Jesus Feeds 5000 and Walks on Water
Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson March 27–April 2: Matthew 14; Mark 6; John 5–6
In two previous blogs, I posted discussions of Jesus’ miracles where He clearly added substance that was not apparently there before: Jesus Turns Water into Wine (February 4) and Jesus Heals a Man With a Withered Hand (March 11). In each case, I proposed that the additional matter necessary to accomplish the miracles probably did not come from ordinary, regular matter that we can interact with on a regular basis. Rather, I proposed that there is a huge amount of dark matter, at least four times as much as regular matter, surrounding us and available at our fingertips, if we only knew how to capture it. Furthermore, I have proposed that this dark matter may consist of as many different dark elements as there are in regular mater – we just have yet to discover them. The miracle of feeding the five thousand is the most extreme example among Christ’s miracles where matter seems to have been pulled out of thin air. It is probably one of the most famous of all Christ’s miracles and is covered, in very similar words, by all of the four Gospels.
We read in Matthew 14:15-21: “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.”
Mark 6:37 states, “He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” The “two hundred pennyworth” is a seventeenth century transliteration of the passage. According to Strong’s Englishman’s Concordance, as cited in Bible Hub, the Greek word in this verse was denarii δηναρίων (dēnariōn): a small Roman silver coin, of Latin origin; a denarius. The Pulpit Commentary states, also as quoted in Bible Hub, “The penny, or ‘denarius,’ was the chief Roman silver coin, worth about eight-pence halfpenny. Upon the breaking up of the Roman empire, the states which arose upon its ruins imitated the coinage of the old imperial mints, and in general called their principal silver coin the ‘denarius.’ Thus the denarius found its way into this country [England] through the Anglo-Saxons, and it was for a long period the only coin. Hence the introduction of the word into the Authorized Version. Two hundred pennyworth would be of the value of nearly seven pounds. But considering the constant fluctuation in the relation between money and the commodities purchased by money, it is in vain to require what number of loaves the same two hundred denarii would purchase at that time, although it was evidently the representation of a large supply of bread.”1 John 6:7 has a similar commentary: “Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.”
Christ started with five loaves and two fishes. He then broke the bread and gave the pieces to his disciples to distribute to the multitude. Matthew and Mark say only that the Savior broke the bread and distributed it. However, we read in Luke 9:16, “Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.” The term “them” in this verse would suggest that we blessed, broke and distributed both the bread and fishes. John 6:11 seems to leave no doubt here, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” This verse suggests that everyone there was given bread but maybe not everyone got some of the fish.
How many people were actually there and how much bread two hundred denarii would have bought at the time are irrelevant issues – looking beyond the mark if you will – suffice it to say, there were a lot of people and there was nowhere near enough bread to begin with. What is important about this miracle, in my opinion, is where did all the extra bread (I am going to ignore the fishes) come from. A number of possibilities can be proposed. First, this was simply a magic trick in which extra beard had been stashed nearby and brought out to create the illusion that extra bread had been conjured up. Second, no extra bread was actually created but, rather, the people were only given tiny bits of bread and deluded into thinking that they were full. These first two possibilities would suggest that there was no miracle here at all, but that Jesus was merely a magician, a trickster, a charlatan. I personally do not believe that Jesus was only performing cheap magic tricks. I believe that He actually produced the extra bread with which He fed the multitude. That said, there are two possibilities as to where the extra bread came from: nowhere or somewhere. I do not believe that the bread came from nowhere – so that leaves only the proposition that the extra bread came from somewhere – but where was that somewhere? Bread is made from at least flour and water – and usually other ingredients – all of which are made of matter. At present, there are two known forms of matter: regular matter and dark matter. It does not appear that there was enough regular matter, such as CO2 and other gases, in the air for Christ to literally make the bread out of thin air. So that leaves dark matter to be considered. I propose, as I have done in previous blogs, cited above, that in some as yet unknown, but in my opinion, someday knowable manner, Christ pulled from that abundant supply of dark matter to make the extra bread to feed the five thousand.
What I think is most interesting about this miracle is that Jesus did not start with nothing, and he apparently did not add any food items – such as carrots or parsnips, or manna – but only distributed the type of food items that were available at the beginning – bread and fish. Perhaps those existing food items in some way served as a template or catalyst for attracting dark matter to produce the additional bread. We have no idea what that dark matter is or how it can be converted to regular matter, but perhaps this template/catalyst proposal at least gives us a starting point from which to begin an exploration.
As if one miracle per chapter is not enough, Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6 also present another of the most famous of Christ’s miracles, indeed, the most iconic of the miracles: Christ walking on water. Mathew 14:22-33 states: “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”
From a physics/chemistry perspective, there are at least four ways Christ, and for a short time Peter, could have walked on the water. First, He/they could have been moving at great speed on the water – as when a person waterskies barefoot. However, there is nothing in the accounts given to suggest that there was any haste in Christ’s “walking” on the water.
Second, the structure of the water may have changed – as is the case when water freezes. The hydrogen bonds in water and ice are strong, but their orientation is just different enough to change liquid water into solid ice. Even though the chemical formula for both water and ice is H2O, where two hydrogen atoms are covalently bound to one oxygen, there is a difference in how the water molecules interact with neighboring molecules. The slightly positive hydrogen atoms in both water and ice are attracted to slightly negative oxygen atoms, forming a hydrogen-bond lattice structure. In this lattice, each water molecule forms hydrogen bonds with an average of 3.4 other molecules, whereas, in ice, each water molecule forms hydrogen bonds with 4.0 other water molecules. The 0.6 difference between water hydrogen bonding and ice hydrogen bonding causes ice water molecules to push apart, increasing the space between the molecules, creating a crystalline lattice, and lowering the density so that ice floats on water.2 There are a number of ways that the freezing temperature of water can be altered but I will not go into those issues here – suffice it to say that I don’t believe there were sufficient atmospheric or water conditions in this story to make water freeze under Christ’s feet.
Third, Christ’s weight/buoyancy was changed in some way. Fourth, there may have been something floating on the surface of the water upon which Christ was walking. Numbers three and four, in my opinion, may have involved the addition of some matter either under his feet, allowing Him to walk on some buoyant substrate, or some lighter-than-air material, such as helium, that could buoy Him up from all around. Again, I would invoke the probable presence of some extraordinary matter, such as dark matter, which lies outside the realm of our current knowledge, to supply the needed extra buoyant material.
Please join me for my weekly discussions of Where Science Meets Religion – The Infinite Creation – 6 PM each Thursday at the Century Ward meeting house (at 4th and Fredregill, Pocatello). Last week we discussed the Creation of Plants. This coming week we will discuss The Creation of Early Animals and anything else you want to discuss. I will also be Zooming the sessions: Meeting ID: 935 754 2152 Passcode: nka
Trent Dee Stephens
1. biblehub.com/mark/6-37.htm; retrieved 24 March 2023
2. Schneider, Mark, Ice Vs. Water: Density Matters, Atmospheric Resource Board; North Dakota State Water Commission; swc.nd.gov › arb › news › pdfs › 2016; retrieved 24 March 2023