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Walking on the Water narrative

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  • John Lupia
    This is part of an essay I am writing that focuses on features of my thesis already outlined in previous posts. As I have initially said a reader can see a
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 7, 2003
      This is part of an essay I am writing that focuses on
      features of my thesis already outlined in previous

      As I have initially said a reader can see a direct
      relationship with the �Storm at Sea Narrative to that
      of �Jesus walking on the water� Matthew 14:22-33; Mark
      6:45-52; John 6:15b-21. Luke omitted this episode,
      since he was unaware of it. Both Two-Source and
      Two-Gospel theorists hold this as evidence of either
      Mark or Matthew's primacy. Rather, after carefully
      examining those texts the opposite appears to be true.
      John 6:15b-21 appears to be the earliest version of
      that narrative since the Evangelists crafted their
      narratives to express or teach important truths based
      on established illustrative models. John seems to be
      making a spiritual commentary on Horace Epistles,
      coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currant,
      meaning the skies not the spirit changes for those who
      cross the sea. What John may have been pointing out
      was that even if Peter could walk across the sea it
      would not improve him or make him greater than what he
      already was.

      Additionally, the Hellenistic audience familiar with
      mythological fables could have associated Jesus�
      ability to walk on water with the Greek myth of
      Iphiclus, the son of Phylacus, who was believed to
      have the ability to run over the sea (cf. Hyginus,
      Astronomica 2.28; Argonautica Orphica; Argonauts, by
      arious authors including Valerius Flaccus, Apollodrus,
      Apollonius Rhodius,). Variant accounts have it that
      he could run over the fruit of the Asphodel or ears of
      wheat and not damage them (see Fragment #84
      --Scholiast on Homer, Od. xi. 326J. The concept of
      walking on the sea, therefore, was an already
      established one in the Hellenistic world. This is
      further evidenced in the myth regarding Zeus who gave
      Troa, the father of Ganymede two immortal horses that
      could run over the water. John, therefore, associated
      Simon Peter and Jesus with this divine attribute to
      establish theological truths about Jesus through the
      story. What strengthens this analysis is that the
      Walking on the Water Narrative can be demonstrated as
      a re-adaptation of the Storm at sea Narrative
      evidenced clearly in Matthew.

      Matthew incorporates the seven elements and adapts
      them as follows. As we examine his version of that
      story we can see the same elements contained in each:
      (1) the disciples board a boat; (2) a storm breaks
      out; (3) Jesus is walking; (4) the apostles panic; (5)
      Jesus calms them; (6) Jesus asks Peter about his
      faith; and (7) the apostles are amazed at the power
      Jesus possess over nature.

      Moreover, Matthew adapts the Storm at Sea Narrative
      using the passage from Proverbs 10:24-25

      What the wicked man fears overtakes him, what the
      virtuous desires comes to him as a present. When the
      storm is over, the wicked man is no more, but the
      virtuous stands firm forever.

      Here Peter is seen as the prototypical Christian
      struggling between good and evil. Peter conforms to
      Aristotle's description of the tragic hero having
      hamartia (amartia). G.M.A. Grube (1958) has pointed
      out that the word hamartia was rich in meaning and
      signified mistake, error, flaw or wrongdoing. He
      notes that the term has been variously interpreted as
      "a moral flaw," "an error of judgment," or a mere
      "misstep." The deliberate pun on "misstep" is obvious
      in the Gospel narrative. It is connected to the Greek
      word agnoew as used by Hippocrates, Art. 46,
      signifying to go wrong, make a misstep. This same
      Greek word is found later on in Polybius, 5.11.5, and
      much later on in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews 5:2;
      9:7, while earlier in the OT in Tobias 3:3, where the
      connotation concerns the first moral degree of
      ignorance, namely, to be ignorant of what is right
      causing one to behave amiss. Reaching out to Jesus
      for his salvation makes him like the virtuous man of
      the Proverb cited above who stands firm, even on the
      water. Peter, therefore, is the primary example of
      discipleship, who through his passionate love of Jesus
      and truth vigorously sets out with greatest efforts to
      illuminate his mind dispelling ignorance, thereby
      correcting his behavior in order to walk along the
      firm, straight and narrow path of Jesus.

