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Re: [XTalk] The parable of the sower

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  • Omeed Rameshni
    ... I feel that this question focusses more on theological concerns rather than historical concerns and as such am loathe to offer anything. But because the
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 3, 2005
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      Joseph Codsi wrote:

      >Instead they remain in their ivory tower and mumble to themselves. Jesus
      >guesses what they are thinking about and attacks them in no tender way.
      >Jesus' behavior is just as erratic as the disciples'. What does he say
      >to them?
      > <snip> Mat16:8-11
      >It is now my turn to say that I don't understand what this is all about.
      >What was there to understand about the feeding of the five and four
      >thousand that the disciples did not understand? Was Jesus an ambulant
      >bakery that could deliver bread at will? Was it enough to have one loaf
      >of bread to feed the little group of the disciples? Were the disciples
      >to live in a dream world and cease to worry about food?

      I feel that this question focusses more on theological concerns rather than
      historical concerns and as such am loathe to offer anything. But because the
      historicity is under question due to a suggested contradiction in the text I
      would like to humbly offer the following explanation.

      I suggest that Jesus by trivializing the issue of bread and saying how
      unimportant physical bread was he was making it clear to his disciples that
      what is truly important is spiritual sustenance or spiritual bread.

      Mat 16:5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had
      forgotten to take bread.
      Mat 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of
      the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
      Mat 16:7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have
      taken no bread.
      Mat 16:8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little
      faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
      Mat 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the
      leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

      We have the event of the forgetting of bread, the warning against the leaven
      (leaven has a parabolic definition see Mat 13:33), the disciples
      misunderstand, Jesus puts a perspective on the unimportance of physical
      bread, the disciples see the intended meaning - that they are to be wary of

      The importance of bread in these parables is that it represents manna, which
      Jesus redefines with statements like these the importance of entirely. The
      proof is in 1 Corinthians where the author of this text states essentially
      that the bread and the water provided to the Jews was spiritual sustenance
      from Moses/God and not physical. He then asserts that the same authority
      which Moses derived his authority was the same essence, the same Christ,
      that Jesus drew his authority from. Or in other words: our spirit is their
      spirit, "we eat the same bread".

      1Co 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how
      that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
      1Co 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
      1Co 10:3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
      1Co 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that
      spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

      So we can see how parables like this actually did have a significant meaning
      to the early Christian community. I am sure that the commentaries suggested
      by Dr. Gibson would be far more coherent than I.

      Yours sincerely,

      Omeed Rameshni,
      Bachelor of Information Technology, Q.U.T
      email: omeedrameshni@...

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Joseph Codsi
      Reply to Jeffrey B. Gibson Jeffrey, I don t consider myself a professional but an amateur. My personal library is very small. In what pertains to gospel
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 3, 2005
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        Reply to Jeffrey B. Gibson


        I don't consider myself a professional but an amateur. My personal
        library is very small. In what pertains to gospel scholarship, I live in
        a part of the world which is still proud of its medieval heritage. Our
        good Christians are not different from our good Muslims. We are
        interested in Western technology, not in Western thought. The West
        represents to our third-world mentality the latest in immorality and
        error. It is true that Lebanon is proud to be the pearl of the Middle
        East. But as far as I know, Lebanon is the only Middle Easterner country
        where Dan Brown's book **The Da Vinci Code** was and still is banned by
        the State at the demand of the holy Church. Here, we have a "secular"
        State, which takes direct orders from the representatives of Christ and
        Muhammad. Moses has temporarily fallen out of favor not for religious
        but for political reasons.

        I read what I find, and I seldom find what I should read. I order a book
        every now and then, when my retirement budget allows it.

        Of the list of names you have enquired about, only one is in my library.
        I am speaking of Robert A. Guelich's commentary on the first part of
        Mark. The book goes back to 1989.

        I have stopped using this book because I find it frustrating. Guelich
        makes a systematic analysis of the text. He lines up all the parts
        without missing a single one. But he finds himself in front of an
        impossible puzzle. He cannot put the parts together in a way that makes
        sense. His erudition is vast, but he cannot resolve anything. He
        enumerates all sorts of possibilities, without ever reaching a single
        conclusion. I am tempted to apply to him what is said about those who
        are outside. ***To them all things come in riddles, that is, "seeing
        they see but do not perceive and hearing they hear but do not

        I know I am harsh and unfair. Mark is a hard nut to crack. I must
        recognize, however, that Guelich has the merit of recognizing that the
        cards have been shuffled in such a way that it is next to impossible to
        set them straight. I will quote some of his most telling passages.

