Why does the Gospel of Mark, generally agreed to be our earliest gospel, introduce Andrew as an equal to Simon Peter at the time Jesus calls them both but then drop him from the lime-light for most of the subsequent narrative?
I have always felt a bit sorry for Andrew. He seems to have been elbowed out by the other three, Peter, James and John, whenever Jesus wanted to share something special with his inner-circle. James and John could always be included as brothers, so why was Peter’s brother left out at special events like
- the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37);
- the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2);
- the time Jesus wanted his closest companions with him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).
Even when Jesus ordained his special band of Twelve he gave James and John a collective title, “Sons of Thunder”, but dropped Andrew to fourth place as if he was no longer kin to Peter.
And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite . . . (Mark 3:16-18)
So if Andrew was not to play any meaningful role, even as a hanger-on, with Jesus in the Gospel what was the point of him starring in the scene of the very first call?
Now as [Jesus] walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)
Andrew’s response to Jesus’ call was no less admirable than was Peter’s.
There is one exception after this call where the Gospel does give Andrew a place beside Peter, James and John. For the first time since the opening scenes of the Gospel when Jesus called these four do we see them all performing together:
And as [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? (Mark 13:3-4)
I have finally come across an explanation that just might make sense of this and give some well-deserved consolation to Andrew. (Regular readers know I’m currently reading Karel Hanhart’s The Open Tomb and will suspect this is my source. They will be correct.)
Simon (later named Peter) is a Hebrew name. He will become the leader of the Twelve.
Andrew, the name of his brother, “is a Greek name par excellence”.
That’s surely at least slightly odd. But we recall Mark loves these little word-plays. In a recent post we saw how he combined an Aramaic “Bar” with the Greek “Timaeus” to form a Jewish-Greek hybrid name presumably for a symbolic purpose.
Here’s Hanhart’s suspicion to explain what is going on here:
Mark reflects the situation of the ecclesias in the Diaspora, especially those under Pauline influence, in which Gentile members were emphatically regarded as having the same rights and privileges as Judean members. The number four has the symbolic meaning of the four corners of the earth. Since Mark wanted to depict in Capernaum the very beginnings of the worldwide Ecclesia, the Gentile Andrew was at the very outset “honored” as being the brother (adelphos) of Peter and having equal status.
Of course. Well, at least it makes sense if we accept (as I believe we should) the many indications that the Gospel of Mark was a highly symbolic narrative. But why leave him out so much?
Yet, he had, of course, to be omitted in those parts of the Gospel dealing with Jesus’ ministry [prior to the preaching to the Gentiles]. Mark wanted to convince his readers that from the very beginning Jesus intended to form a community of Judeans and Gentiles, “reconciled.” (p. 233)
Why his inclusion with the other three when they wanted to ask Jesus about the time when Jerusalem would no longer be the centre of worship? I guess that’s fairly obvious. This was the prophecy that looked beyond the mission of Jesus primarily to the Jews and the time when the Kingdom of God would unite all peoples, Jew and Gentile, as one.
So the real question is why did Peter have a brother with a Greek name who made a highly honoured appearance at all. I think it highly likely that the answer lies in the symbolic function of so many names in Mark’s Gospel.
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38 thoughts on “Why is Peter’s Brother, Andrew, Overlooked So Much in the Gospel Narrative?”
Agree that Mark is filled with puns and symbolism and that it is a uniting of Greeks and Jews.
Andrew, the first of the disciples, means “man, strong, warrior, which coincidentally aligns with the first zodiac sign Aries. John and James mirror Castor and Pollux, “The Gemini”. James means “he takes the position or place of”. James becomes the first to take over in Gnostic texts. Castor and Pollux are the sons of Zeus, The God of Thunder, thus James and John are said to be “Sons of Thunder”. They are famed for calming the storms for sailors. Thomas also means “twin”.
Then we have Matthew or MatiYahu, the combination of Mat, associated with motherhood, and Yah/Iah, the Egyptian moon god. Philip, from Bethsaida “House of Fish”, Bartholomew, said to mean “Son of Furrow”, the ancient name for the zodiac sign Virgo, and Simon.
In Mark 1:16-18, Jesus or Yeshua (Yah saves) walks (planet means “wanderer” – like wandering 40 days and 40 years in the desert, “walker”, and “traveler”) by The Sea (an astro term) of Galilee, meaning “rolled around”, “a circle”, or “wheel”.
Does it have anything to do with the meaning or teaching? No. Puns and association, I think so.
I don’t see how any of this adds any insights into explaining the narrative in the Gospel. It does appear to me to be subjective creativity. Firstly, I don’t know where “warrior” comes from in connection with Andrew, or why this name should be associated with any constellation (let alone Aries — others have said the “man” equates with Aquarius, anyway). I am aware of the Gemini associations with James and John but I am also aware that those associations are justified by reference to details that come much later than the narrative in Mark. So that looks like another bit of subjective astrological association that was developed late rather than being part of the author’s plan. And to throw in Thomas as a Twin immediately causes problems for the argument that the disciples represent the zodiac because then we have two Geminis. Then you have the zodiac constellations “wandering” with Jesus —
All of this sounds as fictional as someone assigning bits and pieces of my personality to a particular star-sign and declaring me to be such-and-such a sign.
