Mark 2:18-22 reads, "And were the disciples of John and of the Pharisees
fasting. And they came and say to him, 'Why (do) the disciples of John and
of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?' And Jesus said to them,
'Can the sons of the bridechamber fast fast while the bridegroom is with
them? As long as they have the bridegroom, they are not able to fast. But
will come days when will have been taken away from them the bridegroom, and
then they will fast in those days. And no one a piece of unfulled cloth
sews on an old garment, otherwise the new filling up of it takes away from
the old, and a worse rent takes place. An no one puts new wine into old
skins. Otherwise the new wine bursts the skins, and the wine is poured out,
and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine is to be put into new
In this post, it will be pointed out that the evidence is consistent with
the hypothesis that the people who came to question Jesus were
WHO ARE THE "THEY"?
Mark does not tell us the identity of the people who came to question Jesus.
We have two clues as to their identity. First, as they speak impersonally
about the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees, they are not
disciples of John or of the Pharisees. Second, they are deeply concerned
that Jesus' disciples do not fast and, hence, they were strongly in favor of
That they were stongly in favor of fasting is consistent with the hypothesis
that they had been Therapeutae: for the Therapeutae were zealous fasters.
According to Philo (Cont., 34-36), they fasted from sunrise to sunset every
day except on the Sabbath and the most zealous fasted for up to six days at
JESUS' RESPONSE: PART I
In his response to the question as to why his disciples don't fast, Jesus
begins by saying, "Can the sons of the bridechamber fast fast while the
bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom, they are not
able to fast. But will come days when will have been taken away from them
the bridegroom, and then they will fast in those days."
Here, I suggest, Jesus is indicating that he is the Logos: who, as the High
Priest of Lev. 21:10, is a Bridegroom. So, in Fuga 113, Philo declares, "To
him (i.e., the Logos as the High Priest of Lev. 21:10) is betrothed moreover
a virgin of the hallowed people, pure and undefiled and of ever inviolate
So, I think, what Jesus says in the beginning of his response can be roughly
paraphrased this way, "My disciples can hardly fast when I, the Logos, am
with them. The day is coming when God will take me away from them, and then
they, like the disciples of John and the Pharisees, will fast."
Seen this way, Jesus, in the beginning of his response, lets the questioners
know that he is not, in principle, against fasting. Rather, he thinks,
fasting should be temporarily suspended while he, the Logos, is temporarily
here on earth. Once he is taken away by God, then it is acceptable to go
back to fasting.
JESUS' RESPONSE: PART II
In his reponse to the people, Jesus thusly continues, "And no one a piece of
unfulled cloth sews on an old garment, otherwise the new filling up of it
takes away from the old, and a worse rent takes place. An no one puts new
wine into old skins. Otherwise the new wine bursts the skins, and the wine
is poured out, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine is to be put
into new skins."
This is negative in tone, so Jesus appears to be criticising a fundamental
belief of the people who have come to question him.. Thus, if they are
Therapeutae, then he appears to be criticising a fundamental Therapeutic
However, as he has already answered their question on fasting, if they are
Therapeutae, then the fundamental belief of the Therapeutae he is
criticising cannot be their strong belief in fasting but, rather, some
other fundamental Therapeutic belief.
Indeed, it appears to be a criticism, by Jesus, of a fundamental
Therapeutic belief that that is thusly outlined by Philo in Cont.
(78), "The exposition of the sacred scriptures treats the inner meaning
conveyed in allegory. For to these people the whole law book seems to
resemble a living creature with the literal ordinances for its body and for
its soul the invisible mind (noun) laid up in its wording. It is in this
mind especially that the rational (logike) soul begins to contemplate the
things akin to itself and looking through the words as through a mirror
beholds the marvellous beauties of the concepts, unfolds and removes the
symbolic coverings and brings forth the thoughts and sets them bare to the
light of day for those who need but a little reminding to enable them to
discern the inward and hidden through the outward and visible."
Here, the "invisible mind", which is "akin" to the rational soul is the
Logos: whom Philo, in Heres (134), declares to be the pattern for human
In particular, it is the Logos as the "thoughts". That is to say, it is the
Logos, as the speech of God, as broken-down into its individual "thoughts"
that are the individual "logoi (words)" uttered by God. So, in Mig (80),
Philo declares that "'thoughts' are nothing else than God's 'words (logon)'
or speech (hrematon)."
