§ 62. The miraculous feeding

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2


Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 62.

The miraculous feeding.

1. The report of Matthew.

Matth. C. 14, 14-23. 15, 32-39. 16, 5-12.

According to the account of Matthew, Jesus twice miraculously fed the multitude. But if Luke and the fourth evangelist only know of one feeding, then the most favourable and authentic document seems to speak for the report of the two times multiplication of bread, the testimony of Jesus himself *). Soon after the second feeding, the disciples had forgotten to take bread with them on a journey across the lake; when Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” they said to one another, “We have not taken bread with us. Jesus scolded them and asked them if they did not remember how he had fed five thousand with five loaves and how many baskets they had filled with the leftover pieces? And do they not remember the seven loaves with which he fed the four thousand, and how many baskets they also filled with the fragments on that occasion? How then do you not see, Jesus concludes his rebuke, that I did not speak of the bread when I warned you to beware of the bread of the Pharisees.

*) Olshausen I, 512: “one can hardly think of a stronger proof for the authenticity of the second feeding.


If the warning of Jesus against the leaven of the Jewish sects and his remembrance of the feeding of the multitude are to have a connection – and both, according to the view of the evangelist, are really in the closest connection – then the feeding of the multitude must be meant figuratively. “The conclusion which Jesus wants to be drawn from his words, says Weisse *), is only then a correct one, only then at least one which results directly and straightforwardly from the premises, if one finds the figurative understanding which Jesus demands in the conclusion also already contained in the premises”. Whoever, therefore, refers to this conversation in order to prove the proposition that Jesus really fed the multitude twice miraculously, seems to rely on a testimony which must rather deprive him of all possibility of seeing in the Gospel account the description of two real incidents. Remember,” says Jesus, “how I have described to you the nourishing power of my teaching in the image of a bodily feeding of the multitude, and you will understand what I mean by the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In short, both narratives of the miraculous feeding are parables which Jesus himself recited and for the details of which he used individual features from the Old Testament narratives of Elijah and Elisha. It was only later that this story was misunderstood as a bodily miracle story, but it received its form and elaboration in Christ’s own mouth, as is also proven by the conversation that led us to the correct explanation of its origin **).

*) I, 512.

**) Weisse, I, 513. 515. 517.


As reliable and necessary as the conclusion that Weisse draws from Jesus’ conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees seems to be, it would not only be wrong, but it would also entail a number of inconsistencies. First of all, Jesus would have had to depict the idea of the nourishing power of his teaching not only once and for all parabolically in the image of a single incident, but twice, namely as two incidents, which would have been a very harmful and purpose-thwarting excess. For if the parable should always give the impression of a real course of events, but should cancel this impression at the end itself and replace it with the certainty that the whole is meant figuratively and represents a higher spiritual relationship, then not even the perception that the representation is figurative can emerge at the end if Jesus wanted to present the same thought as two incidents from his life. But he could not even once describe the nourishing power of his teaching to the disciples in this way, since a parable can never be understood as a parable when its subject himself recites it and stands bodily before the listeners.

What follows from the nature of the parable is further confirmed by Jesus’ conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees. For “the conclusion of Jesus does not go from the merely figurative sense of the earlier narrative to the same meaning of the later speech, but from the earlier proof of how superfluous the care for bodily bread was in Jesus’ proximity, to the inconsistency of understanding his present speech of such *).” It is wrong of the disciples, Jesus is said to say, to think of bodily bread when he warns them of the leaven of the Pharisees, but not only wrong in general, but they also proved themselves to be of little faith **), since they had to remember how he knew how to provide bread when it was needed.

*) Strauss 1, 229. Matth. 16, 11: πως ου νοειτε οτι ου περι αρτου ειπον υμιν προσεχειν απο της ζυμης των φαρισαιων και σαδδουκαιων. Mark 8, 21 has merely πως ου συνιετε, but Matthew explains its sense correctly.

