I had a question about John 6:19, after reading the commentary of William Barclay. He says, "They saw Jesus, as the Authorized Version and Revised Standard Version have it, walking 'on the sea.' The Greek is epi tes thalasses, which is precisely the phrase used in John 21:1, where it  means -- it has never been questioned -- that Jesus was walking on the seashore. That is what the phrase means in our passage, too. Jesus was walking epi tes thalasses, by the seashore." I know Barclay gets a little quacky with the miracles of Jesus, but when we examine the Greek epi tes thalasses, what does the phrase mean in English? Looking in Matthew 14:25, I see that the phrase is the same in Greek. I looked up the word in Strong's and it says that Greek word epi can be on or by. Is this translation of epi in this case on, or by?  I would like to pursue a masters in biblical languages, because I want to know the deeper truths of the scriptures. -- Glenn Petruzzi

I am glad you are willing to pursue a Masters in biblical languages, since most people only dabble and never really learn the grammar and vocabularly. There is an enormous need in the Christian church for men and women who will devote themselves to the original tongues. As for epi, context determines meaning more than lexical root. Also the case, epi with the genitive is not the same as epi with the dative. Epi takes three cases in Greek:

(1) gen. on, upon; over; at, by; before, in the presence of; when, under, at the time of; in the passage about (Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37); epi stomatos on the evidence of (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19)
(2) dat. on, at, in; with, by near; over; because of, on the basis of; to, for; against; in addition to; about, concerning; of, from (rarely); after (Luke 1:59)
(3) acc. on, upon; in; against; over; to, for; around, about, concerning; towards; among (rarely); epi to auto together; etc.

It is interesting that the phrase is the same. But there is a big difference, too. In 21:4 the writer says that Jesus was on terra firma. That's how we know that he could not have been walking on the water. Besides, if he had, surely they would have recognized him immediately (from before!). That's why I feel justified in taking one as "on" and the other as "by." So John 21 means he was walking by the sea, not on it. Yes, a big difference!

As for Barclay, as you mentioned, he did not believe in the miracles of Jesus. And as a universalist, he imagined that ultimately all would be saved. It is amazing that this Scottish preacher's commentaries have been as popular among evangelicals as they are! But then Barclay was a story-teller, and everyone loves a good story.