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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Did Jesus walk on water - or ice?
A fisherman on the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee - subject to a cold snap at the time?
Jesus may not have walked on water as the Bible claims but rather skated on ice formed through a freak cold spell, a scientific study has suggested.

Rare atmospheric and water conditions could have caused ice to form on the freshwater Sea of Galilee.

The research shows a period of cooler weather swept what is now northern Israel from 1,500 to 2,600 years ago.

Sub-zero temperatures could have caused the formation of ice thick enough to support the weight of a man.

"Springs ice"

The story of Jesus walking on water is recorded in three of the four Gospels, but Professor Doron Nof, an oceanographer from Florida State University insists his research points to a scientific rather than miraculous explanation.

"If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don't," Prof Nof told Reuters. "I believe something natural was there that explains it."

A person standing or walking on it would appear to a distant observer to be 'walking on water'
Prof Doron Nof,
Florida University

The research involved a study of the surface temperatures of the Sea of Galilee along with air temperature and wind records.

Partially submerged in water, the ice patches, known as "springs ice", may not have been noticed by observers standing at a distance.

"Because the size of the springs ice, a person standing or walking on it would appear to a distant observer to be 'walking on water'," Prof Nof wrote in the report's conclusion.

"Our springs ice calculation may or may not be related to the origin of the account of Christ walking on water," he concluded.

"It is hoped, however, that archaeologists, religious scholars, anthropologists and believers will examine such implications in detail."

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