Jesus walked on ice, scientist says
and World Science staff
The New Testament says Jesus walked on water in the Sea of Galilee, but a new study suggests he really strolled on a patch of floating ice, a scientist says.
Florida State University’s Doron Nof said the study points to a rare confluence of conditions ripe for development of a unique phenomenon called “springs ice.”
Such ice could have formed on the cold freshwater surface, Nof and colleagues said, when already chilly temperatures briefly plunged during one of the two long cold spells between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago. The Sea is located in what is now northern Israel, and known as Lake Kinneret by modern-day Israelis.
An ice patch floating on the small lake’s surface would have been hard to distinguish from the liquid water surrounding it, the scientists argued. The liquid water came from salty springs situated along the lake’s western shore in Tabgha, an area where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been documented.
“Unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years,” Nof said. “We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account.”
It’s not the first time Nof has offered scientific accounts of watery miracles. An expert in oceanography and limnology––the study of freshwater, saltwater and brackish environments—he made headlines in 1992 with a theory on the biblical parting of the Red Sea. He attributed this event to high winds and fluctuations in atmospheric pressure that swept water into a vertical wall.
His latest research appears in the April Journal of Paleolimnology, a scientific publication that addresses the reconstruction of lake history.
Nof and his colleagues studied a part of Lake Kinneret comprising about 10,000 square feet (929 square meters) near the salty springs that empty into it. They used evidence, drawn from sediments, of past Mediterranean Sea surface temperatures, along with other tools.
Their study, they said, suggested a blast of frigid air hit the lake, and it dropped to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 Celsius) for at least two days. That coincided with a chill that had already settled for a century or more and quite possibly encompassed Jesus’ decades of life.
Thus, a floating ice patch could develop above the water emerging from the salty springs, Nof argued. Throughout recent geological history this would typically occur once per millennium on average, he added. But in Jesus’s time the prevailing climate may have favored more frequent springs ice, about once in 30 to 160 years.
“Springs ice” floating in liquid water could be virtually impossible for distant observers to discern, particularly if subsequent rains had smoothed its surface, he argued. And 2,000 years ago, even people with a better view might not have recognized a phenomenon so rare in their corner of the world.
In today’s climate, the chance of springs ice forming in northern Israel has dropped to less than once in 10,000 years, Nof said.
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