Going fishing.

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:44 pm

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1) I think that the understanding of symbols in the biblical narratives can be one of the most difficult questions of the interpretation. Often a majority „know“ that a symbol (or a metaphor) is used (for example: Mark's fig tree) but there are two, three, four views what the symbol mean and worth considering arguments on all sides (the same applies to the works of Virgil and other ancient authors).

One problem is that a symbol (or a metaphor) can have more than one meaning (the broken bread can be the body of the Lord but also the entirety of Christians can be the Lord's body) and it can have different meanings in the works of different authors (imho: Mark's and Matthew's trees). Another problem can be that a symbol with a known meaning is used in a different way (LXX-Isaiah's vineyard in Mark's parable of the tenants).

The use of fish in the feedings of the multitudes may be a symbol hard to understand. There could be the question whether Mark invented it or whether he knew Christian community meals with fish, and if the latter, whether he used nevertheless the fish as a symbol with a precise meaning or on the contrary not as a symbol.


2) From the point of view of the usual chronological order it seems that Paul used the word „fish“ in the way of the LXX as one of the basic groups animals (omitting the „Creeping things upon the land/earth“)

1 Corinthians 15.39: 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish [ἰχθύων].

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 am
The Jewish tradition repeatedly divides animalkind into 4 basic groups:

A. Beasts (or cattle) of the land/earth.
B. Birds of the sky/air.
C. Fish of the sea/water.
D. Creeping things upon the land/earth.

Genesis 1.26: 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over [C] the fish of the sea and over [B] the birds of the sky and over [A] the cattle and over all the earth, and over [D] every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
...


3) In GMark appeared three things

- the disciples as fishers
- their shaping to become fishers of men
- the feedings of the multitudes with blessed bread and fish

The first time the disciples are engaged with people is during the sending out of the twelve. The second time is their work at the feedings of the multitudes.

- the fish is the fish of the disciples and
- it's their job to set it before the people


6:37 But He answered them, "You give them something to eat!" And they say to Him, "Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?" 38 And He says to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go look!" And when they found out, they say, "Five, and two fish." 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.

8:6 And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well.


I have no concrete idea about it, but there could be the possibility that in Mark's view the three things (disciples as fishers, as fishers of men and their job to set their bread and fish before the people) were related together and parts of the same overriding theme.

Michael BG
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Michael BG » Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:22 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote: Nothing in my reconstruction requires Christians expecting to eat only fish at the banquet. I fear I have once again run up a hidden assumption on your part, one invisible to me until you spell it out for me.
I really thought I had made clear that one of my points was that 2 Baruch had more than the Leviathan being eaten. This was to counter your emphasis on fish and no mention of any other meat being eaten at the Messianic banquet.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote: - the fish is the fish of the disciples and
- it's their job to set it before the people

I have no concrete idea about it, but there could be the possibility that in Mark's view the three things (disciples as fishers, as fishers of men and their job to set their bread and fish before the people) were related together and parts of the same overriding theme.
This is an interesting idea and thereby links the fish in the feeding stories to the job of the disciples rather than anything else.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:43 pm

Michael BG wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:22 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote: Nothing in my reconstruction requires Christians expecting to eat only fish at the banquet. I fear I have once again run up a hidden assumption on your part, one invisible to me until you spell it out for me.
I really thought I had made clear that one of my points was that 2 Baruch had more than the Leviathan being eaten. This was to counter your emphasis on fish and no mention of any other meat being eaten at the Messianic banquet.
Yes, you made that exceedingly clear. But I do not see how the presence of other meats/foods at the banquet negates the potential symbolism for one of those foods (namely, the fish). I could have made another thread about beef, but I was looking into fish, which is only a partially arbitrary emphasis on my part, since verses comparing the disciples to cowherds are rare or nonexistent; Jesus does not eat a bit of beef after his resurrection; and for whatever reason fish at some point became a symbol of the eucharist in Christianity rather than beef.

You may wish that I had talked more about a different subject, one perhaps more to your liking, but that is not the same thing as an argument against what is actually there.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:47 pm

Michael BG wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:02 am
The order is likely to be:

No fish
Disciples are fishermen
Disciples are fishers of men
Fish eaten at Resurrection appearances in Luke and John because disciples are fishermen
Jesus the Fish
Jesus the fish more widespread and symbolically talked of (pictured) as being shared (but not eaten as part of the Eucharist)
Possible only fish being eaten at the future Messianic banquet.
I am not sure how to get from "no fish" to the disciples being fishermen without presupposing either (A) that the disciples really were fishermen in an historical sense or (B) the next step, "disciples are fishers of men," as based on Greco-Roman and Jewish cultural symbolism about rhetoric, preaching, and calling in Israelites from the exile. The disciples being actual fishermen no longer seems very likely to me, for reasons given in the OP, leaving me with the much stronger connection of the disciples being commissioned as God's fishermen to bring in the lost, so to speak.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:19 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:44 pm
I think that the understanding of symbols in the biblical narratives can be one of the most difficult questions of the interpretation.
Very much agreed.
In GMark appeared three things

- the disciples as fishers
- their shaping to become fishers of men
- the feedings of the multitudes with blessed bread and fish

The first time the disciples are engaged with people is during the sending out of the twelve. The second time is their work at the feedings of the multitudes.

