Jesus Christ did not walk on water
RACHEL This is Emisoras Latinas, reporting to you from the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I am Rachel Perez, special correspondent covering the second coming of Jesus Christ. As on previous occasions, he is with us today in person. Good morning, Jesus!
JESUS A very good morning, I’d say.
RACHEL You seem very happy today. Why is that?
JESUS Just look at this lake and tell me it’s not a blessing from the Most High!
RACHEL What a shame that our audience today cannot contemplate the beauty of the Sea of Galilee. I see that his landscape brings back many memories, Jesus.
JESUS It was here that the movement began… James, John and Peter. All of them were good fishermen.
RACHEL And were you?
JESUS No, no, I was afraid of the water. Around Nazareth there’s not even a stream.
RACHEL But you couldn’t have been afraid because, if I recall correctly, it was it was in this lake where you walked on the waves and calmed the storm by crying out.
JESUS What a story-teller you are, Rachel! I didn’t even know how to swim!
RACHEL Story-teller? That story is well known to our radio audience. Please, we want your opinion. Our telephone line is open, 714-4000, seven-one-four-four thousand. Call and tell us did Jesus walk on the water of this Sea of Galilee or didn’t he? First call…
MAN Or course he did! That’s what’s written in the Word of God, and the Word does not lie!
RACHEL And how do you think that miracle was possible?
MAN Because for God nothing is possible. Hallelujah!
RACHEL We have another call…
WOMAN Well, I think everything has to have some explanation. Perhaps it was wintertime and the lake was frozen, so Jesus didn’t walk, but skated over the water.
JESUS She has no idea of how hot it is in my land all year round.
RACHEL Blind faith or scientific reason? We have a third call. Hello?
SCHOLAR Neither the one nor the other. The matter is very simple.
RACHEL Why do you say that? Who are you?
SCHOLAR You are a journalist, I am a Bible scholar. Tell me, ma’am, what would your audience think if I were to say to you now “How beautiful you are, your eyes are doves, your hair is like a flock of goats moving down the slopes?”
RACHEL My audience would think that you are quite fresh…
SCHOLAR Correct. But nobody would think that you had birds on your face or goats in your hair, right?
RACHEL I should think not. But… where are you going with this?
SCHOLAR I’m going to the Bible. In the Song of Songs we read “Your eyes are doves, your hair is like a flock of goats”. And since the Bible is the Word of God, are we to conclude that that young woman had animals on her head?
RACHEL Of course not. It’s an image, a metaphor.
SCHOLAR Well, the same thing applies with Jesus walking on the water. It’s a metaphor, a poetic image, a comparison.
RACHEL A comparison with what?
SCHOLAR Look at the lake. Now you see it calm, but sometimes there are terrible storms. Isn’t that so, Jesus?
JESUS This fellow knows my land well.
SCHOLAR In those days the country people, and Jesus himself, used to think that during the storms the demons who lived at the bottom of the sea were let loose.
RACHEL I still don’t understand.
SCHOLAR Don’t we say that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, the first communities so admired and loved Jesus that they made him into a hero. And this wonderful image occurred to them they had him walk on the water, dominating all the forces of evil that were hidden in its depths. As we might say today, they made him into a superman.
RACHEL And so, Jesus, is it untrue that you walked….?
JESUS Haven’t you heard this fellow’s explanation? It’s a comparison, like the doves and goats that describe the young woman in the Song of Songs.
RACHEL Thank you to our friend, the bible scholar, who has called us. And all of you, dear listeners, are you prepared to find other metaphors in the gospels? Stay tuned to Emisoras Latinas. From the Lake of Galilee, this is Rachel Perez.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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A symbol-making species
“Homo sapiens”, the species to which all human beings belong, is characterized by a highly developed brain that allows us, among many other possibilities, to create a symbolic world out of the reality that surrounds us. We are what we are, and we are also what we dream, what we imagine, what we symbolize out of the realities that we see and know. A symbolic text can be more forceful than a merely informative one. It can inspire, explain, and transform. That is precisely where we find the wellspring of all art, and it is also one of the places where religion and religious feelings can take hold and develop.
A symbolic narrative
In the gospels we find historical narratives, catechetical schemas, stories recalling the Old Testament, various traditions, and also many symbols, comparisons and metaphors. The story of Jesus walking on the water is one of the clearest examples of metaphor that we can find.
A terrifying, dangerous sea
In the Palestinian culture of Jesus’ time it was believed that the sea was an abyss to which the demons and evil spirits were consigned after being defeated by God at the beginning of the world. The most horrible of them was known as Leviathan, a terribly dangerous monster. This very negative vision of the sea runs through all the pages of the scriptures, right up to the last book of the New Testament: when the Apocalypse describes what the future world will be like, there is no longer any sea! (See Apocalypse 21,1)
The ancient Jewish religious culture viewed God as dominating the sea and the spirits that were in its depths, so that Leviathan was nothing more than a toy for God (Job 40,25-32). Like many of his compatriots, Jesus no doubt feared the waters of the lake and probably didn’t know how to swim. He did not walk on the waters, nor did he swim in them. However, in order to show that Jesus had power over evil the evangelist used the metaphor of Jesus walking on the water, and in this way he very effectively communicated that message to the first Christian communities.
The power of metaphors
In the stage play of the Chilean Pablo Skármeta, “The Mailman”, which was made into a movie by Michael Redford (“The Mailman and Pablo Neruda”, 1995), the mailman explains to Neruda: Metaphors belong not to the people who devise them, but to those that need them.
The metaphors of the gospels provided the Christian communities with figurative and symbolic tools which they could use to affirm their faith in Jesus and in the idea of God that Jesus proclaimed. If nowadays people try to understand these symbolic comparisons as events that really occurred, and if they read the gospels the way they read the daily newspaper, then they will lose out on the real meaning and the value of those images, and they will nullify the power they have to inspire us. invalidate