      John crafts the Walking on the Water Narrative to
      teach another aspect about Jesus rather than repeating
      Luke�s Storm at Sea Narrative. The inspiration for
      this narrative seems varied. One possible source is
      the petrello, a condition at sea caused by turbulent
      waves that agitate the under current forcing debris
      and fish to the surface. The appearance of these fish
      has been fancied by mariners as their ability to walk
      on water. As we examine John's version of that story
      we can see the same elements contained in each: (1)
      the disciples board a boat; (2) a storm breaks out;
      (3) Jesus is walking; (4) the apostles panic; (5)
      Jesus calms them; (6) the apostles are amazed at the
      power Jesus possess over nature when they find
      themselves miraculously transported to their
      destination. Moreover, ambulomancy, that is,
      divination by walking was clearly alluded to in the
      Walking on the Water Narrative which revealed Jesus as

      However, John may have been inspired to craft the
      Walking on the Water Narrative from Homer 5. 51-83 in
      his description of Odysseus� wreck of the raft during
      the storm at sea.

      And in one whirling gust the hurricane
      Snapped the mast in twain; far into the main
      Fell top and rigging; and beneath the surge
      He sank, and after a while his head again

      Out from the overwhelming wave could lift
      For now his garments, fair Calypso�s gift,
      Weighed him down: but yet he rose,

      John may have seen the parallel of Odysseus to Peter
      was strengthened in the aspect not only of the sinking
      and rising on the water in the storm but also in their
      heroism and personal sacrifice in living out their
      sacred ideals. Odysseus left the sanctuary of the
      island of Ogygia where he lived with the nymph Calypso
      as his wife. Zeus sent Hermes to inform him he would
      be allowed to leave the island and return to Ithaca
      and return to his true bride Penelope. Calypso tried
      to dissuade him by warning him that if he only knew
      the dangers and troubles ahead he�d gladly stay with
      her. Whereas, Peter sacrificially left his wife to
      attend to his true bride given to him by Christ, the
      Church. He courageously journeyed for the mission of
      the Church despite the gravity and perilous danger
      before him. This possible analogy between Peter and
      Odysseus would have been the characterization
      resulting from of a lifelong intimate friendship.
      Another strong parallel between Odysseus and Peter is
      made earlier by Luke at Peter's denial, which we shall
      see later.

      In his Storm at Sea Narrative Luke used Jesus
      uttering a diasyrm, which is a rhetorical figure
      expressing ridicule. Rather than repeating Luke�s
      Storm at Sea Narrative, which focuses on the negative
      aspect of the apostles shallow faith John rewrites it
      to teach in a positive light about their faith.
      John�s omission regarding the asking about their
      faith, which would have been the sixth element of the
      narrative, implies that Jesus� miraculous nature,
      actions, and example empowered them with faith.

      The evidence is that the Storm at Sea Narrative was
      crafted before the Walking on the Water Narrative.
      Luke is the only evangelist who inserts this narrative
      into his Gospel as though it were a separate pericope
      beginning it with the phrase �One day�. Matthew and
      Mark use it to extend the narrative about the teaching
      of the parables giving it a sense of time sequence.
      Matthew says, �Then he got into the boat followed by
      his disciples.� Whereas, Mark gets precise giving the
      story a sense of accurate recollection and thereby
      suggesting a greater authority when he says �With the
      coming of evening that same day, he said to them, �Let
      us cross over to the other side�. �

      As we have already seen the Evangelists write
      narratives based on well known illustrations from
      established sources. Besides Jewish literature they
      also used the secular texts of Greek and Roman
      authors. Archilochus (fl. 648 B. C.) had written a
      poem about Glaucus the famous fisherman who saw a dead
      fish come back to life. The cryptogram of the word
      fish in Greek ichthos as Jesus Christ God�s Son
      Saviour was certainly known to Luke who used the term
      similarly. Peter as Glaucus witnessed Jesus (the
      fish) come back to life in his resurrection. They
      would also be reminded of Archilochus� poem that

