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The Feeding of the Four Thousand
Catholic Answers ^ | July 7, 2014 | Jimmy Akin

Posted on 07/13/2014 11:37:32 AM PDT by NYer

In the Gospels, the most famous miracle associated with Jesus—other than the Resurrection—is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s recorded in all four Gospels.

But Matthew and Mark record an additional, similar miracle, known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand. The numbers connected with this miracle are a little different (four thousand people are fed, they use seven loaves and “a few small fish,” and they pick up seven baskets of leftovers), but it’s the same basic type of miracle.

That may be why Luke and John chose not to record it: Given the space limitations on ancient books, which needed to fit comfortably within a scroll, they may have concluded that they would only record one miracle of this type, and they picked the more impressive one.

But even if a miraculous multiplication of food has been done before, and on a somewhat larger scale, it’s still impressive! That may be why Matthew and Mark chose to record it.

There may also be another reason, but it requires a little detective work.

Jesus’ Travels

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record most of Jesus’ ministry as taking place in Galilee, which is an area north of Judea. In these three Gospels, Jesus is in Judea at the very beginning of his ministry, when he is baptized by John, and again at the end of his ministry, when he is crucified in Jerusalem. Between those points, however, he spends most of his time in Galilee.

But not all of it.

He also makes excursions into Gentile territory, such as when he exorcizes the Gerasene/Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). That’s why there was a herd of two thousand pigs in that story—because the Gerasenes were Gentiles and ate pork.

It’s interesting that, at the end of the story, Jesus tells the formerly possessed man to spread the word about what God had done for him. This is the opposite of what Jesus frequently did in Galilee, where he often told people to keep what he did for them quiet.

The apparent reason for this was to try to keep from being mobbed or unwillingly declared king as people came to regard him as a political Messiah (John 6:15).

But since he spent most of his time in Galilee, there was less danger of that, and having the demoniac reveal what Jesus had done for him wouldn’t interfere with his ministry. Indeed, it would help Gentiles learn about the God of Israel!

If you read carefully, though, you see that—as Jesus continues to make excursions into Gentile territory—his reputation starts growing among them.

That brings us to the two feeding miracles.

Feeding the Five Thousand

Matthew and Mark say that this miracle occurred in “a lonely place” by the Sea of Galilee, but they don’t say where (Matt. 14:13, Mark 6:32). John is also vague about where it happened (John 6:1), but Luke tells us that it took place near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida was the original home of Peter and Andrew (John 1:44). It was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. In fact, the name Beth-Tsaida means “House of Fishing.”

It was, in any event, in Jewish territory, and so the Feeding of the Five Thousand involved a predominantly Jewish audience.

What about the other feeding miracle?

"Just Who Is Really Unclean, Here?"

In Mark 7, Jesus is criticized by some scribes and Pharisees because his disciples eat without washing their hands, according to Jewish custom. Jesus defends the disciples by saying that it is what comes out of a man’s heart, not what goes into his mouth, that makes him unclean (7:1-23).

Mark then adds an editorial comment to flesh out the implications of this: “Thus he declared all foods clean” (7:19). This was an important thing, since there was a question in the early Church about whether Gentiles had to keep the Jewish food laws (Rom. 14, Gal. 2:11-14, Col. 2:16).

This sets us up for a series of stories involving Gentiles.

First, Mark records Jesus going on an excursion to Tyre and Sidon, which are in modern-day Lebanon, to the north of Galilee. There he encounters the Syrophoenician woman—a Gentile—and exorcizes her daughter (7:24-30).

Mark then states: “Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis” (7:31).

The Decapolis was a group of ten cities that lay primarily on the east side of the Jordan River, in what is now the country of Jordan.

At the time, they were Greco-Roman cities, so they were Gentile rather than Jewish. In fact, Gerasa and Gadara were two of the ten cities, and so Jesus is going back into the same territory where he exorcized the demoniac.

But his reputation as a miracle-worker has grown, perhaps as a result of that man’s spreading the word, and he is brought a deaf mute, who he also heals (7:32-37).

Then something really interesting happens.

Feeding the Four Thousand

Mark reports:

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way” [Mark 7:1-3].

So the Feeding of the Four Thousand, which occurs in this same sequence of stories involving Gentiles, after Jesus has journeyed into the Decapolis, appears to involve a Gentile audience.

