Stories of Walking on Water — Looking for Sources

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by Neil Godfrey

In The History of the Synoptic Tradition by Rudolf Bultmann there is the following passage beginning page 236. But there’s a catch. I have not had the opportunity to track down any of the references I have cast in bold type — removing the bold as we locate them as per the comments. If you happen to be a person with an opportunity to identify any of those bolded references and point to where I can locate/read/translate them you are more than welcome to share that information in the comments section below.

Dio Chrysostom: “Socrates,” said he, “you know perfectly well that of all men under the sun that man is most powerful and in might no whit inferior to the gods themselves who is able to accomplish the seemingly impossible — if it should be his will, to have men walk dryshod over the sea, to sail over the mountains, to drain rivers dry by drinking — or have you not heard that Xerxes, the king of the Persians, made of the dry land a sea by cutting through the loftiest of the mountains and separating Athos from the mainland, and that he led his infantry through the sea, riding upon a chariot just like Poseidon in Homer’s description? And perhaps in the same way the dolphins and the monsters of the deep swam under his raft as the king drove along.”

There must also have been stories of walking on water in Hellenism. Admittedly it is hyperbole when Dio Chrysost. speaks of the power of Xerxes, that when he so wishes he is able πεζεύεσθαι μέν την θάλατταν, πλεϊσθαι δέ τά δρη. But the capacity to do so is often attributed to demons. P. Berol., I, 120 thus describes the power of the δαίμων πάρεδρος: πήξει δέ ποταμούς καί θάλασσα[ν συντ]όμως(?) καί οπως ένδιατρέχης (Reitzenstein, Hellenist. Wundererzaehlungen, p. 125). Also A. Dieterich, Abraxas, p. 190, 13: εγώ είμι ό έν ούρανω σχολήν έχων φοιτώμενός τε έν ύδατι, and on another tablet (Rhein. Mus., 55, 261, cp. 264): qui solus per mare transis. But according to Lucian, Philops., 13 the same things are reported of human wonder workers: είδες . . . τόν Ύπερβόρεον άνδρα πετάμενον ή έπ’ι τοϋ ϋδατος βεβηκότα. Further material may be found in A. Gercke, Jahrb. f . Philol. Suppl. X X II, 1895, pp. 205ff.; A. Abt, ‘Die Apologie des Apuleius von Madaura und die antike Zauberei’, Religionsgesch. Vers, u. Vorarb., IV, 2, 1908, pp. 129, 2. We may add from the Christian tradition: Hist. Aegypti monachorum XI, 18, p. 58; cp. XX, 16, p. 75, Preuschen; Ps. Cypr., Confess., 12.1 Indian parallels also come up for consideration in this regard, and there are stories of walking or flying over the water, which could even have influenced Hellenistic literature: cp. R. Garbe, Indien und das Christentum, 1914, pp. 57f. Most notable is a Buddhist parallel to Matt. 14 28-31 (the text is in J. Aufhauser, Jesus und Buddha, Kl. Texte, no. 157, p. 12). It tells of a disciple ‘who wanted to visit Buddha one evening and on his way found that the ferry boat was missing from the bank of the river Aciravati. In faithful trust in Buddha he stepped on to the water and went as if on dry land to the very middle of the stream. Then he came out of his contented meditation on Buddha in which he had lost himself, and saw the waves and was frightened, and his feet began to sink. But he forced himself to become wrapt in his meditation again and by its power he reached the far bank safely and reached his master.’ (Garbe, pp. 56f. and Buddhist. Maerchen, pp. 46f.) Garbe thinks that the gospel story was borrowed from the Buddhist tradition.2

Jesus Walking on Water
Jesus Walking on Water (Ivan Aivazovsky)

1 In the language of Christian edification this miracle motif may have attained a symbolic significance and the walking on the water become the treading of the mythical waters of death, which Christ and his mystic followers achieve. Cp. Dibelius (Formgeschichte, p. 86) who adduces Od. Sol. 39: ‘He walked and went over them on foot, and his footprints stayed on the water and were not obliterated. . . . And a path was prepared for those who followed him.’ What the relation of Mand. Ginza R., II, 1, pp. 4ggf. Lidzb. is to this (Christ the seducer says, ‘I walk over the water, Come with me; you shall not drown’) can well be left undecided here.

2 Cp. W. Brown, The Indian and Christian Miracles of Walking on the Water, 1928. Saintyves, who again traces these stories to cultic origins (initiation rites) amasses a wealth of material, [P. Saintyves,  Essais de Folklore Biblique, 1923], pp. 307-63. Cp. also Indianermaerchen aus Nordamerika, p. 31; Turkestan. Maerchen, p. 69; Muellenhoff, Sagen, etc., p. 351.

I did locate the reference to Brown, Indian and Christian Miracles… — it is available on archive.org –  http://archive.org/details/MN40274ucmf_2

Bultmann, Rudolf Karl. 1963. The History of the Synoptic Tradition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Dio Chrysostom. n.d. “Discourse 3.” LacusCurtius. Accessed March 13, 2019. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dio_Chrysostom/Discourses/3*.html#ref11.