It adds nothing at all that I can see to explaining the meaning of the narrative details themselves. But the idea that a Greek name does represent Greeks — an interpretation apparently supported by the Gospel of John’s linking of Andrew with the soon-coming conversion of the Greeks — does explain why it would be linked with Simon Peter (isn’t he supposed to be Aries by other accounts?) in some scenes but not others.
The conventional explanations for Galilee, the sea, the wilderness, the house, the door, and so on have the benefit of adding meaning to the actual narrative itself and its theological themes. The astro labels given to different aspects add nothing to the meaning of the story-shape, its events, its overall plot.
The puns and associations I speak of at least relate to the story theme and theological message. The astro ones don’t. They reduce the story to a two-dimensional board game inviting one to see how many discrete details one can attach from astrological concepts.
The man equates to Aries? Warrior is exactly what Aries is associated with. It seems you agree you have no idea why Andrew would be associated with a warrior and we both agree he is not historical I would imagine. creativity? Rev. 4:6 and numerous other verses say that “the sea” is celestial. Revelation 4 also associates that area with the 4 exact images of the fixed signs of the zodiac, the eagle, ox, lion, and man. I didn’t create any of this. I’m looking for the best explanation for them. Your version? The ox, man, lion, and eagle mean what? We agree the “sea” of Galilee is not a sea so why is it called a sea again? Galilee meaning “rolled around”, a circle” fits what again? Its shape?
You’re aware that Mark was written before the story of the calming of the storm in Jason and the Argonauts?Jason and the Argonauts was written after Mark? (from Martkos meaning “consecrated to Mars”, the ruler of Aries) Youseem to be forcing everything with me to be literal.Is this post not subjective as are many others? We don’t have direct evidence of what any of this means, yet we agree it is mythical, which is why you need to come up with the best explanation, I get it.
A mythological person named “warrior” explains the move to the Greeks? Or are we just ignoring the name? Isn’t Jesus a Greek name? You are subjectively coming up with your own explanation which may or may not be true, which is fine.
What was your explanation for the 12? We agree they’re fiction I assume, so why 12 exactly? Jesus cant be said to wander with the 12? Again, You’re taking it all literal. Odysseus and his 12need to be literal? Hercules and his 12 literal? Horus and the 12? 12 stones on Aaron’s breastplate? So your meaning for the exact number of the 12 is what?
The “Sons of Thunder” means what?
I can see I’m irritating you, so I’ll just read from now on. I will hope at least that at some point you will try to give me your thoughts on yesterdays question to you. Thanks again.
As I said before, His meaning may be correct, but it doesn’t have to be a this OR that thing. If we randomly took 100 people (even then), how many do you think would be twins? Yet they are associated both with the 12 sons of Israel and the 12 disciples. And others.
There has been plenty of time for the people living in Israel to change the names of their cities and many of the cities are mentioned in the bible, such as “Elat/Eilat”, another name of the goddess Asherah, whom the Jews worshipped, Beth Shemesh (“house of the sun goddess”), Beth Yerach/Kirbet Kerak (“house of the moon”), Beth Horon (god of the Underworld), Beth Peor (another god), Beth Merhak (“house of a far off place”), and possibly even Bethlehem, said to mean “house of Lachmu”, a fertility god worshipped there. “house of …” can mean different things is all I’m saying. One does wonder why some of these are still their names when they are supposedly monotheists who worship a jealous god, but that’s an entirely different ballgame.
The “astro” thing can explain numerous awkward verses in the bible such as the mark on Cain’s forehead, Jonah in “A Great Fish” for 3 days, the 2 bears who mauled children, the “2 asses that get mentioned (Jesus supposedly sitting on both in 1 account), talk of “hairy” and “bald”, a boat associated with a bird that can hold every animal, people’s insides spilling out, being “happy for dashing children against the stones”, talk of dragons and snakes, and numerous others.
We can’t ignore them so we need to come up with a more reasonable, coherent explanations for them and the numerous other things I mentioned before that don’t align with people who are monotheistic and supposedly despised astrology. My hypothesis has no problem explaining them or at least aligns with them and would actually predict much of it. That’s all I’m saying.
MacDonald, Hanhart, and others can be right about the meanings of these things, yet the numerous stories that just happen to align with astro (and would be predicted by it), can also be because it is. These stories (used for their own purpose) could also be used to take stabs at the pagans indirectly, knowing they would get the reference.
Anyway, I’ll leave it alone and thank you for your comments whether we agree or not. That’s why I love your blog.
Hi Tim, I took the time to reply to your comments (patiently, far from irritated, — I am sorry I apparently came across that way to you) because this is evidently something of wider interest and especially because you were saying things like:
So I listened for you to elaborate and then I gave my reasoning — as I understood you were requesting. What disappoints me is that you do not appear to have registered what I have written but have reacted with some incredulity that I don’t accept your viewpoint.
I thought you were interested in hearing my viewpoint in response to yours and why I don’t accept your interpretations. I would really appreciated it if you would respond to the reasons and problems with your view that I expressed.
Instead, you have, it appears, repeated more of the same fallacious and sometimes misinformed claims and implied I am being self-serving and stubborn for not seeing things your way. I really would like you to consider seriously the reasons I gave why I do not accept your views and read my reasons in good faith. I do fear you have been misled by some information that is simply untrue, flat false (e.g. Odysseus did not have 12 followers as I said initially but you are still repeating that), and are failing to grasp and apply some of the most elementary principles of informal logic and scholarly methods of analysis of evidence.