      Look Glaucus! At the sea�s splashing waves already
      mounting high,
      Above the Cape of Gyrae storm clouds fill the sky,
      Signs of an impending storm, brings panic upon us

      The Storm at Sea represents an event well understood
      in antiquity. Everyone knew the danger and peril
      brought on by a storm at sea. Pirries or squalls were
      sudden storms that broke out in a flash. Isidorus
      (fl. 1st century A.D.) wrote a poem about a
      nondescript sea trader name Eteocles who tells us his
      tale of how he perished at sea in a storm.

      Eteocles was I, aspiring to be best,
      In ocean trade lured from a farmer�s nest;
      I crossed the ridges of the Tyrrhene crest,
      Plunging ship and all to my eternal rest,
      I was crushed by that sudden squall; for different
      Blow on threshing floors, and across ship sails.

      Sudden squalls were greatly feared by the Hellenists
      for their quick destructive power. The Greeks use the
      terms aellaios and aellodromas to signify storm-swift,
      an idea that has powerful imagery associated with it.
      One of the Harpies is given the name Aellw,
      "Storm-swift." This narrative of Luke's seems to have
      employed aspects of Hellenistic polytheism, which
      hailed the Roman Aeolus or Greek Astraeus. As the
      father god of the winds and stars by his wife the
      Roman Aurora or the Greek Eos, goddess of the dawn.
      Aeolus, who lived in the cave of the winds on Mount
      Haemon, Thrace, he was believed to pierce the cliffs
      with his spear so that the winds could blow out of
      them. Virgil Aeneid 1, relates the story of how Juno
      had Aeolus unleash a storm against Aeneas� ship, which
      Neptune calmed sending him to dock at Carthage. In
      verse 539 Virgil relates how the constellation of
      Orion brings the stormy weather.
      In another legend, the citizens of Messenia beset by
      hurricanes prayed to Athena to be delivered from them.
      After the storms subsided they erected a temple in
      her honor known as the Temple of Aqena Anemotis, that
      is, Athena of the Winds.
      Chaomancy was the divination by air, whereas,
      austromancy was the art of divination from observation
      of the winds. Aeromanteia was the Greek divination by
      air. An aeromantis was a Greek air-diviner. Related
      to this is botanomancy, the art of divination by wind
      blown leaves. Furthermore, aeromancers were
      weather-prophets who could divine the future by the
      wind. According to the ancient art of anemography
      wind directions were recorded and given specific
      names. The ancients knew of the Halcyon Days a period
      of fourteen days in which the sea was calm. Aratus of
      Soli (315-240 B.C.) wrote Phenomena containing a
      section on weather signs called Prognastica
      (Prognwstika) or Diosemeia, translated into Latin by
      Cicero. Arrian (fl. 1st half 2nd century B.C.) wrote
      books on meteorology and a brief text on comets.
      Andronicus of Cyrrhus (fl. 1st century B.C.) built the
      octagonal tower of the winds decorated with figures of
      the personifications of the winds. His brass Triton
      mounted on the tower served as, perhaps, the earliest
      known example of a weather vane. Vitruvius 1,6 tells
      us about the amussium, a horizontal wheel for denoting
      the direction of the wind. Pomponius Mela in A.D. 43
      published maps where the surface of the globe was
      divided into a Central Torrid Zone and North and South
      Temperate Zone. Romans also spoke of the calores
      austrini or atabulus the sirocco or hot winds; the
      magistralis meaning the master wind, which was the
      mistral or violent cold NW wind. They also described
      some as incola aquilones, that is, native winds.
      Cicero speaks about calamitosa tempesta or a
      corn-levelling tempest from whence we get the term
      calamity. Cicero also speaks about prodromus the NNE
      wind that blew for eight days before the heliacal
      rising of the Dog Star also called Sirus. There were
      the etesiae or annual canicular day or dog day winds
      that lasted forty days from mid July to mid September.
      Plautus Rudens tells us about the star in Ursa Major
      called Acturus, which rose in September and was
      associated with the stormy weather of the autumnal
      equinox. Lucretius 5. 741 calls them estia flabra
      Aquilorium, which were a gentle and mild wind. On the
      Iberian Peninsula the solano wind is known for being
      very harsh an unendurable. It is known for being
      severely hot and accompanied by dust. The harmattan
      winds came from Africa across the Atlantic from
      December through February. These winds are noted for
      their aridity. The khamsin winds lasted for fifty
      days in Egypt from the end of April until the
      inundation of the Nile. The samiel winds are the hot
      winds that blow out of Africa and Arabia periodically.
      They even engaged in brontology, the science of
      thunder, and brontomancy, divination by thunder. The
      Greeks saw lightning as a phenomenon, which consumes
      with fire thereby purifying. The phrase agelatos
      mastix means to drive out a curse much the same way
      that lightning purifies. Romans believed that a
      Helena, that is, one bolt of lightning about the mast
      of a ship during a storm was an ill omen that
      signified the worst part of that storm was yet to
      come. Two bolts of lightning called Castor and Pollux
      was considered a good omen and sign of the cessation
      of the storm. This is echoed in Horace, Odes 12,

