The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for March 11th, 2010

Nolan and Brown: Commentary on John 6:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2010

Joh 6:1  After these things Jesus went away beyond the sea of Galilee (of Tiberias),

The interval to be admitted between what is recorded in this chapter and in the preceding depends upon the view we adopt as to what feast is referred to in the first verse of the preceding chapter (i.e., 5:1).  If that was the Feast of Pasch (Passover), almost a year has elapsed, for we are told here, in verse 4, that the pasch is again at hand.  It that was the Feast of Lots, and this the Pasch following, then the interval to be admitted is much less, only a month.  Those who, like us, admit the longer interval say that St John here passes over the events of that year, because they were already related by the Synoptic Evangelists.
In the last chapter we left Jesus at Jerusalem in Judea, the southern province of Palestine, and now, soon after the death of the Baptist (Mt 14:3; Mk 6:17; Lk 3:20) and the return of the Apostles from their first mission (Mk 6: 30; Lk 9:10), we find him in the northern province, by the shores of the sea of Galilee.  This sea or lake (the Jews called every large body of water a sea), which lay to the east of the province of Galilee, was called also the Sea of Tiberius, because of the town built by Herod Antipas, on its western shore, and named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  It was also called sometimes the Lake of Gennesareth, from the fertile plain of that name on its N.W. shore.  It is almost heart-shaped, with narrow end towards the south, and its extent at present is 12 and one half miles from north to south, by 8 miles at its widest part east to west.

Joh 6:2  and there was following him a great multitude, because they were seeing his signs that he was doing on the ailing;

Jesus, accompanied by His disciples, having crossed the lake, a great multitude follows  Him.  Comparing the Synoptic Evangelists (Mt 14:13ff; Mk 6:32ff; Lk 9:10ff), we find that the desert near Bethsaida on the north-eastern side of the lake was the place to which Jesus repaired (Luke); that the multitude followed by land (on foot, Mt and Mk); that they arrived before Him (Mk) and that He taught them for a considerable time.

Joh 6:3  and Jesus went up to the mount, and he was there sitting with his disciples,

The well known mountain range on that side of the lake.  See too in verse 15.

Joh 6:4  and the passover was nigh, the feast of the Jews.

In the view we follow this was the third Pasch of our Lord’s public life.

Joh 6:5  Jesus then having lifted up his eyes and having seen that a great multitude doth come to him, saith unto Philip, `Whence shall we buy loaves, that these may eat?’ —

In the Synoptic Evangelists the disciples are represented as asking our Lord to dismiss the multitude, that they may go and procure food.  We may reconcile with St John’s account thus.  They make a suggestion, as in the Synoptic Evangelists.  He then turns to Philip, as  in St John.

Joh 6:6  and this he said, trying him, for he himself had known what he was about to do.

“One kind of temptation leads to sin, with which God never tempts anyone; and there is another kind by which faith is tried.  In this sense it is said that Christ proved His disciples.  This is not meant to imply that He did not know what Philip would say, but is an accomodation to man’s way of speaking.  For as the expression: Who searches the hearts of men, does not mean the searching of ignorance, but of absolute knowledge; so here, when it is said that our Lord proved Philip, we must understand that He knew him perfectly, but that He tried him in order to confirm his faith.  The Evangelist himself guards against the mistake which this imperfect mode of speaking might occasion, by adding For He Himself knew what He would do” (St Augustine).

Joh 6:7  Philip answered him, `Two hundred denaries’ worth of loaves are not sufficient to them, that each of them may receive some little;’

The denarius was a Roman silver coin, whose value differed at different times.  Note: Modern scholars have determined that 200 denaries equals about 8 months worth of wages for the average daily laborer.

Joh 6:8  one of his disciples–Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter–saith to him,
Joh 6:9  `There is one little lad here who hath five barley loaves, and two fishes, but these–what are they to so many?’

This work offers no notes on these verses.

Joh 6:10  And Jesus said, `Make the men to sit down;’ and there was much grass in the place, the men then sat down, in number, as it were, five thousand,

Christ tells the disciples to bid the multitude be seated “on the green grass” (Mk 6:39); and about 5,000 men (“not reckoning women and children,” Mt 14:21) sat down in companies “by hundreds and by fifties” (Mk 6:40).

Joh 6:11  and Jesus took the loaves, and having given thanks he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those reclining, in like manner, also of the little fishes as much as they wished.

Having returned thanks for all the benefits of God, and particularly for that which He was now about to bestow, Christ took and blessed the loaves and fishes, and through His disciples distributed them to the multitude (Mt, Mk, Lk).  It is not said at what precise time the loaves were multiplied or enlarged, whether in the hands of Christ, or of the disciples.  It may be, as Maldonado supposes, that the increase began in our Lord’s hands, and continued as far as necessary during the distribution by the disciples.  That it at least began in our Lord’s hands, we think extremely probable, for thus He was more clearly shown to be the author of the miracle.