Sorry Neil, you’re right, it was his 12 adventures. I have no problem with you disagreeing with me. I told you these things don’t have to be literal all the time. It has more to do with the scene many times than the meaning or who is who exactly. I heard you say that you disagreed with me, but maybe I missed the part where you answered many of my specific questions. I thought made it pretty clear. Again, I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, but you asked me to give you things that are predictable and I thought I gave you examples. If you disagree with them, what is your reasoning? That’s fine. I understand logical fallacies such as “correlation doesn’t mean causation”, but I’m not saying it has to be certain things, but I was asking you for your more reasonable, more coherent, supportable answer. You didn’t address them that I can see. You said things like house, wilderness, and others can be taken for their conventional meaning and I agree. I then brought up the fact that numerous cities in Israel are named the “house of numerous deities, the sun and moon and how it is coherent with their monotheism, … and got no response. I mentioned the “wandering and walking definition of planet and you disagreed. Fine, but why the exact term. They could have used numerous different terms such as “Noah followed god’s advice…”, “had faith in…”, “put his trust in “… and numerous other terms like”spent time in…, went to…, left for… but they use “walked with God” and wandered 40 … specifically. Not exactly a typical term “walked with God. Prove anything. No, but the most the reasonable? I think we agree they are fictional, so why the specific number 40. “Astro” can provide a possible answer, what is yours? I asked you about your version of “The Sons of Thunder”, I didn’t see a response. I’m not saying you’re being selfish and stubborn at all. I simply was looking for your view of these things that make better sense. You might have a better explanation, I just haven’t heard your version of them. I get the scholarly methods of evidence thing, but what is their better explanation for these things?
I asked you why you think Galilee means “rolled around,” “a circle”, or the basic image of a wheel. I didn’t see your response. I told you it explains numerous odd verses in the bible such as … and you said nothing and didn’t give me your version. I asked you why you thought Jesus is said to die and rise at the exact time of the 365 day year as celebrations for other gods. Nothing. I asked you what your version of the man, ox, eagle, and lion were and mentioned the see it was talking about and got nothing. I asked you what you thought about all the sun and moon names and how that aligns with their monotheism. Nothing.
I asked you your thoughts on the exact sequence of the bull, to lamb, to fish, and to waterbearer, … I asked you numerous other things and you always came back to forcing people to continue in the same direction and said others had their versions of that person, … but again, I’m not forcing the meaning and all actions to fit, I’m talking about the scene most times. Can you imagine if Jesus and others were constantly going back and forth like robots. Wouldn’t make sense, but having to do with bulls, lambs, twins, eagles, lions, dragons, serpents, water bearers, … do make sense and would be expected (predicted). I asked you your more reasonable response for 3,4,7,12,28,30,70,120, 144,… nothing.
what is the scholarly view of the “great fish and rising 3 days later? 2 bears? cain’s mark? 2 asses? Anything? Or are we just ignoring it?
So where did you take the time to respond to my specific questions? If you disagree, fine, Why and what is your better explanation for these specific things. That’s all I was asking you for.
The reason I thought I was irritating you is specifically because I know you didn’t want it to turn to far off the subject. It had nothing to do with me trying to force my views on you. Seriously. You have obviously gone over this stuff I would suppose, I was simply looking for the responses I never seem to get. Not the ones I want to hear, the ones I never get and I was hoping you would at least answer many of them (not all of them) or point me to somewhere that does. Not saying its a fallacy, these specific questions of mine. An individual argument can be a fallacy, yet the information is true. Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but collectively, it may be the best explanation for the evidence and even true in other instances is all I’m saying. If not, why not?
Why are historians who lived at that time saying certain things were astro? What would give them that idea? Why were others saying Jews and Christians “honored Saturn” and “worshipped the sun and prayed toward the east”,… astro in D.S.S.? Astro words all throughout and thousands of times?
Zodiac mosaics found in synagogues? Why? Not 1 or 2, several. None of these were responded to. In fact, you didn’t seem to answer hardly any of them. I think you’ll see that I answered or at least responded to most of your comments. If only a handful, please try to respond to what you think are my best questions, not my least.
What historians? What do they say exactly? So there were synagogues with zodiacs. I don’t see the problem with that. We know Judaism in ancient times was not what it became later. Who said the Jews honoured Saturn? What was the context? I know the answer but I don’t see its relevance here. Ditto for Christians worshiping towards the east? What’s the point? Sorry, I really don’t see any issue or need to jump into astrotheology. What is it about these things that concerns you or makes you wonder about certain things?
Astro words thousands of times? Are you sure that every time “fish” is used it is always alluding to Pisces? What other sorts of words, exactly, are you referring to? What are their contexts, really?
Simply adding more and more excerpts from astrological/astronomical lore does nothing to advance the argument. Parallelomania is the term coined to address just that fallacy. To establish parallels what is required is a detailed analysis of the terms used, the phrases and structures in the sources being compared. Anyone can take a grab-bag of terms and pick from that pile terms to fit anything anywhere. That’s what Sandmel is talking about when he says just applying excerpts is a form of invalid extravagance. To prove that point I showed on another discussion forum how one can apply atrological concepts to every phrase in the opening sentences of Casey’s new book. See http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=471&start=20#p8254 If I wanted to I am sure I could do the same for everything in the rest of the book, too. I could probably do it for most shopping lists if I wanted.
