Bread and fish.

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Ben C. Smith
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Bread and fish.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Aug 16, 2016 6:55 am

In both of the multiplication miracles, the bread seems to be more important than the fish. It is in both cases the bread that is called for at the beginning of the pericope, and the fish are discovered only during the course of trying to find bread. At least the fish makes regular appearances throughout the feeding of the five thousand; in the feeding of the four thousand, on the other hand, the fish are relegated to a single verse, as an afterthought.

Mark 6.33-44:

33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Mark 8.1-10:

1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

Words tracking the bread are in boldfaced orange; words tracking the fish are in boldfaced green.

I am sensitive to the eucharistic overtones in these passages (the verb sequence of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving is exactly replicated in Mark 14.22, for example, at the Last Supper); but, if they were composed with the eucharist in mind, why are the fish there? If, on the other hand, there was an original story that had only bread (and it ought to be admitted that, especially in the second feeding, the fish are superfluous), why were fish added? Finally, if these stories are based upon actual incidents in which fish played a part, why do the fish appear to be so extrinsic to the proceedings (again, especially in that second feeding)?

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to why two such feedings appear in Mark. The first is that the feedings come from different sources (whether oral or written); they may have started out as one story, but the details deviated as it was retold. The second is that somebody, often thought to be Mark himself, creatively and deliberately doubled the miracle.

If you adhere to the first school of thought, you do not have to sweat the details, since details can indeed change as stories are retold. However, the fish in the 4000 variation bear explaining: they look like an afterthought. Did that variation of the story lose the fish altogether, and they were added back in under influence from the 5000 variation? Did the original story lack fish altogether, and they were woven into the two stories at rather different concentrations?

If you adhere to the second school of thought, then the details become something to explain. Why does the second feeding involve fewer people than the first? Why are only the men counted at the first feeding, whereas women and children seem to be included in the count at the second? Why are the fish woven more tightly into the first feeding than into the second? Why does blessing the bread in the first become giving thanks for it in the second (yet, in the second, the fish are blessed)? Why are the fish counted for the first feeding but only estimated ("a few") for the second? Why does the number of loaves (5) line up nicely with the number of men fed (5000) at the first feeding, whereas the number of loaves (7) instead matches the number of baskets of leftovers (7) at the second?

Possibly relevant links: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2554, viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2223.

Thanks.

Ben.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Tue May 02, 2017 4:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:28 am

It seems worth pointing out that Mark 8.14-21 mentions only bread:

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, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing 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?”

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Charles Wilson
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Charles Wilson » Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:38 am

Ben C. Smith wrote: And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
Ben --

1. I apologize for butting in (again) on your research but there are a few clues that have meaning for me here.

2. The main clue is "...he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass..." There is evidence (to me...) of rewrites of a Source - the Prelude of the Temple Slaughter of 4 BCE and the Glorification of Titus - "he commanded them all...". It is possible that the Source has "commanded", as the Priest is as certain as he can be that God is about to appear.

The week(s) prior to the Coup in 4 BCE found the two teachers climbing above the Temple to ax the Golden Eagle. All through Josephus' descriptions of this event are references to "Law" and even "...their Law". Thus, the Source should be intended to convey the meaning that the Pentateuch represents the 5 loaves and the 2 teachers the fish. As evidence of the rewrite, compare with GJohn 21 and frying of the fish (and the charcoal fire...).

3. Sorry to interrupt, Ben, but there is more there than meets the eye - as I see it.

CW

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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:00 am

Sure. That Titus quote solves the mystery. Thanks Charles
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:22 am

Charles Wilson wrote:Ben --

1. I apologize for butting in (again) on your research....

2. ....

3. Sorry to interrupt, Ben, but there is more there than meets the eye - as I see it.
Because you are always so polite, I do not mind. Just please understand that I do not feel qualified to respond to your points, since I do not often comprehend them fully.
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by FransJVermeiren » Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:09 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Why are only the men counted at the first feeding, whereas women and children seem to be included in the count at the second?
Ben, in the feeding of the 5000 only the men are counted because these 5000 were soldiers.

Josephus, Vita 212b: 'So I consented to remain; and, giving orders that five thousand of them were to join me in arms, bringing their own provisions, I dismissed the rest to their homes.'

The grass was green because this secret meeting of revolutionary forces took place in the early spring of 67 CE. In Galilee the grass withers during the dry season.
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Aug 16, 2016 11:16 am

FransJVermeiren wrote:
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Why are only the men counted at the first feeding, whereas women and children seem to be included in the count at the second?
Ben, in the feeding of the 5000 only the men are counted because these 5000 were soldiers.

Josephus, Vita 212b: 'So I consented to remain; and, giving orders that five thousand of them were to join me in arms, bringing their own provisions, I dismissed the rest to their homes.'
While I tend to regard the specific connection to the 5000 in Josephus as either a coincidence or a nonconstitutive parallel, I am nevertheless sympathetic to reading this pericope as bearing militaristic connotations: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2223&p=49497#p49497. I mentioned the possible Josephus parallel as follows in that OP:
Ben C. Smith wrote:In this connection it may be of interest to note that 5000 Galilean fighters were part of a growing military campaign led by Josephus in the war against Rome. Life 42-43 §208-215:

42. But wonderful it was what a dream I saw that very night; for when I had betaken myself to my bed, as grieved and disturbed at the news that had been written to me, it seemed to me, that a certain person stood by me, and said, "O Josephus! leave off to afflict thy soul, and put away all fear; for what now grieves thee will render thee very considerable, and in all respects most happy; for thou shalt get over not only these difficulties, but many others, with great success. However, be not cast down, but remember that thou art to fight with the Romans." When I had seen this dream, I got up with an intention of going down to the plain. Now, when the whole multitude of the Galileans, among whom were the women and children, saw me, they threw themselves down upon their faces, and, with tears in their eyes, besought me not to leave them exposed to their enemies, nor to go away and permit their country to be injured by them. But when I did not comply, with their entreaties, they compelled me to take an oath, that I would stay with them: they also cast abundance of reproaches upon the people of Jerusalem, that they would not let their country enjoy peace.

43. When I heard this, and saw what sorrow the people were in, I was moved with compassion to them, and thought it became me to undergo the most manifest hazards for the sake of so great a multitude; so I let them know I would stay with them. And when I had given order that five thousand off them should come to me armed [πεντακισχιλίους ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁπλίτας ἥκειν], and with provisions for their maintenance, I sent the rest away to their own homes; and when those five thousand were come, I took them, together with three thousand of the soldiers that were with me before, and eighty horsemen, and marched to the village of Chabolo, situated in the confines of Ptolimias, and there kept my forces together, pretending to get ready to fight with Placidus, who was come with two cohorts of footmen, and one troop of horsemen, and was sent thither by Cestius Gallus to burn those villages of Galilee that were near Ptolemais. Upon whose casting up a bank before the city Ptolemais, I also pitched my camp at about the distance of sixty furlongs from that village. And now we frequently brought out our forces as if we would fight, but proceeded no further than skirmishes at a distance; for when Placidus perceived that I was earnest to come to a battle, he was afraid, and avoided it. Yet did he not remove from the neighborhood of Ptolemais.

However, the question at hand then becomes: why does the feeding of the four thousand seem to lack these military connotations? The relationship between the two feedings is still at issue.
The grass was green because this secret meeting of revolutionary forces took place in the early spring of 67 CE. In Galilee the grass withers during the dry season.
The Johannine parallel even specifies that Passover was near at John 6.4. But I am inclined to regard this timing as purely symbolic, along the lines of what Crossan calls "meal and sea": a perfect storm of Paschal symbolism involving the crossing of the Reed Sea and the distribution of manna in the desert.

Ben.
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Charles Wilson
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Charles Wilson » Tue Aug 16, 2016 12:04 pm

Mark 8: 1 - 7 (RSV):

[1] In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them,
[2] "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat;
[3] and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way."
[4] And his disciples answered him, "How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?"
[5] And he asked them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven."
[6] And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.
[7] And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them.

Compare this with the Feeding of the 5000 (BTW, note how it begins: "In those days, when again..."). The first Story had "the People" sitting on the green grass. Here, it is a desert. Compare with:

GJohn 4: 11 - 12 (RSV):

[11] The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?
[12] Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"

"Living Water" may be a Transvalued Term (Berakoth 28A). In any event, notice the Key Phrase (Hint: It's not "Living Water"). "...our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle..." You cannot feed families and cattle from a deep well that can barely fill a gourd. This points to very different circumstances between the 2 Stories.

The latter may point to "The Roman Warming" period.

When Herod builds a Safe Passage Breakwater Port at Caesarea, it is in the middle of a blistering famine caused by desert-like conditions. No Rain = No Crops = Famine => Herod will hock everything in the Palace and buy Egyptian grain from Petronius (Matthew 7). Whatever "green grass" there may have been (to me, this being around the Temple and Antonia), it is certainly gone by the time of Titus in 69/70.

To me, these are two different Stories from two different Time Periods.

CW

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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by FransJVermeiren » Tue Aug 16, 2016 12:07 pm

For the subdivision of the 5000 in groups of 50 and 100, see 1QM (War Scroll) IV, 15 'The measurements of the standards': 'The standard of the whole congregation shall be fourteen cubits long; the standard of the three tribes, thirteen cubits long; the standard of the tribe, twelve cubits; the standard of the Myriad, eleven cubtis; the standard of the Thousand, ten cubits; the standard of the Hundred, nine cubits; the standard of the Fifty, eight cubits; the standard of the Ten, seven cubits...'
So the groups of 50 and 100 soldiers were sitting on the green grass with their standards of different length.

