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10218[Synoptic-L] The riddle of the loaves and baskets

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  • Richard Richmond
    Jul 6, 2005
      Root words count in Mark

      For several years I have been looking at a feature of
      Mark’s Gospel that has taken a great deal of my
      attention . The feature has to do with a particular
      passage that is presented in the form of a kind of
      riddle. That passage is Mark 8:11-21. In all of my
      years as a student of the Greek text I have never
      heard an explanation of this riddle that made sense to
      me. See if this makes sense to you:

      8:11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him,
      seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. 12
      And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why
      does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you,
      no sign shall be given to this generation." 13 And he
      left them, and getting into the boat again he departed
      to the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten to bring
      bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the
      boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Take heed,
      beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven
      of Herod." 16 And they discussed it with one another,
      saying, "We have no bread." 17 And being aware of it,
      Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that
      you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or
      understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes
      do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And
      do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves
      for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken
      pieces did you take up?" They said to him, "Twelve."
      20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many
      baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And
      they said to him, "Seven." 21 And he said to them, "Do
      you not yet understand?"

      KAI EXHLQON hOI FARISAIOI KAI HRXANTO SUZHTEIN AUTWi
      ZHTOUNTES PAR AUTOU SHMEION APO TOU OURANOU
      PEIRAZONTES AUTON KAI ANASTENAXAS TWi PNEUMATI AUTOU
      LEGEI TI hH GENEA hAUTH ZHTEI SHMEION AMHN LEGW hUMIN
      EI DOQHSETAI THi GENEAi TAUTHi SHMEION KAI AFEIS
      AUTOUS PALIN EMBAS APHLQEN EIS TO PERAN KAI EPELAQONTO
      LABEIN ARTOUS KAI EI MH hENA ARTON OUK EICON MEQ
      hEAUTWN EN TWi PLOIWi KAI DIESTELLETO AUTOIS LEGWN
      hORATE BLEPETE APO THS ZUMHS TWN FARISAIWN KAI THS
      ZUMHS hHRWiDOU KAI DIELOGIZONTO PROS ALLHLOUS hOTI
      ARTOUS OUK ECOUSIN KAI GNOUS LEGEI AUTOIS TI
      DIALOGIZESQE hOTI ARTOUS OUK ECETE OUPW NOEITE OUDE
      SUNIETE PEPWRWMENHN ECETE THN KARDIAN hUMWN OFQALMOUS
      ECONTES OU BLEPETE KAI WTA ECONTES OUK AKOUETE KAI OU
      MNHMONEUETE hOTE TOUS PENTE ARTOUS EKLASA EIS TOUS
      PENTAKISCILIOUS POSOUS KOFINOUS KLASMATWN PLHREIS
      HRATE LEGOUSIN AUTWi DWDEKA hOTE TOUS hEPTA EIS TOUS
      TETRAKISCILIOUS POSWN SPURIDWN PLHRWMATA KLASMATWN
      HRATE KAI LEGOUSIN AUTWi hEPTA

      I tried to paste my outline here but it did not
      seperate properly so I guess i will have to do without
      it.

      The reader like the disciples does not understand. So
      we must ask ourselves if our hearts are hardened and
      our eyes and ears are not functioning. The question
      about the concern for not having bread is clear
      enough. In the commission of the twelve they were told
      not to take bread and here the disciples are upset
      about not having bread. They still do not understand
      that they are not suppose to have physical bread with
      them. But there is one loaf in the boat with them.
      Even this is not to difficult to figure out. That loaf
      has to be Jesus himself.

      So far so good, but now it gets more difficult. The
      reference to not perceiving understanding or seeing
      and hearing takes us back to the parable of the soils
      where we were told that it was the key to all the
      parables. Ah, so this riddle must be the key to
      understanding some parable and since the subject of
      the riddle is the two feeding stories we can assume
      that they constitute the misunderstood parable.

      Ah now things become a bit more clear. “The sower sows
      the word.” The bread Jesus is talking about is the
      word of God drawing from the same passage in Isaiah
      that lies behind the parable of the soils. Lets look
      at that passage for a moment:

      Isaiah 55:1 "Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the
      waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
      Come, buy wine and milk without money and without
      price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is
      not bread, and your labor for that which does not
      satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is
      good, and delight yourselves in fatness. 3 Incline
      your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may
      live; and I will make with you an everlasting
      covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 Behold,
      I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and
      commander for the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall call
      nations that you know not, and nations that knew you
      not shall run to you, because of the LORD your God,
      and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified
      you. 6 "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon
      him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his
      way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him
      return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and
      to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my
      thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways
      my ways, says the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are
      higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your
      ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 "For as
      the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and
      return not thither but water the earth, making it
      bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and
      bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes
      forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
      but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and
      prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

      Remember Mark has told us from his opening lines that
      the Gospel already "stands written in Isaiah the
      Prophet." If we a take Isaiah's allegory as the
      definition of the term bread, things begin to look
      different. Jesus’ point about not taking bread becomes
      eminently clear. The bread the disciples are concerned
      about is bread that does not satisfy; bread that can
      be bought with money. If the bread they were taking
      along with them was the bread of the Eucharist it is
      still physical bread and even that bread will not
      satisfy. So then what is the point of the riddle
      regarding the bread as word of God? Now lets do the
      math.

      5 loaves divided by 5000 leaves 12 kosher baskets of
      fragments as leftovers.

      7 loaves divided by 4000 on the other hand, leaves
      only 7 baskets of fullnesses of fragments.

      The curious expression fulnesses of fragments supports
      the connection to Isaiah where the bread is bread that
      satifies (see also Eph 3:19 for fulness). In the
      second feeding story the baskets of leftovers were
      baskets of fulnesses or satisfying bread not bread
      that could be purchased with money. In addition we are
      being connected to the little saying about putting a
      new patch on a old garment which takes the fullness
      from the old garment and makes a worse tear.

      Why would 5 loaves divided by more people leave more
      baskets of leftovers? And now the warning comes into
      play: Beware the leaven of Pharisees and the leaven
      of the Herod. So if the word of God is the Bread then
      the leaven we are to beware of has affected the amount
      of bread and number of baskets of leftovers fragments:
      This looks backward to the comment of the Greek woman
      about fragments. A comment that is based on a quote
      from Aeschylus: “my poems and plays are but crumbs
      fallen from the rich table of Homer” (note the
      allegorical use of crumbs for writings by Aeschylus)

      In the first feeding story. Five loaves should have
      yielded five baskets of leftovers not twelve.
      Matthew’s interpretation of Mark is correct at this
      point; Jesus was talking about the teaching of the
      Pharisees and the teaching of Herod and calling it
      leaven, a term borrowed from the Pauline literature
      and understood in Galatians to be false teaching.

      Gal. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor
      uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working
      through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered
      you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not
      from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the
      whole lump. (note that Paul is talking about people
      from the cirumcision party interfering with his
      teaching of the Galatians).

      Next post: The riddle and Mark’s copy protection
      scheme: counting root words. 4, 5, 7, and 12

      I guess I guess I could say that this is something to
      think about for all those with eyes to see and ears to
      hear.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rick



      Rick Richmond rickr2889@...



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