Furthermore, what I was trying to point out was that several of your meanings and comparisons are false anyway. Who says Andrew meant “warrior” in ancient times or any time? What is the evidence for this?
But even where there are real parallels they are, as Sandmel also pointed out, meaningless if they are applied the way astrotheology buffs apply them to anything. So the 4 beasts at the throne have astrological matches? So what? I don’t know what that means except that perhaps it shows God rules the universe.
I have gone through several passages in the gospels showing their intertextual relationships. Scholars do that a lot. That’s where you’ll find the answers to some of your specific questions.
Hilarious. I just found a response from you that I didn’t read. Makes more sense now. I agree it was Philo’s interpretation but think he might be correct. Mary had 7 demons, not 7 she devils. You are correct. So sin is just a coincidence? wow that’s crazy. I agree the 12 thing doesn’t mean it is a sun myth, but the 12 thing sure makes sense to me. Is there something else 12 is known for other than the 12 months? not a meaning of 12, the number itself. Just thought the 12 with the lamb, bull, waterbearer, eagle, twins, … seems almost impossible to be coincidence. Yes other animals are mentioned but I think you would admit the main players and themes fit the zodiac. No? Do you really think the eagle, man, lion, ox verses are not referring to the 4 fixed signs of the zodiac? Or are you saying they are, but shouldn’t be taken as astrotheology some way?
I understand the bible is not a single book, I just think they wrote stories reflective of the astrological age they were in. Again, it just seems amazing to me that they match the exact animal, time, and sequence. Agree astro doesn’t always explain the meaning and plot, but I wasn’t saying it was about the detailed meaning of the story.
Ok, makes a little more sense now, but there are still things that don’t make sense or seem incoherent such as Iah/Yah being a moon god, Canaanites with Yahweh and El. They all predate the Israelites and any evidence we have from the Israelites correct? Why would they adopt them and add them in their names if they supposedly despised Egypt and Canaan? Or didn’t they? Then Christianity turns around and adopts all the astro stuff, yet argues against it. Doesn’t make sense to me. 3, 4, 7, 12, 28, 30, 40, 70, 120, 144. These are all major numbers in astro. I know there are many other numbers, but again, they are the main ones and make sense in astrology/astronomy.
Jonah in “a great fish” and rising after 3 days, Noah’s huge boat and the bird, 2 bears, 2 asses, talk of hairy, the zodiac mosaics, Jesus dying and rising exactly at the spring Equinox? All fit astro very well. What do scholars think they are referring to if you know? If they don’t know, I’m just saying they make sense in astro. When I looked up the astro terminology, I was blown away at the number of terms and their frequency in the bible. Doesn’t mean it has to be, just sayin they are everywhere at a high frequency.
astro in the D.S.S? Do you have any thoughts? Anyway, I would say those are at least some of the major issues I was having. Ugh. This stuff is exhausting. I don’t know how you do it. Thanks Neil, maybe next time I should read all the responses. If you have thoughts on the other things I mentioned in this last post please let me know. Still not crystal clear but learned a few more things today.
Hi Tim, I can’t respond to each point right now but will try to address a few. Hopefully those responses will start to give you a more general idea of where I am coming from.
Twelve is big in lots of places. The zodiacal signs are only one place for them. Mathematics was a part of Greek philosophy and numbers were widely believed to have certain mystical properties. So we can understand why some of these would be used to try to structure the sky as well as other things on earth. Plato wrote that the ideal number of tribes in the ideal state was twelve. He used no astrology to come to this conclusion. But we do know he had an appreciation for mystical meanings of various numbers. A growing number of OT scholars are beginning now to suspect that the OT was composed very late and a few have seen strong influences of Plato in some of its books. It is not unreasonable to think that the biblical authors borrowed the notion of 12 tribes from the Platonic ideal that 12 tribes was the ideal number for the ideal political entity. At least this hypothesis has the ability to be tested by a close study of the structures of the way Plato wrote about this in his Laws and the context and structures in which they appear in the biblical texts.
It is quite plausible that the Hebrew deity originated or evolved from a solar or some other cosmic god. But that doesn’t mean that after his evolution into El or whatever that people believed they were still worshiping the sun or whatever. We aren’t worshiping the planets because we name the days of the week after them. Christians today — at least significant numbers of them — still worship at sunrise services, some even facing the sun, at Easter time. They aren’t worshiping the sun.
I don’t believe Christianity did adopt astro stuff at all. Astro stuff was to some extent added to it over time as it adapted to social pressures. Christmas was adopted too because the Saturnalia or Brumalia was such a popular pagan festival. It didn’t mean Christians started worshiping Saturn.
The time of Jesus’ death and resurrection is far more plausibly explained within terms of the Jewish festivals — Passover and then the first day of firstfruits (Sunday for a major faction of them) leading up to Pentecost. Probably way, way back those Hebrew festivals had some astronomical connections but if so they were lost over time as they came to represent new myths.
If you’ve looked up the number of times astro terminology is used in the bible I suspect you’ve been witnessing the excesses that Sandmel warned about in his article on parallelomania. The Bible is a special book so it adds to its mystery if we can link astro concepts to it’s images, but as I showed in that other discussion group, once we pull out excerpts like that from any body of knowledge we can find ways to apply them to anything. I dare say if we had the patience we could take all the concepts from medicine or anatomy and apply them to the Bible, too, by using that method.
I get that Plato talks about 12 having symbolic meaning, but it still doesn’t explain where he came up with the number 12 is all I’m saying. Totally agree with the O.T. being written late. Everything seems to pop up in the Hellenistic period (270 BCE and on) with no one even mentioning them prior to. Agree, Plato was big. Greek influence seems overwhelming to me. Succession of wisdom lit, Apocrypha, and Gnosis all being associated with “hidden mystical meanings” right into early Christian thought and Gnostic thought. Everyone of our oldest N.T. manuscripts seem to be found in or around Alexandria, the complete opposite direction of where they are said to be written.
I agree that it doesn’t mean Christians now worship the sun or that later Jews were worshipping the moon and Saturn, I was referring to their origin. The Egyptian and Canaanite evidence is older than the Jewish evidence, so one way or another, they adopted the names of their supposed rival gods for their own god who is supposedly a jealous god. They supposedly worshipped a jealous god who hates symbols of the zodiac, yet put them in their synogogues? Just doesn’t make sense you know. Like claiming to be a vegetarian while eating a hamburger. The days of the week are secular things I get it, but religious groups can pick and choose when to celebrate festivals and such and both make the Spring Equinox a major player, yet it is when many of the other festivals were for other gods they were competing with and had to do with the death/rebirth theme. I think we agree their stories are not historical, so they more than likely aligned it with that exact time. Yes, they changed it for their own purpose, but it is still at the core. Sunday was associated with the Sun for a reason right? They could have picked any other week day or any other of the 365 days of the year for the Passover story and Jesus’ resurrection, but chose that time.
I’m not sure if you have seen all of my comments. 12 (3×4, 360/30) is a mathematically significant number and has mystical properties among ancient philosophers. Why did they decide to apply 12 to the heavens? Why not 13? That would work just as well with a lunar calendar? Take a look at the history of mathematics.
What doesn’t make sense re the synagogues and mosaic zodiacs is the popular ideas of what Jewish religion was about in ancient times. The popular understanding – taken mainly from a literal reading of the Bible — is in very many cases simply wrong. The Bible’s laws certainly do not tell us what Jews as a whole lived by. Certain books were written by priestly factions who were opposed to certain ongoing practices — and they debated with other factions. They did not dictate to all Jews how to live or worship. We have clear archaeological evidence that such writings were largely irrelevant for the general population. We tend to interpret pre-70 Judaism through the Judaism of the rabbis that emerged later.
You keep coming back to Sunday worship as significant to this question. Do you know if the first Christians called the first day of the week “Sun” day. You seem to be unaware of the significance for the day in connection with the offering of first of firstfruits after Passover. Understandably, I suppose, because it’s not big on our calendars since the destruction of the Temple. But even if it had nothing to do with that that festival, there is absolutely no evidence or reason to think worship on that day had anything to do with sun-worship. None at all. I don’t see what’s concerning you on this point.
a circle. 360 degrees. 12 divides evenly.
Don’t forget that people (specifically Mesopotamians) made up the 360 division. They could have chosen to divide a circle into 100 degrees if they wanted.
They could have, but they didn’t. I was looking for why 12 was considered a mystical number. The 10 tribes of Israel and the 10 disciples. What could have been. HaHa
All numbers had mystical significance among ancient philosophers. The author of the Gospel of John is known to have structured some of his narrative sections around numbers, and we have his clear reference to the Pythagorean number of fish caught.
agreed. I understand that all numbers had mystical meanings. I was looking for why 12 was considered an ideal amount of tribes. I get they had a symbolic meaning, but why was 12 considered an ideal number is what I was wondering, not whether it was. I know te numbers in John and others. I agree, its all over the bible. Nobig deal. I’ll try to look it up.
Plato’s different numbers for this and that in his Laws have a lot to do with their relationship to 5040, the ideal number of citizens in a city-state.
So the tribes are not settled in some sort of zodiacal sequence but quite contrary to both the sequence and layout of the zodiac. The twelve gods are arbitrarily (by lot) assigned to each one. Compare Ezekiel’s ideal city. And also the layout of the tribes surrounding the ark of the covenant in the wilderness. If they were originated from the zodiac then we would expect them to reflect the order of the zodiac, but they don’t. Yes, because there are twelve, we are invited to compare with the zodiac, as people like Philo did — but they did not say, and they are not evidence for, the tribes originating as zodiacal elements. Plato evidently wanted the blessing of all twelve Olympian gods on the city and it is this that explains in part his plan of twelve since he goes on to describe how each tribe honours its own god in festivals. But there is nothing zodiacal hinted at in any of this.
