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Jesus Knew and Used His Father's Laws of Physics!

Blake Engel, All Church Sound

God created the heavens & earth in six days--He also created the laws that govern the earth. Some of these laws we have called the laws of physics. These laws explain what happens in the physical world around us. We use these laws to design and build things as well as to help us understand what's going on around us.

The New Testament is filled with parables--stories Jesus told to help us understand spiritual or moral truths. Sometimes he spoke to only a few people, other times he spoke to hundreds and even thousands. Mark chapter 4, verses 1 to 9 is the parable of the sower. This is an account that begins by telling us that there was a very large crowd. In fact, the crowd was so big he got into a boat and pushed off into the lake a little because they were pressing him closer and closer to the waters edge.

When we read verse 1, we often miss the great amount of information contained in it. Lakes are depressions in the ground that are filled with water. These depressions in the ground are like bowls that are only part filled with water. That is to say, around the water the ground often continues up-hill. The Greeks who built the amphitheaters knew that people sitting on a hill can hear a person speaking from the bottom of the hill quite well. All of their outdoor theaters are based on this fact.

From "Sound System Engineering", second edition, Don Carolyn Davis:

"While the Bible does not say which way Jesus addressed the multitudes, we can deduce from the acoustic clues in the Bible that the multitude arranged themselves above him because:
1. He addressed groups as large as 5000. This required a very favorable position relative to the audience and a very low ambient noise level.
2. Upon departing from such sessions, he could often step into a boat in the lake, suggesting he was at the bottom of a hill or mountain.
We can further surmise that the reason Jesus led these multitudes into the countryside was to avoid the higher noise levels present even in small country villages."

So at this point, Jesus has one point in his favor. The second point is that he was in a boat out in the water. Sound travels very well over water because the sound waves are bent down back into the surface of the water and then reflected so the sound wave travels even further. Most people have experienced this phenomenon at least once in their life. You're sitting at the edge of a quiet lake or you're in a boat in the lake. You hear peoples voices and finally notice a couple people out on the water or at the shore a long distance away. The sound waves hit the warm air above the lake, the upper part of the sound waves travels faster than the lower part, and so the wave gets bent downward back into the surface of the water where it's reflected back into the air--and the process occurs again. The air temperature difference and the laws of physics give sound the ability to travel a long distance over water or a frozen surface.

So Jesus is in a boat out in the water. He speaks--the sound waves are reflected off the surface of the water toward the shore. When they arrive at the shore, the air at ground level is now warm (and the air above the ground is cooler). This makes the sound waves bend upward--up the hill. Thus, all of the people seated or standing on the hillside can clearly hear what Jesus is saying.

Coincidence? I don't think so. His father created the laws, Jesus just made good use of them.

Now we're left with a question--why can't we use this information to help us in sound reinforcement in our churches? Well, admittedly, it'd be tough to have a lake in every church... Because of small physical dimensions inside churches, this effect isn't as prominent as it is over a very large space outdoors.

We can learn from the Greek amphitheaters something that many designers often forget--man does not talk out of the back of his head. The Greek amphitheaters had the seating area in a semi-circle around the performance area, but usually no more than 120 degrees wide. Any more and the people on the sides won't hear what's said, let alone see the persons face.

Going beyond that, the Greeks also would build a wall and slanted ceiling above the "stage" to help reflect the sound to the people--some churches have used such design techniques.

This short article could go on for pages, but we'll stop here--we set out to see that Jesus knew His father's laws (and used them), and we've done that.


Supporting Scripture

Mark 4:1 (NIV)
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.
(see also Matt. 13:1-2)
Other references:
Mark 2:13 Jesus teaches from a lake
Mark 3:7-9 Jesus at a lake in a boat (Luke 6:17-19 says he stood on “level ground” which suggest the surrounding area was a hill.
Mark 6:30-34 (verse 39 speaks of green grass which suggests they were right near a lake (not in the desert))
Luke 5:1-3 Jesus teaches a crowd from a boat.