In other words: It’s the Gentile sequel to the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Jesus may have encountered trouble at home—such as the conflict with the Pharisees over hand washing—but his reputation in the Decapolis has grown to the point that he can now attract an audience of four thousand Gentiles and hold them for three days until they run out of food, leading to the second feeding miracle.

Matthew’s account is similar. In his version there is the conflict with the Pharisees about hand washing (Matt. 15:1-20), then Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon and exorcizes the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter (Matthew specifically notes that the woman is “a Canaanite,” Matt 15:22). Afterward, as in Mark, Jesus journeys back and “passed along the Sea of Galilee” (Matt. 15:29), which is what you’d likely do to get to the Decapolis.

Matthew doesn’t make it explicit that Jesus was in the Decapolis when he performed the next set of miracles, which included healing “the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others” (Matt. 15:30), but he does say that, “the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel” (Matt. 15:31).

This would be a strange thing to say if the audience were Jewish. Jews already glorified the God of Israel. They did it all the time. They worshipped him daily.

What would be more remarkable—worthy of Matthew making a remark on it—is for Gentiles to glorify the God of Israel.

We’ve already seen from Mark’s account that the Feeding of the Four Thousand likely involved a predominantly Gentile audience, and the crowd that glorifies the God of Israel in Matthew turns out to be the same crowd of four thousand that he immediately proceeds to feed (Matt. 15:32-38).

It thus looks like both Matthew and Mark subtly portray the Feeding of the Four Thousand as the Gentile sequel to the Feeding of the Five Thousand, foreshadowing the including of Jews and Gentiles within his Church.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History
KEYWORDS: catholicanswers; jimmyakin

1 posted on 07/13/2014 11:37:32 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 07/13/2014 11:37:56 AM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: NYer

“That may be why Luke and John chose not to record it: Given the space limitations on ancient books, “

A low view of the inspiration of Scripture...


3 posted on 07/13/2014 11:40:03 AM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: NYer
In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis comments on the miracle of multiplication of the loaves. He notes it's really an extension of something God does regularly. You plant a seed and it multiplies. We don't consider that to be a miracle. It's simply part of Nature. What Lewis is saying is that Nature is itself as much a miracle as are the miracles that in some way bypass Nature. The Laws of Nature are God's laws, built into Creation.
4 posted on 07/13/2014 12:21:43 PM PDT by JoeFromSidney (Book: Resistance to Tyranny. Buy from Amazon.)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion
“That may be why Luke and John chose not to record it: Given the space limitations on ancient books, “

A low view of the inspiration of Scripture...

Not really. Ancient authors had to be much more conscious than we do of how much space they were consuming. Paper (papyrus or parchment) was much more expensive, and scrolls were difficult to work with once they get beyond a certain size.

The 3rd century B.C. Greek poet Callimachus famously said, "A large scroll is a large evil."

Luke's Gospel is already the longest book of the New Testament, and this forced him to omit material he might otherwise have included.

He had tons of special material not yet recorded in Gospel form that he wanted to put down (e.g., his Infancy Narrative), and he knew that the Feeding of the Four Thousand was already recorded in one of the other Gospels (Matthew or Mark, depending on which you think he used in composing his).

Also, The Feeding of the Four Thousand occurs in a part of Mark that is referred to as "the Great Omission" (from around Mark 6:47 to around Mark 8:27). It's a whole block of text that Luke basically leapt over--if he was using Mark--likely for space-saving reasons.

5 posted on 07/13/2014 1:03:21 PM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: All
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6 posted on 07/13/2014 1:06:36 PM PDT by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: NYer
John was quick to point out that Christ did so many miracles that not all the books could hold them. John selected his miracles for a purpose. Here is an interesting article on MIRACLES: Miracles of Christ Recorded in John's Gospel. The author believes the miracles John selected were to illustrate the qualities of God. Thus John gave one miracle per one quality.
7 posted on 07/13/2014 1:13:06 PM PDT by HarleyD ("... letters are weighty, but his .. presence is weak, and his speech of no account.")
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To: NYer

Your response is an equally low view of the inspiration of Scripture.


8 posted on 07/13/2014 1:31:49 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

Maybe your understanding of inspiration is low.


9 posted on 07/13/2014 1:48:12 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: JoeFromSidney
In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis comments on the miracle of multiplication of the loaves. He notes it's really an extension of something God does regularly. You plant a seed and it multiplies. We don't consider that to be a miracle. It's simply part of Nature. What Lewis is saying is that Nature is itself as much a miracle as are the miracles that in some way bypass Nature. The Laws of Nature are God's laws, built into Creation.

