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
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
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.
- 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 waters 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.