for National Geographic News
A freak cold spell that covered parts of a lake with ice could explain the biblical tale about Jesus walking on water, says a team of U.S. and Israeli scientists.
But several experts have questioned the scientific basis of the study, and many have dismissed the findings as implausible.
According to biblical accounts, the disciples of Jesus crossed a freshwater lake known as the Sea of Galilee, in northern Israel, before Jesus went up a mountain to pray.
On their way back at night, a violent storm trapped the disciples' boat in the middle of the sea. It was then that Jesus walked out to the boat and calmed the storm, according to the Bible.
"A rare set of weather events may have combined to create a slab of ice about 4 to 6 inches [10 to 15 centimeters] thick on the lake, [making it] able to support a person's weight," said Doron Nof, an oceanographer at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
His findings appear in this month's issue of the Journal of Paleolimnology.
Nof bases his theory on a unique freezing mechanism he calls "springs ice."
This forms when warm, salty springs flow into a freshwater lake, preventing the lake from freezing entirely in cold weather.
Springs linked to this kind of freezing are found in Tabgha, Israel, a region where many archaeological features associated with Jesus have been found.
According to Nof, ice on the Sea of Galilee may have been created by a combination of factors.
"About 2,500 years ago, there was a cold period that was almost 10ºF [5.5ºC] lower than today," he said.
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