From: "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@...
> 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.
This is an important point to be kept in mind. Supernatural powers are not
I understand the episodes we have been discussing to be a part of a
presentation of "credentials" of messiahship, which is revealed (though only
to a select few) in the following chapter (9:27-30) at Caesarea Philippi.
Thus the purpose of the request for a sign and its rejection would be to
inform the reader of the ways that Jesus' identity as the messiah would be
revealed. Those ways would be indirect and would be discernible only to the
wise. Since one of the main purposes of Mark's gospel was presumably to
prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, we can presume that one of his
concerns was to respond to critics who denied Jesus' messiahship by arguing
that a true Messiah would arrive with all sorts of heavenly signs that would
make his identity undeniable. This criticism is personified in the Pharisees
asking for a sign from heaven. Mark tried to address these skeptics in two
ways. One was by explaining that "no sign would be given to this
generation" -- although the evidence for Jesus' messiahship was there, it
was concealed and was only evident to those with sufficient discernment. The
other type of response was to refer the expectation to the future, as in
Jesus' pronouncement before the Sanhedrin: "You will see the Son of Man
seated at the right side of the Almighty and coming with the clouds of
heaven!". That should satisfy the Pharisees asking for a sign. The sign
would be given to the next generation.
> I'm not saying that the numbers don't matter.
Sorry, I didn't mean to misinterpret you.
> 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.
It seems to me that even if no bread were left over, one would still have to
conclude that a miracle or some sort had taken place, since 5000 people were
fed on 5 loaves, and one thousandth of a loaf is clearly insufficient to
feed an adult individual. The fact that there were leftovers indicates that
each individual ate even less than one thousandth of a loaf of bread. Since
the crowds ate and were satisfied, the disciples assumed that the loaves had
somehow multiplied, so that each individual ate much more than his allotted
1/1000. Mark's intent, I believe, was cause the reader to assume, along
with the disciples, that bread had been multiplied, i.e., that a
straighforward miracle had occurred. But Mark's purpose was not to prove
that Jesus was capable of performing miracles, but rather that he was the
Messiah. Performing miracles may be a necessary condition for Messiahship,
but it is not a sufficient condition. Since a straightforward sign from
heaven establishing Jesus' messiahship once and for all would not be
forthcoming, it would be necessary, in order to determine whether Jesus was
or was not the messiah, to consider to what extent his actions were
consistent with this role. Among the most important aspects of the Messiah
was his role as the divine shepherd capable of providing for his flock. This
ability is demonstrated in the feedings. The divine shepherd feeds his flock
with his own bounty. The disciples had naively assumed that Jesus had acted
as a mere wonder worker in multiplying the loaves. By drawing attention to
the leftovers, Jesus was demonstating numerically that each participant had
eaten even less than 1/1000 of a loaf of bread--no bread at all in fact. He
had not multiplied any loaves, but had fed the crowds completely on his own,
thus showing himself to be no mere wonder worker, but rather the divine
> > 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.
I agree that the notion that no bread was consumed is somewhat
counterintuitive; but that is part of Mark's plan. He leads the reader to
accept the easiest, most intuitive interpretation of what had taken place,
i.e., that the loaves had been multiplied, only to destroy this
interpretation in 8:17-21, leaving the reader to grapple with a strange
dilemma. The crowds were fed, but none of the bread offered them was
consumed. What then were they fed on?
> > 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.
We obviously have a translation problem here. In 6:51 the disciples were
dumbfounded and in 6:52 it is explained why there were dumbfounded: for
(GAR) they had not understood what the loaves of bread meant. The word GAR
is used to introduce the reason for some occurrence: when the reason
precedes that of which it is the reason , it may be rendered as "since" or
"as". This explanation is cited verbatim from Liddell and Scott.
> 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
In my view by indicating that it was the loaves that caused the disciples to
be dumbfounded, Mark is focusing attention on these; after all , the loaves
will play a key role in the feeding of the 4000 and again in the Rebuke of
8:14-21, and they will be serve to demonstrate Jesus' true identity as the
divine shepherd, rather than as merely someone with supernatural powers.
> > 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!"
Thank you for answering my question so directly. My solution is somewhat
different as I have already stated. It is about Jesus' identity, not about
> > 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, in my view, could be paraphrased as follows: You will not
get a sign from heaven telling you who I am; you will just have to figure it
out for yourselves! All the the clues are all there for those with eyes to
see and ears to hear.
Prague, Czech Republic