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Re: [XTalk] Jesus the Mathematician

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  • mwgrondin
    ... I agree that it s all very odd, particularly since Mark doesn t mention Herodians in 8B, but does in 8C. Matt fixes this up by referring to Sadducees in
    Message 1 of 39 , Apr 2, 2002
      --- Jan Sammer wrote:
      > 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.

      I agree that it's all very odd, particularly since Mark doesn't
      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 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.

      I'm not saying that the numbers don't matter. Evidently, the point
      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 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.

      I beg to differ. They were served food and they ate it. The fact
      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
      > 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.

      No, this is not correct. In the first place, I'm not sure where
      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
      > 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...."

      "... the amount of food left over after the feedings was greater
      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 from
      > heaven?

      I'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
      > 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?

      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.

      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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