**) Matth. 16, 8: τι διαλογιζεσθε εν εαυτοις ολιγοπιστοι οτι αρτους ουκ ελαβετε


Once the meaning of this passage has emerged purely for itself, a difficulty arises, which, however, is very convenient, since it simplifies the business of criticism. Matthew wants the two feedings to be historical events, but it is incomprehensible how, on the second occasion, when Jesus pities the multitude because they have been with him for three days and have nothing to eat, and when he says that he does not want to let them go without food, lest they die of exhaustion on the way, the disciples forget the first feeding and, as if the Lord had never counseled them in such an embarrassment, remarks: “where shall we get so much bread in the wilderness, that so great a multitude may be filled. “Either they were not people who, among other mental abilities, also had a memory *), or, since we lack other testimonies about their brutishness, they had never had the opportunity to prove themselves as forgetful as Matthew would have us believe. The second feeding – this much we can say at first – was foreign to the original type of the Gospel story.


2 The restoration of the original account.

That it is really so, namely that the account of the second feeding, which we read in the script of Mark, is a later insertion, was first noticed and proved by Wilke **). He reminds us how improbable it is that “a narrator such as Mark, who has measured out the materials with such scantiness, should have presented one and the same event twice as a real story. Furthermore, the narrative is not at all connected and prepared in the manner of Mark, since one does not see where the many people who need it are supposed to have come from all at once. Finally, “by the insertion of this story, things that belonged together have been separated; for Mark 7, 31-37 is connected with Mark 8, 11-13. Because Jesus is so praised by the people because of the effective healing of the deaf-mute, the Pharisees come to try the ability of the praised one further, in order, where possible, to bring down the admiration of the people.

*) Calvin: nimis brutum proäuut stuporem üiscipuli, yuock tuuo sultem non revoeaut ia memorium superius illud documeutum virtutis et gratie Christi, guod ad praesentem usum aptare poterant: nunc quasi nihil unquam tale vidissent, remedium ab eo petere obliviseuntur. Correct! Calvin does add: similis guotiüie uobis obrepit torpor; but we are quite grateful for such compliments.

**) p. 567


Wilke has already reminded us that the N.T. knows only one Bethsaida and that Mark, if the second feeding were really reported by him, would have to speak of an eastern Bethsaida, which would be contrary to New Testament geography. Let us look at the context! When the disciples had returned from their missionary journey, Jesus went with them to the eastern shore of the lake, where the feeding (the first of Matthew) took place (Mark 6, 30-33). After the feeding of the multitude Jesus commands the disciples to go on ahead, he follows them on the waves of the lake, when he saw that they suffered distress in the storm, and arrives with them on the west side, where the dispute about the purity laws develops (C. 6, 45 – 7, L.). Jesus then goes to the Phoenician border and, after healing the daughter of the Hellenic woman, travels back to the eastern shore of the lake, to the region of the Decapolis (C. 7, 24-31.). If the report of the second feeding had originally belonged to the writing of Mark, then Jesus, when after the feeding (C. 8,10.) He goes again to the west shore, to the region of Dalmanutha and from here, after rejecting the demand of the Pharisees for signs, He goes again to the other shore *) C. 8, 13, He would arrive in the (supposed) Bethsaida (C. 8, 22.) of the East. But before that, when Jesus has fed the multitude over in the East and commands the disciples to go forward to the other shore (εις το περαν), to Bethsaida (C. 6, 45.), since this city is situated in the west of the lake (C. 6, 53.), so how could Mark suddenly, shortly afterwards, C. 8, 22, speak of another, an eastern Bethsaida, without telling the reader that this city is to be distinguished from the one mentioned before. Both times Bethsaida is the same *) i.e. the report of the second feeding, the remark that Jesus, after the feeding, crossed the lake again to the west (to Dalmanutha), this remark, which leads to the consequence that Bethsaida, after which Jesus (C. 8,13-22.) later translates, lies in the east, all this was inserted later in the writing of Mark.

*) εις το περαν, relative in itself, is the beyond of each point of view.