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60 thoughts on “Stories of Walking on Water — Looking for Sources”

  1. That is the framing story to Jataka Story #190. SĪLĀNISAṀSA-JĀTAKA.

    [111] “Behold the fruit of sacrifice,” etc.–This story the Master told whilst staying in Jetavana, about a believing layman. This was a faithful, pious soul [sic], an elect disciple. One evening, on his way to Jetavana, he came to the hank of the river Aciravatī, when the ferrymen had pulled up their boat on the shore in order to attend service; as no boat could be seen at the landing-stage, and our friend’s mind being full of delightful thoughts of the Buddha, he walked into the river 1. His feet did not sink below the water. He got as far as mid-river walking as though he were on dry land; but there he noticed the waves. Then his ecstasy subsided, and his feet began to sink. Again he strung himself up to high tension, and walked on over the water. So he arrived at Jetavana, greeted the Master, and took a seat on one side. The Master entered into conversation with him pleasantly. “I hope, good layman,” said he, “you had no mishap on your way.” “Oh, Sir,” he replied, “on my way I was so absorbed in thoughts of the Buddha that I set foot upon the river; but I walked over it as though it had been dry ground!” “Ah, friend layman,” said the Master, “you are not the only one who has kept safe by remembering the virtues of the Buddha. In olden days pious laymen have been shipwrecked in mid-ocean, and saved themselves by remembering the Buddha’s virtues.” Then, at the man’s request, he told an old-world tale.
    [As translated – with proper usage of the term the Buddha but without avoiding the word soul, which refers to an illusion – by W.H.D. Rouse, [1895]]

  2. That’s a start. Thank you.

    I see your quote is from https://suttacentral.net/ja190/en/rouse — a title page to the same text is at http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j2/index.htm — and that that is the text cited by Aufhauser and Garbe.

    Garbe I have located at archive.org: https://archive.org/details/indienunddaschr00garbgoog

    I have also identified Buddhist. Maerchen as Buddhistische Märchen aus dem alten Indien by Else Lüders.

    So we’re under way.

    Another one found:

    P. Saintyves, Essais de Folklore Biblique, 1923 is at https://archive.org/details/essaisdefolklore00sain/page/n6

    From the Amazon preview at https://www.amazon.de/Buddhistische-M%C3%A4rchen-aus-alten-Indien/dp/3828900569#reader_3828900569 it looks as though Buddhistische Märchen aus dem alten Indien by Else Lüders is simply another source for The Buddhist’s #190 story. So we can cross that one off the list now.

      1. Thanks Tim for the resources noted here…

        Reitzenstein’s stuff is essential to understanding Hellenistic Elements regarding both the birth and the continuation of Christianity. I had to deal with those ideas long ago.

        Klaus Schilling on this site must be consulted to fill in many missing pieces, mostly in symbolical and parabolic terms. You can find his very close connections with the Dutch Radical Scholars and other scholars……

        Klaus, I am not aware if you have uploaded your commentary on a lot of the matters connected with this at this site… or if you directed others to the sources you long ago posted on issues related to historic Christianity and many aspects of the ancient world..

        I started reading your stuff long ago..How interesting, enlightening, despite wondering no doubt about this or that interpretation about this or that source…. you have led the way for me in some fascinating ways…


        1. Most of it was posted to the then extant JM list, and partly preserved by H. Detering at radikalkritik.de. It might be still there, until the site gets deleted at some point for HD’s untimely departure from his secular existence.

          Yet it ids low quality, as it was all hastily written and only thought for starting a possible discussion. It turns out that it had never in fifteen years been succeeded by a more professional treatment by a less fanatical and more competent writer, which would do justice to the DRS.

      2. Thanks, Tim. I now have the Reitzenstein book but am still no closer to identifying the text on “P. Berol., I, 120 — Papyrus Berolinensis I”. It shouldn’t be so hard.

          1. What is driving me to frustration is my inability to locate the text which contains the Greek quoted here:

            P. Berol., I, 120 thus describes the power of the δαίμων πάρεδρος: πήξει δέ ποταμούς καί θάλασσα[ν συντ]όμως(?) καί οπως ένδιατρέχης (Reitzenstein, Hellenist. Wundererzaehlungen, p. 125).

            Presumably it’s a Nag Hammadi text.

            Here is p. 125 of Reitzenstein. Is there a clue in there that I am missing?

            1. This might help:

              Daímon Páredros
              Daímon Páredros, another collection of essays, is a product of the “XIII Curso-Seminario de Otoño de Estudios sobre el Mediterráneo Antiguo” conference held at the University of Málaga in September 19-22, 2000. The collection also includes articles by Márquez Romero and José Luis Jiménez Muñoz that were not presented at the gathering. The focus of this collection complements that of the collection reviewed above by noting that once the ancients recognized the intermediary beings’ roles, passions, and weaknesses, they could try to make them “submit to their wills and convert them into their instruments as servants and assistants … capable of accomplishing for us what for us is impossible” (2) — hence the title of the work, δαίμων πάρεδρος.

