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

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.

6 Responses to “Nolan and Brown: Commentary on John 6:1-15”

  1. […] Nolan And Brown’s Notes On John 6:1-15.  A bit outdated but useful. […]

  2. […] Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 6:1-15. […]

  3. […] Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15). […]

  4. […] Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 6:1-15. […]

  5. […] Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15). […]

  6. […] Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15). […]

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