Joh 6:12  And when they were filled, he saith to his disciples, `Gather together the broken pieces that are over, that nothing may be lost;’

The disciples are told to gather up the fragments-(1) to teach us not to neglect the gifts of God; (2) that the fragments might serve as a proof and a memorial of the miracle which had been wrought.

Joh 6:13  they gathered together, therefore, and filled twelve hand-baskets with broken pieces, from the five barley loaves that were over to those having eaten.

“Observe how the four Evangelists use the word κόφινος (kophinus=Baskets), in narrating this miracle, thus distinguishing it from a like one recorded elsewhere by Matthew and Mark, in which there were seven loaves, and 4,000 men, and seven σπυρίς (spuris) of fragments.  It is difficult perhaps to point out distinctly how σπυρίς differed from κόφινος, but certain it is that they did differ, else they would never have been so nicely discriminated by the sacred writers in every instance” (McCarthy: Gosp. of the Sundays, fourth Sunday of Lent).  Note: today scholars recognize that the word κόφινος is used to refer to food baskets used by the Jews, whereas σπυρίς refers to baskets used by the Gentiles.  The second feeding in Mark is quite clearly offered to a primarily Gentile audience (see Mk 8:1-10).

Joh 6:14  Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet that is to come into the world

The Prophet means the Messiah, for whom their fathers and they had yearned so long (Lk 7:19).  Note: Messianic expectations and speculations among the Jews of Jesus’ day were not unified; some held the Prophet and the Messiah to be one and the same, others did not.

Joh 6:15  Jesus therefore, when he knew that they would come to take him by force and make him king, fled again into the mountains, himself alone.

Jesus, knowing their thoughts and intentions, withdrew to the mountain, where He had already been earlier in the day (verse 3).  And He withdrew all alone, a circumstance which makes it extremely probable that He rendered Himself invisible, else some of the crowd would have followed.

It may seem strange at first sight, how differently Christ treats the Jews, on their recognising Him as the Messiah, from the way He treated the Samaritans in similar circumstances (4:42-43).  And yet His action in the two cases is intelligible enough.  The Jews looked for a Messiah who would improve their external condition, free them from subjection to any foreign power, and set them us as a powerful nation.  But the Samaritans could have, and had, not such hope from the advent of a Jewish Messiah.  With the Jews, as we see in the present instance, the intention was to declare the Messiah their King, and thus to throw off their allegiance to Rome.  The consequence, of course, would have been great political excitement and rebellion, ending, doubtless, in the triumph of the Roman arms.  But no matter what the success of such a rebellion, it would have prejudiced the Roman world against the teachings of Christ, and rendered more difficult the recognition of the spiritual character of Christ’s kingdom.

Note: as already indicated, first century Jewish messianic expectation cannot be pigeon holed into one view.  Some views were much less political and worldly than others. Excerpted from The Gospel of John by Nolan and Brown.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Latin Mass Notes, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of John | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

My Notes on John 6:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2010

Background and Context:

The background for this reading is the Passover, which St John describes in 6:4 as being ἐγγύς (eggus), “near”.  The readings used in the synagogues at the time of Jesus would have been the following (this is not without importance):

(1). Genesis chapters 1-8.  (2). Exodus chapters 11-16.  (3). Numbers chapters 6-14.

The reader would do well to examine these passages, or, at the very least, the parts of them listed below; and in doing so note how many times the themes of eating/drinking, life and death come up and are associated with one another.  (The numbers are usually greater in the Hebrew and Greek than in our English translations).  These themes come up in the Eucharistic Discourse of John 6 which interprets the significance of the feeding of the people narrated in 6:1-15.

(1). Genesis 2-3.  Eat-21 times.  Die-5 times.  Life (live, living)-13 times.

(2). Exodus 12.  Eat-19 times.  Die (smite, strike, destroy, cut off)-6 times.  Life- 4 times.

(2a). Exodus 16.  Eat-7 times.  Die-2.  Life-0

(3).  Numbers 11.  Eat-9 times.  Die (kill, smote, consume; this last using the same word translated elsewhere as “eat”)-3 times.

In addition to the above, there are a number of other verbal and conceptual parallels between the synagogue readings and John 6, such as the recurring theme of rebellion, sometimes employing the concept of “murmuring;” the field (or garden, Gen. 2-3; Jn 6:10 usually translated as “grass”); “sitting down” (Jn 1:3, 10; Exodus 16:35 settled, dwelt, inhabited).

Notes: I’m using the Douay-Rheims Translation.