              Concepción Mora’s “La Magia como Respuesta a lo Desconocido: Una Visión Antropológica” not only reviews some of the scholars in anthropology who have worked to establish the boundaries between magic and religion (Frazer, Malinowski, Redfield), but also goes through the practices and methodologies of those associated with magic (e.g., exorcists, wise men, witches, shamans, wizards). These are the people, the author summarizes, “to whom some power or supernatural force has been attributed, who can use this power or force positively or negatively, although all of them do not have an equal amount of power or efficacy. Their resources stem from oral traditions” (23). Some of these practitioners of magic move easily between white and black magic and have had and still do have the trust and confidence of some people.

              In “Lugares Rituales y Magia en la Prehistoria: Dos Casos Singulares,” José E. Márquez Romero demonstrates that although magic could be associated with a multitude of locations in prehistoric times, it tends to be linked most often with painted caves and Paleolithic sanctuaries, and to a lesser extent with entrenched stone circles from the Neolithic period. In order to understand completely this interrelationship it is of paramount importance for the modern scholar to become aware of what Eliade terms “archaic ontology,” which is similar to Levy-Bruhl’s “soul of the primitive” or Lévi-Strauss’ “savage mind” — Márquez Romero avoids any disparagement of prehistoric thought. This ontology can best be seen in myth, ritual, and the animistic form of the experience undergone in these rituals in such places as painted caves. Magic for the author must be viewed as the “consubstantial element” (39) of all primitive rituals and ceremonies, which are intended to give a social configuration to the beliefs of primitive peoples.

              “La Magia en la Grecia Arcaica y Clásica” by José Luis Calvo Martínez begins with a survey of Greek literature from Homer to approximately 300 B.C. — it should be noted that magic in literature is viewed as being more than just another poetic function. The second kind of data in the essay is the scientific and philosophic opinions on and manifestations of magic; the third comes from those who actually practiced some form of magic. Epic, tragedy, the works of Hippocrates, Plato’s Laws, and the tabellae defixionum form the bulk of the material examined. Nothing really new is revealed in this examination, but the survey of sources is well done.

              Paired with the concluding time period of Calvo Martínez’ chronology is Manuel García Teijeiro’s “Temas Mágicos en la Literatura Helenística.” The author argues that during the Hellenistic period not only did the Greek language move to its koine or universal form but that local forms of magic extended throughout the Mediterranean in the Imperial period in a syncretistic manner. Magic, it is argued, took on a scientific quality, with universal laws and regulations. The proof for this transformation can be found in the poetry of the period (e.g., Apollonius of Rhodes and Theocritus).

              In “La Magia en la Biblia,” Antonio Piñero moves the spotlight from the Greek world to Israel. This essay, which is a summary of two chapters from his book En la frontera de lo imposible: Magos, médicos y taumaturgos en el Mediterráneo Antiguo en tiempos del Nuevo Testamento (2001), indicates that ancient Israel was well-versed in magic. The author cites examples from the Old Testament that evidence the magical use of prayer, sacred places, rites of sacrifices, apotropaic rituals, amulets, the invocation of the dead, the divine name, miracles, and prophecy — all of which were forbidden by official legislation but tended to remain in private practice. In the New Testament any sort of paranormal activity must be interpreted to see whether it comes through Jesus Christ. If it does, it is not magic. If it does not, either evil spirits are at work or someone who has control over the forces of nature. This is therefore termed magic.

              Claudio Moreschini heads back to the Graeco-Roman world with his intriguing “Apuleyo Mago o Apuleius Philosophus Platonicus?” The premise of the essay is quite simple: the Christian belief is that demons and the terror caused by them are evidenced through a series of proofs, literary or folklore, which are extremely varied. The pagan, however, views demons as causing not necessarily fear but rather reverence (this reverence is limited to people of the middle and elite classes). Among the latter interpretation are the observations of Plutarch, Apuleius, Maximus of Tyre, and Philostratus. It is Apuleius who sums up this notion by observing that magic, at least as evidenced in his own writings, is a form of philosophy and theurgy; the philosopher is the priest of all of the numina and is in contact with all divinities, with which he is allowed to speak.

              The last essay that touches upon the classical world is “Magia Literaria y Prácticas Mágicas en el Mundo Roman-Céltico” by Francisco Marco-Simón. The author suggests that it is difficult to get an accurate picture of Celtic magic in Ireland because most accounts that deal with this phenomenon are mediated through myths and Christian hagiographical narratives. Marco-Simón also argues that orality played a large part in the way the traditions and religious knowledge of this phenomenon were conveyed. Celtic magic, in conclusion, must be sought in the vernacular epigraphy written in the Gallic tongue. The accounts of such writers as Pliny the Elder do not supply a clear picture of Celtic magic; they only stress Celtic peculiarities and the inversion of Roman practices and ideas.