      But when the sons of Leda shed
      their star-lamps on our vessel's head
      the storm winds cease, the troubled spray
      falls from the rocks, clouds flee away
      and on the bosom of the deep
      in peace the angry billows sleep.

      Besides the appearance of the forked bolt of
      lightning or comazant the Hellenists also understood
      that squalls can be cut short like a typhoon or
      ecnephia. Furthermore, the chief duty or function of
      the Tritons who lived beneath the sea was to calm the
      sea by blowing the conch. Belief in preternatural
      control of the elements was widespread throughout the
      Roman empire and even in Gallic mythology. The Gauls
      had the Gallicenae which were nine virgin priestesses
      of the Gallic oracle who by their charms could raise
      the winds and waves of the sea.
      The Roman Summanus was the god of thunderstorms.
      However both the Romans and the Greeks had numerous
      gods of the winds. The North wind was called Boreas
      by the Greeks and Aquilo by the Romans. Thrascias was
      the northerly wind but not that which blew due north,
      the same as the Italian tramontane. The NE wind was
      the Greek Caecias and Argest�s or Euraquilo by the
      Romans, while the Roman Corus or Caurus was that of
      the NW. However, it is called the Euroclydon in Acts
      27:14, probably referring to a storm of the eastern
      keys. The Greek Eurus was the god of the East and SE
      winds so says Ovid because vires capit Eurus ab ortu,
      that is, since it is drawn from the east. Volturnus
      was another Roman god of the SE wind. It was the
      North and Easterly winds that brought violent storms
      at sea. The Roman Auster and the Greek Notus were the
      South wind, and the Greek Afer and Roman Altanus were
      that of the SW. Notus was the wind of fog and mists
      dangerous to shepherds on mountains, mariners at sea,
      but a friend to robbers and thieves. The Roman
      Favonius or Greek Zephyrus was the West wind,
      considered the mildest and gentlest of all coming at
      the beginning of spring. According to Pliny, Libs was
      the SW wind. Africus and Africanus were also SW
      The Romans also had the Tempestates, goddesses of
      storms and winds. Harpies were vultures with the
      heads and breasts of women who were personifications
      of whirlwinds and storms as is evidenced by their
      names. These were the sisters of Iris the goddess of
      the rainbow. Although Homer mentions only one Hesiod
      cites two sisters A�llo "Storm-swift" the goddess of
      the storm winds as we have already seen, and Ocypete
      the goddess of the swift winds. Later Greek poets add
      a third sister Celaeno the goddess of darkness.
      Besides austromancy to give the wind and storm
      meaning to Luke�s audience is the fact that the
      monsoons were discovered about A.D. 40 with the Romans
      sending fleets to India to laden their ships with
      eastern goods. Hippalus, an Alexandrian Greek
      captain, charted the periodicity of these monsoon
      winds. From these records he was able to discover
      that in certain seasons safe navigation was affordable
      through the Indian Ocean. About A.D. 80 another
      Alexandrian Greek sea captain wrote Periplus of the
      Erythrean Sea, a handbook for mercantile ships along
      the east African coast to India. However,
      navigational laws predate these and are traceable to
      those compiled by the Rhodians about 900 B.C. The
      Roman merchant mariners would have well understood the
      ferocity of this storm�s image and even would have
      greatly appreciated Luke�s expression of Jesus�
      divinity and absolute authority over the entire
      physical cosmos.