Of course, the 12 divisions of the skies occurred a long time before Plato, and the Greeks and Jews learned from the Babylonians, so Plato might not be the origin. While looking this stuff up, I am finding what you said about the mathematics behind 12, its mystical aspects, and why they picked 12 to separate the skies, and it is basically saying that they are connected. That ultimately it is due to time keeping and star gazing. It mentions that 12 was considered a divine number, that the 12 were associated with gods who watched over people (like Plato’s ideal state), and that this lead to religion adopting it (12 zodiac signs associated with 12 divine commanders in Zoroastrianism, 12 deities on Mt. Olympus, 12 stations of life in Buddhism, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 sons of Jacob, 12 disciples, …
Of course Ezekiel is right up there with Revelation in its astro visions so I don’t know. I’ll do more research and try to weed things out. Thanks for your insight. It’s always good to get someone else’s viewpoint and I appreciate the time you’ve given me.
Another way of looking at the question: Let’s imagine that the author of the first gospel was a lover of astrology and it just popped into his head to give Jesus 12 disciples because he liked the idea of matching them to the zodiac. (The ref to 12 in Paul is deemed a later interpolation.) Is there anything in the Gospel narrative that supports the idea that any of his readers took the number that way, or that the author himself played with that zodiacal inspiration? I suggest there is absolutely nothing and all the evidence is that they viewed the number 12 as representative of the tribes of Israel and all other associations were woven around Jewish and Christian theological concepts that had nothing to do with astrology. Thus even if the author was prompted by zodiacal leanings in the first instance there was never at any time any evidence that these had any significance whatever. It is all about Israel and the new Israel.
Once one starts going the way of seeing how many astrological concepts can be tagged on to Bible stories there is no end to the creativity of imaginations. That is exactly what Sandmel was warning against.
Neil, I’ve said this a few times now. I am not taking anything away from the meanings and theological directions that the Jews and Christians were aiming at. I agree that the 12 disciples are a reflection of the 12 tribes. I’m not even saying the writers were specifically trying to write astrotheology all the time. I’m just saying it may be a possible blueprint. The specific details can be whatever they wanted them to be. I personally do see a possible play on astro that you do not. I do agree that it is just a blueprint and not specific in all cases, but I don’t think it needs to be. Every religion has their own agenda and specific teachings. I’m just saying the blueprint is there. For an astro hypothesis, a division into 12 parts of 30 degrees each, 3 divided 4 times is essential. Can’t be any other number. 7 also needs to be an important number specifically like in revelation, which also has 12 and 144 as its main numbers. If they aren’t a main part, the hypothesis fails. Astro terms throughout is a must as well and many of these are fairly unique. Talk of bulls, lambs, twins, water bearers, lions, … is a must as well. If not, it fails. Snakes and dragons, a must as well.
Another prediction would be an emphasis on the 3,6,9,12 o’clock hours, dawn, dusk, the sun getting brighter, dimmer, … This would be a must. Totally unnecessary for a non astro hypothesis. Would expect and need god’s throne to be associated with the 4 images of the fixed signs of the zodiac. Would predict stories of a huge boat associated with a bird, stories of 2 bears, 2 asses, Jesus and passover at spring equinox, equinoxes and solstices important, and a man swallowed by “a great fish” (this is very specific), not vague. Stories a cup at harvest, …
The blueprint is there. But I agree, it just might be a blueprint and that’s it. I do agree things need to be as specific as possible because we can find things to fit almost anything. I just think some of these are very specific, but not all.
There is no blueprint. You have listed a lot of decontextualized excerpted images — that’s Sandmel’s definition of parallelomania. You could probably apply the same to Herodotus, to any of the apocraphyal Jewish and Christian writing, to modern fantasy novels, to ancient novels, to reference books. You are only selecting those aspects that appear to match and overlooking a host of other images and concepts that don’t.
A blueprint would enable you to explain every details of a pericope in relation to the source. That was the point that I was making to Robert and that led him to write up his fantastical eisegesis of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Contrast a literary-critical/midrashic explanation that can specifically locate every phrase and image directly in terms of the structures, themes and words of specific OT books. Robert Tulip’s explanation is a fantasy joke — he could do the same with Casey’s book as I pointed out recently.
Simply matching a series of words or images from a vast body of lore and applying it to a vast collection of literature means nothing unless you can demonstrate some specific link through a detailed and structural analysis. Otherwise one is just engaging in confirmation bias. One could take, say, a set of concepts from, say, medical literature and apply them to the writings of Luke/Acts. We know scholars used to do that and concluded Luke was a physician. Scholars now see they were engaging in parallelomania and their method was totally unsound — they could prove almost anything they wanted with any other body of work that way.
Find another subject you know much about — music? anatomy? — and see how many excerpts you can apply to the books of the Bible, too, or to any other literature. There is no end of seeing such “blueprints” once one takes excerpts like this and sees how they can be attached to the Bible or probably many other collections of books/songs/misc writings.
I understand what you’re saying Neil. Things like spirit and water and earth and many other words can easily be made into whatever we want. I get it. I saw your part on Casey’s book and I don’t believe yours are equivalent (Stephanie Fisher and Pisces? Funny though). I understand that most of the N.T. stories are taken from the O.T. stories, but many of those stories appear to parallel stories from earlier cultures. Many of which told astro stories and/or were the leading nations for astrology, especially the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks.
