New Worlds: Jesus may have walked on ice, say researchers

Hebrew University Prof. Nathan Paldor points to a localized freezing phenomenon his study calls "springs ice."

jesus 88 (photo credit: )
jesus 88
(photo credit: )
New research conducted by Hebrew University Prof. Nathan Paldor suggests that Jesus may have walked on ice, not water. The New Testament describes how Jesus was seen walking on the Sea of Galilee. However, a study conducted by HU atmospheric sciences Prof. Nathan Paldor and led by oceanography Prof. Doron Nof of Florida State University suggests that Jesus may well have walked on a patch of floating ice. The study points to a rare combination of water and atmospheric conditions for development of a localized freezing phenomenon the study calls "springs ice." This research - entitled "Is There A Paleolimnological Explanation for 'Walking on Water' in the Sea of Galilee?" - appears in the April 2006 Journal of Paleolimnology, a publication that addresses the reconstruction of lake history. In what is now northern Israel, such ice could have formed on the cold freshwater surface of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) when already chilly temperatures briefly plummeted during one of the two protracted cold periods between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago. A frozen patch floating on the surface of the small lake would have been difficult to distinguish from the unfrozen water surrounding it. The unfrozen water was comprised of the plumes resulting from salty springs situated along the lake's western shore in Tabgha - an area where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been documented. "Two thousand years ago, such a phenomenon would have occurred as often as once every 160 years," said Paldor. "But in today's climate, the chances of this happening are once in every 10,000 years." Using paleoceanographic records of the Mediterranean Sea's surface temperatures, along with analytical ice and statistical models, the study focused on the dynamics of a small section of the Kinneret comprising about 1,000 square meters near the salty springs that empty into it. Their analysis supports the likelihood that a brief blast of frigid air descended over the lake, dropping to four degrees Celsius for at least two days, coinciding with the chill that had already settled in for a century or more and quite possibly encompassed the decades in which Jesus lived. If these atmospheric conditions existed simultaneously over a lake such as Kinneret, a floating ice patch could develop above the plumes generated by the salty springs. Floating springs ice partially or entirely surrounded by unfrozen water would be virtually impossible for distant observers to discern, particularly if it had rained after the ice was formed, as rain smooths the ice's surface. Thus, a person standing or walking on the ice may well have appeared to be walking on water. Furthermore, the springs ice would certainly have been thick enough to support human weight. However, the study is careful not to draw any conclusions regarding actual events that took place at Tabgha over the past few thousand years. Its authors point out that while this occurrence was certainly possible, it is simply one explanation for the narrative in the New Testament. VEGAN DIETS BETTER FOR PLANET'S HEALTH The food people eat is just as important as the kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming, according to a report accepted for publication in Earth Interactions. Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem, the University of Chicago's Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin wrote. The average American diet requires the production of an extra 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet, according to Eshel and Martin. So cutting down on just a few eggs or hamburgers each week is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. "We neither make a value judgment nor do we make a categorical statement," said Eshel, an Israeli-born assistant professor in geophysical sciences. "We say that however close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet." The average American drives 12,000 km each year, emitting 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, Americans consume about 3,774 calories a day. In 2002, energy used for food production accounted for 17% of all fossil fuel use in the US. And the burning of these fossil fuels emitted three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide per person. That alone amounts to one-third the average greenhouse-gas emissions of personal transportation. But livestock production and associated animal waste also emit greenhouse gases, primarily methane and nitrous oxide. "An example would be manure lagoons associated with large-scale pork production," Eshel said. "Those emit a lot of nitrous oxide." While methane and nitrous oxide are relatively rare compared with carbon dioxide, they are - molecule for molecule - far more powerful greenhouse gases. Two-and-a-half kilos of methane, for example, has the same greenhouse effect as about 30 kg of carbon dioxide. In their study, Eshel and Martin compared the energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions that underlie five diets: average American, red meat, fish, poultry and vegetarian (including eggs and dairy), all equaling 3,774 calories per day. The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy-efficient, followed by poultry and the average American diet. Fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient.