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Re: [XTalk] Mark for 1st C listeners

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  • Jan Sammer
    ... The explanation is explicit enough, if one has ears to hear. Mark has Jesus berating the disciples as being extraordinarily dense in not understanding the
    Message 1 of 3 , May 1, 2000
      Nathan wrote (a few weeks ago--just catching up...):

      > This whole section's purpose is explained right
      > before the blind man of Bethsaida is healed (although not
      > explicitly).

      The explanation is explicit enough, if one has ears to hear. Mark has
      Jesus berating the disciples as being extraordinarily dense in not
      understanding the significance of the feedings, so he practically
      hands them the solution by asking pointed questions. The author of
      GMark thought his readers could do simple math. Spelling out the
      solution to a simple mathematical puzzle would have blunted the
      intended effect. 8:21 "And you still don't understand?" is an
      invitation to the reader to find the solution to the problem as posed
      in the foregoing verses.

      > Jesus points out that there were twelve baskets left over after the
      > of the 5000 (symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel) and 7 baskets
      left over
      > after the feeding of the 4000 (7 hills of Rome?, seven(ty) nations?-
      -in any
      > case, a Gentile significance).

      The significance of the question posed in 8:21 (and more particularly
      of the word "still" or "oupw") is that the solution is to be found
      within the terms of verses 8:19-20. For this reason the solution
      cannot refer to anything beyond those verses. Thus bringing in 7
      deacons or 7 hills of Rome or the 7 pillars of wisdom is unwarranted.
      Nor is there any legitimacy to bringing in speculations such as 12
      tribes of Israel, or the 12 apostles. None of these are mentioned in
      8:19-20, hence none of these can be relevant to the solution. Instead
      one ought to pay close attention to the actual text and avoid using
      translations that gloss over important differences in terminology.
      The crucial fact to note is that in the above quotation, two
      different Greek words are translated as "basket"--kofinos and spyris.

      Let us look once more at the way the problem is posed and answered:
      1. When I broke the five loaves for the 5000, how many kofinous full
      of leftover pieces did you pick up? (Answer: 12)
      2. When I broke the seven loaves for the 4000, how many spyridwn full
      of leftover pieces did you pick up? (Answer: 7)
      **And you still don't understand?**

      The answer, which a first-century reader of Mark's gospel was
      expected to derive directly from points 1 and 2, reckons with the
      knowledge of the mutual ratio of the two standard bread containers,
      the kofinos, a small container used by pious Jews to carry on their
      persons their daily portion of bread, and the spyridon, a larger
      container, which from the context can be presumed to carry a full

      5 loaves yield 12 kofinous full of pieces, while 7 loaves yield 7
      spyrides full of pieces. Assuming the artous or loaves to be the same
      in both cases, we can further presume that 5 spyrides=12 kofinoi.
      This is the crucial equation, which is implicit in the text, but
      which I hope to be able to confirm by a study of the relevant
      metrology. We do know that a spyris was considerably larger than a
      kofinos. I am still looking for independent evidence that their exact
      ratio was as postulated.

      The point that the disciples are portrayed as failing to understand
      is that none of the bread they gave Jesus to break and distribute to
      the crowds was actually consumed by the crowds. The proof was
      provided by the fact that all the broken pieces were collected in the
      respective kofinous and spyrides. Thus the crowds were not fed
      on "the bread of the Pharisees" but on the "bread of life". The
      crowds in fact rejected the bread of the Pharisees and of Herod,
      because they were satiated with the bread of life which Jesus offered
      them. This solution is consistent with the reported event that
      sparked this exchange: The disciples talk about not having taken any
      bread with them on the boat, and Jesus responds: "Why are you
      discussing about not having any bread? Don't you know or understand
      yet?" Is it reasonable to think that the author of GMark would be
      portraying Jesus as berating the disciples for failing to understand
      a reference to the 7 hills of Rome or to the 7 deacons, for that

      > In any case, the order of events shows a
      > progression where ministers first to Jews and then to the whole
      > (because there is plenty of bread left over).
      I would not completely discount the Jewish/gentile aspect of this
      interpretation, since the kofinos was a bread container associated
      with the dietary habits of pious Jews and the spyris was a bread
      container associated with gentile usage. But in my view the
      interpretation would be that both Jews and Gentiles are satiated with
      the bread of life, and reject the bread of the Pharisees and of Herod.

      Jan Sammer
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