Sunday, January 06, 2008

The feeding of the five thousand

I was reading Mark (the Gospel according to) today, in particular the section about the feeding of the five thousand. My blood pressure has always gone up a little when someone described it as a "miracle of sharing", but I've never been able to articulate why very well. Except for the little bit where Jesus says "Don't you understand!" a few times at the tail end of the eight chapter.

Anywho, it got me to thinking what my expensive array of secondary sources had to say on the matter and I learned a few interesting things which I'd like to share.

First, the Navarre Bible's take on the issue.

Solid, as always. Summarized, it talks about how it's a prefigurment of the Eucharist (not too surprising) and also gives great importance to the fact that they pick up the leftovers afterwards. The point of that gesture is, firstly, to show that God cares about the little things that you do for him, and secondly, that the messianic era is one of abundance. Moses gives bread and you get a days worth. Jesus gives bread and you have more than you can possibly eat. I had never really considered the significance of the gathring of the leftovers, but I like this reading a lot. It also does seem a little Opus Dei, with the sanctification of the daily grind and whatnot. All the better. My day is in need of sanctification.

How about Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS henceforth).

Lots of poetry - apparently the Church Fathers were quite keen on verse. Also a lot of interesting spiritual senses of the text that are difficult to summarize. The most intersting IMHO is a little bit from Origen on why the people eating sat down in fifties and hundreds (Mark 6:40). He states that 100 is a divine number and 50 is a number signifying the remission of debt and sin (eg the Jubilee at fifty year intervals), so here Jesus is feeding the perfect and those who are striving for perfection. Fascinating, and not something that I would have come up with.

Well, that's all I can write without going to jail for copyright violation, but if you're interested I'll lend you a volume or schedule a coffee run for further discussion.

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