I’m not saying blueprint as in a detailed plan. For example: Jesus’ death and resurrection probably derived from the O.T. Passover lamb, probably derived from astro spring equinox celebrations death/rebirth theme. Doesn’t matter if Christians associate it with astro or not. The origin of the original connection would be astro. The 12 disciples probably derived from the 12 tribes, probably derived from the 12 ideal tribes/12 gods, which probably derived from the 12 sections of the zodiac, which probably derived from the 360 degree circle and mathematics.
I guarantee I can look up numerous fantasy novels, songs, movies, … and most aren’t going to have the main players number exactly 12, have their tents needing to face the east, have a person who they worship being pictured specifically around an ox, man, eagle, and lion, have things constantly occurring at the 3,6,9, and 12 o’clock hours, at dawn and dusk, with the sun getting brighter or darker and putting almost no importance on all the other hours of the day. I don’t think they will be telling the sun to stand still, using the term “great fish” or talking about dragons. I don’t think the main character will call himself “The Bright Morning Star” or have astrologers following “his star in the east”. I don’t think they will be associating their parents and family with celestial bodies either.
I’m not saying all of it is related to astro. I’m saying these types of themes are. The Bible appears to me to be a grab bag of offshoot stories from different cultures, people who held different religious beliefs, Midrash, historical fiction, astro symbolism, parables, offshoot god/man parallels, gnostic thought, …. I think much of it doesn’t make sense for a reason.
Anyway, I agree that making claims that this represents this and that while being semi-vague doesn’t advance the argument. I do think many astro proponents go over the top with it and shouldn’t challenge the character of people who disagree with them. It’s not life or death with me. I respect your views and agree with most of what you said. My mind is nowhere near made up. I’ll continue to plug along, but I’m getting tired. Need to spend less time here and more with my family for now. Thanks again for your time.
I wonder how this relates to the commonly observed pattern in Mark that Jesus’s disciples are shown as clueless and faithless throughout Mark’s gospel. It seems to be the case, though, that the worst of the cluelessness and faithlessness is on the heads of Peter, James and John. Peter is rebuked as Satan for trying to stop Jesus from going to his death. Peter says he’ll be faithful to Jesus forever, but runs off when they come to arrest him, then denies that he even knows him three times. John and James ask to sit at Jesus’s right and left hand when he comes into his glory, but then run off and abandon him as well. Peter, James and John are explicitly named as accompanying Jesus to Gethsemane and told to keep watch, but they fall asleep and are rebuked for it by Jesus three different times. Andrew, though, participates in none of these failings.
It’s also interesting that while Andrew was one of the two disciples first called to Jesus’s side, and that he was there for the “private teaching” on the Mount of Olives, there are two other places where he is conspicuously absent in the narrative. One is during the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, where Peter, James and John are the only ones he allows to come with him, and the other is the Transfiguration, where he only took Peter, James and John with him to the mountain. Both of these the major foreshadowings of what is to come – showing that Jesus can conquer death, and having God himself endorse him as His own Son. That makes their betrayals all somewhat worse than the rest of the disciples, as they should have known better because they had better evidence. That makes it all the more interesting to me that there’s this extra character Andrew in the mix who was aware of some of Jesus’s “private teachings” and who was called by Jesus at exactly the same time as Peter, but who wasn’t a witness to the two main miracles that would make it “impossible” for someone to deny that Jesus was the Son of God and that he had power over death itself. And yet the three who should have known better did just that.
It’s speculative, but I wonder if Andrew is supposed to represent the non-Jewish Christians who were not granted visions of Christ’s glory, but who were given access to Jesus’s teachings. Andrew being called at the same time as Peter would perhaps suggest that both groups were equal, even if the non-Jewish Christians weren’t given access to the same visions.
Speaking of visions, if John is the interpreter of Mark then we have other suggestions that the lesson against the need for visions was epitomized in Thomas. Mysticism was a feature of the Syrian church where Thomas was prominent. Jesus uses his demand to see to introduce the blessing on those who had not seen. (I am not sure if Riley or DeConick or both make this point.)
I could have added in the post the detail about Simon and Andrew being called on the shore of the “Sea” of Galilee. Galilee is not a sea. MacDonald suggests calling it a sea points to the Odyssey’s adventures on the sea as the source. Hanhart likewise sees the author using this lake as a symbol of the sea across which the disciples will go to make converts/fish for men.
If the house of Peter and Andrew is indeed right beside the synagogue (as the Greek apparently suggests), and if the house motif is symbolic of the church, then Mark may also have been picturing the church as a mix of Jew and Greek equally. The mother-in-law serves — and I have learned that this does not mean setting the table and serving dinner. “Deacon” is a mediating office of service in the church at any level, high or low. It essentially means to follow in service. (A future post coming on that one, too.)
You mentioned how Mark calls Galilee a “sea”. I know this is an argument used by MacDonald, and that it ultimately goes back to Porphyry, but I think it’s wrong to blame Mark here.
The Sea/Lake of Galilee isn’t mentioned very often in the OT, because most of the action takes place further south. Nevertheless there are a few cases:
Joshua 12:3 […] the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, […]
In this verse, the Sea of Galilee is mentioned along with two names for the Dead Sea. According to my concordance, the Hebrew word is “yâm” which is used all three times, and (according to the same concordance) means “large body of water”. Personally I suspect that nobody knows the exact meaning was. We might also note that nobody has qualms today about calling the Dead Sea a “sea”, but then again that might be because it’s salty.
If we look at Joshua 12:3 in the Septuagint, we find the same word, “thalassa“, that the Synoptics use: “tês thalassês chenereth kat anatolas kai eôs tês thalassês araba thalassan tôn alôn apo anatolôn“.
So it seems to me Mark was justified in using this word.
Interesting. Thanks. I have not really looked into this question yet — have only repeated what I have read in MacDonald and Hanhart. For what it’s worth The Oxford Companion to the Bible (edited by Metzger and Coogan, online version 2004) has this to say:
Thanks for answering.
I apologize for hijacking this sub-thread, but it’s a subject you have mentioned often before.
Your article gives a fine rundown of this confused affair. But the really odd thing, according to Strong, is that the last part of “thalasses“, i.e. “hals“, means salt. So how could anybody ever have applied this term to a fresh-water lake (as apposed to the Dead Sea)?
As I said, the lake isn’t mentioned often in the OT. Apart from Joshua 12:3 there’s Numbers 34:11 and Joshua 13:27. On the other hand this means that the lake is called a sea 3 out of 3 times. Then there’s also Isaiah 9:1, “O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast“. The word for sea-coast is “paralios” and once again the last part of the word is “hals“, salt. Of course, Isaiah might have had the Mediterranean Sea in mind. God only knows what it’s supposed to mean.
Then comes Porphyry and ridicules the very thought of calling this small lake a sea (I hope it’s OK to quote Hoffmann on this board 🙂
The way I see it is that word derivations count for little when it comes to actual usage. We all know of how English uses words that have come to mean something quite unlike their original meanings or how even parts of words no longer tell us their real meanings today. As for the OT passages, I would ask about the difference between koine and classical Greek — I don’t know (doubt) if the LXX was in koine Greek.
The best guide to knowing its meaning in Mark’s day (anywhere between 70 and 130s?) is to find usage from nearer that time.
Regardless of the word used (sea or lake) I think there are strong arguments for considering Mark’s symbolic usage of the sea/lake of Galilee. Even if it were called a “sea” it is clearly a “lake” given that it takes no more than a matter of hours to cross it in story-time. Yet Mark applies to its setting images that appear to relate more to seas/the deeps/the Mediterranean.
The points you raise remind us that all our knowledge and hypotheses must to some extent remain tentative anyway.
It’s fun being reminded of Rabbi Hoffy’s quotes from his former life. It just shows that even the Darth Vaders once had a good role to play.
Just got your other 2 as well. Wouldn’t people claiming that the Christians worshipped the sun and toward the east imply what it says? Wouldn’t we think if they worshipped the sun, they would tell stories about the sun? I’m just saying, everything in astrology begins “toward the east”. why are people saying this about people who supposedly didn’t worship the sun? That was my thinking at least. No, I don’t think everything with fish is Pisces. I was referring to Piscis Austrinus called “The Great Fish”, the words used in the Jonah story. Under Andrew it said “man, warrior”, and said from Andreas explaining that it was referring to a man in duty protecting his Greek society and that warrior has been a meaning as well. But yes, “man” is literal. Thanks again Neil. I’m sure I’ll work things out.
The Chi Rho symbol of the cross adopted by Christianity was associated with the Chi formed by the solar ecliptic path and the celestial equator and is described in Plato’s Timnaeus and associated with the “world soul”. It stood for Chreston or “good”.
I’m not exactly sure how Christians who weren’t sun worshippers, or at least associating him with the sun, would be facing the east. I mean we know they associated him with the sun in 1 Clement 24 and 25. again, just seems contradictory to adopt things you supposedly have issues with.
If you read Plato’s reference to that so-called “cross” in Timaeus for yourself I think you will be surprised to see how obscure it is and will wonder how on earth anyone came to assign it such religious significance in relation to crucifixes. Besides, the Chi-Rho symbol had nothing at all to do with Christian origins. It was a later accretion — like Christmas.
People do all sorts of things because of their symbolic meaning. As I said, Christians and others today have special sunrise services because of the symbolism — they are as far from sun worshipers as you can get. Besides, the passage you are referring to does not say they faced the sun anyway. Pliny says only that they had a pre-dawn worship service. That’s it. Not a sun-worship service. Presumably this was related to the time of Jesus’ resurrection – which was before the sun rose.
agree Chi Rho was a later inclusion, just saying its another astro origin symbol, unless the comment about the Chi being associated with the ecliptic is false. I was referring to Tertullian saying that it is a well known fact that Christians worship toward the east. Anyway, I’ll look up the mathematics stuff and check out the other sections about paralleling. Thanks. Appreciate the insight.
I have always wondered if Andrew should be read literally as “a man” and added to the group of un-named disciples that include the “beloved disciple” and “another disciple” (John 18:15) and perhaps even the “naked youth” (Mark 14:51). For whatever reason, the gospel authors chose to leave them with an ambiguous identity.
It only just occurred to me Peter is named Simon and his brother is Andrew, which is similar to Menander, the name of Simon Magus’ successor (I’ve been reading the Simonian Origins, you see).
Interesting. Keep tuned for Roger Parvus’s contributions — he will quite likely have something to say about that. He suspects the Gospel of Mark is based on Simon Magus’s life, or something similar to that.