Walking on Water

George Young gwyoung at morgan.ucs.mun.ca
Wed Nov 3 19:02:46 EST 1999

Mike Parsons wrote:

> Actually, i don't my (Garland's) reading is incompatible with the
'ungainly portrayal' of the disciples.

Mark's portrayal of the disciples (i.e., 'the twelve') is less than
glamorous, as most (though, I guess not all) scholars agree.  I don't know

>The passage  clearly ends with the disciples failure to comprehend:  "and
they were utterly astounded, for they >did not understand about the loaves."

This passage does not end with v. 52, unless, of course, (a) you want to
leave the disciples and Jesus in the boat in the middle of the lake (the
same boat, I hasten to add, that is mentioned with the article in v. 54), or
(b) you follow the redacted outline by Paul Achtemeier, who judges Mark's
redaction of pre-Markan sources in this episode as "grotesque."

>That 'he wishes to pass them by' (i.e. wanted to reveal his divine identity
to them) may have been partially >thwarted by the disciples's response (they
thought he was a ghost [phantasma]).

It sounds as though you are confusing the Markan narrator's aside with the
opinion/thoughts of Jesus. The narrator's comment is thoroughly rhetorical,
and, if you think about it, doesn't make any logical sense at all. Still
more, in tone, Jesus' response to the disciples seems very positive, almost
ironic or farcical, given that fact that he waits so long to come to their
'rescue' (recall that he was watching them 'being tortured' at the oars),
and given his desire is to leave them in the boat.  Furthermore, as you
indicate, the disciples only "thought" he was a ghost, their only
perceptible response was that of screams.

>Still, Jesus doesn't give up on them nor his intention to reveal his
identity (EGO EIMI). He gets into the boat >and the winds cease.

As the text states, Jesus "identity" as far as the disciples are concerned
is open-ended. EGO EIMI is usually translated "I am here" or "Here I am."
However, it is noteworthy that in this chapter (ch. 6), Jesus is attributed
with no less than eight 'identities' (e.g., John the B., the prophet, the
carpenter, a 'son,' a 'brother,' Elijah, and so forth).  Further,  the
proper name "Jesus" drops out of use in 6:30 and does not appear again until
8:27 - almost three chapters later!

>I find the parallels to the use of  parechomai in OT theophanies quite
frankly irrestible in this passage,

I tried to look up "irrestible" in my dictionary, but no luck. Do you mean
"irresistible?"  However, if I recall correctly, there is at best only one
or two instances of water-walking in the Hebrew Bible.  There are the
passages in Job 9:8, 38:16, and Ps. 77:20, and the "pass by" passage in Ex.
It seems to me that some of the better parallels will come from the
Hellenistic water-walking sources, and that the more plausible readings will
be ones informed by narrative theory (vs. OT word-matching, or redaction
criticism).  I suggest this because there are a number of important issues
that come into play when discussing that tiny 'pass by' phrase: issues at
the level of story and at the level of the discourse - but also issues that
tapper into Greco-Roman views of the divine, including the notion of ATH,
i.e., the depiction of the arbitrary blindness, delusion, or disaster, which
capricious gods often brought upon human subjects who, for good or ill, are
brought into some special affinity with the deity.

>and conclude that even though the disciples misunderstand, the audience,
with all these clues, is led to read >this scene as a theophany (in what
meier sternberg calls a "reader-elevating strategy," where the audience
>knows or understands something certain characters do not.)

Does the "audience" understand the "he desired to pass them by" (v. 48c) or
the narrator's aside in v. 52?

>>Furthermore, its best to keep in mind that neither Jesus nor
> >the disciples end up where Jesus intended, perhaps because he didn't
> >them by.'
> I am puzzled by this last sentence.  Where did Jesus "intend himself and
the disciples to end up"?

That's easy: Bethsaida (v. 45)

George W. Young, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
Queen's College Faculty of Theology
210 Prince Philip Drive
St. John's  NF
Tel. (709) 753-0116
Fax. (709) 753-1214
email: gwyoung at morgan.ucs.mun.ca

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