*) Also the Bethsaida, near which Luke C. 9, 10 relocates the feeding, is the western one, it is the Bethsaida, which is mentioned in Mark 6, 45 and in which Jesus had entered, when they brought him the “blind man”, whom he (Mark 8, 23.) led out to the place and healed outside. This mention of the city and the fact that the healing of the blind man, which Luke omits, is followed by Peter’s confession, which Luke reports immediately after the feeding, both in connection with the peculiar boldness of the evangelical historians and the superficiality of their combinations, induced Luke to transfer the feeding to Bethsaida. By the way, he mentions nothing about a crossing of the lake. It is very uncertain whether there were two places named Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. The N. T. knows only one Bethsaida. If one wanted to conclude from the words Joh. 12, 21 “Bethsaida Galilee” (Βηθσαιδα της Γαλιλαιας) that there was another Bethsaida, from which the fourth evangelist wanted to distinguish the mentioned one, the father city of Philip, one would have to conclude in the same way that there were two cities called Cana and the fourth evangelist, when he says that the wedding took place in “Cana Galilee” (Κανα της Γαλιλαιας C. 2, 1.), wants to remind his readers that there was another Cana outside Galilee. This definition of “Galilee”, however, is in both cases a very idle addition by the fourth evangelist, who only wants to remind us that Cana and Bethsaida are not located where the scene of Jesus’ deeds is at that very moment. The evangelist proves how foreign the geography of the holy land is to him when he has to orientate himself so laboriously and awkwardly about the location of the cities.

Josephus, too, knows only one Bethsaida and nowhere, when he mentions this name, does he indicate that there were two cities or spots of this name. Nowhere! although he often remembers Bethsaida. Only this could be the question, whether he thinks of the city of this name as being situated west of the Sea of Galilee – a question which is very indifferent to the matter and, depending on how it is decided, can never lead to the assumption that there were two Bethsaida. If the Bethsaida of Josephus lies over there in the east: well! then Mark was mistaken when he moved his Bethsaida to the west of the lake.

Of the one Bethsaida, which he knows and never distinguishes from another place of that name, Josephus says (Arch. 18, 2, 1.) that it was situated on the Sea of Galilee, originally a village (κωμη), raised by the tetrarch Philip to the rank of a city, and called Julias. It was here in Julias that Philip died (Arch. 18, 4, 6.). Josephus determines the location of the city more precisely, that the Jordan below it cuts through the Genezareth (Bell Jud. 3, 10, 7: (μετα πολιν ‘Ιουλιαδα διεκτεμνει) this information with the other determination (Arch. 18, 2, 1.) that Bethsaida lay on the Sea of Galilee itself, so it follows that it lay at the northern tip of the lake and was the most important place that could be named if it was to be indicated where the Jordan falls into the lake and from which point it cuts through it. But could Bethsaida lie in the west of the lake, if it belonged to the tetrarchy of Philip, if it, as Josephus expressly remarks (Bell. Jud. 9, 1.), was situated in Lower Gaulonltis? It is enough to have pointed out the difficulties of this investigation and to have simplified the matter to the point where the theologian must decide in favour of the East or the West.