              The final three essays break away from the Classical world and focus on Byzantine, Andalusian/Muslim, and Medieval and Renaissance Spanish writings. In “La Magia en Bizancio: Una Ojeada de Conjunto,” Antonio Bravo García gives an overview of magic in Byzantine times: magic in Byzantium was a constant presence, notwithstanding Church opposition, which from the fourth century had imperial legislation on its side to punish severely not only those involved in causing harm but also those sympathetic to the practice of magic. Amulets, tabellae defixionum, exorcism, and myriad forms of divination were prevalent. Maribel Fierro’s “La Magia en Al-Andalus” concentrates on the ancient and modern Muslim preoccupation with magic. In particular, the author addresses the question whether there is revelation after the composition of the Koran. Although magic has been prohibited and strenuously punished during all periods and in all places in the Muslim world, it nevertheless has been an “integral part in Muslim beliefs, rituals, and social customs” (248-249). The last essay, Miguel Ángel Pérez Priego’s “Tratados y Prácticas Mágicas en la Literatura Española Medieval y Renacentista,” is a cursory examination of motifs and themes pertaining to magic that appear in Medieval and Renaissance Spanish writings. The authors discussed range from Bishop de Lope Barrientos, Martín de Castañega, Pedro Ciruelo, Don Enrique de Villena, to Juan de Mena and Diego Sánchez de Badajoz.

              This volume, like its predecessor, is a detailed examination of the role of magic in the ancient and medieval world. The essays are well written, informative, and comprehensive. Both volumes accomplish the goals set out by the editors.

    1. Would like to add here a possible resource here for Buddhist parallels…

      There is a scholar by the name of Christian Littner…. a highly trained Buddhist scholar who knows the stories of Jesus very well…

      and in this regard one should also check out Dr. Robert M. Price’s interviews with this scholar . It might be a little tough but I bet most here skilled in search modes can find it… You will not be

      Hope it helps folks..

      1. Great. The archive.org is very slow to open but volume 55 is also @ https://rhm.phil-fak.uni-koeln.de/1900-1909.html — The relevant pdf there is Wünsch, Richard: Neue Fluchtafeln Teil 2 [232]

        So can anyone provide a better than machine translation (and save me from trying to painfully resurrect a bit of my own very ancient Latin learning) of the following?

        From page 261

        15 Φερτυβαχκ demon, qui possides Ispaniam et Africam, qui solus per marem trassis, pertransseas hanimam et ispiritum Maurussi quem peperit Felicitas.

        and from page 264

        Die lateinischen Epitheta, die den einzelnen Dämonen beigelegt werden, erinnern manchmal stark an Christliches, so der deus omnipotens Z. 6; dagegen braucht man bei dem Wandeln über das Meer hin sich nicht Christus vorzustellen περιπατοΟντα em τηε θαλάεεηε (Matth. XIV 25), denn die Vorstellung, dass ein Dämon, dem das Element des Wassers unterthan ist., durch das Gehen auf dem Meere seine Macht kund thut, war verbreitet: aus dieser Ansicht heraus deutet Julian die Becherfahrt des Herakles als ein Schreiten über das Meer (or. VII p. 219 I): ßabicai be αυτόν ώε em ξηράε τήε θαλάεεηε νενόμικα); cf. Pap. Parth. I 120: πήΕει be ποταμούε και θάλαεεα[ν ευντ]όμωε και δπωε evbiaTpexqc. Der Dämon des Wassers, ebenso wie der, der über einzelne Landstriche gesetzt ist, sie entsprechen beide den Theilgöttern der Neuplatoniker (Zeller, Philos. d. Griech. III 2 S. 696), wie sie Proklos zum Timaios p. 287 D ed. Schneider aufzählt: ειει και γενεειουργοι baipovec, οι μεν όλων στοιχείων έπάρχοντεε, oi be κλιμάτων φύλακεε, oi be εθνών άρχοντεε, οι b£ πόλεων, οί b£ τινων γενών, οι bfe και τών καθ’ έκαετα έφοροι. Da unter den Landstrichen dämonischer Oberhoheit auch Campanien erwähnt wird (Z. 10), so ist unter dem Acherusius lacus, der daneben steht, sicher die Acherusia palus bei Cumae verstanden (Hülsen bei Pauly-Wissowa I 219): ihre Erwähnung thut den Zusammenhang des angerufenen Gottes mit der Unterwelt dar. Eine Parallele zu dem c Gezogenwerden’ durch den Hollensee ist mir nicht gegenwärtig; ist hier an das Schwimmen der Seelen über den Acheron (Dracont. IX 127), oder an Sagen gedacht, die der vom Eintauchen des Achilleus in den Styx verwandt sind?

        Mit dem Vermögen des angerufenen Dämons, das Meer zu überschreiten, wird in Z. 1 9 ff. in Sympathie gesetzt der Wunsch, dass er auch die Gegenmittel des Maurussus, die dieser gegen etwaigen Zauber treffen könnte, überschreite.

        I know there are walking on water nuggets in both those ores somewhere.

        1. That digital version is riddled by numerous scanning-errors, which will – in addition to the mixture of Greek, Latin, and obsolete German – frustrate human amateurs and render machine-translations vain and futile.

          The contained bibliographical reference will also need to be resolved.

          1. It turns out that not all apparent mistakes are introduced by the process of scanning.

            Classic scholar Daniela Urbanová writes:

            The Latin tabellae defixionum represent a special kind of epigraphic documents, the interpretation of which – as is well known – is often rather difficult. What complicates their understanding is the fact that the surviving texts are in many cases damaged or even fragmentary and contain many errors, depending on the education level of the writers who, in addition, used their imagination to produce their own variants and modifications of the current curse formulas. Therefore, it is necessary for the researcher to overcome the problems of text reconstruction caused by the lacuns as well as the exegetic problems concerning the specific and often rather strange wishes of the cursing persons. Many of these texts found either at the beginning of the 19th century or recently, require a new general reinterpretation. This paper presents new proposals and revisions of several curse tablets.


