Evidence Mark Used Written Sources

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by Neil Godfrey

A.T. Cadoux (See also Cadoux ancestry)
A.T. Cadoux (See also Cadoux ancestry)

Though in recent years I have preferred to see the author of the second gospel as a creative writer (with some subsequent editorial additions made to give us the canonical version we know today) my reading has only skimmed the surface of what is available and I remain open to other possibilities. Roger Parvus cited The Sources of the Second Gospel by A. T. Cadoux as one work that has proposed the Gospel of Mark (GMark) used other earlier gospels as sources. Luckily an old copy of Cadoux somehow found its way into my mailbox so I can set out now the evidence for this hypothesis.

1. Two Accounts of the Feeding of the Multitudes

Mark 6:33ff Mark 8:1ff
33 But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. 35 When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”

37 But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”

38 But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”

39 Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. 41 And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. 42 So they all ate and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. 44 Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.

1 In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

4 Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven.”

6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away, 10 immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

These passages look very much like variant accounts of the same event.

For it is not conceivable that a company of me who had taken part in the experience of 6:30ff. should soon afterwards on a similar occasion ask, “Whence shall one be able to fill these men with bread here in a desert place?” (8:4). But the evangelist gives them as two separate events, and this makes us ask how any writer interested in the reliability of his witnesses should represent them as forgetful and obtuse to the point of imbecility. The only answer seems to be that he was a conservative compiler who, finding the same event given with different details in two authoritative sources, took it to be two different events and felt constrained to include both. (Cadoux 1935, pp. 16f.)

Different words are used for “basket” in the two passages, also, a further indication they derive from different sources since there would appear to be no reason for the author to change the word he used for the second account.

That all sounds quite reasonable.

It is, of course, founded on the assumption that unless the author felt so compelled to copy his sources exactly as he found them that he was willing to leave the final product sounding utterly silly. Such dedication to preservation of the originals. One has to ask, then, why the author felt incapable of adding some sort of explanation. A clear explanation of the two different sources would have helped. And if the author wanted to inspire trust why would he withhold his own identity and that of his sources? There are many other passages throughout the gospel that strain the credulity of most readers and that would have been helped in that regard by the mention of some reassuring evidence. That’s how historians of the day helped their readers trust their accounts and some of the reports of divine acts they recounted. But if the author wanted to portray the disciples as dimwitted as the hard-hearted Israelites wandering in the wilderness and giving Moses such grief for forty years because of their lack of faith despite miracle after miracle, then drawing attention to the disciples’ “imbecility” in Mark 8 makes sense.

Cadoux’s assumption appears to be close to those of the faithful, that the gospels were written to preserve real edifying historical events. I think we need to look elsewhere in the gospel for find support for either argument.

2. Extraordinary Syntactical Violence

In 6.8, 9 extraordinary violence is done to the construction of a sentence, which runs,

And he commanded them that they should take nothing for the journey, save a staff only; no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse; but shod with sandals: and put not on two coats.

Dr. Swete (Gospel according to St. Mark, p. 111) says it is “suggestive of the disjointed notes on which the evangelist depended,” though he evidently considers them to be the evangelist’s own notes. (Cadoux 1935, p. 17)

3. Awkward Naming of Peter

Mark 3:16-17

Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”

F. Nocolardot (Les Procédés de Rédaction des Trois Premiers Évangélists, p. 233) writes that the second part of this verse, “And Simon he surnamed Peter,”which breaks the normal course of the sentence, without having, as v. 17b, the excuse of being a parenthesis, betrays the awkward rehandling of a document already written.” (Cadoux 1935, pp. 17f.)

If Mark was using a source for the detail about Jesus renaming Simon Peter then there are implications for the evidence bearing on the date of Mark’s composition. Justin Martyr, writing around 140, is said to be the earliest external witness to the existence of the Gospel of Mark: the evidence adduced is Justin’s claim that we read about Jesus giving nicknames to Peter, James and John in “the memoirs of the apostles”. Those memoirs are taken to be the canonical gospels. But if our GMark is but a secondary source for this event, then the scales tilt slightly in favour of Justin possibly referencing another source used by the author of GMark.