Only after the separation of this insertion do all the details of the report stand in that context which Mark always knows how to maintain. Matthew, on the other hand, has again done everything to prove to us that he is not very skilful in composition and to make us suspicious of his geographical information. He, too, has the feeding of the people – his first – take place over in the east, and the dispute with the Pharisees about purity over in the west of the sea (C. 14, 34. ); but when Jesus, immediately after that dispute, goes into the Phoenician region and then to the Sea of Galilee, where, sitting on a mountain, he heals a multitude of sick people and feeds the people (for the second time), when he afterwards crosses the Sea again and comes to the region of Magdala, where the Pharisees ask him for a sign, then we do not know what is west and east *). And how should we be informed about such insignificant things by a writer who considers more important matters, such as the elaboration of the context, to be so insignificant that he completes them with a single stroke, often also with a huge cross stroke? Of course, Matthew, because he gives a copy of the original account, must conclude the report of the second feeding with the remark that Jesus dismisses the people, boards the boat (the boat! as if a boat in which Jesus had crossed over had been mentioned before (C. 15, 29.)) and sails across the lake. But when he reports that Jesus comes to Magdala and, after having rejected the Pharisees who demanded a sign from him, goes away, when we then hear that the disciples, when they arrived on the other shore, had forgotten to take bread with them, which is why they could not understand Jesus’ warning against the leaven of the Pharisees, since they referred it to real bread, we ourselves do not know where our heads are, and when, at last, after the conversation about the leaven, it is suddenly said: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked, etc.”, we are no longer able to help ourselves. The following questions will shed light on the confusion and resolve it by showing us the darkness of this bottomless world of history. When the disciples arrive at the other shore – it is not said which one? – it seems that they caught up with the Lord at an appointed place: but was it said before, C. 15, 39, that the Lord went alone to Magdala? So it seems: for Matthew must model the account of the second feeding on the original account, and so also make it appear as if Jesus had withdrawn alone from the people: but had he told us that Jesus went back alone, and had made an appointment with the disciples about the place where they would meet him? Could he have carried the matter to this point, since he had sent the Lord across the lake, and therefore, even if he did not say so, had to give him the disciples to accompany him? And how could the disciples meet him afterwards *), when he had gone elsewhere after the conflict with the Pharisees (C. 16, 4. 5.)? What connection: “when Jesus came to Caesarea” (C. 16, 13.), after not a word was said that he had started a journey, after the narrative had rather come to a standstill when the conversation about the leaven was reported? And where did this conversation take place? Matthew does not tell us; but probably Mark: on the crossing to Bethsaida **), that is, on a passage which Matthew had to delay since he was not allowed to report the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. If we now add that Matthew had to make the return journey of Jesus after the second feeding secret, because the model of the first account forced him to do so, and that he had to make the departure to Caesarea happen behind the scenes, because he did not think of Bethsaida, from where Jesus departed (Mark 8, 27.), then the confusion is explained.

*) The theologians know: some say that Magdala was in the east, some say the opposite: we do not know. Some even know where Dalmanutha was, which is mentioned in the writing of Mark instead of Magdala: we do not know, we do not even know if there ever was a place of that name. The theologians are omniscient: of course, only in platitudes/baloney and often about things that have never existed.

*) As Fritzsche looks at the matter; to Matth. p. 528.

**) Mark 8, 14 : ει μή ένα άρτον ουκ είχον μεθ’ εαυτών εν τω πλοίω.


The hypothesis of tradition, which one could call upon to help Mark with the mistake of reporting the same event twice, no longer stands in our way, since we have convinced ourselves that in tradition there cannot exist such a definite and detailed material as these narratives: We can therefore no longer consider it possible that one and the same material could have run about in the tradition in two forms, differing only by slight determinations, and that a writer, for the sake of this slight modification, could have considered the one to be twofold and both forms worthy of preservation. Just think the senseless or try to think the impossible and you will see that it cannot be thought. The only thing the theologian could resort to in order to save the integrity of Mark’s writing would therefore be the assertion that Mark found the same event reported in two writings, but for the sake of a few – very tiny – nuances took each of the two accounts for reports of different incidents and inserted them as such into his writing: But this would again mean attempting the impossible, since we have always known him as a skilful, almost correct composer of history and also – which is the main thing – as the first creator of the evangelical story