  3. I want to say here that this site is so resourceful and highly on top of the most modern scholarship in the areas discussed here. And what Neil and the contributors have done here(not all equal though at certain points) are not hurting the pursuit of solid scholarship, but helping all of us who access here to (re)think much that has been taken for granted or simply assumed to be true. I know of no other site which offers a wide range of topics related to careful critical analysis of historically and scripturally related issues. And as for librarians in my life ..one of main “teachers” in the best empirical methods and many more areas was Ralph Ewbank..I enven dedicated one of my theses dones in the late 70..s’ to him. I learned so much from him in the backroom, and I got to see all the new books that had just come in….

    Let us all thank librarians who use their incredible skills and passions to help us get the stuff we need to become critical students and scholars,,, no matter what one believes in one’s heart..

    In the beginning was language… and here we are today….still language… of many kinds….

    And we need gifted people to help us keep getting smarter, more skillful, etc. to help everyone of us who needs this or that piece of info, book, person (prof. doctors, people with expertise) in various fields who don’t expect anyone to slavishly follow their views or our own to the T…

    I like this site…it might be taxing at times with some who bents towards trolling and misrepresenting ” the other ” because of some belief or faith or whatever…

    Isn’t it tough to give up what you might have thought for years was right and then it may only take one glitch to make it all come crashing down!

    Jesus in the mythical stories of him talked a lot about “crashing down”… the rocks, the stohe mentioned just don’t mean the literal geological construction stones or pillars.. He was so bent on wanting every stone to come crashiing down on everything and everyone… real stones people and powers…….etc. Peter was perceived as a stone,, a stumbling stone causing the whole 12 to fall as well… and I can pile up collocation after collocation of all these fallen stones which tell a fascinating parabolic story to influence and impact the thought right up to our own day…

    Can you walk on water if you are a stone like Jesus or Peter.??..or all the pillars that must come down….and speaking parabolically I hope the edifice of Biblical Scholarship as we have known it in twisted ways will come down…

    I will probably be long gone.like many of us,,,,.but the kind of work done here must go on… even if for only those here that visit and like this site….

    Cheers to being informed and to librarians who help us do that and should help us do that……

    1. Dear Dennis S.

      Nothing is available on that link. Please fix it if need be. I didn’t find anything there, unless I am blind! Hope not!


    1. How odd. It works for me yet and I tested in a different browser just in case. An alternate url is provided by the site: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/coo.31924092235708?urlappend=%3Bseq=219. That one any better? Re: the year, they list the Band 22 twice, once as 1895/96 and once as 1896. It says on this site it was digitized by Google. It also has a photo of the spine of the book, which does have 1895-96 on it. Perhaps this link will show it: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/coo.31924092235708?urlappend=%3Bseq=1.

    2. Googling “Seneca-Studien” by Alfred Gercke brings us to https://archive.org/details/senecastudien00gercuoft/page/204 — the whole kaboozle is there. From what I have seen through a machine translation of pages 205 to 207 at least is that the discussion is about miracles and prodigies in general, nothing re walking on water it seems.

      The Hathi Trust page gives bibliographic details of the work but says copyright restrictions prevent it from being made public. Machine processing appears to have outstripped human intelligence in this case since it is available in archive.org.

  4. It should be Matt. 14 28-31 instead of Matt. 142 8-31.

    “Mordamerika” should be “Nordamerika”.

    There are several museums named for the river Rhine, but Rhein.Mus. should be specifically Rheinisches Museum für Philologie. Its journal is archived at https://rhm.phil-fak.uni-koeln.de/inhaltsverzeichnisse.html. The article quoted should be by Richard Wünsch, Neue Fluchttafeln, II (I found the quoted phrase there on page 261).

    1. Thank you for the corrections. I wish I had scrolled down to your comment before getting sidetracked above and finding my own laborious way to Richard Wünsch, Neue Fluchttafeln, II. But we have it now, thanks — and I’ve copied the relevant pages for translation in a comment above.

  5. Lucian’s Philops is short for Philopseudes. It’s the same Lucian who wrote also about Demonax and Proteus Peregrinus.

    I can only find a Historia monachorum in &Aelig;gypto.

    1. Klaus, what was meant to be in the text that got scrambled? I will try to follow that up some more.

      Appreciate pointing out the Lucian abbreviation. I’ve copied the relevant section in another comment below.

  6. Philopseudes = Lover of Lies in most English editions. See

    https://lucianofsamosata.info/TheLiar.html and

    Also importantly a modern collection of miracle parallels is:

    Wendy Cotter, Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Routledge, 2012)


    She lists a tale of Hermes walking (more like running) on water but I don’t recall specifics.

    1. Another thanks. Yes, of course. From the Loeb edition:

      What was I to do when I saw him soar through the air in broad daylight and walk on the water and go through fire slowly on foot? ” “ Did you see that?” said I—“ the Hyperborean flying, or stepping on the water?” “ Certainly,” said he, “ with brogues on his feet such as people of that country commonly wear.

