesus becomes essentially "alien". The historian
            has to decide whether to allow that possibility - which requires
            that Jesus be regarded as being essentially beyond the bounds of
            normal historical investigation. But if Jesus is beyond the bounds,
            then the usual tools of the historian have to be put aside. We can
            no longer say, for example, that such-and-such couldn't have
            happened, because we open up the possibility that Jesus-the-alien
            might have done anything at all - thus giving the Christian believer
            everything his heart could desire, namely a free pass from the
            constraints of reason and logic. Well, OK, but if we're going to do
            that, then let's at least be even-handed and give all religions a
            free pass.

            Mike Grondin
            Mt. Clemens, MI
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