- the fish is the fish of the disciples and
- it's their job to set it before the people


6:37 But He answered them, "You give them something to eat!" And they say to Him, "Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?" 38 And He says to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go look!" And when they found out, they say, "Five, and two fish." 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.

8:6 And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well.

I have no concrete idea about it, but there could be the possibility that in Mark's view the three things (disciples as fishers, as fishers of men and their job to set their bread and fish before the people) were related together and parts of the same overriding theme.
What strikes me about the fish in the feedings is that it seems artificially pasted onto the story, as you might recall me suggesting in an older thread of mine. Neither the obvious source material (Elisha's miracle) nor the eucharistic connections (take, bless, break, give) would involve fish, and the fish, unlike the bread, would not be missed in the story if our copies happened to lack it.

What strikes me about the fish as a eucharistic symbol in various patristic texts is that it is not the most obvious metaphor; the fish seems pasted on here, too.

This pair of observations is what made me wonder what might be lying beneath fish being used in this seemingly ad hoc way in both cases.

I suppose one could account for the fish at the feedings as Michael wants to do, by simply noticing the lakeside venue and venturing that fish might be a logical suggestion as an accompaniment for bread at such a picnic. It would be there simply for the sake of verisimilitude or colorful detail. There is absolutely nothing inherently implausible about this approach, and I think that similar details have been employed elsewhere in the gospels, but what makes me want to go beyond this sort of thing in this case is that seeming connection to the Last Supper. It seems a bit convenient that the feedings of the 4000 and 5000 should both reflect the wording of the eucharistic words and include fish when later texts attest a eucharistic symbolism for fish and also call Jesus the "big fish" (where Christians are the little fish).

So we have multiple possible reasons for artificially pushing fish into the eucharist:
  1. Christians are little fish "caught" by apostles; thus Jesus is the big fish; eating the eucharist is symbolically eating Jesus.
  2. The eucharist is a symbol of the messianic banquet, and the messianic banquet includes Leviathan, which must be a fish.
  3. The feedings of the 4000 and 5000 include both eucharistic overtones and fish.
My problem is that there are too many reasons. It is too convenient. And, if any of these reasons is to be shaved off as derivative, I think the third one is the most vulnerable, at least partly because the fish is so superfluous there. The first one seems to be vulnerable, as well, not to mention pretty indirect; and the evidence for it is uniformly later than the evidence for the second one. In other words, it seems more likely to me, granted the Jewish Leviathan tradition, that the feedings include fish because of that tradition and because of the eucharistic symbolism than that the fish became a eucharistic symbol, just happening to coincide with the Leviathan tradition, because it happened to appear in the feedings. And it seems more likely to me that Jesus became a fish because the eucharist was already symbolized by fish than that the eucharist came to be symbolized by fish because Jesus was already for some reason thought of as a fish. (This second likelihood is weaker, however, than the first, in my opinion.)

But you are right, Kunigunde. This evidence is not a cinch to interpret. It can all get quite tangled.
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Michael BG
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Michael BG » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:32 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Michael BG wrote: I really thought I had made clear that one of my points was that 2 Baruch had more than the Leviathan being eaten. This was to counter your emphasis on fish and no mention of any other meat being eaten at the Messianic banquet.
Yes, you made that exceedingly clear. But I do not see how the presence of other meats/foods at the banquet negates the potential symbolism for one of those foods (namely, the fish). I could have made another thread about beef, but I was looking into fish, which is only a partially arbitrary emphasis on my part, since verses comparing the disciples to cowherds are rare or nonexistent; Jesus does not eat a bit of beef after his resurrection; and for whatever reason fish at some point became a symbol of the eucharist in Christianity rather than beef.
I think if you wish to discuss the symbolism within the Messianic banquet, you should cover all aspects, and then make the case why one aspect is more important than the others, but I assume you disagree.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Michael BG wrote:The order is likely to be:

No fish
Disciples are fishermen
Disciples are fishers of men
I am not sure how to get from "no fish" to the disciples being fishermen without presupposing either (A) that the disciples really were fishermen in an historical sense or (B) the next step, "disciples are fishers of men," as based on Greco-Roman and Jewish cultural symbolism about rhetoric, preaching, and calling in Israelites from the exile. The disciples being actual fishermen no longer seems very likely to me, for reasons given in the OP, leaving me with the much stronger connection of the disciples being commissioned as God's fishermen to bring in the lost, so to speak.
I think you are correct there are the two alternatives
“(A) that the disciples really were fishermen in an historical sense”, or
(B) that the idea that the disciples were fishermen was created at the same time as the idea that the disciples were “fishers of men”.
I cannot see any reason to make the disciples fishermen if there is no link to their being fishers of men

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