      Yes, have the Cotter book, thanks. But looking specifically for Bultmann’s refs. (I recall Dennis MacDonald discussing Hermes skimming or “flying?” splash-height over the water.)

  7. Are there any more references in bold that have yet to be obtained?

    I’m sorry I haven’t had time to check for any, but this topic reminded me of a tradition we (Muslims) have in our scriptures. It is most likely obtained from Nestorian/Ebionite sources from people who eventually converted.


    Once someone asked Jesus,”How are you able to walk on water?” Jesus replied, “With certainty.” Then someone said, “But we also have certainty!” Jesus then asked them, “Are stone, clay, and gold equal in your eyes?” They replied, “Certainly not!” Jesus responded, “They are in mine.” (Ahmad)

  8. For the sources involving buddhism, René Salm should be most competent person to ask, especially since his series of comments on late Hermann Deterings’s work describing potential buddhist influences on the NT.

  9. Not sure if this fits what you’re looking for but in the ancient Egyptian books of the Netherworld there’s scenes where 12 beings are drowning in water(primordial waters of Nun) and Horus tells them to “stand up” and “walk” and “take power over the water”. The waters are the primordial waters of Nun which have a purifying and regenerating power. The sun god enters them order to resurrect or be reborn.

    The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books By John Coleman Darnell, Colleen Manassa Darnell

    Scene 109. The scene is dominated by a large body of water in which float the drowned. A total of twelve drowned individuals are depicted
    in various positions, including supine and prone within water. To the left a falcon headed god leaning on a staff and crowned with a solar
    disk presides over the scene.

    Words spoken by Horus to the drowned, the capsized, the overturned ones, those within Nun, namely the Netherworld Dwellers: “O drowned ones, who are dark in Nun, whose arms are in the vicinity of their faces. O ones capsized of face in the Netherworld, whose vertabrae belong to the floodwaters. O those who swim through Nun as those overturned of face, they being in the following of their ba-souls. Breath be to your ba-souls, so that they do not lack; stroking be to your arms, so that they are not truned back. May you travel Nun rightly by means of your feet, so that your knees are not repelled. May you go forth into the floodwater. May you descend into the flowing water. May you be immersed in the Great Flood. May you moor at the banks. Your limbs shall not rot. Your flesh shall not putrefy. Power be to you in your water. May you breathe that which I have commanded for you…

    Scene 58. A god leaning on a staff labeled “One Who Is in Nun” stands before a lake. The lake contains four sets of three swimming figures: “Immersed Ones,” “Shipwrecked Ones,” and “Stretched Out Ones.”

    Reaching the Immersed Ones, those who are in the water; navigating my them.
    Those who are in Nun say to them: O Immersed Ones, who are herein, the Swimming Ones who are in the flood- behold Re, who is passing in his bark,great of mystery. He orders affairs for the gods, he takes care of the akh spirits. Hail, stand up, O weary ones…Re says to them: “Emergence be to your heads, O Immersed Ones; rowing be to your arms, O shipwrecked ones; hurrying be to your navigations, O Swimming Ones; air be to your nostrils, O Stretched out ones. May you have power over you water, may you become content with your libation.

    1. René Salm evidences in one of his comments of late H. Detering’s works that ben Nave, the second name of Joshua of the OT, can be derived from Egyptian Nun.

      1. I’ve heard that before. Apparently in Aramaic Nun means “fish” which obviously has connections to water. Not sure if there’s any relation though.

        I think there’s a connection between the parting/crossing of waters, the flood, baptism, and Nun/primordial waters. They all seem to be associated with rebirth or new life in some way.

        1. Yes, nightshade (sorry can’t eat night – shade plants anymore, except potatoes!) Just being a bit funny …in any event

          I once read a great couple of books years ago that are classic re this….

          Philip Eisler’s works..I recall Orpheus the Fisher… what an eye-opener..and he is no crank…

          Also, as far as I can recall Jesus and John the Baptizer…

          Read these books and you will find something there that will shed much light on lots of these kinds of myths about water-men…. Jesus arose alive out of the deadening waters of baptism… He was initiated in the water…hence all kinds of links with OT and NT etc. motifs…… eg. John 3 being born again in water…I think Jesus was “born” anothen…that is from above…. via water…though John does not want to place too much on Jesus actually being baptized by a human being….

          Also “spirit” in John is equated with “water” stuff…. quite substantival…giving hints of Stoicism….and the Stoic view of “spirit”.. hence spirits have some sort of substance…eg. Paul as well… “body” a subtle form of “matter”.)

          Anyway, hope everyone checks out those books…so interesting…and again,,, not crank literature..

          Yes Jesus the water man birthed in water via submission to John the baptist in the waters of death and life… (romans 6!).

          So he can now bestow the water of the spirit through the “belly” or kolia of the Father since in John he is always present in the kolia of the Father himself…

          All these water motifs..walking, birthing etc. are so fascinating… Yes, Jesus as son of God in John received in the flesh “sonship” .He became God’s son”” =Israel/Jacob’s ladder.. both descent and ascent of the Logos….. When I studied patristics at Marquette I focused on baptismal and initiatory rites..and the baptismal fonts or pools were birthing places… just a baby comes out of the water of the womb !!! A mystery so wonderful… I just met my grand-daughter in the flesh this week on my birthday…what a gift….

