Luke Chapter 9:11-17

Here is another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. Actually, this is one of the few stories that are present in all four gospels. This time, it’s the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s very short, comoing in at a mere six verses. If you’ll recall, Mark and Matthew have Jesus feeding five thousand, and then later feeding four thousand. Both evangelists provide full accounts of “both” these feedings. The quotes are there because I am firmly of the opinion that the event, or the story, was “twinned”; this is the process whereby the account of a single event ends up splitting into two separate events. The process usually occurs when two separate groups, not in communication with each other, each tell their own version of the story. With time, the two stories no longer line up exactly, so the people encountering the other version believe that this second version must refer to a separate event. If you read Livy Book I, there are a number of battles that involve the same enemy and sufficiently–but not completely–similar circumstances that scholars believe it’s a single battle that has become “twinned” in this fashion. The question then becomes how long it will take for this twinning to occur. A year? Two years? Ten? It seems reasonable to infer that the less similar the circumstances related in the story, the longer the time the two accounts have been separated. In this case, the major difference is the number of people fed and the number of loaves and fishes in each event. That’s a pretty small difference. Ergo, I would infer that the separation of the stories was not too long.

There is a whole strain of biblical research of late fixating on oral traditions. The idea is to “prove” that oral traditions trustworthy and accurate. The problem is that the research, IMO, reaches a conclusion first, and then argues backwards. From all I’ve read of biblical scholarship, there is a lot of this going on. At root, it’s about the differences between the texts, what this says overall about the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, and how the context clearly favors the existence of Q. My apologies, but this is not real scholarship. Note the emphasis on overall; I do that because there is very little analysis of what the difference in the way each story is told by the different evangelists. IOW, there’s very little of what I’m doing here. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one source for events in the Graeco-Roman world–which is almost nonexistent for Greek history, but more common for periods of Roman history–the scholarship goes through the texts line-by-line to examine and discuss the differences and what the possible implications could be. I have found nothing of the sort in biblical scholarship; if anyone can point me to it, please do so. I would love to read this kind of analysis.

Anyway, the thing is, having been reading secular and pagan historical writing and biography from this period, I can state very strongly that we are not getting historical writing in the NT. The gospels are not, and were never intended to be, history in any sense that we would recognise the concept. Biblical scholars need to read some of these sources–and not just the dozen lines in Josephus, or the three 0r four paragraphs of Tacitus that mention Jesus or Christians.

OK, let’s get on to the

TEXT

12 Ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤρξατο κλίνειν: προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δώδεκα εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ἀπόλυσον τὸν ὄχλον, ἵνα πορευθέντες εἰς τὰς κύκλῳ κώμας καὶ ἀγροὺς καταλύσωσιν καὶ εὕρωσιν ἐπισιτισμόν, ὅτι ὧδε ἐν ἐρήμῳ τόπῳ ἐσμέν.

The day began to decline; coming forward the Twelve said to him, “Send away the crowd, so that going into the surrounding villages and fields they disband and find food, since we are in a desert place. 

This is the standard setting of the scene. The disciples want to send the people away because they are in a deserted or empty place–the word can have both meanings; think t he “desert isle” on which Gilligan & company were stranded. Note the Twelve. This is the only version of the story that uses the Twelve; the others simply say “the disciples”.

12 Dies autem coeperat declinare; et accedentes Duodecim dixerunt illi: “ Dimitte turbam, ut euntes in castella villasque, quae circa sunt, divertant et inveniant escas, quia hic in loco deserto sumus ”.

13 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἡμῖν πλεῖον ἢ ἄρτοι πέντε καὶ ἰχθύες δύο, εἰ μήτι πορευθέντες ἡμεῖς ἀγοράσωμεν εἰς πάντα τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον βρώματα.

14 ἦσαν γὰρ ὡσεὶ ἄνδρες πεντακισχίλιοι. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.

He said to them, “Give to them to eat”. They said, “There is not to us (dative of possession) more than five loaves and two fishes. Unless going we buy for all the people this food”. (14) For there were so many men as five thousand. He said to his disciples, “Have them recline on the grass in [so many as] fifty.”  

The specificity of this is striking. On the grass. Groups of fifty. The attention to detail is intriguing. One could argue that this level of detail indicates an eyewitness account, told by someone who had been there and seen this, especially since these details are present in the earliest version; the grass even persists through John’s telling of the story. Unfortunately for this would-be argument, the details could have been added at anytime before Mark wrote. These are the sorts of things that can–and do–get added to the tale as it’s told. Again, I keep going back to the Arthur legend, wherein the stories became more elaborate with the passing of time. This is, I believe, another example of that process, or phenomenon.

13 Ait autem ad illos: “ Vos date illis manducare ”. At illi dixerunt: “ Non sunt nobis plus quam quinque panes et duo pisces, nisi forte nos eamus et emamus in omnem hanc turbam escas”.

14 Erant enim fere viri quinque milia. Ait autem ad discipulos suos: “ Facite illos discumbere per convivia ad quinquagenos”.

15 καὶ ἐποίησαν οὕτως καὶ κατέκλιναν ἅπαντας.

16 λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.

17 καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν πάντες, καὶ ἤρθη τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων κόφινοι δώδεκα.

And they (the disciples) did in this way and all reclined. (16) Taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up to the sky he blessed them and broke them and gave to the disciples to set before the crowd. (17) And they ate and they were all fed, and they took up the excess from them and filled twelve baskets.

This version is truly condensed, almost to the point of being a précis. Considering that Luke did not scruple to leave out other bits of Mark, one wonders why he even bothered to include this one. My guess would be that this story was too well-known to omit; after all, John even includes it. But John does not include the Sermon on the Mount, or a lot of the other teachings of Jesus that were allegedly contained in Q. Why is that? My suspicion is that this story was seen as too much of an epitome of how Jesus was seen. And what Jesus is in this story is a wonder worker. That, I would argue, was first and foremost how Jesus was seen. John even continues the tradition with some major wonders worked by Jesus, including changing water to wine and raising Lazarus. The Gospel of John represents the final and complete melding of the wonder worker and the divine entity identities of Jesus. 

15 Et ita fecerunt et discumbere fecerunt omnes.

16 Acceptis autem quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, respexit in caelum et benedixit illis et fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante turbam.

17 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt omnes; et sublatum est, quod superfuit illis, fragmentorum cophini duodecim.

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 December 12, 2017, in Chapter 9, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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