INTRODUCTION TO THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND.
And when even was come His disciples came to Him," that is, at the consummation
of the age in regard to which we may fitly say what is found in the Epistle
of John, "It is the last hour." They, not yet understanding what the Word
was about to do, say to Him, "The place is desert," seeing the desert condition
of the masses in respect of God and the Law and the Word; but they say
to Him, "The time is past," as if the fitting season of the law and prophets
had passed. Perhaps they spoke this saying, in reference to the word of
Jesus, that because of the beheading of John both the law and the prophets
who were until John had ceased. "The time is past," therefore they say,
and no food is at hand, because the season of it is no longer present,
that those who have followed Thee in the desert may serve the law and the
prophets. And, further, the disciples say, "Send them away," that each
one may buy food, if he cannot from the cities, at least from the villages,--places
more ignoble. Such things the disciples said, because, after the letter
of the law had been abrogated and prophecies had ceased, they despaired
of unexpected and new food being found for the multitudes. But see what
Jesus answers to the disciples though He does not cry out and plainly say
it: "You suppose that, if the great multitude go away from Me in need of
food, they will find it in villages rather than with Me, and among bodies
of men, not of citizens but of villagers, rather than by abiding with Me.
But I declare unto you, that in regard to that of which you suppose they
are in need they are not in need, for they have no need to go away; but
in regard to that of which you think they have no need--that is, of Me--as
if I could not feed them, of this contrary to your expectation they have
need. Since, then, I have trained you, and made you fit to give rational
food to them who are in need of it, give ye to the crowds who have followed
Me to eat; for ye have the power, which ye have received from Me, of giving
the multitudes to eat; and if ye had attended to this, ye would have understood
that I am far more able to feed them, and ye would not have said, 'Send
the multitudes away that they may go and buy food for themselves.'"
2. EXPOSITION OF THE DETAILS OF THE MIRACLE.
Jesus, then, because of the power which He gave to the disciples, even
the power of nourishing others, said, Give ye them to eat. But (not denying
that they can give loaves, but thinking that there were much too few and
not sufficient to feed those who followed Jesus, and not considering that
when Jesus takes each loaf--the Word--He extends it as far as He wills,
and makes it suffice for all whomsoever He desires to nourish), the disciples
say, We have here but five loaves and two fishes. Perhaps by the five loaves
they meant to make a veiled reference to the sensible words of the Scriptures,
corresponding in number on this account to the five senses, but by the
two fishes either to the word expressed and the word conceived, which are
a relish, so to speak, to the sensible things contained in the Scriptures;
or, perhaps, to the word which had come to them about the Father and the
Son. Wherefore also after His resurrection He ate of a broiled fish, having
taken a part from the disciples, and having received that theology about
the Father which they were in part able to declare to Him. Such is the
contribution we have been able to give to the exposition of the word about
the five loaves and the two fishes; and probably those, who are better
able than we to gather together the five loaves and the two fishes among
themselves, would be able to give a fuller and better interpretation of
their meaning. It must be observed, however, that while in Matthew, Mark,
and Luke, the disciples say that they have the five loaves and the two
fishes, without indicating whether they were wheaten or of barley, John
alone says, that the loaves were barley loaves. Wherefore, perhaps, in
the Gospel of John the disciples do not acknowledge that the loaves are
with them, but say in John, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves
and two fishes." And so long as these five loaves and two fishes were not
carried by the disciples of Jesus, they did not increase or multiply, nor
were they able to nourish more; but, when the Saviour took tem, and in
the first placed looked up to heaven, with the rays of His eyes, as it
were, drawing down from it power which was to be mingled with the loaves
and the fishes which were about to feed the five thousand; and after this
blessed the five loaves and the two fishes, increasing and multiplying
them by the word and the blessing; and in the third place dividing and
breaking He gave to the disciples that they might set them before the multitudes,
then the loaves and the fishes were sufficient, so that all ate and were
satisfied, and some portions of the loaves which had been blessed they
were unable to eat. For so much remained over to the multitudes, which
was not according to the capacity of the multitudes but of the disciples
who were able to take up that which remained over of the broken pieces,
and to place it in baskets filled with that which remained over, which
were in number so many as the tribes of Israel. Concerning Joseph, then,
it is written in the Psalms, "His hands served in the basket," but about
the disciples of Jesus that they took up that which remained over of the
broken pieces twelve baskets, twelve baskets, I take it, not half-full
but filled. And there are, I think, up to the present time, and will be
until the consummation of the age with the disciples of Jesus, who are
superior to the multiudes, the twelve baskets, filled with the broken pieces
of living bread which the multitudes cannot eat. Now those who ate of the
five loaves which existed before the twelve baskets that remained over,
were kindred in nature to the number five; for those who ate had reached
the stage of sensible things, since also they were nourished by Him who
looked up to heaven and blessed and brake them, and were not boys nor women,
but men. For there are, I think, even in sensible foods differences, so
that some of them belong to those who "have put away childish things,"
and some to those who are still babes and carnal in Christ.
3. THE EXPOSITION OF DETAILS CONTINUED. THE SITTING DOWN ON THE GRASS.
THE DIVISION INTO COMPANIES.
We have spoken these things because of the words, "They that did eat
were five thousand men, beside children and women," which is an ambiguous
expression; for either those who ate were five thousand men, and among
those who ate there was no child or woman; or the men only were five thousand,
the children and the women not being reckoned. Some, then, as we have said
by anticipation, have so understood the passage that neither children nor
women were present, when the increase and multiplication of the five loaves
and the two fishes took place. Bat some one might say that, while many
ate and according to their desert and capacity participated in the loaves
of blessing, some worthy to be numbered, corresponding to the men of twenty
years old who are numbered in the Book of Numbers, were Israelitish men,
but others who were not worthy of such account and numbering were children
Moreover, interpret with me allegorically the children in accordance
with the passage, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as
unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ;" and the women in accordance with
the saying, "I wish to present you all as a pure virgin to Christ;" and
the men according to the saying, "When I am become a man I have put away
childish things." Let us not pass by without exposition the words, "He
commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass, and He look the five
loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake,
and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.