GOOD words.
Thanks for posting them.

10 posted on 07/13/2014 1:48:21 PM PDT by cloudmountain
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

Your response puts one in mind of the fabled manger animal.

Woof, woof.


11 posted on 07/13/2014 1:51:39 PM PDT by narses (Matthew 7:6. He appears to have made up his mind let him live with the consequences.)
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To: HarleyD

John wrote AFTER all the other evangelists, and most of his writing is theology, although other things are included.


12 posted on 07/13/2014 1:59:34 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: vladimir998

Vlad,
No, it is as high as revealed in Sacred Scripture. The article is pathetically low.

Thanks.


13 posted on 07/13/2014 3:20:40 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: narses

Narses,
Perhaps if you posted one of your pics it would help...?


14 posted on 07/13/2014 3:21:40 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

“No, it is as high as revealed in Sacred Scripture. The article is pathetically low.”

No, your opinion is simply skewed.


15 posted on 07/13/2014 4:41:48 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: NYer

We’ve had our differences in theological discussions, but I enjoyed your post and agree with the article. Thanks!


16 posted on 07/13/2014 4:50:46 PM PDT by Mr Rogers
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To: vladimir998

Vlad- the article portrays Luke as unguided or inspired , but as simply working on a term paper. It is an extremely low view of what inspiration means in Scripture.


17 posted on 07/13/2014 6:05:56 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

No, the Akin article simply talks about the feeding of the 4,000. Inspiration is not the focus.


18 posted on 07/13/2014 7:17:49 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: vladimir998

“Inspiration is not the focus”

No, it is the pathetic, limp-wristed, subtext that is revealed by the explanations put forth in the article. I’m pointing out what a low view of inspiration Akin holds - and is defended by posters here.


19 posted on 07/13/2014 7:21:09 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

Actually all you’re doing is posting your opinion (which is erroneous) and claiming it is Akin’s. That’s “pathetic, limp-wristed”. Akin, on the other hand, is just fine.


20 posted on 07/13/2014 7:32:03 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: vladimir998

“Akin, on the other hand, is just fine.”

That, is an opinion, completely unsupported. If you can support it, I would like to see the support.


21 posted on 07/13/2014 7:35:02 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

>>That may be why Luke and John chose not to record it: Given the space limitations on ancient books, which needed to fit comfortably within a scroll, they may have concluded that they would only record one miracle of this type, and they picked the more impressive one.<<

I had the same reaction to the comment - purely human reasoning and a disappointing disregard of Divine inspiration (1 Corinthians 2:12-16, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

The longer you study the Word as a whole, or its individual books, passages, word order, and even the specific Greek words selected, you see Divine direction at every turn. Each Gospel has a very clear purpose, unveiling a different aspect of Jesus. Each one has its differences, but all complement each other, providing a complete picture of Jesus and his ministry so that you may believe in him.

John 20:30-31 (KJV)
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John’s statement in 21:25 agrees with 20:30-31, clearly there was so much more that could have been written. Why did John stop with exactly 8 signs of Jesus - 7 while he was on Earth, and 1 after his resurrection? Because that was exactly what the Holy Spirit directed him to write.

The same Divine guidance continues throughout the New Testament in the transitional time of Acts, and especially in Paul’s letters to the Body of Christ.


22 posted on 07/13/2014 7:46:50 PM PDT by Kandy Atz ("Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want for bread.")
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

“That, is an opinion, completely unsupported. If you can support it, I would like to see the support.”

I know what I said was true. My opinion is based upon about 19 years of experience of reading Akin’s articles and books, and blogs and listening to him frequently on the radio. I don’t care if that convinces you or not. You have nothing to compete with that.


23 posted on 07/13/2014 7:53:24 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: vladimir998

“You have nothing to compete with that.”

Just the Scriptures themselves, but as you point out you don’t care to discuss it. That’s fine.

Best.


24 posted on 07/13/2014 8:17:32 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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To: Kandy Atz

“I had the same reaction to the comment - purely human reasoning and a disappointing disregard of Divine inspiration (1 Corinthians 2:12-16, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:14-17).”

+1

But of course, if someone listens to the radio, or reads lots of (non-inspired articles), what use is taking about it?

:-)


25 posted on 07/13/2014 8:20:25 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion ( "I didn't leave the Central Oligarchy Party. It left me." - Ronaldus Maximus)
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Comment #26 Removed by Moderator

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