      The symbolism of the boat cut to the core of the
      meaning of the Greek word apostoleis. These were, in
      antiquity, the decemvir or ten commissioners chosen to
      secure a naval expedition. This commission ranked
      them as extraordinary authorities appointed by the
      people. The apostles in the boat symbolized the
      Church. The boat tossed about by the storm implied
      that a great helmsman would be needed to steer it
      through that stormy-wind.

      �Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm�

      ��Publius Syrus (1st century BC) Maxim 358

      Matthew�s emphasis of Peter, as we have seen, meant
      that he was that great helmsman. The helm itself was
      also seen as the power of the ship. James 3:4
      discusses this thusly:

      � And think of ships: no matter how big they are, even
      if a gale is driving them, the man at the helm can
      steer them anywhere he likes by controlling a tiny

      The other side of the meaning of the �Storm at Sea�
      was that God leads us into a safe harbor after testing
      us through the perils of the storm. This image was a
      well established one in antiquity as described in the
      legend of Diomedes who raised a temple to Apollo
      Epibaterus "Seafaring" in gratitude for a safe return
      from a severe storm at sea. The storm image is also
      expressed in a poem the Storm at Sea by Alcaeus. In
      that poem Alcaeus writes about the fear, struggle, and
      pain sailors heroically endured until they once more
      brought their ship into a safe harbor. He writes:

      The thunderous wind greatly disturbs me. On this my
      a wave rolls up, on the other breaks another tide,
      This dismal ship, �pon which we sail,
      is tossed about by a tumultuous gale,

      We�re frozen faint from the terrible blast:
      and round the mast water rises fast.
      All the sail is thin and worn,
      With great holes gaping, rent and torn.

      Mounting even greater still punishing with onsets a
      Waves breaking high giving us much to do . . .
      Patching up with haste this gaping side
      Let us into a safe harbor ride!

      Let not fear your strength deplete;
      Before us lies a great task to complete.
      With memories of our prior pain,
      we�ve proved our manhood once again!

      Alcaeus (625-575 B.C.), Fragment 120

      This image was so strong that in Roman literature a
      near parallel to Psalm 107 is found.

      �Our ship of state, which recent storms have
      threatened to destroy, has come safely to harbor at

      �� Sophocles (495-406 B.C.), Antigone, l. 163

      On this same theme is the Greek myth of the hero
      Melicertes relates that when he was transformed into
      the sea-god Palaemon he rode on the back of a dolphin
      to Corinth. He was identical to the Roman Portunus,
      the harbor god. It was only about fifteen years prior
      to Luke's writing the Gospel that the emperor Claudius
      began construction of the Imperial Harbor at Ostia, in
      A.D. 42. Later he built a lighthouse for that harbor
      in A.D. 52. This was probably inspired by that
      designed by Sostratus of Cnidius built on the island
      of Pharos, near the port of Alexandria, in the 4th
      century B.C., reputed to have been some 450 feet in
      height, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
      However, in A.D. 62 Tacitus reported that some 200
      ships carrying corn sank in that harbor during a
      severe storm, in the final year of Faenius Rufus'
      tenure as praefecti annonae, Prefect of the Corn. The
      fear and dread ancient peoples had for storms at sea
      is clearly evident. According to ancient science
      nothing was seen more dreaded or powerful as the sea.
      Hesiod in Works and Days, 663-694 advises his brother
      regarding opportune days of good sailing weather for
      nautical enterprises:

      The best time to make a voyage is during the fifty
      days after the summer solstice, as the end of summer
      approaches. During this season you will neither wreck
      your ship, nor will the sea drown your crew, unless of
      course, Neptune lord of the earthquake chooses to, or
      Jove lord of the immortals decides your fate, for the
      question of good and evil are in their power. During
      this season the winds are steady and the sea safe; you
      can therefore confidently set out your ship into the
      water relying on the winds with your cargo neatly
      inside her; but return for home without delay; don�t
      wait for new wine, autumn rain or any sign of winter
      with its gales that the South wind raises when it
      begins to blow after autumn�s many showers making the
      sea dangerous once more. There is also a period of
      time in spring when men make voyages; when the twigs
      of the fig-tree begin to bud about the size of a
      crow�s foot the sea is once again fit for sailing, but
      a voyage at this season is dangerous; I do neither
      advise it, nor approve of it, for the voyage will
      surely be snagged with some sort of trouble.
      Nevertheless, some men are foolish enough to set sail
      even then since money is so necessary for us poor
      mortals, but drowning is a horrible death; I bid you
      therefore, weigh deeply all that I have said.
      Moreover, do not put all of your things on any single
      ship; leave the greater part behind, putting only a
      smaller portion on board. It is a sad thing for
      anyone to meet with a mishap on the high seas; and
      sadder still if you have overloaded your wagon causing
      the axle to break damaging your load; therefore, use
      moderation in all things and let everything be done in
      its due season.

      The sea ruled by Neptune with his trident was awesome
      and overwhelming to mortal men. This view was echoed
      in the maxim of Themistocles as recorded by Cicero:

      �He who commands the sea has command of everything.�

      ��Themistocles (c. 528-462 B.C.), From Cicero, Ad
      Atticum, x, 8.

      The image of Jesus commanding the wind, storm and sea
      was one that contemporary non-Christians could relate
      to. In other words the apostles adapted the story to
      speak loud and clear to their potential proselytes in
      terms they already understood. Jesus, who
      Themistocles could be seen prophesying about,
      commanded everything, all of the physical world as its
      Lord and ruler.

      In conclusion, the Evangelists would adapt well-known
      illustrations taken from both sacred and secular
      literature and use them to express ideas about Jesus,
      faith, salvation, and the Church. Their use of
      secular or pagan literature hit on points well known
      and readily recognized and identifiable to relate that
      Jesus is the Lord and God of all. The evangelists
      would take a Type 6 document and readapt it or rewrite
      it altogether to express other theological ideas as
      well. Finally, since Luke treats the story of the
      "Storm at Sea� in a unique way, and never uses the
      later adaptation as the Walking on the Water Narrative
      it suggests that his Gospel was first chronologically.

      With best regards,

      John N. Lupia, III
      31 Norwich Drive
      Toms River, New Jersey 08757 USA
      Phone: (732) 341-8689
      Email: jlupia2@...
      Editor, Roman Catholic News

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    • John Lupia
      In the text below I caught an error from my previous post that read Luke where it should have read Matthew, as corrected below. On this same theme is the Greek
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 7, 2003
        In the text below I caught an error from my previous
        post that read Luke where it should have read Matthew,
        as corrected below.

        On this same theme is the Greek myth of the hero
        Melicertes relates that when he was transformed into
        the sea-god Palaemon he rode on the back of a dolphin
        to Corinth. He was identical to the Roman Portunus,
        the harbor god. It was only about fifteen years prior
        to Matthew's writing the Gospel that the emperor
        began construction of the Imperial Harbor at Ostia, in
        A.D. 42.

        For part I see

        with best regards,

        John N. Lupia, III
        31 Norwich Drive
        Toms River, New Jersey 08757 USA
        Phone: (732) 341-8689
        Email: jlupia2@...
        Editor, Roman Catholic News

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