The only question that remains is whether the account of the second feeding was first transferred from Matthew’s writing to that of Mark, or whether Matthew found it already inserted in the writing of his predecessor. The answer is not easy. Wilke decides for the former, because Matthew already remarks before (C. 15, 3V.) that a “great” crowd surrounded the Lord, thus trying to form a connection and to explain in advance the fact that Jesus thought of the feeding. But not insignificant *) instances can be cited for the opposite assumption. First of all, the words (Mark 8, 3.) “for some of them have gone far home,” these words, which are missing in Matthew’s writing and are supposed to explain Jesus’ fear that the crowd would die of hunger on the way home, seem to belong to those additions which occur in the first detail and later become superfluous. Also the “immediately” (v. 10), which Matthew does not have, that Jesus immediately goes “with the disciples” across the lake – a provision that is also missing in Matthew’s writing and would have been very useful here – both provisions seem to have been overlooked and omitted by Matthew originally and only through negligence. Finally, the circumstance that in the writing of Matthew the small supply of fish is mentioned only afterwards (v. 7), when Jesus is already busy feeding the multitude, while Matthew has the disciples say already before (C. 15,34.) that they had a few fish besides the stove-bread, this circumstance is very decisive and speaks for the originality of the account which we read in the writing of Matthew *). Matthew already found his account in the latter’s writing; it was Matthew who added to the second account, as in the first, the addition that “besides the women and children” there were so many thousands (C. 14, 21. 15, 38.) who were miraculously fed by Jesus.

*) The one mentioned by Wilke is not even significant: Matthew, who wrote later and elaborated a new work, could already motivate the following, while the interpolator in the writing of Mareus could leave the preceding unchanged and thereby reassure himself that a crowd of people is assumed to be present (C. 7, 33.).

*) Compare e.g. what we have noted about Luke 8, 27 and Mark 5, 15.


We can also indicate how the later came to insert the account of the second feeding into the writing of Mark. After the first feeding follows a collision with the Pharisees; now, when C. 8, 11 again such a collision arises, the later thought it fitting, for the sake of symmetry, that also another feeding should precede it. He was strengthened in this view by the fact that after the Pharisees’ demand for a sign, the discussion of the leaven follows and the miraculous feeding is remembered: should not, he now concluded, such a feeding have happened first? For he did not see that Mark expressly presupposes that the feeding, which he alone knows, must have happened long ago: for does Jesus say, after the incomprehensible utterance of the disciples (C. 8, 17.): do ye “not yet understand?” If ye have “still” a hardened heart, not only must a long period of time have elapsed between the feeding of the people, the meaning of which they should now “at last” have comprehended, and the present incident, but another incident must have intervened, where the disciples had already proved that they had not yet fully recognized the power of the Lord from the feeding, and that their hearts were hardened. This premise is also not missing in the scripture of Mark. It is stated in C. 6, 52.

So far did the later still understand his cause that in the conversation about the leaven, when the Lord appeals to the proof of His power which He had supplied in the feeding, he brings his interpolation to honour and puts into the Lord’s mouth the appeal to the second feeding (C. 8, 20.).

The later received the definite form of his narration by giving a new twist to a statement of the original report. The original account contains the number seven in the five loaves and two fish with which Jesus feeds the five thousand, the later says that there were seven loaves which the Lord distributed among the multitude. In the same way, after the feeding, the Lord fills seven baskets with the remaining pieces, while according to the first account, twelve baskets are filled with the pieces – twelve: as many as the disciples had baskets. Finally, the later determines the number of the crowd to be four thousand, so as not to give the same number that he finds in the first account *).

*) A minor change is that instead of κοφινοι he reads σπυριδος.


The most important change, however, is the following. In the first account, the disciples call their Lord’s attention to the embarrassment of the crowd: let them go so that they can buy bread. Jesus replies, give them food. They then ask: shall we go and buy bread *)? Jesus replied, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see! They found that they had five loaves and two fish with them. The second feeding, on the other hand, is introduced in such a way that Jesus himself first responds to the situation of the crowd and the disciples point out to him the impossibility of bringing the necessary bread here in the desert, from which Jesus asks how many loaves they have and receives the answer: seven. This is the transition to the account we find in the fourth Gospel, that Jesus thinks of the feeding from the beginning and only to try him asks Philip, where shall we buy bread for the people? In the first account, the thought of the impossibility of getting enough bread is brought about by a reflection of the disciples, in the second account by a reflection of Jesus, in the account of the fourth evangelist, everything is already ready in the mind of Jesus and he is pleased from the start that he can embarrass the disciples by making them feel the difficulty of the situation.

