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Re: [XTalk] Jesus the Mathematician

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  • Hudson Barton
    ... Agreed. Note however that there are four, not three (or two) instances where the lesson is taught (add Mark 6:45-52 to your grouping). Each instance has
    Message 1 of 39 , Apr 1, 2002
      At 6:42 PM +0200 03/31/2002, Jan Sammer wrote:

      >There is an important distinction to be made here. In my view the meaning
      >could be derived from each of the feedings separately, but a fortiori from a
      >comparison of the two. The Markan structure contains a three-part
      >intensification of the message (a typical Markan literary device).

      Agreed. Note however that there are four, not three (or two)
      instances where the lesson is taught (add Mark 6:45-52 to your
      grouping). Each instance has a different assortment of details
      (boats, loaves, fishes, two kinds of baskets, Pharisees, disciples,
      etc.). Repetition and comparison does not appear to elucidate the
      meaning or role of the details even if it does serve to elucidate the
      main lesson. This appears to be why Jesus is laughing at the efforts
      to extract meaning from a number comparison.

      >The puzzle would have been easy
      >enough to solve for his contemporary readers and the final question was a
      >rhetorical challenge for them to pause and do their sums.

      The true answer to the riddle is that counting (whether money or fish
      or bread or the crumbs that are left over) is described as an evil
      and useless occupation. The rhetorical challenge is to stop counting
      and stop analyzing, not to start.

      >But your idea that they could figure out how many
      >broken pieces would remain if Jesus were to break the single loaf of bread
      >they had with them on the boat is original and interesting. Do you know what
      >the answer would be? I suggest it is 2 and 2/5 kophioi or 1 spyris.

      I was hoping that you and Stecchini were going to answer this.
      Whatever the answer is, I believe Jesus would have been chuckling
      about their efforts to solve the riddle of the food rather than to
      just eat it.

      When I was a child, I went to summer camp. The older campers saw it
      as their duty and privilege to teach the younger campers about
      discernment. One of the ways this was played out was the annual
      ritual of the "snipe hunt." One evening, the experienced campers
      would tell the inexperienced ones that we were going to learn how to
      catch snipes. The snipes, invariably described as crafty little
      critters that hid in the woods, were to be caught and brought to the
      older campers who would remain in camp. While the young campers were
      searching the woods in vain, the old ones had an ice cream party. And
      so it was that the young children learned that discernment is fun and
      has fringe benefits.

      Later in life, I remember the Beatle's song "I am a Walrus." We all
      laughed when our parents and others less cool than ourselves would
      ask what the lyrics meant, especially the phrase "goo goo gajoob".
      Being a Beatles' fan was fun, and no one has ever questioned that it
      was a religious experience as well.

      > > It is not
      >> surprising (to me) that Stecchini should have found very little
      >> commentary on the subject of the significance of the numbers, for I
      >> suspect there is no significance.
      >Yet the author of GMark did consider the numbers to be significant,
      >otherwise he would not have presented the disciples as being asked about
      >them in such an emphatic manner.

      The specific charge that I have made is that the numbers are
      significant because of their ability to hide the meaning of the
      message, not because of their ability to illuminate it. That's why
      this series of passages is interlaced with so many references to
      hardened hearts and to ears that hear but don't understand.

    • 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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