Listening to Jesus in the Gospels

John ArmstrongHermeneutics

Did Jesus walk on a hard-to-see patch of ice, in the Sea of Galilee, instead of on the water, as the biblical text reports? This new suggestion that he walked on ice, from Doron Nof, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, must be the ten thousandth such idea put forward since the Enlightenment. Nof says, “I am not trying to provide any information that has to do with theology here.” Really? Come on professor Nof. You are suggesting that the narrative can be read (interpreted) in a different way, which all scholars clearly agree to be the case. But you are also drawing a conclusion about the narrative that seeks to remove the notion of the “miraculous” for reasons that only you probably know. And we are not supposed to believe that this has anything to do with theology. Be serious. The best response to Nof’s theory was offered by biblical scholar Darrell Bock, who dismissed it by saying, “I’m cold to the theory.” So am I.

Worse than Nof’s thesis, in very different and sad way, is the reaction of some “Christians” to his comments. Nof says he gets hate e-mail, on average, every three minutes. These writers have referred to the professor as “the most stupid person on the planet” and told him that he “should go to hell where he belongs.” Even more amazing than Nof’s rather silly thesis is this ugly and ungodly response from those who profess to follow the Savior. Some people just never grow up. Sadly, I have met a few of these folks in the confines of some very conservative churches. It only makes some want to defend Nof, at least emotionally, even though his ideas are not worth serious conversation among actual biblical scholars. I suppose some people will never get the point, even if they hear Jesus correct them directly, which his words in the Gospels actually do in this case. I would rather "hang out" with Nof for a coffee than with his critics, who would undoubtedly wish for me to go to hell too.