128 Parallels

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This page forms part of the resources for 128 Walking on Water in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

Crossan Inventory | 128 Literature | 128 Parallels | 128 Commentary | 128 Poetry | 128 Images


See Jesus and the Stormy Sea for some related traditions about conflict with the sea, sometimes represented as a monster or dragon.

Psalm 107 - meal and sea - Note the sequence of meal followed by sea in this Pslam:

Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
(Psalm 107:4-9 NRSV)

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

(Psalm 107:23-32 NRSV)

Homer, Odyssey

Homer describes Hermes' ability to move across the surface of the sea:

Right away he strapped onto his feet

his beautiful sandals, immortal and golden,
which were able to bear him quickly
over the waters of the sea
and over the limitless land
like the blasts of the wind.
Thus did Hermes ride on the myriad waves.

Odyssey 5.44-46,54

The Buddha and his disciples

Miracles stories involving the capacity to walk across water are also found in Buddhism:

The Buddha told this story at Jetavana Monastery about a pious lay follower. One evening, when this faithful disciple came to the bank of the Aciravati River on his way to Jetavana to hear the Buddha, there was no boat at the landing stage. The ferrymen had pulled their boats onto the far shore and had gone themselves to hear the Buddha. The disciple's mind was so full of delightful thoughts of the Buddha, however, that even though he walked into the river, his feet did not sink below the surface and he walked across the water as if he were on dry land. When, however, he noticed the waves on reaching the middle of the river, his ecstasy subsided and his feet began to sink. But as soon as he again focused his mind on the qualities of the Buddha, his feet rose and he was able to continue walking joyously over the water. When he arrived at Jetavana, he paid his respects to the Master and took a seat on one side.

"Good layman," the Buddha said, addressing the disciple, "I hope you had no mishap on your way."

"Venerable sir," the disciple replied, "while coming here, I was so absorbed in thoughts of the Buddha that, when I came to the river, I was able to walk across it as though it were solid."

"My friend," the Blessed One said, "you're not the only one who has been protected in this way. In olden days pious laymen were shipwrecked in mid-ocean and saved themselves by remembering the virtues of the Buddha."

SOURCE: Jataka Tales of the Buddha [1]

Porphyry [3C pagan writer]

Experts in the truth about those places [in Galilee] report that there is no sea there, except they do refer to a small river-fed lake at the foot of the mountain in Galilee near the city Tiberius, a lake easily traversed in small canoes in no more than two hours and insufficiently capricious for waves or storms. So Mark greatly exaggerates the truth when he ludicrously composes the fiction of a nine-hour journey and Jesus striding upon the water in the tenth to find his disciples sailing on the pond [Gk: lakko]. Then he calls it thalassa, not merely a sea but one beset by storms, dreadfully wild, and terrifyingly agitated by the heaving of the waves, so that from these details he could represent Christ as performing a great sign, namely calming a mighty and violent storm and rescuing his scarcely endangered disciples from the deep and open sea.
[Porphyry, Contra christianos frag. 55. Tr. by MacDonald and cited in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, 2000:57)

Poseidon [2]

In Greek religion, Poseidon was the god with special powers over the sea. He could command the storm and was invoked by sailors to ensure their safe passage.

Sibylline Oracles

Crossan [Historical Jesus 406] notes the following passage in the Christian section of the Sibylline Oracles:

With a word he makes the winds to cease, and calm the sea

While it rages walking on it with feet of peace and in faith.
And from five loaves and fish of the sea
He shall feed five thousand men in the desert,
And then taking all the fragments left over
He will fill twelve baskets for a hope of the people.

[SibOr 8:273-78 (OTP 1.424)]