The Greek word phanʹta·sma occurs only in the two accounts of Jesus’ walking over the waters of the Sea of Galilee to his disciples who were in a boat. (Mt 14:26; Mr 6:49) The frightened disciples are quoted as saying: “It is an apparition!” The word phanʹta·sma is variously translated as “spirit” (KJ), “ghost” (AS, AT, RS, Mo), “phantom” (Fn), “false vision” (La), and “apparition” (Da, ED, Dy, Kx, MR, NW).
An apparition is an illusion; something actually not present but temporarily believed in because of excited imagination or other cause. Assuring the disciples that such was not the case and that he was real, Jesus said: “It is I; have no fear.”—Mt 14:27; Mr 6:50.
This was, therefore, a different situation from the occasion when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared in the midst of his disciples, causing them to imagine they beheld “a spirit [Gr., pneuʹma].” (Lu 24:36, 37) Jesus’ words in this situation evidently were not designed to convince them merely of his reality but to assure them that he was appearing before them in a fleshly human form and not in spirit form; hence, he told them to “feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.” (Lu 24:38-43; compare Ge 18:1-8; 19:1-3.) There was, therefore, no need for them to be fearful, which was the effect produced on Daniel by an awesome angelic appearance of a completely different nature. (Compare Da 10:4-9.) The situation was likewise very different from that of Saul of Tarsus, who was later blinded by Jesus’ appearance to him on the road to Damascus.—Ac 9:1-9; 26:12-14; see TRANSFIGURATION; VISION.