Mark Chapter 8:1-10

Chapter 8 begins with another large miraculous feeding.

1 Ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις πάλιν πολλοῦ ὄχλου ὄντος καὶ μὴ ἐχόντων τί φάγωσιν,προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς μαθητὰς λέγει αὐτοῖς,

In those days there being again a large crowd not having anything to eat, he (Jesus) calling together the disciples said to them,

1 In illis diebus iterum cum turba multa esset nec haberent, quod manducarent, convocatis discipulis, ait illis:

2 Σπλαγχνίζομαι ἐπὶ τὸν ὄχλον ὅτι ἤδη ἡμέραι τρεῖς προσμένουσίν μοι καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσιν τί φάγωσιν:

“I feel compassion upon the crowd  that now three days they have been remaining (abiding) with me and they don’t have anything to eat.”

There is a phenomenon in historical writing known as ‘twinning’, in which a single event is reported as two separate events that occurred at different times. For example, the first five or ten books of Livy, that deal with the first 200 years of the Republic are full of such ‘twinned’ events. Most often, they are battles.

So when we get another episode in which Jesus fed a large crowd with meagre resources, my first reaction is that a single event has been twinned into two separate occurrences. Why would this happen? Mark is very conscious that he is reporting a second similar incidence of feeding. He tells us this is happening ‘again’.  I also like the detail that the crowd has been following (remaining with/abiding) Jesus for three days. That is distinctly different from the first iteration.

The reason for the replication, IMO, is to drive home the point that Jesus = God. Just as YHWH was able to sustain the Israelites in the desert for forty years, so Jesus is able to sustain his following. 

2 “ Misereor super turbam, quia iam triduo sustinent me nec habent, quod manducent;

3 καὶ ἐὰν ἀπολύσω αὐτοὺς νήστεις εἰς οἶκον αὐτῶν, ἐκλυθήσονται ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ: καί τινες αὐτῶν ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἥκασιν.

And if  I were to send them away fasting to their homes, they would be faint upon the road. And some of them have come from a long distance.

I checked: << ἀπὸ μακρόθεν >>  (far, here = from far/afar) is not the term Matthew uses to describe whence came the Magi. 

The image of fainting on the road is truly telling. I almost wonder if these are the details that went with the original version of the story, and if the first incidence of the 5,000 is not the twin.

 3 et si dimisero eos ieiunos in domum suam, deficient in via; et quidam ex eis de longe venerunt ”.

4 καὶ ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι Πόθεν τούτους δυνήσεταί τις ὧδε χορτάσαι ἄρτων ἐπ’ ἐρημίας;

And his disciples responded that, “Whence is one able something to satisfy (i.e., as in satisfy hunger) of bread in the wilderness?”    

Quick note on English: “whence” = “from where”. It has the sense of motion, that something is coming from someplace else. OTOH “Where” can imply motion to or from, but it can also be passive in the sense of a general location. “Satisfy (hunger implied) of bread” is obviously awkward. But that’s pretty much how the Greek works.

But again, note that we are in the wilderness. This is important for the reasons discussed in the feeding of the 5,000. God provided manna in the wilderness; so Jesus provides here.

4 Et responderunt ei discipuli sui: “ Unde istos poterit quis hic saturare panibus in solitudine? ”.

5 καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτούς, Πόσους ἔχετε ἄρτους; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Ἑπτά.

And he asked them, “How many (loaves of) bread do you have?” They then said, “Seven.”

FYI: <<  ἄρτους >> contains the notion of both bread and the loaf. The concept is something like that the bread cannot be unless it”s in a loaf. Which, to some extent, is true. The bread (leavened with yeast) has to take on some form. The Latin is similar. Both essentially say “How many breads do you have?”

5 Et interrogabat eos: “ Quot panes habetis? ”. Qui dixerunt: “ Septem ”.

6 καὶ παραγγέλλει τῷ ὄχλῳ ἀναπεσεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν καὶ παρέθηκαν τῷ ὄχλῳ.

And he commanded the crowd to sit upon the earth. And, taking the seven loaves having been blessed, he broke them and gave them to his disciples so that they would set them before, and they set them before the crowd.

Couple of interesting facets about the Greek.  In the second clause, starting with << τοὺς ἑπτὰ  ἄρτους… >>, “the seven loaves” serves as the direct object of all the six verbs in the clause.  This is one of the advantages of a case language like Greek or Latin. In contrast, I have to keep inserting a “them” with each of the last five verbs. And the final two verbs, << παρατιθῶσιν καὶ παρέθηκαν >> are different forms of the same word, “to set before/to serve.” So it’s not me being redundant, but the Greek. Stylistically, English would be better rendered by using both forms, but that would obscure the Greek a bit.

6 Et praecipit turbae discumbere supra terram; et accipiens septem panes, gratias agens fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut apponerent; et apposuerunt turbae.

7 καὶ εἶχον ἰχθύδια ὀλίγα: καὶ εὐλογήσας αὐτὰ εἶπεν καὶ ταῦτα παρατιθέναι

And they had a little fish (small amount of, not a small fish); and, blessing them he told (them = the disciples) to distribute them (= the fish) and they served them (the fish).

The bits in parentheses are not in the original, but added to make the English comprehensible. The final verb, “to serve” is the same verb “to set before/serve” as in V-6

7 Et habebant pisciculos paucos; et benedicens eos, iussit hos quoque apponi.

8καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν, καὶ ἦραν περισσεύματα κλασμάτων ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας.

And they ate, and they were satiated, and there were seven baskets (measures) of fragments.

A note about << σπυρίδας >> will follow in the discussion of V-19 in the next installment.

8 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt; et sustulerunt, quod superaverat de fragmentis, septem sportas.

ἦσαν δὲ ὡς τετρακισχίλιοι. καὶ ἀπέλυσεν αὐτούς.

There were four thousand. And he dismissed them.

9 Erant autem quasi quattuor milia. Et dimisit eos.

10 Καὶ εὐθὺς ἐμβὰς εἰς τὸ πλοῖον μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ἦλθεν εἰς τὰ μέρη Δαλμανουθά.

And immediately embarking onto the boat with his disciples they went to the territory of Dalmanoutha.

10 Et statim ascendens navem cum discipulis suis venit in partes Dalmanutha.

I am not entirely sure that I have much more to say about this. I do believe that this and the 5,000 recall a single event, and the story became garbled as it was transmitted through various sources. The result was, by the time it got to Mark, there seemed to be two separate incidents. Feel free to disagree.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on April 9, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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