*) The more detailed provision (Mark 6, 37.)  δηναριων διακοσιων explains Wilke p. 463 for being inserted later. In his answer, Jesus does not get involved with the specific sum of money and does not answer at all as if the disciples had calculated the expense that might have to be made, but rather he wants to ward off the idea of buying anything at all. The construction of the question of the disciples is also not at all calculated to speak of a certain expense. Compare John 6:7: here the estimate of the cost is in its place, because the evangelist wants to show how much is needed in all, if bread is scarcely sufficient for two hundred denarii; the same contrast is carried out in a very elaborate way later in v. 9. The fourth calls the loaves barley bread (κριθίνους) according to 2 Kings 4, 42 (L.XX). Compare also 2 Kings 4:43 τί δῶ τοῦτο ἐνώπιον ἑκατὸν ἀνδρῶν and John 6:9 αλλα ταυτα τι εστιν εις τοσουτους; According to the original account and the parallels in Luke and Matthew, the disciples say they have only five loaves and two fishes; according to the fourth gospel, Andrew says there is a boy who has so many loaves and fishes: also 2 Kings 4:42, a stranger brings the loaves and the servant of Elisha receives them, after the prophet had commanded him to distribute them among the people.

The provision of Mark 6, 40:  καὶ ἀνέπεσαν πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ κατὰ ἑκατὸν, which he emended, Wilke also rightly declares to be inserted (p. 674), as the statement that there were 5000 follows Ch. 6, 44.

Compare also Joh. 6, 1. 3:  απηλθεν ο ιησους περαν της θαλασσης της Γαλιλαιας της Τιβεριαδος . . . . . ανηλθεν δε εις το ορος ο ιησους και εκει εκαθητο μετα των μαθητων αυτου. Matt 15:29 : καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἀναβὰς εἰς τὸ ὄρος ἐκάθητο ἐκεῖ.

John 6:10 : ποιησατε τους ανθρωπους αναπεσειν ην δε χορτος πολυς εν τω τοπω. Mark 6:39 : καὶ ἐπέταξεν αὐτοῖς ἀνακλῖναι πάντας . . . . . ἐπὶ τῷ χλωρῷ χόρτῳ



3. The resolution of the original report.

If it is now a question of explaining the origin of the original report itself, we may hope to get to the bottom of it if we look more closely at the conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees, since it seems to contain Jesus’ own explanation of the meaning of the miraculous feeding.

Mark does not say what is to be understood by the leaven before which Jesus warns his disciples; only this much we see that Jesus warns the disciples of a spiritual certainty, since he rebukes them for understanding his words sensually. Luke, on a later occasion (C. 12, 1.), only warned against the leaven of the Pharisees, and let Herm himself explain, with the addition, “which is hypocrisy,” what he understood by this leaven. Finally, Matthew tells us that the Lord warned against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and gives the interpretation in the form that he says that when Jesus reminded the disciples of the two feedings, they understood that he wanted to warn them against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (C. 16,12.). Both have interpreted correctly the statement that Mark attributes to the Lord: the disciples should beware of the general determination of the Pharisaic nature, and should not let it influence them even in the specificity of principles, teachings, and principles. Mark had to leave Jesus’ statement in its generality and did not want to interpret it in a specific way, because he places Herod next to the Pharisees and wants the disciples to be warned of his leaven. If one asks what this leaven of Herod means, we must confess that we do not know, since from the context of the Gospel as little as from other news is known that Herod had established or followed a principle which would have been worth the trouble of warning the disciples of Jesus against him. With the Herodians (Mark 12, 13.) it is something quite different. Only for this reason did Mark mention Herod, in order to relate this conversation to the beginning of the passage.


