Scholarly treatments of Jesus’s sea-walking miracle frequently cite several parallel figures “walking on water” in Greco-Roman mythology, such as Poseidon, Orion, Euphemus, and Pythagoras. In fact, however, this “walking” terminology is inaccurate because, contrary to Adela Yarbro Collins and others, Greco-Roman mythology supplies no unambiguous example of a figure walking on water in the way that Jesus does in Mark, Matthew, and John. Rather, there are numerous examples—far more than have been recognized—of running, chariot-riding, and flying over water beginning as early as Homer’s Iliad. Whereas Jesus’s feat is presented as a sort of levitation miracle, water running and water riding are understood as a consequence of superhuman speed in the popular Greek conception of physics, with the idea ultimately based on the motion of wind over waves. Flying over water and other surfaces is associated in Greek thought with supernatural travel convenience; it requires speed and flying devices that are entirely foreign to the Gospel narratives. The few examples of Greco-Roman figures purported to walk on water just as Jesus does either have been misinterpreted or are idiosyncratic, Common-Era creations. This article argues that there are no actual Greco-Roman parallels to what Jesus does in the Gospels. Walking on the sea was more novel, more marvelous, and less immediately interpretable for non-Jewish audiences than has been assumed.

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