          Despite our debates about this being true or that being true historically or even spiritually I love I lot of these stories at so many levels… Obviously the gospel of John is about the power of “language” , transcendent or otherwise, to make stuff happen!!!!


          Have fun folks….

          1. Thanks for the book recommendations.

            You find all this baptismal/regenerating/purifying water symbolism in ancient Egyptian relgion.

            I was just reading about the Orphics and how they associated being reborn with milk. So instead of water there seems to be some connection with being reborn through milk.

            Instructions for the Netherworld: The Orphic Gold Tablets By Alberto Bernabé Pajares, Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal

            ..Dionysus fulfills a purificatory function in a personal and eschatological sense: he assists the initiate at the junction of the limit between life and death, betweeen the human and the divine. Liberation after death is a consequence of initiation in the mysteries, carried out during life… No doubt the liberation granted to the deceased by Dionysus-Bacchus requires first of all initiation, and second it is necessary that one lead a life that is subject to specific norms of purity, and, finally, that one submit oneself to the god’s judgement… Thus we see that the formula, in any one of it’s variants, is always expressed after a reference to a rebirth as a god after death… Whatever
            interpretation we are to give this phrase must therefore move between the coordinates of rebirth and identification with a god, both of which conditions produce a great happiness… Associated with the idea of rebirth are the suggestions that consider that the kid, as a symbol of purity and innocence, like the agnus for the ancient Christians, represents the initiate, who, at death, would be reborn like a nursing kid… The situation could be summarized as follows, in the words of Camassa: “Dionysus’ katabasis in search of his mother represents, in a sense, the paradigm of the mystes’ experience… The believer who, as a kid, bull, or ram, plunges into the milk, then had to repeat the sacral act of which the numen had been the protagonist. Dismembered and then regenerated. In milk and with (maternal) milk.” The expression thus concentrates the concepts of identification with the god, of rebirth to a new life, and the well being that this causes for the newborn…

            Milk as a symbol of immortality in the “Orphic” gold tablets from Thurii and Pelinna by Stian Torjussen

            If we consider the “immersion-of-milk” formula, and the change in status
            immediately in front of it, in light of the above mentioned texts, it seems that the formula is expressing the moment of apotheosis for the initiate… The “immersion-in-milk” formula refers to the initiation ritual the deceased owner had undertaken. The initiation led to new life, expressed quite literally in the first line of the pelinna tablets, which in turn led to a blissful afterlife among the other immortals…Milk is a potent image associated with death(through libations), new life (mother’s milk), and immortality (the Milky Way, abundance in Elysion, paradise) which is used in the gold tablets to signify the initiates’ attainment of his or her new status as an immortal.

        2. Joshua=Jesus, the earliest Xtian symbol?… a fish, from the acrostic Ι</>εσος Χ</>ριστος Θ</>εος Υ</>ιος Υ</>Σ</>οτερ = Jesus Christ: God, Son(of God), & Saviour. ΙΧΘΥ=ICHTHYS=FISH. The connection rather slaps your face à la Monty Python. Joshua means Yah Saves, so Soter is seemingly redundant but the phrase forms something of a chiasmus thereby. And a chiasmus is marking with a Χ, the common contraction for Christ: Wheels within wheels; which is Ezekiel 1:16… but then again I could be over-thinking this. 🙂

          1. Gah! My HTML fooh foohed off! Hopefully this posts properly.

            Joshua=Jesus, the earliest Xtian symbol?… a fish, from the acrostic Ιεσος Χριστος Θεος Υιος Σοτερ = Jesus Christ: God, Son(of God), & Saviour. ΙΧΘΥ=ICHTHYS=FISH. The connection rather slaps your face à la Monty Python. Joshua means Yah Saves, so Soter is seemingly redundant but the phrase forms something of a chiasmus thereby. And a chiasmus is marking with a Χ, the common contraction for Christ: Wheels within wheels; which is Ezekiel 1:16… but then again I could be over-thinking this. 🙂

  10. I wanted to conclude that last entry with reinforcing the clear hermeneutic in John’s gospel that clearly shows that his agenda to get people to “believe” , not necessarily in the parables or enigmatic , symbolical elements in the Gospels , of which John seems to be the epitome of the gospels… the author of John would like you to believe his story over others.. and not one gospel writers does what this author does… He says his gospel is the one to believe and not some other… and by the way…Jesus talks absolutes as he does throughout the whole gospel…

    according to John you must believe without evidence!!!!!! Read the resurrection accounts…they are hilarious and weird in John with respect to this issue….

  11. Also here…. JohnG is clear that the Logos has power over “water” anykind of water since he made it… He can walk on water…… and the word is not subject to gravity…..

    there is obviously more in these water stories..

    of all the nT authors..John is really into water…

  12. The search for Ps.Cypre. Confess is a horror-trip. I found at least two different Saint Cyprians, one of Carthage, the other of Antioch. Either of them has triggered pseudo-Cyprians.