4. Squeezing in the Twelve as an Afterthought

Mark 4:10

10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable

In the phrase, “they that were about him with the Twelve” (4.10), it is strange to find the Twelve mentioned as secondary to the others, so strange that E. Meyer . . . writes with regard to the words “with the Twelve,” “Only in the Hexateuch or perhaps in Livy could we find such a patent interpolation of a fragment from another source.” (Cadoux 1935, p. 18)

5. Semantic inconsistency

Cadoux develops this point much more fully later in his book, but the point can be summarized. Mark occasionally slips out of his usual (and common) expressions to employ unusual substitutes. Examples of these occasionally used rarer words and phrases:

ἁμάρτημα (=sin; 3:28-29)

ἄρρωστος (=sick; 6:5, 13)

θανατόω (=put to death; 13:12; 14:55)

ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ (=with an unclean spirit); 1:23)

. . . again suggests a compiler under the influence of the language of his sources. (p. 18)

I have not yet compared these terms with the apparently more usual terms used by Mark.

But are not “the Marcan peculiarities of language . . . too evenly distributed to allow us to consider the book to be a compilation of earlier written sources”? Cadoux informs us that in later chapters he will demonstrate that the reverse is in fact the case. Besides, he adds, Matthew and Luke are clearly compiled from earlier sources yet are branded by their own “well-distributed characteristics of language.”

6. The End or Just the Beginning of the End?

Mark 13:26-29

26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

28 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!

The last two verses have evidently been lifted from a context in which they followed a description of the preliminaries of the end and have been place in one in which they follow the description of the end itself. (p. 19)

7. Explanatory Power

The break up into the mantic seven points is my own, not those of Cadoux. Cadoux further explains that the hypothesis that Mark used written sources explains more readily than form-criticism why we find so many redundancies and doublets and seams, such a mix of order and disorder, throughout the gospel. The evangelist was a compiler “trying to harmonize several narratives into one.”


So, there you have it all you people who think Mark was such a brilliant (or maybe even merely reasonably competent) creative author. Think about each of those points before moving over into the fast lane.

Cadoux, Arthur Temple. 1935. The Sources of the Second Gospel. London: James Clarke & Company.




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27 thoughts on “Evidence Mark Used Written Sources”

  1. There is no reason to suppose that Mark didn’t have earlier sources, written or otherwise. For example it is entirely possible that Mark had access to some of Paul’s letters. It is also possible that Mark had access to some version of Q. Certainly it seems Mark has abbreviated the temptation account because the Q version preserved by Matthew and Luke is much more comprehensible. And a comparison with John on the feeding of the multitude suggest that tempting Jesus with a temporal kingdom was the original meaning of that event. Mark’s mini-apocalypse in chapter 13 certainly shows Mark is familiar with that genre of literature. And assuming the crucifixion of Jesus has any historical reliability, which I think it does, then Mark probably has some information on that even also. But Mark has reworked everything to make the Jewish disciples look like embeciles who did not understand (either then or later) that Paul’s version of Jesus must suffer and die for the salvation of all nations (Gentiles). Only the Gentile Roman at the end of Mark’s Gospel recognizes that. Even the women are afraid (like the disciples) and tell know one.

  2. Quite interesting hypothesis, written source(s) for GMark. This can possibly bring a new light to an old theory presented by P.L. Couchoud, that the original ‘gospel of Mark’ had been written in Latin. Is it plausible to redirect that theory to one of the sources used by GMark? Maybe some syntactic and semantic problems that occur in GMark’s text could be solved that way?

    1. I had not heard of P.L. Couchard before. But I have often wondered if an old Latin text might preserve an earlier reading (either from the Greek or Latin) of the received texts. For example, Acts 22:3 from the Duay Rheims (Vulgate) seems to make more sense than the traditional Greek received text (“zealous for God” a tendentious reading), and is probably also closer to the truth.

      Acts 22:3 Paul…..taught according to the truth of the law of the fathers, zealous for the law, as also all you are this day.

