Essay:Calming the Storm

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Jesus's Calming the Storm is described in three Gospels: beginning at Matthew 8:23, Mark 4:39, and Luke 8:24. The issue is how Jesus actually calmed the storm: by word, by deed, or by observation? Modern physicians -- the insights of quantum mechanics -- suggest that the calming was achieved by observation, not by word or deed.

Respected modern translations of each are as follows:

Verse Greek NASB ESV CBP
Matthew 8:26 ... τότε ἐγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τοῖς ἀνέμοις καὶ τῇ θαλάσσῃ, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη μεγάλη. ... Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. [or, according to a note, "a great calm occurred"] ... Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. ... Then He got up and judged the winds and the sea, and a great calm fell.
Mark 4:39 καὶ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ εἶπεν[1] τῇ θαλάσσῃ, Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο. καὶ ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη μεγάλη. And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. [or, according to a note, "a great calm occurred"] And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He got up and disapproved of the wind, and laid down the sea to an orderly and controlled state. The wind then stopped, and there was complete calm.
Luke 8:24 ... ὁ δὲ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ τῷ κλύδωνι τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἐπαύσαντο, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη. ... And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. ... And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. ... Then He stood up and judged the wind and the waves, so that the wind stopped blowing and the waves calmed.

Is "rebuked" the correct translation of the Greek term "ἐπιτιμάω", which appears in all three verses above and in connection with other miracles, such as Jesus's lifting of the fever in Luke 4:39? The real meaning of the Greek "ἐπιτιμάω" is closer to "judge" than to affirmatively rebuke. The term can even be used in a positive manner, as in "honor" or "raise the price of." The English term "rebuke" carries the primary connotation of a verbal communication, while in the Greek ἐπιτιμάω has the primary connotation of a non-verbal judgment.

In the Mark verse above, traditional translations insert the word "said" as though Jesus caused the calming by verbally ordering the sea to be still. But the real meaning of "λέγω" is to "lay", to "cause to lie down," or to "put to sleep."[1] It has a connotation of speaking only when used in a context of verbal communication such as putting an argument to rest, which is not the case here in observing nature.

James Strong, the 19th century author of Strong's Concordance on the Bible, was not a modern physicist and his definitions tend to lack abstraction, even where obviously necessary.

Footnotes

  1. 1.0 1.1 εἶπεν is the 3rd Person Singular Indicative Active Aorist of λέγω, which in the silent sense can mean "he meant" or "he judged."