In both cases 5000 soldiers with plenty of provisions: coincidence?
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Re: Bread and fish.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Aug 16, 2016 12:39 pm

FransJVermeiren wrote:For the subdivision of the 5000 in groups of 50 and 100, see 1QM (War Scroll) IV, 15 'The measurements of the standards': 'The standard of the whole congregation shall be fourteen cubits long; the standard of the three tribes, thirteen cubits long; the standard of the tribe, twelve cubits; the standard of the Myriad, eleven cubtis; the standard of the Thousand, ten cubits; the standard of the Hundred, nine cubits; the standard of the Fifty, eight cubits; the standard of the Ten, seven cubits...'
So the groups of 50 and 100 soldiers were sitting on the green grass with their standards of different length.

In both cases 5000 soldiers with plenty of provisions: coincidence?
I, too, have connected the feeding of the 5000 with the War Scroll: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2223&p=49497#p49497 (same link as before). I wrote:
Ben C. Smith wrote:But, as Kunigunde points out, the πρασιαὶ are agricultural rows. I take for granted that the agricultural connections are clear, especially since there are so many such agricultural connections throughout Mark. The question is: are they also in this case reminiscent of military rank and file? The fact that the 5000 are all male may bespeak a military context:

Mark 6.44: And there were five thousand men who ate the loaves [καὶ ἦσαν οἱ φαγόντες τοὺς ἄρτους πεντακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες].

Commonly adduced parallels to the Jewish scriptures also suggest a military tone, specifically one of militia involvement (since all males in Israel were imagined as one great militia, essentially):

Exodus 18.21: Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands and of hundreds and of fifties and of tens [or chiliarchs, hecatontarchs, pentecontarchs, and decadarchs, χιλιάρχους καὶ ἑκατοντάρχους καὶ πεντηκοντάρχους καὶ δεκαδάρχους].

Exodus 18.25: Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands and of hundreds and of fifties and of tens [χιλιάρχους καὶ ἑκατοντάρχους καὶ πεντηκοντάρχους καὶ δεκαδάρχους].

Deuteronomy 1.15: So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds and of fifties and of tens [χιλιάρχους καὶ ἑκατοντάρχους καὶ πεντηκοντάρχους καὶ δεκαδάρχους], and officers for your tribes.

This arrangement was not forgotten by later heirs of such traditions:

1QS 2.19-23: The Priests shall enter first, ranked one after another according to the perfection of their spirit; then the Levites; and thirdly, all the people one after another in their Thousands, Hundreds, Fifties, and Tens, that every Israelite may know his place in the Community of God according to the everlasting design.

1QM 3.13-4.5:

Column 3
....
(13) Rule of the banners of the whole congregation according to their formations. On the grand banner which is at the head of all the people they shall write, "People of God," the names "Israel"
(14) and "Aaron," and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel according to their order of birth. On the banners of the heads of the "camps" of three tribes
(15) they shall write, "the Spirit [of God," and the names of three tribes. O]n the banner of each tribe they shall write, "Standard of God," and the name of the leader of the t[ribe]
(16) of its clans. [.... and] the name of the leader of the ten thousand and the names of the chief[s of ...]
(17) [....] his hundreds. On the banner [....]
(18) [....]
(19) [....]
(20) [....]

Column 4
(1) On the banner of Merari they shall write, "The Offering of God," and the name of the leader of Merari and the names of the chiefs of his thousands. On the banner of the tho[us]and they shall write, "The Anger of God is loosed against
(2) Belial and all the men of his forces without remnant," and the name of the chief of the thousand and the names of the chiefs of his hundreds. And on the banner of the hundred they shall write, "Hundred
(3) of God, the power of war against a sinful flesh," arid the name of the chief of the hundred and the names of the chiefs of his tens. And on the banner of the fifty they shall write, "Ended
(4) is the stand of the wicked [by] the might of God," and the name of the chief of the fifty and the names of the chiefs of his tens. And on the banner of the ten they shall write, "Songs of joy
(5) for God on the ten-stringed harp," and the name of the chief of the ten and the names of the nine men in his command.

Notice, however, that the numbers here are 1000, 100, 50, and 10; Mark has only the middle two values, 100 and 50. Is it a coincidence that these two particular values multiply together to produce 5000, the number of men served at this feeding miracle? If it is not a coincidence, then the numbers do suggest a rectangular formation of 100 by 50 in military rank and file.
The question remains: what does it mean that the feeding of the 4000 seems to lack these connections and parallels?

Ben.
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