      1. The implication being that Paul was originally a Zealot, as was the Jerusalem Church (Acts 21:20-22), as were those trying to kill Paul Acts 22:22 “And they heard him until this word [Gentile] and then lifted up their voice, saying: Away with such an one from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live”…Acts 23:13 “And they were more than forty men (doubtless Sicarii) that had made this conspiracy. Who came to the chief priests and the ancients, and said: We have bound ourselves under a great curse that we will eat nothing till we have slain Paul.”, as were the so-called “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church, Hegessipus having given testimony that James the brother of Jesus wore the miter of the opposition (Eisenman) high priesthood.

        1. Thanks much, I have read a little of Mr. Price, and I will read this also. I had heard of Christian haggadah upon Jewish scripture, and I certainly think the Gospels used that. Also, writing for a Gentile audience, Mark may very well have borrowed from Homer as Neil has pointed out. But I don’t think Mark or any of the Gospels are creating the “myth” of Jesus out of whole cloth. Mark would have had no real motivation for doing so. Instead, what I think drives Mark and the other Gospels and Acts is a Pauline counter-rejection of the Jerusalem Church. So there is “myth” making going on, the “myth” of a Pauline Jesus, but that myth is intended to counter the authority of the Jerusalem Church. I think for Mark, Paul’s Jesus is the true son of God, and Barabbas is the “other Jesus” taught by Jerusalem Church who was not the son of God, at least not in the sense of Mark’s suffering servant. I assume this other Jesus that Paul speaks about, this Jesus after the flesh taught by the Jerusalem Church, may have been Barabbas, unless Barabbas is also just an allegory for the kind of Messiah the Jerusalem Church expected. I guess the irony is that when the Roman centurion says “this was truly the son of God”, then Mark may mean that Paul’s Jesus is truly the son of God, and the Jerusalem Church’s Jesus Barabbas is not the son of God — but that is just a guess.

        2. Price writes: “Mark, acting in the interest of a church-political agenda, has broken the story into two and reversed its halves so as to bring dishonor on the relatives of Jesus (representing a contemporary faction claiming their authority)”

          Exactly! It was James the brother of Jesus that gave Paul such grief, and Mark is still at odds with the authority of the Jerusalem Church and the Ebionite heresy, which “chief priests” he saw as betraying Paul to the Jewish Sicariots and also to the Romans (Gentiles).

          Paul had enemies on all sides. Only his own Gentile Church loved him, and even many of those in Asia fell away.

        3. 29. Blind Bar-Timaeus (10:46-52) Jesus asks James and John what do you want me to do for you? and they say “to sit on your right and on your left in your glory.” Jesus also asks Bar-Timaeus what do you want to me to do for you? and Bar-Timaeus responds “only that I be not blind” [like James and John].

          And so it goes through all of Mark’s Gospel. The Jewish disciples did not see, did not hear, did not understand that Paul was teaching the right Jesus and that they were seeking the wrong Jesus.

          Mark 4:12 Isa_6:9-11 He said, Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused (hardened); make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed. Then I said, For how long,O Lord? And he answered: Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged,until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken.

        4. Price doesn’t point out the meaning of the Bar-Timaeus episode. Possibly derived from the Aramaic bar-tim’ai = “son of the unclean [allegorical Gentile]”, Bar-Timaeus instead of asking for the kingdoms and the power and the glory of this world like James and John, instead asks that he receive his sight so as to see that Jesus came as a suffering servant to save [the Gentiles]. Bar-Timaeus asks for the understanding that the Jewish disciples lack. Mark’s goal is to diminish the authority of the Jerusalem Church by portraying them as blind and not understanding, and that they are like Barabbas in desiring Daniel’s worldly coming kingdom of God here on earth. James and John are also like the “scribes and Pharisees” who are blind guides of the blind and both shall fall into the pit [of Roman destruction]. The “scribes and Pharisees” of Mark’s Gospel are probably an allegory for the “scribes and Pharieees” sent by James who came down to Antioch in Galatians 2:12-14, and who caused the Jewish Christians to separate themselves from Paul’s “unclean” Gentiles.