Joh 6:1  After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias.

These things may simply refer to the events narrated in chapter 5, however, scholars have long noted-and this includes a number of early Church Fathers- connections between the episode in Samaria and the events of John 6, and so it seems likely that these things refers to all the events between 4:4 and the current verse.

Joh 6:2  And a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
Joh 6:3  Jesus therefore went up into a mountain: and there he sat with his disciples.

The reference to a mountain and the fact that Jesus sat down recalls the episode in Samaria when He sat down by the well (4:6) in the vicinity of a mountain (4:20).  On that occasion also, and in the presence of his disciples, he saw a great multitude come towards him (4:30).  I hope to bring out the significance of this as we proceed.

Joh 6:4  Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand.
Joh 6:5  When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

The reference to the pasch (Passover) would certainly call to the minds of the original readers of the Gospel the fact of Jesus death and resurrection.

The Greek οὖν (oun), translated above as therefore, is a conjunctive which indicates that Jesus’ question to Philip was motivated by his lifting up his eyes and seeing a great multitude coming to him.  Nothing is said about the crowd’s hunger or of Jesus compassion (compare with Mark 8:1-10).  What then is the motivation?

Again, we turn to the episode in Samaria.  The episode opened with the disciples going into the town to “buy food” while Jesus sat by the well, “tired” (literally worked or labored out).  When his disciples returned they encouraged him to “eat,” but he responded: “I have meat (food) to eat which you know not…My meat (food) is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work” (4:31-34).  Jesus’ “food” is the salvific work the Father has given him to do.  It is against this backdrop that one must see John’s account of the feeding and the subsequent discourse.

After speaking to his disciples about the food he had to eat, he bids them to lift up their eyes and see the fields already white for the harvest (4:35).  A number of scholars understand the fields white for the harvest to be a reference to the Samaritan townspeople coming across the fields to see him (4:30).

Joh 6:6  And this he said to try him: for he himself knew what he would do.
Joh 6:7  Philip answered him: Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one may take a little.

The phrase He himself knew what he would do calls to mind the statement Jesus made in Samaria that He had food which the disciples did not know of (4:32).  Inasmuch as that was later defined as doing the salvific will of His Father we are to understand that what He will do here is salvific.

Two hundred penny worth of bread is not sufficient…the monetary phrase represents about eight months of wages for the average daily laborer of the time.  The allusion to purchasing and wages (implied) calls to mind the already mentioned theme from the Samaria episode and the work of Jesus, but also points to the theme of labor/work in the Eucharistic Discourse (6:27-29).

Joh 6:8  one of his disciples–Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter–saith to him,
Joh 6:9  `There is one little lad here who hath five barley loaves, and two fishes, but these–what are they to so many?

Andrew and Philip were the two disciples who brought others to Jesus in chapter one (1:40-41, 45-46).  In chapter 12 they appear again as missionaries, approaching Jesus on behalf of some Greeks (12:20-22).  Jesus came in the flesh to do the Father’s work, the salvation of man, the fruits of this work will be applied to man via the mission of the Church, offering the Flesh and Blood of Jesus in the Sacrament.  In this way missionaries such as Andrew and Philip “enter into the work (labor) of others” (see 4:35-38).

Joh 6:10  And Jesus said, `Make the men to sit down;’ and there was much grass in the place, the men then sat down, in number, as it were, five thousand,
Joh 6:11  and Jesus took the loaves, and having given thanks he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those reclining, in like manner, also of the little fishes as much as they wished.

In Samaria Jesus had sat down having been “worked out” by doing the salvific work of His Father.  His Disciples will in the future enter into that work by celebrating the Eucharist, the people in general merely have to sit down and enjoy the fruit of the labor.

Joh 6:12  And when they were filled, he saith to his disciples, `Gather together the broken pieces that are over, that nothing may be lost;’
Joh 6:13  they gathered together, therefore, and filled twelve hand-baskets with broken pieces, from the five barley loaves that were over to those having eaten.

The gathering up of the leftovers becomes a sign of salvation.  That nothing may be lost (perish) is a key theme in the Gospel of John (see 6:39; 17:12; 18:9).  It recalls Jesus’ openness to the Samaritans, traditional enemies of the Jewish people, who had referred to him as “Savior of the world” (4:42).

Joh 6:14  The men, then, having seen the sign that Jesus did, said–`This is truly the Prophet, who is coming to the world;’
Joh 6:15  Jesus, therefore, having known that they are about to come, and to take him by force that they may make him king, retired again to the mountain himself alone.

The crowd’s misunderstanding of the sign and the attempt to force their own will upon Jesus provides the necessity for the discourse in 6:22ff.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Eucharist, Latin Mass Notes, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of John | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: