Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

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

Expand Messages
  • Richard Richmond
    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
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 6 4:37 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      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@...



      __________________________________
      Yahoo! Mail
      Stay connected, organized, and protected. Take the tour:
      http://tour.mail.yahoo.com/mailtour.html


      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Rick Richmond On: Mk 8:11-21 From: Bruce Rick acknowledges puzzlement with Mk 8:11-21, and I am sure he has a lot of company.
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 6 9:35 PM
      • 0 Attachment
        To: Synoptic-L
        In Response To: Rick Richmond
        On: Mk 8:11-21
        From: Bruce

        Rick acknowledges puzzlement with Mk 8:11-21, and I am sure he has a lot of
        company. The thing does seem to be somewhat non sequitur, and definitely
        symbolic in intention. Both those features are puzzling, and the content of
        the passage is also, almost aggressively, puzzling. For convenience, I
        repeat here the text in question (RSV) as Rick gave it:

        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?"

        My own first move, on approaching something like this, would be to look at
        the outside of the problem, by asking questions such as these: (1) Is
        8:11-12 part of the pericope, or something else? That is, how far can
        8:11-12 fairly serve as an aid to the understanding of what follows? (2) The
        puzzlement of a modern reader proves nothing; we are way out of context. Is
        it fair to attribute puzzlement to the passage's contemporary audience also?
        (3) To what sort of answer do the clues given in the passage itself point?
        (4) What is the position of all this within the larger GMk? That is, how
        relevant is the rest of the text to our deliberations in this instance?

        My first guesses would be, respectively:

        (1) There is a narrative inconcinnity at 8:10/11, where (10) Jesus and
        disciples get into their boat, after the Feeding of the Four Thousand, and
        head for Dalmanutha, wherever that may have been, and then (11) upon
        undefined turf, the Pharisees "come and argue with him." It is not clear how
        Jesus got back on land, to be thus argued with (there is an attempt at a
        detransition, in the "getting into the boat again" of 8:13, but too late to
        avoid a sense of unreality at 8:11). Further, the water journey undertaken
        in 8:10 is resumed seamlessly in 8:14, "now, they had forgotten to bring
        bread [for the aforementioned journey to Dalmanutha]." Then 8:11-13 meet the
        classic tests of an interpolation, and it will be better to hold that
        segment apart from any effort to understand 8:14-21. Short answer: Not
        relevant. Then the ostensible and perhaps also real departure point for that
        discourse is the lack of bread mentioned in 8:14, not the Pharisees'
        question in 8:11. This may help to redefine the problem.

        (2) It appears, literarily speaking, that the passage was meant as a riddle
        for its readers, simply because the speaker proceeds to unriddle it. Even if
        the unriddling is itself puzzling to Us of the Later Ages, we probably have
        to assume that it would have been less so to audiences of the time. That the
        readers of this GMk passage were expected to understand something that the
        disciples in the story did *not* understand seems probable, and for this
        there are plenty of precedents elsewhere in GMk. But the enigmatic solution
        offered in this particular passage does seem unusual; Markan explanations
        within stories, or functional asides to readers, seem otherwise clear, and
        seem meant to be clear. Symbols in this text are usually decoded, not
        themselves offered as solutions. The atypically symbolic character of the
        answer given within 8:14-21 suggests that it is a late text. See further
        below.

        (3) The enigmatic decoding in 8:14-21 points to the symbolic significance,
        not just of the two feeding miracles (one of which this passage more or less
        directly follows), but of the numbers connected with them. I note in passing
        that 5 and 12 together are calendrological numbers (they multiply to give
        the calendrological 60), and may thus possibly have a cosmic import of one
        sort or another, at least retrospectively, while 7 and 7 suggest the "seven
        times seven" and other magical 7's, most of which seem specifically Jewish
        in symbolic tone. If one of the pairs of numbers represents (let us say) the
        order of nature and the other represents the fulfillment of a Davidic
        promise, we might be on the road to figuring out the answer. Note again that
        the reader of this passage is expected to be attuned to symbolic discourse,
        which is far from what needs to be assumed of the Markan reader generally.

        (4) It has often been suggested that two series of pericopes, each one
        including a feeding miracle, are one large doublet, and that their presence
        in GMk may be due to the inclusion by a perhaps naive AMk of two versions,
        perhaps garbled in previous transmission, of what in origin is a single
        historical memory (or whatever). As they stand in GMk, neither feeding
        miracle refers to the other, and the disciples are equally baffled by the
        logistical problem in both cases. It must have been a problem for readers
        then as now to figure out why the disciples are stupid the second time. Any
        seven-year-old in Sunday School will be asking, Why, the second time, didn't
        Andrew or somebody say to Jesus, Hey, could you work the same thing you did
        last time? But no, they all (including Jesus) walk through it as though they
        had never experienced anything of the kind. So far the feeding miracles
        proper. But in 8:14-21 the GMk text proprietor seems to be asserting that
        both miracles occurred, that they really were separate occasions, that each
        one has symbolic value, and, much more "strongly," that their symbolic value
        is only apparent when they are considered together. This is what we might
        call embracing the doublet with a will. It shows a different authorial
        approach to the material of the text; specifically, it shows a disposition
        not just to present the text, but do defend it as real and elevate it as
        especially meaningful. For this and for reasons above mentioned, I would
        suspect that, if there is a late compositional layer in Mark, this passage
        is from that layer.

        But then 8:11-13, which we have found interrupts 8:14-21 as a sequel to the
        second Feeding, must be from a *still later* layer of the text.

        Details apart, and without pursuing specific implications further, and
        whatever may have been the exact symbolic intention of 8:14-21, I think we
        here get into range of the notion that Mark is not an authorial production,
        written down some calm afternoon out in the garden, but is rather a much
        worked-over and patched-up affair, not just because we can detect
        differences of mood and doctrine in it, though those differences are what
        might arouse suspicion in the first instance, but preponderatingly because
        those patches of different mood are also sometimes set off by features which
        generally indicate insertion of text, or harmonization of difficulties. In
        short, features which suggest a time depth, and invite the conclusion that
        GMk is not so much a text as a text process.

        So, without pursuing the passage in question further, I would suggest, as a
        contribution to its solution, that Mk 8:11-21 is itself not one passage but
        two, and that both passages stand outside the original narrative, or anyway
        some prior narrative, of AMk. They are not so much part of the text (in
        which case the rest of the text is relevant for interpretation), as addenda
        to or commentaries on the text (in which case, again, the rest of the text
        is relevant for interpretation, but from a quite different, "outside"
        angle).

        Not an answer, but perhaps a useful prolegomena to an answer.

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst


        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • Chuck Jones
        To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Bruce and Rick On: Mk 8:11-21 From: Chuck Jones I guess I m a simple guy. But I ve found this story to be straightforward,
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 7 6:24 AM
        • 0 Attachment

          To: Synoptic-L
          In Response To: Bruce and Rick
          On: Mk 8:11-21
          From: Chuck Jones

          I guess I'm a simple guy.  But I've found this story to be straightforward, humorous, and one with which I can resonate personally.  The disciples are worried and ashamed because they did something as silly as forget to bring food for their trip.  (They're 60 miles into the Mohave and realize they forgot to gas the car.)  They're "beating themselves up" to use modern American idiom.

          Jesus, on the other hand, is still reflecting on his argument with adversaries and ruminates aloud, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod."

          The disciples can't hear and receive this spiritual warning (this would be The Point) because their shame is creating such background noise, and because they expect their rabbi, a person in power, to shame them when he finds out about their mistake.

          Jesus, instead of shaming them, asks them why they would worry about provisions in the presence of one who can feed multitudes.

          This would, then, stand as one of several such stories in Mark in which the disciples misunderstand for various reasons--fear, ambition, traditional religious views, sectarianism, and, here, simple distraction. 

          I have a feeling this will be found to be too simple an interpretation, so fire away, friends.

          Chuck


          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?"


          Do you Yahoo!?
          Read only the mail you want - Yahoo! Mail SpamGuard.
        • Jeffrey B. Gibson
          ... As some list members know, I gave an account of the nature and origin of the rebuke in JSNT some time ago (1996). The article, The Rebuke of the
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 7 6:32 AM
          • 0 Attachment
            Chuck Jones wrote:
             
            To: Synoptic-L
            In Response To: Bruce and Rick
            On: Mk 8:11-21
            From: Chuck Jones

            I guess I'm a simple guy.  But I've found this story to be straightforward, humorous, and one with which I can resonate personally.  The disciples are worried and ashamed because they did something as silly as forget to bring food for their trip.  (They're 60 miles into the Mohave and realize they forgot to gas the car.)  They're "beating themselves up" to use modern American idiom.

            Jesus, on the other hand, is still reflecting on his argument with adversaries and ruminates aloud, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod."

            The disciples can't hear and receive this spiritual warning (this would be The Point) because their shame is creating such background noise, and because they expect their rabbi, a person in power, to shame them when he finds out about their mistake.

            Aint no mistake.  See below.
             

            Jesus, instead of shaming them, asks them why they would worry about provisions in the presence of one who can feed multitudes.

            This would, then, stand as one of several such stories in Mark in which the disciples misunderstand for various reasons--fear, ambition, traditional religious views, sectarianism, and, here, simple distraction.

            I have a feeling this will be found to be too simple an interpretation, so fire away, friends.

            As some list members know, I gave an account of the nature and origin of the rebuke in JSNT some time ago (1996).  The article, "The Rebuke of the Disciples in Mk 8:14-21",  can be read at:

            http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/UCfNQjeZWy7cQkZfJufJKA1x6Bi4EKYKG4LIw_uyZIthM7jRmIiDmLOJAn78iwiDLBXFnAR9TKB999uoq9dh/ReBuke%20of%20the%20Disciples.htm

            You need to be a member of, and signed in to, XTalk to read it though.

            Jeffrey
            --
            Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
            1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
            Chicago, Illinois
            e-mail jgibson000@...
             

          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.