          This Antioch episode in Galatians 2:12-14 seems to drive much of Mark’s polemic against “the Jews”. But it is important to realize that family feuds are the worst, and the feud in Mark is allegorically between Paul’s Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians and the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church, James and John and Peter. That is why the “chief priests” stir up the crowd to release the seditious Barabbas and to crucify the Pauline Jesus. Mark has overlaid the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church onto the historical Sadducean chief priests who might have recommended to Pilate that Barabbas be crucified. In any case, Pilate would not have needed the recommendation of the Sadducees to crucify Barabbas, and in any case agitating to release Barabbas would have been considered sedition for which the Sadducean chief priest would have been removed from office (sine chief priests like Caiaphas were appointed by the Roman governor).

        5. The second book Greg mentions, despite its odd title, goes verse-by-verse making links to OT passages. Some of the connections are imo a bit of a stretch, but many are uncannily close matches.

          1. Thanks, I quite agree. Some are links are quite a stretch, but some are really good.
            The Gospel writers were quite adept at using OT passages to add meaning to their Gospel, for example Mark 4:12 quoting Isaiah 6:9-11. But the meaning was woven around the theme of promoting Paul’s Jesus and denigrating the Jesus of the Jerusalem Church. For example, even though Mark does not quote all of Isaiah 6:9-11, the implication for the Jews who do not accept Paul and Paul’s Jesus is quit severe, the judgement of God and the destruction of the Jewish nation. At least that was Mark’s interpretation of the Jewish War. My interpretation is simply that the little nation of Judea could not take on the Goliath of Rome with or without their imaginary God’s help.

  3. These examples don’t impress me. I still maintain that Mark is a coherent literary work of historical fiction, an allegory of the history of Israel. There are two feeding stories because Mark is referring to two separate events, i.e., the last two assemblies of the Essenes at Qumran at Pentecost in 67 and 68 before the settlement was destroyed by the Romans. See my book Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark.https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780761861454/Secret-of-the-Savior-The-Myth-of-the-Messiah-in-Mark

    1. Others, I think Dykstra (but don’t quote me) have suggested the two feeding episodes are an allegory for the feeding of the Jews, and then for the later 2nd feeding of the Gentiles, the “Two Missions” hypothesis. Mark seems to be saying the Jerusalem Church were imbeciles who did not see and who did not understand that Paul’s Jesus had died for the Jew first and also for the Gentiles. The Jerusalem Church and the DSS sect were blind guides of the blind (when it came to Paul’s Jesus) and both would fall into the Pit (of Roman destruction), as Robert Eisenman has pointed out. But yes, it seems entirely plausible (if not probable) that Mark had earlier sources. Other scholars have suggested that Mark might have also known about Q.

      1. In addition to earlier writings, Mark may also have LATER sources too: interpolations, editorial changes. Likely written in part by a Roman, Latin editor or church.

      2. The mass feedings are a mash up of 2 Kings 4:42-44 where Elisha feeds a 100 people with twenty loaves of bread and the feasts that Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, attended in The Odyssey. Telemachus walked to one and arrived at one by boat, just like Jesus did. One feast had nine groups of 500, which was round up in chapter 6 and rounded down in chapter 8. Dennis MacDonald shows many parallels and Price tells about it in the link I gave above.

  4. It looks like Mark 3.11 should be Mark 5.13

    I looked up some Greek manuscript versions of Mark 5.13 and I don’t see any version that has ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ. As a matter of fact, I looked up all of Mark’s uses of “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:27; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:13; Mark 6:7) and they all follow the same formula of τὰ πνεύματα τὰ ἀκάθαρτα (i.e., some are genitive plural, others are accusative plural, but they all follow the word for word translation as “the spirit the unclean”).

    Does Cadoux have any discussion about manuscript integrity to premise his arguments on? What if what he’s seeing as authorial inconsistency is really unintentional scribal interpolation?

    1. I don’t know how I slipped so badly there — I should have written 1:23, sorry.

      I have done nothing more than skim Cadoux. It only just arrived and I’m still reading Burkett, so I’m afraid I can’t really answer your query just yet. I have not yet made the time to examine Cadoux’s detailed arguments for the three particular sources he argues lie behind Mark; even a glance at his section on the characters of each of the three sources looks like time-consuming reading. One step at a time.

  5. I have not yet compared these terms with the apparently more usual terms used by Mark.

    I searched for “sin” in Mark in several translations on blueletterbible.com. If you use the KJV, which doesn’t have the word “sin” in Mark, it shows the translations that have the word. (RVR60 has the most but it is Spanish. IIRC, “sin” means “without” in Spanish.) Besides what is noted, “sin” is translated in Mark 9:42, 43, 45, and 47 using “σκανδαλίζω” (skandalizō), which is often translated as “to stumble.” In Mark 3, it is a noun and in Mark 9, it is a verb.

  6. I did a search on “sins” in the KJV and found some more instances in Mark 1:4-5; 2:5, 7, 9, 10; and 4:12. That last verse listed is “ἁμάρτημα” (hamartēma), the same as in Mark 3:28-29. The others have “ἁμαρτία” (hamartia), which looks like the same root.

    The NIV has “sins” in Mark 11:25 as “παράπτωμα” (paraptōma) where the KJV uses “transgressions.” The NKJV has “sins” in Mark 4:12 as “ἁμάρτημα” (hamartēma). The NASB has no new instances. I stopped there.

  7. * Cadoux was, of course, unaware of GThomas;

    * Others here have noted the persuasive evidence that the OT served as a source for Mark;

    * Homer has also been put forward as a possible source in a few instances;

    * Nothing Mark writes about crucifixion can’t be found in the works of Josephus. Further, it has been suggested that the scene of Jesus on the cross flanked by two bandits, and Joseph of Arimathea asking for, and receiving, Jesus’ body, is derived from Josephus’ own experience (described in his Vita) of discovering three crucified friends;

    * As for ‘afterthoughts’, “awkward phrasings’, or ‘syntactical violations’, I’m always inclined to suspect redaction.

  8. Mark used at least two proto-synoptic gospels, one of them shared with Matthew, the other shared with Luke.

    This is nowhere as evident as in the story of the feeding of the 5000. Neither that one nor the one of 4000 is anywhere near original but full of Judaization and Euhemerization, as typical for the New Testament; but that is a different topic.

    The most evident common influence of the stories of the 5000 is the usage of five breads and two fish, as opposed to the multitude of small fish in the story of the 4000. This is inspired by the apocalyptic Jewish story according to which the messiah, at the end of times, will repeat the miracle of the manna and also slay some marine monsters to feed the righteous Jews living at the eschatological time. Those stories can be found in the deuterocanonical books assigned to Baruch and Ezra, or the apocalyptic parables of Henoch (not yet in Qumran). The little fish of the story of the 4000 alludes to the Book of Numbers, where the Jewish god sends a swarm of quails as substitute for the little fish which the Jews had eaten regularly in Egypt before the departure. While the 4000 is thus set in the desert, the 5000 are set in Israel at the end of the times.

    The branch leading to Luke’s adds elements not found in Matthew’s, thus not in the original formulation of the story of the 5000: The disciples stupidly consider buying enough bread for feeding the masses; further, the people of Israel is divided into groups like an army. This division follows the model of Deuteronomy or the warrior scroll of Qumran.

    Matthew’s branch, on the other hands, insists in the veterotestamental identification of Jesus as the good shepherd and of Israel as a flock of lost sheep grazing on the pastoral meadows.

    Mark reunites both branches arbitrarily and makes stylistic changes.

  9. In regard to the reason for Mark’s two accounts of the Feeding of the Multitudes, Cadoux says:

    “The only answer seems to be that he was a conservative compiler who, finding the same event given with different details in two authoritative sources, took it to be two different events and felt constrained to include both.”

    I would like to propose another answer. I think the account of chapter 8 of gMark is the earlier of the two accounts and was present in an earlier proto-Mark written by a Simonian. The account in chapter 6 is later and is one of the additions made to proto-Mark by the proto-orthodox reviser responsible for the canonical version of Mark.

    I’ll start by first considering the meaning of the chapter 8 account. I have never found the usual explanations of its meaning particularly convincing. I don’t buy the idea that it has the Eucharist in view. Fish is not distributed at the Eucharist. And there is nothing to correspond to the eucharistic cup. Nor do I think the scene is meant to recall God’s provision of manna for Israel in the desert. God supposedly conjured up that food from scratch, but here Jesus needs to first scrape together some bread and fish to work with. Jesus would come across as an underachiever compared to Moses. Nor do I buy the idea that the Feeding account is supposed to symbolize an eschatological messianic banquet. Call me a party pooper, but I just don’t see anything festive about eating bread and fish while sitting on the ground out in the desert.

    So, I’m going to stick with what I proposed in my Simonian series: the bread and fish are meant to represent teaching. Think 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it.” The fish and bread are the solid food, i.e., the teaching that provides spiritual nourishment. But I will add a new twist: I think this whole provision of food episode may have been meant to foreshadow the preaching by Jesus to a multitude during the time between the crucifixion and resurrection. His going over to the other side of the lake would foreshadow his going over from this world to Hades. Hades would be represented by the desolate place containing people some of whom “have come from afar” (Mk. 8:3). They have “continued with me three days” (Mk. 3:2), i.e., the three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Their eating of the bread and fish would then represent their acceptance of the teaching of Jesus.

    The 4,000 who consume the food (accept the teaching) will have what they need so as not “to faint on the way” (Mk. 3:3) from the desolate place to their homes in heaven. 4,000 beneficiaries might seem an awfully low number. But remember, if this episode originated in the Simonian camp, it originated in the mind of someone who was convinced that only “one in a thousand, two in ten thousand” were among the chosen. (By the way, I still think that Jesus’ crossing over to free the tomb-dwelling demoniac is another case of foreshadowing, in that instance of the harrowing of hell. See the 2012-03-23 post: Jesus’ Journey Into Hell and Back — told symbolically in the Gospel of Mark?)

    Let’s move on and see why a proto-orthodox reviser might have created the Feeding account in chapter 6. When I compare that account with the one in chapter 8 the first thing I notice is that the location seems less remote: the people are able to reach it before Jesus does, just by walking along the shoreline. And it is less forbidding. Although still described as a desolate place, it at least has some “green grass” (Mk. 6:39) for the people to sit on. But the big difference I see is that the disciples of Jesus have a more active role. Notice that they realize, even before Jesus does, that the people are going to need food. And they offer to go and buy some bread for them. And notice that while in chapter 8 Jesus directly tells the people to sit down, in chapter 6 he subdelegates, telling the disciples to tell the people.

    So, I am thinking that a reviser has reworked the original Feeding episode to make a new one that puts in a kind of plug for the Twelve. Unlike the chapter 8 episode, the one in chapter 6 has Jesus feeling compassion for the crowd because “they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk, 6:34). And right before the episode the Twelve had just successfully returned from a mission Jesus had sent them on. At Mk 6:30 they are referred to as “apostles” for the one and only time in Mark’s gospel. To me it looks like a reviser is looking to set up the Twelve in their role as providers of the teaching of Jesus. And that may be why he makes it twelve baskets of leftover food instead of seven, and changes the word for basket to one considered typical of the Jews.

    If my take on this is correct, it is interesting that the reviser’s plan kind of backfired. He added the Feeding episode to plug the Twelve, but with two Feedings they now come out looking more imbecilic than ever, when Jesus later reproaches them for their failure to understand the significance of the loaves.

    1. The 2 feedings are complementary. The first feeding is addressed to the Isrealite people and the second one to the pagan people.

      The 5 loaves represent the new forgiveness of sins
      The 2 fish represent the abolition of Israelite ritual laws such as circumcision, dietary laws and Sabbath observance
      The Israelite believers eat the 5 loaves but ignore the 2 fish.
      So the 5 loaves symbolise the new Torah, which is the new forgiveness of sins associated with the keeping of Israelite traditions (those things which Moses commanded, Mark 1:44)

      The 7 loaves symbolise the whole content of the Good News, namely liberation from from sin and liberation from israelite ritual laws.
      The few small fish are only mentioned to remind us that the 2 previous fish have become 2 loaves of bread.

      To read more
      https://vridar.org/2019/10/05/ot-sources-for-the-gospel-of-mark-chapters-2-and-3/#comment-227760 (2022-06-20)
      https://vridar.org/2019/10/05/ot-sources-for-the-gospel-of-mark-chapters-2-and-3/#comment-227762 (2022-06-20)

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