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The Riddle of the Loaves and Baskets

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  • Richard Richmond
    Because two of a series of original post related to the riddle of the loaves and baskets in Mark 8 appeard on the old list, I have posted them again so that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 11, 2005
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      Because two of a series of original post related to
      the riddle of the loaves and baskets in Mark 8 appeard
      on the old list, I have posted them again so that all
      of them may be viewed without going to the archives of
      the old list. It is much easier to follow the original
      thought and point this way.I have made a few
      corrections and noted in these post that the number 4
      is no longer part of the thesis as a result of the
      contribution made by Mr. John Lupia. Out of respenct
      for John and my desire to be as open and honest as
      possible, I would add that John has expressed
      objections to the entire collective posts I have made
      regarding the riddle pasage in Mark 8. To see John's
      objections you can consult the archives immediatly
      following number 10218.
      Now here is how it all began. RR

      Root words count in Mark

      For several years I have been looking at a feature of
      Mark’s Gospel that has taken a great deal of my
      attention . The feature has to do with a particular
      passage that is presented in the form of a kind of
      riddle. That passage is Mark 8:11-21. In all of my
      years as a student of the Greek text I have never
      heard an explanation of this riddle that made sense to
      me. So back in the 80s I decided to See if I could
      Come to any sort of sensible conclusion regarding This
      riddle in the text of Mark. See if my findings makes
      any sense to you:

      8:11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him,
      seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. 12
      And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why
      does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to
      you,no sign shall be given to this generation." 13 And
      heleft them, and getting into the boat again he
      departedto the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten
      to bringbread; and they had only one loaf with them in
      the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Take
      heed,beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the
      leaven of Herod." 16 And they discussed it with one
      another,saying, "We have no bread." 17 And being aware
      of it, Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the
      fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive
      or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having
      eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?
      And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five
      loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of
      broken pieces did you take up?" They said to him,
      "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how
      many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"
      And they said to him, "Seven." 21 And he said to them,
      "Doyou not yet understand?"


      The reader like the disciples does not understand. So
      we are forced to ask ourselves if our hearts are
      hardened and our eyes and ears are not functioning.
      The question about the concern for not having bread is
      clear enough. In the commission of the twelve (6:8)
      they were told not to take bread and here the
      disciples are upset about not having bread. They still
      do not understand that they are not suppose to have
      physical bread with them. But there is one loaf in the
      boat with them. Even this is not to difficult to
      figure out. That loaf has to be Jesus himself. This is
      an important point as it brings together the concept
      of loaf with a person.

      So far so good, but now it gets more difficult. The
      reference to not perceiving understanding or seeing
      and hearing takes us back to the parable of the soils
      where we were told that it was the key to all the
      parables (4:10-13). Ah, so this riddle must be the key
      to understanding some parable and since the subject of
      the riddle is the two feeding stories we can assume
      that they constitute the misunderstood parable to
      which the parable of the soils somehow relates.

      Ah now things become a bit more clear. “The sower sows
      the word.” The bread Jesus is talking about is the
      word of God drawing from the same passage in Isaiah
      that lies behind the parable of the soils. Lets look
      at that passage for a moment:

      Isaiah 55:1 "Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the
      waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
      Come, buy wine and milk without money and without
      price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is
      not bread, and your labor for that which does not
      satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is
      good, and delight yourselves in fatness. 3 Incline
      your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may
      live; and I will make with you an everlasting
      covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4
      Behold,I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader
      and commander for the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall
      call nations that you know not, and nations that knew
      you not shall run to you, because of the LORD your
      God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has
      glorified you. 6 "Seek the LORD while he may be found,
      call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked
      forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
      let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on
      him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8
      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are
      your ways my ways, says the LORD. 9 For as the heavens
      are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
      your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 "For
      as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and
      return not thither but water the earth, making it
      bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and
      bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes
      forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
      but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and
      prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (In my
      opinion, the importance of this text for understanding
      the Gospel of Mark can not be overstated)

      Remember Mark has told us from his opening lines that
      his Gospel already "stands written in Isaiah the
      Prophet." If we a take Isaiah's allegory as the
      definition of the term bread, things begin to look
      different. Jesus’ point about not taking bread becomes
      eminently clear. The bread the disciples are concerned
      about is bread that does not satisfy; bread that can
      be bought with money. If the bread they were taking
      along with them was physical bread or the bread of the
      Eucharist it is bread that will not satisfy. So then
      what is the point of the riddle regarding the bread as
      word of God? Now lets do the math.

      5 loaves divided by 5000 leaves 12 kosher baskets of
      fragments as leftovers.

      7 loaves divided by 4000 on the other hand, leaves
      only 7 baskets of fulnesses of fragments.

      The curious expression fulnesses of fragments supports
      the connection to Isaiah where the bread is bread that
      satisfies (see also Eph 3:19 for fullness). In the
      second feeding story the baskets of leftovers were
      baskets of fulnesses or satisfying bread not bread
      that could be purchased with money. In addition we are
      being connected to the little saying about putting a
      new patch on a old garment which takes the fullness
      from the old garment and makes a worse tear.

      Why would 5 loaves divided by more people leave more
      baskets of leftovers? And now the warning comes into
      play: Beware the leaven of Pharisees and the leaven
      of the Herod. So if the word of God is the Bread then
      the leaven we are to beware of has affected the amount
      of bread and number of baskets of leftovers fragments:
      This looks backward to the comment of the Greek woman
      about fragments (7:28)A comment that is based on a
      quote from Aeschylus: “my poems and plays are but
      crumbs fallen from the rich table of Homer” (note the
      allegorical use of crumbs for writings by Aeschylus).

      In the first feeding story. Five loaves should have
      yielded five baskets of leftovers not twelve.
      Matthew’s interpretation of Mark is correct at this
      point; Jesus was talking about the teaching of the
      Pharisees and the teaching of Herod and calling it
      leaven, a term borrowed from the Pauline literature
      and understood in Galatians to be false teaching.

      Gal. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor
      uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working
      through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered
      you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not
      from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the
      whole lump. (note that Paul is talking about people
      from the circumcision party interfering with his
      teaching of the Galatians).

      Next post: The riddle and Mark’s copy protection
      scheme: counting root words. 4, 5, 7, and 12

      I guess I guess I could say that this is something to
      think about for all those with eyes to see and ears to
      hear.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rick Richmond rickr2889@...

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