        Speaking of verses 10-12 that have been inserted between the two parts
        of the parable, he says:

        << This passage sits awkwardly at best in its present context. It
        introduces a change of setting and audience from 4:1-2 that appears to
        have been forgotten in the concluding summary of 4:33-34 and the opening
        scene in 4:35-36. Although Jesus has just completed one parable (4:3-9),
        the disciples question him about "parables" (4:10) and thus interrupt
        the sequence of parable (4:3-8) and interpretation (4:14-20) by
        interjecting the broader topic of "parables." It employs parabolè
        (4:11b), meaning "riddles," in a chapter that consistently uses parabolè
        with the more general meaning of "parables" (4:2, 10, 13, 30, 33). And
        its implication that Jesus teaches in "riddles" to keep "outsiders" in
        confusion seems contrary to the tone of the setting in 4:1-2, the
        reproach directed at the "disciples" in 4:13 and the statement in 4:33.
        Consequently, with few exceptions (e.g., Lane, 156-58; Trocmé, BJRL 59
        [1977] 464-65; Haacker, 423-24), 4:10-12 has been viewed as a later
        insertion into its present context.>> (page 199)

        Here is a question that remains without answer:

        <<But if 4:10–12 represents a pre-Markan unit, where did 4:10–12 come
        from and what did it mean?>> (page 200)

        Here is another passage. It speaks of the Twelve.

        << Called to be "with him" (3:14), privileged to have a special
        relationship, given special instruction and even a share in Jesus'
        mission (6:7–13), they lack understanding (see Comment on 4:13 and
        8:17–21). In 4:10–11 they are set apart from "those outside" for whom
        all things come in riddles, but in 4:13bc they are reproached for their
        lack of knowledge requiring the explanation that follows (cf 7:17–18).>>
        (page 204)

        Guelich sees the difficulties, but cannot solve them. He often mentions
        the relation between the parable of the sower and the incident of the
        yeast of the Pharisees. But this connection does not shed any light on
        the mystery. He is correct, though, when he writes about Mk 8:14-21:

        <<This pericope exhibits numerous awkward elements that supposedly stem
        from Mark's clumsy combination of various traditions or simply his
        "opacity" in transmitting a story without himself understanding it
        (e.g., Meagher, Construction, 74-81). This awkwardness makes any attempt
        at classifying it form-critically, especially if the story represents a
        redactional amalgam, almost impossible.>> (page 418).

        Guelich's big merit is that he sees he is before an impossible task.

        The Markan mystery is not impossible to resolve. The solution becomes
        possible when realize that we are dealing here with the disturbed mind
        of the disciples. Jesus had initiated them into the mystery of the
        Kingdom of God, not into the Christian mystery. This had a disturbing
        effect upon them. They had to find an explanation. What we see in GMark
        is their unconscious at work under the modality of creating a fictional
        world believed to be just as real as the real one.

        The midrash and the myth are possible, because the human mind has the
        power of making the fictional real. This is what faith is all about.


        -----Original Message-----
        From: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com] On
        Behalf Of Jeffrey B. Gibson
        Sent: Sunday, July 03, 2005 12:06 AM
        To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [XTalk] The parable of the sower

        Joseph Codsi wrote:

        > The parable of the sower 2
        > In the initial post, I have shown that the story as it is told in
        > makes no sense.

        I wonder if you'd be kind enough to share with us what, out of what
        might be
        considered the best studies -- either monographs or articles -- on the
        parable of
        the sower, let alone the sections on it in such commentaries as those of
        Taylor or
        Gundry or Guelich or France or Marcus (to name only a few of the ones in
        you have read?

        After that, perhaps you could tell us specifically why you think those
        who have thought that the parable as it stands in Mark **does** make
        sense are



        Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
        1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
        Chicago, Illinois
        e-mail jgibson000@...
      • Tony Buglass
        Jeffrey will make his own response to your reply, Joseph, but I want to chip in with a quick comment (being 5 hours ahead of the US means I get in first! :))
        Message 3 of 6 , Jul 4, 2005
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          Jeffrey will make his own response to your reply, Joseph, but I want to chip in with a quick comment (being 5 hours ahead of the US means I get in first! :))

          You wrote:
          I don't consider myself a professional but an amateur. My personal
          library is very small. In what pertains to gospel scholarship, I live in
          a part of the world which is still proud of its medieval heritage. Our
          good Christians are not different from our good Muslims. We are
          interested in Western technology, not in Western thought.

          There is a wide range of people on this list, ranging from "professional theologians" working in universities with all those facilities open to them (what, envious, me?) through those who are professional theologians like me, ie working in the field, but as a working minister I don't have access to all the facilities of university libraries or the time to use them, and there are quite a few who are professionals in other fields but are interested in the study of HJ and bring their own disciplines and skills to bear on the subject. We all have various restrictions and limitations on our work in the field, and so we have to work with each other to learn from each other. As I said last week, that has been for me one of the great values of this list.

          Middle-Eastern thinkers may be inclined to dismiss Western thought, but if you wish to engage with a subject of this nature, you need to at least understand it. To say you are an amateur in no way disqualifies you from this kind of study, but it doesn't mean you don't have to obey the rules of the discipline. I have some interest in medicine, but am strictly amateur in the field - I wouldn't dream of telling my GP he is wrong, or disagreeing with a hospital consultant on his diagnosis unless I have access to data which actually falsifies his analysis. And even then, I think I'd be very tentative, because I don't know the significance of the data concerned. My new information may in fact mean nothing.