    The Carthagene has inspired a medieval work known as De duodecim abusivi sæculi, a moral treatise. As far as I can infer from excerpts, there is no thaumaturgy involved.

    Cyprian of Antioch has left a series of traditions. He was a heathen thaumaturge who, upon failing in applying charms to virtuous Christian virgin Justina, converted to Christianity and then martyred. Pseudo-epigraphs in his name appeared in the eighteenth century and are hardly much older. There is a theosophic text Confessions of Cyprianus, the penitent sorcerer of Antioch. The following apologistic orthodox site mentions that Cyprian of A taught walking on water: http://orthodoxinfo.com/death/cyprian_justina.aspx

    Thence I suppose that Bultmann alludes to Cyprian of Antioch but still cannot locate his source.

    1. How about this link — it’s to a pdf download: digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile95599.pdf –It’s an MA thesis that includes a translation of Cyprian’s Confessions. It contains the following passage:

      (9) As a
      priest I conducted the mysteries, as a temple servent of demons I gave instruction,
      gave drink for the purpose of deception, made a display of my powers for the
      purpose of error, as a hierophant I performed the hecatomb, and as one who had
      power to do many things, I refrained from nothing. (10) I kindled many to
      impersonation and I killed most who quarreled with me; others who feared me
      would bow down and I became a traitor to those who wanted to stand against me.
      (11) When I was asked to fly through the air and walk on the water,66 I did, and I
      provided winds for ships to sail, and after they were flown in I prepared those that
      did not sail to go abroad. (12) I released the winds and hindered them again; I
      caused ships to sink underwater and others to run ashore for laughter.67 (13) I
      made water appear to flow in the desert and caused it to flood in houses. (14) I
      caused wives to be chased away from their husbands to adulterers,68 caused the
      murder of children, showed a reckless delight in death, handed over entire houses
      into ruin, suffered friends to be murdered, punished many sincere household
      slaves. (15) Some dared to become like me in these matters and the demons
      congratulated them, for they outdid me.

      66 Cf. Lucian, Phi lops. 13 where the Peripatetic Cleodemus ascribes the same actions to a
      Hyperborean magician.

  13. On to Aufhauser …

    I encountered the following more explicit online biographical references:

    ^page 147 note 1 Cf. “Buddha und Jesus in ihren Paralleltexten,” zusammengestellt Aufhauser, von J. B., Bonn, 1926 (Kleine Texte für Vorlesungen u. Uebungen. 157), pp.

    ^page 147 note 2 Cf. “Buddha und Jesus,” op. cit., passim.

    Rivière Jean. Dr J.-B. Aufhauser, Buddha und Jesus in ihren Paralleltexten, 1926 ; ; Dans la collection Kleine Texte de H. Lietzmann. In: Revue des Sciences Religieuses,
    tome 8, fascicule 4, 1928. pp. 638-639.

    The latter reference seems to be a re-publication of what was originally planned to be a series of worksheets for didactic purposes.

    1. That extra detail is helpful. Thanks. If I had a spare 100 Euro I could pick up a copy via amazon: https://www.amazon.de/Buddha-Paralleltexten-Baptist-Verfasser-Aufhauser/dp/B07N4FQM42 — or for around $A200 a copy via bookfinder.com

      There are numerous entries at worldcat.org, too. But no holdings in Australia.

      I’m happy to let that one escape me. Michael Lockwood or Rene Salm may well have it or at least cite it in one of their works.

  14. Mark Lidzbarski was one of the leading scholars of the subjecy of Mandaism around the time of WW I. He translated the Ginza, the principal body of Mandaic literature, in Ginzâ: Der Schatz oder das große Buch der Mandäer.

    Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978. Reprint (Neudruck der Auflage von 1925). Hardcover. 4to. xvii,619,[2]pp. Black cloth with gold lettering on cover and spine.
    Mandaeism is a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic world view. Its adherents, the mandaeans (Sabians) revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and
    especially John the Baptist. They have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Genzâ Rabbâ or Ginzâ, a collection of history, theology,
    and prayers. Translated with contributions by Mark Lidzbarski. Text in German. Minor staining on cloth. Tight copy with binding in very good, interior in fine condition. vg.
    Item #26323

    Price: $175.00

    (from the site of book-seller Eric Kline)

    and suddenly, the reprint of Adam Abt sounds so cheap …

    The following site promises a free download:


  15. “Indianermärchen aus Nordamerika” could be by Walter Krickeberg (Diedrichs, Jena 1924).

    The same publisher also released “Märchen aus Turkestan und Tibet”, edited by one Gustav Jungbauer, in 1923; which could be the same as “Turkestan. Märchen”

  16. On to Mullenhoff:

    Karl Müllenhoff Sagen, Märchen und Lieder der herzogtümer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg.

    It contains folk-lore from the northmost region of Germany. The online-version I found contains no page numbers, so I could not find the cited location.

  17. Just came across this.

    With a bent-knee pose that connotes rapid movement, the Etruscan sun god Usil dashes across breaking waves.


    The Etruscan sun god, Usil, skims over the surface of a series of crested waves. His legs are bent in a position used by artists in the early 400s B.C. to denote a rapid running motion.

    Interesting that he happens to be a sun god.

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