Re: [XTalk] Jesus the Mathematician
- --- Jan Sammer wrote:
> I did not discuss 8:11-13 (8B in your terminology), because theI agree that it's all very odd, particularly since Mark doesn't
> 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.
mention Herodians in 8B, but does in 8C. Matt fixes this up by
referring to Sadducees in both places. The suspicion obtains that
Mark had two pieces of sayings material that weren't conjoined in
his sources - one the demand for a sign, the other a warning about
the "leaven" of other politico-religious groups - and that he put
them together in this rather clumsy and unconvincing fashion. But
the larger question is how to account for J's "no signs" dictum
(which Matt modifies by adding "except for the sign of Jonah").
One thought that has occurred to me is that the stipulation that
the sign should be _from Heaven_ may be important. The evangelists
could hardly have been unaware that they were presenting Jesus as
having given signs of his supernatural power, but whether that
power was from Heaven or from Satan may have been in question. A
second thought was that the anomaly may be an indication of two
types of sources in conflict - a sayings-type source and a signs-
type source - which the evangelists were struggling to combine
without losing elements from either.
> How do the numbers indicate this? What you are saying in fact isI'm not saying that the numbers don't matter. Evidently, the point
> 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.
of repeating them for the disciples in 8C is to remind them that
the amount of bread left over after the feedings was either equal
to (in your analysis) or greater than the amount distributed. This
would be evidence of a miracle, whereas if the amount left over was
_less than_ the amount distributed, it would not.
> Let me correct/clarify my position. I think the crowds were givenI beg to differ. They were served food and they ate it. The fact
> 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.
that none of the six gospel accounts of miraculous feedings says
that the folks put the food in their mouths is of no account. As
I pointed out in a note you may not have received, Mark doesn't
specify in his account of the last supper that the disciples ate
the bread that Jesus gave them either, but ate it they must have.
> This is what Mark says at 6.52 that the disciples don't[Jan]:
> understand - that Jesus has supernatural powers.
> Mk. 6:51-52: "The disciples were completely amazed and utterlyNo, this is not correct. In the first place, I'm not sure where
> 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.
you're getting 6.51 from, but in my book it reads:
"And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased, and
they were greatly astonished."
More importantly, it _is_ the walking on the water and the stilling
of the wind that cause astonishment. The text does _not_ say that
they were astonished "about the loaves", as you have it. In fact,
that's precisely the point - or rather two points:
1. The disciples weren't astonished about the feedings because
(according to Mark) they hadn't put two and two together.
2. If they _had_ put two and two together (again, according to
Mark), they would not have been astonished by the walking on the
water and the stilling of the wind. Why not? Because the feeding
of the 5000 already indicated that J had supernatural powers. On
the other hand, if, as you suggest, the feeding of the 5000 only
indicated that J had the power to provide sustenance, but not that
he had any other supernatural powers, then Mark's explanation of
their astonishment at the walking on the water and the stilling
of the wind in 6.52 ("for they had not understood about the loaves")
wouldn't make any sense. Why not? Because they could have understood
J's ability to provide sustenance and _still_ been astonished by J's
other powers. So that must not be Mark's understanding of his own
> Your solution is plausible on the face of it, but as said, it"... the amount of food left over after the feedings was greater
> 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...."
than (or the same as) what was distributed, ergo I could easily
take that one loaf you have and turn it into enough food for all,
ergo I'm obviously not talking about the amount of bread we have
on the ship!"
> How does this relate to the Pharisees' request for a sign fromI'm not sure that it does. Like I say, Mark may have artificially
stitched together two separate sayings. The connection between
leaven and the feedings is patently more direct, but I await
Jeffrey's explication before commenting further.
> Unfortunately, Mark couldn't resist one more occasion to[Jan]:
> paint the disciples as dim-witted, and he allows this tangential
> obsession to obscure the more important symbolism of the two
> Again, what in your view is the symbolism of the feedings?Although I alternate back and forth, one distinct possibility is
that the two stories symbolize the "feeding" of the Hebrews and
the Gentiles (the 5000 and 4000, respectively) with "the word of
God" (=the "bread of Life") as represented by the "loaves"
(=bodies of the disciples) which were blessed and "broken" for
that purpose, in the same manner that Jesus was made to identify
the loaf at the last supper as his own body. This "bread" may have
been thought of as "unleavened" in one or more senses as well.
Mt. Clemens, MI
- From: <LeeEdgarTyler@...>
>> 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
> pastoral care by the appropriate divinity from such an obvious everydayHomer
> >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>
>> 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" (poimên) of the Greeks, andthe
>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 poimên is "pastor."Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur
>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.
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.
Prague, Czech Republic