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Re: [XTalk] Jesus the Mathematician

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  • Jan Sammer
    From: mwgrondin ... I did not discuss 8:11-13 (8B in your terminology), because the relationship of this passage with the subsequent
    Message 1 of 39 , Apr 1, 2002
      From: "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@...>

      > --- 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!"

      I did not discuss 8:11-13 (8B in your terminology), because the relationship
      of this passage with the subsequent verses was not obvious to me. Since you
      raise the issue, it strikes me as odd that the Pharisees would have asked
      for a sign from heaven immediately following the public performance of the
      amazing miracle of the second multiplication of the loaves. And Jesus,
      instead of referring to the miracle he had just performed, states that no
      sign would be given to this generation.
      > 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,

      How do the numbers indicate this? What you are saying in fact is that the
      numbers don't matter, all that counts is that there was a large quantity of
      leftovers on both occasions. However, I could agree with your last sentence
      if instead of bread, you wrote sustenance. Thus "the numbers indicate that
      Jesus is capable of providing sustenance for his flock" would be a statement
      consistent with my interpretation.

      > 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.

      Perhaps you could try to develop this idea some more. You may be right; the
      juxtaposition of the passages is suggestive, but I still do not see the
      connection between the warning against the yeast of the Pharisees and the
      yeast of Herod and the earlier refusal to grant the Pharisees' request for a
      sign from heaven.

      > 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.

      Let me correct/clarify my position. I think the crowds were given a
      foretaste of the Kingdom, in which Jesus as the divine shepherd provides all
      sustenance, to the exclusion of any other form of sustenance. The Kingdom is
      dawning and for the duration of the feedings the crowds become a part of it.
      Mark nowhere explains the exact nature of the sustenance the crowds
      received. But it was evidently of a more substantive nature than a verbal
      message of wisdom. You are right that in the second feeding Jesus initiates
      the distribution of the small amount of food that the disciples can provide.
      He is in effect challenging them to a test. My people are hungry. Can you
      feed my people with the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod?

      > 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.

      Something was consumed, but was it the loaves? At the one place where the
      Markan text indicates that the crowds ate the loaves, the words "the loaves"
      turn out to be a later addition to the text of Mark. An editor obviously
      thought that what the crowds ate was not obvious in the original text and
      needed to be specified.

      > This is what Mark says at 6.52 that the disciples don't
      > understand - that Jesus has supernatural powers.

      Mk. 6:51-52: "The disciples were completely amazed and utterly confused.
      They had not understood what the loaves of bread meant; their minds could
      not grasp it."

      Jesus' walking on water, or his stilling of the wind are both unexpected
      events, but they do not cause amazement. But the discipoles are completely
      amazed and utterly confused "EPI TOIS ARTOIS." Elsewhere they are not amazed
      at his healings. It is the loaves and not his other miracles that they find
      mindboggling. I suggest that what they fail to understand is the nature of
      the Kingdom in which the human flock is fed directly and exclusively by the
      divine shepherd.

      > 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!"

      Your solution is plausible on the face of it, but as said, it disregards the
      numbers and volumes, which are the very focus of the exchange. Any suggested
      solution should pass the simple test of compatibility with the question
      posed at 8:21. Let us try to continue the sentence with a HOTI, thusly: OUPW
      SYNIETE, HOTI... "And you still don't understand that...."

      My suggested solution would be "... I am the divine shepherd who alone feeds
      his flock and that on both occasions the crowds ate the sustenance I
      provided, rejecting the loaves you gave me to distribute?"

      Your solution is not really that different from mine. Jesus can provide
      sustenance at will. But what would be your suggested ending for 8:21? "And
      you still don't understand that I'm not talking about the leaven used for
      making bread, but about..." How does this relate to the Pharisees' request
      for a sign from heaven?

      > 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
      > feedings.
      Again, what in your view is the symbolism of the feedings?



      Jan Sammer
      Prague, Czech Republic
    • 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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