Therefore, what Philo is saying is that, the Therapeutae believe, there are
two levels of meaning to the laws of the Torah: (1) the outer literal level
of meaning, and (2) the inner symbolic level of meaning. The outer literal
level is like a human body, while the inner symbolic level is like the human
soul. Further, the inner symbolic level consists of the Word (Logos) of
God, as speech, and as broken-down into its component thoughts that are the
What I suggest is that Jesus accepted the Therapeutic idea that there are
two revelations: (1) the Law of Moses and (2) Logos, as speech, as
broken-down into the words (logoi) of God. However, he rejected their idea
that the words (logoi) of God can be found on an inner symbolic level of
the literal text of the Torah (and, so, rejected the Therapeutic practice of
allegorically interpreting the Torah in order to "find" its inner meaning).
Rather, he believed, they are a new revelation. As a result, by trying to
place them in an inner level of the Torah, he is saying, they are wrongfully
trying to link what is old with what is new. This is a big mistake: like
trying to sew a new piece of cloth on an old garment or like trying to pour
new wine into old wineskins. Rather, he concludes, the new wine (i.e., the
words of God) deserve to be hid on an inner level of new wineskins (i.e.,
We now realize the significance of Jesus, in the first part of his response,
identifying himself as being the Logos. It was to let the questioners know
that a new era has dawned in which the Logos has become incarnate on earth
and is speaking the logoi (words) of God that he personifies.
Compare Luke 10:23-24 (Q tradition), "And, having turned apart to his
disciples, he said, 'Blessed (are) the eyes that see what you see. For I
say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and saw
not, and to hear what you hear, and heard not.'"
Here, I suggest, Jesus tells his disciples that, unlike all those before
them, they see the Word of God as personified in himself and hear this Word
of God as uttered by himself.. A new era has dawned in which, for the first
time, the Word of God is present on earth in both its personification and in
Also compare Luke 16:16 (Q tradition), "The Law and the Prophets (were)
until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God is gospelized, and everyone
forces into it."
Here, we have two eras: (1) the now ended era of an old revelation
consisting of the Law of Moses and the writings of the Prophets, and (2) the
now begun era of a new revelation--the gospel.
If (as suggested) Luke 16:16 relates to the second part of Jesus' response
to the questioners, then the "new wine", which consists of the logoi (words)
of God, must be the gospel.
Indeed, Mark provides us with evidence that, Jesus believed, the gospel
consists of the logoi (words) of God.
Particularly important is Mark 8:35-38, where Mark has Jesus first say the
phrase, "on account of me and of the gospel" and then has him, later, say
the phrase, "of me and my logoi (words)". The parallelism between these two
phrases indicates that the gospel = the logoi/words (of God).
So, to summarize, Jesus, in his response to the questioners, appears to be
criticising the fundamental Therapeutic belief that there are two levels of
meaning to the laws of the Torah: (1) the outer literal level of meaning
which is like the body, and (2) the inner symbolic level of meaning which is
like the soul and which consists of the Word (Logos) of God, as speech, and
as broken-down into its component thoughts that are the words (logoi).
Rather, he maintained, they are two separate revelations: the literal
ordinances of the Law being the first revelation and the logoi (words) of
God being a second revelation (which, elsewhere he calls the gospel). The
second revelation has been revealed by the Logos, incarnate on earth in the
person of himself. The first revelation belonged to an era that has now
ended, while the second revelation belongs to an era that has now begun.
WHERE DID "THEY" RESIDE?
Mark does not tell us where the people who came to question Jesus resided.
However, since he speaks of them immediately after Mark 2:15-17 (which takes
place at a house in or near Capernaum), the likelihood is that they resided
in or near Capernaum..
In Mark 2:28-22, I suggest, some Therapeutae come to question Jesus as to
why, unlike the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees, his
disciples don't fast. They went to the trouble of going to Jesus to ask him
this question because, being zealous fasters, they were upset over learning
that his disciples weren't fasting..
In his response to them, Jesus first emphasises that he is not, in
principle, against fasting. It's just that as long as he, the Logos, is
incarnate on earth, it is not a proper time for fasting. However, once God
takes him away from earth, then it will be acceptable to fast.
Next, he criticises a Therapeutic doctrine that the Law has two levels of
meaning: (1) the literal level, which regards the written ordinances, and
(2) the inner spiritual level, which regards the Logos, as the speech of
God, as broken down into the logoi (words) of God. Rather, he argues, the
logoi (words) of God are a new revelation (which, elsewhere, he calls the
gospel), that has been revealed by himself as the Logos incarnate on earth
and, so, they ought not to be put in an inner level of the old revelation,
i.e., the written ordinances of the Law. Instead, they ought to be placed
in an inner level of a new kind of narrative, i.e., the parables. The old
revelation belongs to an era that has now ended, while the new revelation
belongs to an era that has now begun.
Most likely, these Therapeutae resided in or near Capernaum.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN USA 55109