          To say you do not have access to the texts which have been recommended doesn't mean you can ignore the conversations which have already taken place. I may disagree with Bultmann, but I cannot simply ignore him, because he is still an influential voice in NT studies. His work has changed the landscape in such a way that I need to know what he talked about in order to converse intelligently in the field. The same can be said for many. I'm sure the same is true in any discipline, including your own - which you have not yet disclosed to us, despite my asking for some clue as to the professional expertise which you bring to the conversation. You have now told us you're retired. From what? It might help me to understand where you're coming from.

          Can I suggest that you do some reading around the subject online? Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway is a good starting point, and you could try http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/theology as a useful online directory for all sorts of material.

          If your aim is to engage with scholars to persuade them of your theory, you do need to justify teh grounds for your theory. I don't think you have yet begin to do so.

          Rev Tony Buglass
          Superintendent Minister
          Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
          W Yorks


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        • Joseph Codsi
          Reply to Tony Buglass I know that our personal background can affect the way we think. Would it be helpful if I told you that I used to be a fundamentalist and
          Message 4 of 6 , Jul 6, 2005
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            Reply to Tony Buglass

            I know that our personal background can affect the way we think. Would
            it be helpful if I told you that I used to be a fundamentalist and that
            I have changed later my theological orientation? I have done a lot of
            things in my life, but what I say today about the parable of the sower
            has nothing to do with what I did in the past. Example: I worked in the
            early eighties as vice president of a small oil company, headquartered
            in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had the pompous title of financial officer, but I
            was neither a financial expert nor an oil engineer. I got the job
            through personal connections, not on account of my diplomas. I had at
            that time my own real estate company, based in Hartford, Connecticut,
            and I used to commute between Hartford and Tulsa on a weekly basis.

            Right here in Lebanon, my main interest is political. I am very critical
            of our political system. I think that our conception of the State is
            nonsensical. When people hear me say so, they ask me, "Where do you come
            from?" I tell them, "From Mars." When someone does not think within the
            received patterns, people seek an explanation in the man's background.

            As a matter of fact, it is much easier for an outsider to be critical of
            the specialists than for an insider. The outsider can see what the
            insiders can not. Erudition is an asset; but it can be a handicap as
            well. The accumulation of knowledge does not create new knowledge.
            Creativity depends on the ability to introduce new ways of looking at

            My interest in theology goes back to the days when I was in the Jesuit
            order. Scripture was used then in the Catholic Church as an ancilla
            theologiae. What I owe to those early years is the acquisition of a
            critical mind. I had to leave the order, because I was becoming too
            critical of it and of the Church. By the same token, I had to revise my
            traditional education and reinvent the wheel. I became self-taught.

            I spent most of my adult life in Europe and the States. Now I am back in
            Lebanon. Although I find myself here, in some respect, as a foreigner in
            one's own country, I like the challenge and I am pleased with what I am
            doing. I think I can and should make a difference in the two fields, the
            Lebanese political system and the quest for the historical Jesus.

            It is out of the question to discuss the quest for the historical Jesus
            right here in Lebanon. I find in discussion groups like XTalk a precious
            opportunity. I second, therefore, what you said, Tony, about the good
            things you owe to XTalk. Our exchanges helped me in redoing my
            education. I am now comfortable enough with my thesis to defend it
            before the jury of the group.

            I realize as an afterthought that I should have started the introduction
            of my theory with a comparative study of what is said about the
            disciples in the pericope of the sower, on the one hand, and in the
            pericope of the yeast, on the other. So I suggest we concentrate our
            discussion on this topic. In the parable of the sower, the disciples are
            treated as "insiders". In the incident of the yeast of the Pharisees,
            they are treated as "outsiders". This apparent contradiction can be
            easily resolved, when we ask the following question: "In relation to
            what are they "insiders" and "outsiders". The first text makes it clear
            that they are "insiders" in relation to the mystery of the Kingdom. The
            second text is not as clear. But it puts an emphasis on the feedings of
            the five and four thousand. The disciples' lack of understanding has to
            do with this double event. The connection, however, is not clear.
            Apparently the text induces us to believe that the double event had a
            meaning in and of itself, and that the disciples were too blind to see
            it. The problem is that we are not in a better position today. We do not
            see what that special meaning could have been. This is why I have no
            other alternative but to connect the feeding of the crowds with the
            Eucharist. The disciples had not seen, during the life of Jesus, the
            connection between the feeding of the crowds and the Eucharist.

            Because the Eucharist is an integral part of the Christian revelation, I
            conclude that the disciples were "outsiders" in relation to the
            Christian mystery, symbolized by the Eucharist.

            The disciples could not have openly admitted that Jesus had initiated
            them to the mystery of the Kingdom, but not to the Christian mystery.
            The only way they can admit the fact is indirectly and in the very
            strange way they are doing it here.

            In short, the disciples say openly that Jesus took good care of them and
            initiated them into the mystery of the Kingdom of God. They say not so
            openly and in an indirect way that Jesus had never initiated them into
            the Christian mystery.

            My theory is based on this discovery. It is confirmed by many texts.
            Before moving to other texts, let us discuss the present ones.


            Joseph Codsi
            P.O. Box 116-2088
            Beirut, Lebanon
            Telephone (961) 1 423 145
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