Certainly Mark wanted to place the reminder of the miraculous feeding next to Jesus’ warning against the leaven of the Pharisees: but we must be very surprised at how he did it. We ought to expect that the leaven of the Pharisees should be contrasted with the bread which Jesus gives to His own, that is, with the bread of His teaching and His principles. However, instead of aligning with that image as a parallel, the mention of the feeding appears almost tangential or only as a random, external add-on, as it only serves to criticize the disciples for not thinking of Jesus’ power, which would quickly provide help if they needed bread at that moment. And how is it brought about! This is why the disciples are said to have been surprised at the leaven of the Pharisees, because they had no bread with them. An unnatural and impossible misunderstanding! The disciples are said to have thought that their Master was warning them not to buy bread from the Pharisees, as if every child should not know that the Pharisees, when warned against, are to be considered as teachers, as interpreters of the Law and as that particular sect, but not as bakers. Were the Pharisees bakers? Could it even remotely occur to anyone that bread could be bought from them?


Mark has created a misunderstanding, a contrast between the wisdom of Jesus and the limitation of the disciples, which is as absurd and groundless as only one that the fourth evangelist has created. Two interests determined and occupied him: he wanted to make the disciples appear limited in an evangelical way and, by means of their limited expression, to give the Lord the opportunity to remember the miraculous feeding. But why should the feeding be remembered? The leaven of the Pharisees and the bread which Jesus gives to His people, both should be placed in parallel, at least next to each other, so that the reader would be led to think, through the allusion which puts both in relation to each other, that Jesus shares the true bread of life and has proved His ability to sustain the life of His people in the feeding of the people. Mark explicitly created this conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees to portray the Lord as the giver of the bread of life. However, he could not really and adequately achieve his intention because he had to suddenly lose sight of the goal he was aiming for and paralyze his tendency when he remembered the Lord of the feeding only as a real individual fact and only as proof of his miraculous power. With his abstract boldness and bold abstraction, the fourth evangelist knew how to help himself better when, after the feeding, he wanted to give the Lord the opportunity to call himself the true bread of life: he presented the matter in such a way that Jesus, full of displeasure against the Jews who, after the feeding, only rejoiced in their full belly, looked contemptuously at the sensual fact, pushed it far away from himself and called himself the true bread of life.


Mark could not yet “rise” to this abstraction. However, he had to make such a tremendous effort because he was the first to create this individual event as such and had to let it be regarded as an individual if he attempted to develop its general meaning. To him, the individual fact as such still had value even when it was to be dissolved into his idea: but the later had it easier when he applied himself to this dissolution, since he did not have to create the individual first and no longer knew the birth pains under which it had come into the world.

The same Mark who developed the conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees is responsible for the historical view of religious consciousness, which can be certain of its Lord as the true giver of life who nourishes and satisfies his own in a single event, thus making it sensory and empirical. When they are almost fainting in the wilderness of this life, he strengthens them anew. Mark, the writer, created this image first; the tradition and legend of the community do not understand such creations. Or would it, in its indefinite generality, be possible to bring forth this definite symmetry, that the five loaves and the two fishes form precisely the sacred number seven? Can it cause just as many thousands to be fed as there were loaves? Can it calculate that twelve baskets were filled with the leftover loaves because there were twelve disciples? This mathematical calculation must leave the general view of the church to the mind and judgement of the writer. The only thing it gives the creative artist is the certainty that Jesus nourishes, revives and strengthens his own, the certainty that he has the bread of life in his possession and distributes it freely among the faithful *), finally the conviction that the Messiah must prove and has proved the same miraculous power that was available to Elijah and Elisha and that Jehovah revealed when the people found their daily food during their journey through the wilderness. The writer followed this indication and this conviction when he made the wilderness the locality of the feeding, the report of O.T. about the miraculous deeds of Elijah the idea of the miraculous increase of a small supply of food (1 Kings 17:14-16) and the report about Elisha the idea of the miraculous increase of a small supply of food (1 Kings 17:14-16.) and from the account of Elisha the more definite idea that a disproportionately small supply of food is distributed among a great multitude and yet in the end, when all are satisfied, something of the supply remains (2 Kings 4:42-44).

*) Compare Is. 55, 1. 2. Jer. 31, -5.


Mark was also convinced that the Messiah, if he would do something similar to the men of God of the OT, would have to surpass, even surpass them by the extraordinary nature of his deeds. He has indeed surpassed them, as Mark tells us.



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