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Re: [XTalk] Jesus the Mathematician

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  • mwgrondin
    ... IMO, this analysis derives from a misunderstanding of Mk8.14-21, which in turn derives from a failure to take 8.11-13 into account when analyzing 8.14-21.
    Message 1 of 39 , Mar 31, 2002
      --- Jan wrote to Rikki:
      > ... the loaves are real in the sense that they play a part in
      > the deeds of Jesus reported by Mark, yet they also symbolize the
      > leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, which the crowds no longer
      > need, since they are under the care of the divine shepherd.

      IMO, this analysis derives from a misunderstanding of Mk8.14-21,
      which in turn derives from a failure to take 8.11-13 into account
      when analyzing 8.14-21. For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to
      8.1-10 (the feeding of the four thousand) as '8A', 8.11-13 (the
      demand of the Pharisees for a sign from Heaven) as '8B', and 8.14-
      21 (the discussion with the disciples in the boat) as '8C'. The
      three sections 8A-B-C are clearly connected, yet Jan's analysis
      unaccountably fails to include 8B - in spite of the fact that it
      has evidently been inserted by Mark to furnish the rationale and
      immediate cause of J's statement in the boat in 8C that the
      disciples should "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the
      leaven of Herod!"

      The misunderstanding about 8C comes here: _why_ does Jesus remind
      the disciples about the specific numbers of loaves and baskets of
      leftovers at the two feedings? Jan thinks it's because the numbers
      indicate that no bread was consumed, and hence that the crowds
      _rejected_ the bread, and hence that the bread must symbolize the
      leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians. *I* think it's because the
      numbers indicate that Jesus is capable of providing bread for his
      flock at will, and thus that the disciples are entirely on the
      wrong track when they think that his comment about the Pharisees
      and Herodians had to do with the lack of bread in the boat. He is,
      in short, reminding them that he has twice multiplied a small
      amount of food into a large amount, and so therefore the small
      amount of food in the boat is certainly _not_ what he's talking
      about - as they ought to know! In fact, what he's talking about is
      evidently the demand of the Pharisees for a sign from Heaven in 8B.
      Or at least Mark makes it seem so.

      A further test of Jan's suggestion that the loaves represent the
      leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians is 8A. As I understand it,
      Jan claims that it's _the disciples_ who want to feed the crowd
      this supposedly symbolic leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians,
      while Jesus himself knows that the crowd needs no such feeding.
      This may be defensible on the basis of the wording of the feeding
      of the 5000, but not on the basis of the wording of the feeding of
      the 4000 in 8A. The wording there is:

      "He called his disciples and said to them, 'I feel compassion
      for the multitude because they have remained with me now for three
      days, and HAVE NOTHING TO EAT.'" (NASB, emphasis mine)

      Unlike the feeding of the 5000, where the disciples _do_ importune
      Jesus, here _he importunes them_. And when they ask him how they're
      going to find enough food to feed the crowds, _he asks them_ to
      give him the food that they have. So far from suggesting that Jesus
      knows that the crowds don't need any physical food, the exact
      opposite is plainly stated. And again, as I pointed out previously,
      the crowds plainly eat the food. Whether the amount left over is
      identical to or greater than, the amount distributed, there can
      be no escaping the fact that the food was _not_ rejected, but was
      consumed. This is what Mark says at 6.52 that the disciples don't
      understand - that Jesus has supernatural powers. They didn't get
      it after the feeding of the 5000, they didn't get it after they
      saw him walking on the water and stilling the wind, and they
      _still_ don't get it after the feeding of the 4000 - which is why,
      when he said what he did in 8C about the leaven of the Pharisees,
      they thought he was talking about their lack of bread. "Idiots!"
      he might have been made to say, "Haven't you learned by now that
      I can create bread whenever I want? Anyone with half a brain could
      figure out that I'm not talking about the leaven used for making
      bread!" Unfortunately, Mark couldn't resist one more occasion to
      paint the disciples as dim-witted, and he allows this tangential
      obsession to obscure the more important symbolism of the two

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
    • Jan Sammer
      From: ... ideas of ... Homer ... the ... Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur independently in any
      Message 39 of 39 , Apr 10, 2002
        From: <LeeEdgarTyler@...>

        TonyBuglass@... writes:

        >> Jan - why is it so unlikely? Both ancient Greece and ancient Israel were
        > >agricultural societies; both had sheep; both had shepherds who care for
        > >their sheep. Is it impossible that both independently developed similar
        ideas of
        > pastoral care by the appropriate divinity from such an obvious everyday
        > >picture?
        > >The problem with sophistication - sometimes it obscures the simple and
        > >obvious! Or does that mean I'm being unsophisticated and thick, like the
        > >disciples Mark portrays...? <G>
        >> Cheers,
        >> Rev Tony Buglass
        > >Pickering Methodist Circuit

        >I meant to post this earlier, but it got lost in the midterm shuffle:
        >frequently calls Agamemnon the "shepherd" (poimĂȘn) of the Greeks, and
        >Sophocles uses the term "shepherd of the people" for several different
        >leaders. Pindar and Aeschylus use it to denote a master. And of course
        >term Jerome employs to translate poimĂȘn is "pastor."

        >So there's no doubt that the Greeks had, independently of the Hebrews,
        >developed this metaphorical use of the term "shepherd." I have found no
        >cases in which it is applied to a deity, however; although one of Pindar's
        >odes has a preternatural connotation to it in its use of "shepherds of the
        >Loves" for the sprites attending Aphrodite.


        >Ed Tyler

        Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur
        independently in any pastoral society. That is the imagery used by Homer and
        other poets; it is also imagery alluded to in Plato's dialogue, The
        Statesman; but there the imagery is developed in a peculiar way that goes
        way beyond a simple allegory of the ruler as the shepherd of his people.
        Plato indeed argues that the statesman should be the shepherd of his people,
        but to justify this proposition he refers back to a myth, narrated by the
        Eleatic Stranger, in which the rulers of the present age are but imperfect
        stand-ins for the true shepherd who had the human flock in his charge in a
        former age. In the present age the divine shepherd's role is emulated,
        albeit imperfectly, by human rulers. In a future age the divine shepherd
        will return to resume control over the human flock. It is this apocalyptic
        myth that I had in mind when I referred to the uncanny correspondence
        between the myth of the Statesman and Hebrew traditions and expectations.

        In the Hebrew tradition as it developed particularly in post-Exilic times,
        there was an age in which man, created out of the earth, lived in a garden,
        needing no clothes, feeding on the fruit that its trees produced by
        themselves. Only after being expelled from the garden did man start having
        to till the soil and produce his own sustenance. He also became mortal,
        began to marry and beget children.

        There was also an age to come, (according to the Markan Jesus) in which a
        men and women will not marry but will live like angels. They will be
        nurtured directly by their divine shepherd. This expectation goes back to
        Isaiah and Ezekiel ("I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed

        In the Statesman the Stranger from Elea describes the once and future age of
        divine control as follows: "Over every herd of living creatures throughout
        all their tribes was set a heavenly daemon to be its shepherd. Each of them
        was all in all ot his flock--providing for the needs of all his charges....
        a god was their shepherd and had charge of them and fed them.. When God was
        shepherd there were no political constitutions and no taking of wives and
        begetting of children. For all men rose up anew into life our of the
        earth...they had fruits without stint from trees and bushes; these needed no
        cultivation but sprang up of themselves out of the ground without man's
        toil. For the most part they disported themsleves in the open needing
        neither clothing nor couch, for the seasons were blended evenly so as to
        work them no hurt, and the grass which sprang out of the earth in abundance
        made a soft bed for them."

        In between the former and future age of divine control is the present age in
        which the divinity has left the world to its own devices. But there will
        come a day when the divine shepherd will once more take charge of his flock.

        The feedings of the multitudes are premonitions of this future age. Mark
        indicates this in 6:34: "... he saw this large crowd and his heart was
        filled with pity for them, because they looked like sheep without a
        shepherd." Jesus then proceeds to feed them, proving himself to be their
        shepherd, the sustainer of humanity in the age to come. It is this that the
        disciples are taken to task for failing to understand, though Peter's
        testimony on the road to Caesarea Philippi shows that he has figured it out.
        The ability of Jesus to feed the multitudes is the key to his true identity
        as the divine shepherd of the age to come.

        This idea is almost identical with the idea of the Statesman. It is the
        image of the shepherd as the divine sustainer of humanity in the age to come
        that is so distinctive of the Hebrew tradition and of the Statesman, and
        which raises questions as to whether such concepts could have arisen
        independently of one another. I am currently looking at the possibility that
        both concepts go back to Zoroastrian ideas.



        Jan Sammer
        Prague, Czech Republic
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