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RE: [Synoptic-L] Mk 8:11-12 (Moses)

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  • Greg Crawford
    To both Jeffrey and Bruce I offer the following reply: In the sequence in John, the further request for a sign following the feeding story *does* appear to be
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 10, 2012
      To both Jeffrey and Bruce I offer the following reply:

      In the sequence in John, the further request for a sign following the feeding
      story *does* appear to be for another feeding sign. It is so interpreted by
      Jesus who tells them (John 6:26) that they are really seeking more bread. In
      their demand of Jesus in John 6:30, it might appear that they are asking for
      something different, except that in verse 31 they refer to Moses in the
      wilderness and the manna from heaven by way of dropping a hint. This simply
      serves to confirm Jesus' protest that they are really after more bread. Jesus'
      reply would then appear to suggest there will be no signs *on those terms*.

      Now I am working on the assumption, for the time being, that while the final
      edition of John's Gospel was very late, it nevertheless contains traditional
      material that is very early and is often shown to be very accurate. Mark seems
      to have inherited this tradition, or something very much like it (oral
      tradition?), in regard to the feeding-followed-by-request-for-a-sign. To *whom*
      Mark attributes the demand for a sign, and *where* he locates it in his
      narrative, is likely to depend on his theological predilections. But I'm
      preaching to the choir. My argument is that the connection of the feeding with a
      further demand for a sign which amounted to more feeding, is part of a very
      early tradition which was inherited not only by John but by Mark. The extent to
      which Mark was able to successfully integrate this traditional material into the
      theological themes of his Gospel is another question. Mark may have changed an
      originally anonymous question from someone in the crowd, to one asked by a
      Pharisee for reasons of his own. This kind of change is expected. Has Mark been
      able to integrate such an understanding in the traditional material, into the
      themes of his Gospel? The answer could be "no" without it affecting the
      historical question of the connection in the earlier tradition. However, look at
      the incident in the boat (Mark 8:11-21). The disciples in the boat are concerned
      about their need for literal bread. This scene follows the request of the
      Pharisees for a sign. It seems it is not just the Pharisees who are looking to
      Jesus for more literal bread. Mark's theme appears to be that both the Pharisees
      and the disciple are looking for more literal bread and this fact gets the
      disciples a thorough dressing down. So it seems the desire for more literal
      bread is as much at home in Mark's Gospel as it was in John's. The only
      difference is that in Mark the blindness of the crowd becomes the blindness of
      the Pharisees and it also becomes the blindness of the disciples - something
      which does appear to be a recurrent theme in Mark.

      Greg Crawford

      From: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Synoptic@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of E
      Bruce Brooks
      Sent: Tuesday, 11 September 2012 2:00 AM
      To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [Synoptic-L] Mk 8:11-12 (Moses)

      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Greg Crawford
      On: Mk 8:11-12 and Moses
      From: Bruce

      Greg (in part): . If John is correct in associating this narrative with the
      story of Moses and the manna from heaven in the wilderness, the Pharisees'
      request for a sign might simply be a request that the sign of the feeding
      continue day after day, as it did in Moses' case.

      Bruce: I assume that the reference here is to Jn 6:1-40. That chapter is
      interesting in part because (as a Galilee sequence) it seems to be
      interpolated between the Jerusalem narrative in 5 and the return to Galilee
      in 7 (superfluous in light of the Galilee return in 6:1; Bacon makes Jn 4
      and Jn 6 consecutive), but let that go for the moment. On its merits, this
      passage is relevant: it certainly has in mind the Markan feeding miracles,
      or rather miracle. The request for a sign is here not from the Pharisees,
      but from the people who had been miraculously fed, and it is their journey
      to Capernaum, not that of Jesus to Dalmanutha (Mt: Magadan), which sets the
      scene for that request. This is not cinematically plausible, but it does
      solve certain questions that arise in the Markan version. In Mark, the visit
      to the Pharisees has no point other than to give Jesus a chance to refuse
      the only request he finds there. Literarily gratuitous, and needlessly
      disobliging, or so the beginning reader is apt to feel.

      The question of the people in John, "What must we do, to be doing the work
      of God?" leads quickly to their request for a sign, "Then what sign do you
      do, that we may see, and believe in you?" For people who have just witnessed
      a remarkable demonstration of supernatural power, that is more than a little
      obtuse. Jesus' answer asks them to see beyond the bread to the doctrine,
      just as he tells the Samaritan woman to seek not well water, but the water
      of life (Jn 4:7-42), a chapter which according to some should directly
      precede Jn 6. So the message of John here is that earthly miracles, like all
      other earthly things, are worthless; what counts is the teaching that will
      lead to eternal life.

      Jn, like Lk (and Jn is intimately aware of Lk), does not tell the second
      Feeding; he joints this parallel to the end of the first Feeding story. Is
      there any sign that Jn at this point has in mind Lk rather than Mk? I would
      suspect not. There is a Lukan parallel to the request for a sign from heaven
      (Lk 11:16), but it is in a different place, and Jn does not seem to be
      taking note of the Lukan sequence.

      Anyway, thanks for the parallel, which among other things leads to puzzles
      in John. I don't see in it a request for a continuation (more earthly
      miracles), if anything for a new miracle but still of an earthly sort. In
      any case, the Johannine Jesus quickly puts the questioner right. But the
      parallel may be useful as one early opinion about the 8:11f difficulty in
      Mark. Whether it solves that difficulty in a way that can successfully be
      read back into Mark, I am not so sure.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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