And they did all eat." For what is meant by the words, "And He commanded
all the multitudes to sit down on the grass?" And what are we to understand
in the passage worthy of the command of Jesus? Now, I think that He commanded
the multitudes to sit down on the grass because of what is said in Isaiah,
"All flesh is grass;" that is to say, He commanded them to put the flesh
under, and to keep in subjection "the mind of the flesh," that so any one
might be able to partake of the loaves which Jesus blesses. Then since
there are different orders of those who need the food which Jesus supplies
and all are not nourished by equal words, on this account I think that
Mark has written, "And He commanded them that they should all sit down
by companies upon the green grass; and they sat down in ranks by hundreds
and by fifties;" but Luke, "And He said unto His disciples, Make them sit
down in companies about fifty each." For it was necessary that those who
were to find rest in the food of Jesus should either be in the order of
the hundred--the sacred number--which is consecrated to God, because of
the unit, (in it) or in the order of the fifty--the number which embraces
the remission of sins, in accordance with the mystery of the Jubilee which
took place every fifty years, and of the feast at Pentecost. And I think
that the twelve baskets were in the possession of the disciples to whom
t was said "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes
of Israel." And as the throne of him who judges the tribe of Reuben might
be said to be a mystery, and the throne of him who judges the tribe of
Simeon, and another of him who judges the tribe of Judah, and so on with
the others; so there might be a basket of the food of Reuben, and another
of Simeon, and another of Levi. But it is not in accordance with our present
discourse now to digress so far from the subject in hand as to collect
what is said about the twelve tribes, and separately what is said about
each of them, and to say what each tribe of Israel may signify.
4. THE MULTITUDES AND THE DISCIPLES CONTRASTED.
"And straightway He constrained the disciples to enter into the boat,
and to go before Him unto the other side, till He should send the multitudes
away." It should be observed how often in the same passages is mentioned
the word, "the multitudes," and another word, "the disciples," so that
by observing and bringing together the passages about this matter it may
be seen that the aim of the Evangelists was to represent by means of the
Gospel history the differences of those who come to Jesus; of whom some
are the multitudes and are not called disciples, and others are the disciples
who are better than the multitudes. It is sufficient, however, for the
present, for us to set forth a few sayings, so that any one who is moved
by them may do the like with the whole of the Gospels. It is written then--as
if the multitudes were below, but the disciples were able to come to Jesus
when He went up into the mountain, where the multitudes were not able to
be--as follows: "And seeing the multitudes He went up into the mountain,
and when He had sat down His disciples came unto Him; and He opened His
mouth and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc. And
again in another place, as the multitudes stood in need of healing, it
is said, "Many multitudes followed Him and He healed them." We do not find
any healing recorded of the disciples; since if any one is already a disciple
of Jesus he is whole, and being well he needs Jesus not as a physician
but in respect of His other powers. Again in another place, when He was
speaking to the multitudes, His mother and His brethren stood without,
seeking to speak to Him; this was made known to Him by some one to whom
He answered, stretching forth His hand not towards the multitudes but towards
the disciples, and said, "Behold My mother and My brethren." and bearing
testimony to the disciples as doing the will of the Father which is in
heaven, He added, "He is My brother and sister and mother." And again in
another place it is written, "All the multitude stood on the beach an He
spake to them many things in parables." Then after the parable of the Sowing,
it was no longer the multitudes but the disciples who came and said to
Him, not "Why speakest thou to us in parables," but, "Why speakest thou
to them in parables." Then also He answered and said, not to the multitudes
but to the disciples, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the
kingdom of heaven, but to the rest in parables."
Accordingly; of those who come to the name I of Jesus some, who know
the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, would be called disciples; but
those to whom such a privilege is not given would be called multitudes,
who would be spoken of as inferior to the disciples. For observe carefully
that He said to the disciples, "To you it is given to know the mysteries
of the kingdom of heaven," but about the multitudes, "To them it is not
given." And in another place He dismisses the multitudes indeed, and goes
into the house, but He does not dismiss the disciples; and there came to
Him into His house, not the multitudes but His disciples, saying, "Declare
to us the parable of the tares of the field." Moreover, also, in another
place when Jesus heard the things concerning John and withdrew in a boat
to a desert place apart, the multitudes followed Him; when He came forth
and saw a great multitude He had compassion on them and healed their sick--the
sick of the multitudes, not of the disciples. "And when even was come there
came to Him," not the multitudes, but the disciples, as being different
from the multitudes, saying, "Send the multitudes away that they may go
into the villages and buy themselves food." And, further, when Jesus took
the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven He blessed
and brake the loaves, He gave not to the multitudes but to the disciples,
that the disciples might give to the multitudes who were not able to take
from Him, but received with difficulty at the hands of the disciples the
loaves of the blessing of Jesus, and did not eat even all these; for the
multitudes were filled and left that which remained over in twelve baskets
which were full.
19. Concerning the Seven Loaves. The Narrative of the Feeding of the
Four Thousand Compared with that of the Five Thousand.
"And Jesus called unto Him His disciples and said."199 Above in the
similar history to this about the loaves, before the loaves are spoken
of, "Jesus came forth and saw a great multitude and had compassion upon
them and healed their sick. And when even was come the disciples came to
Him saying, The place is desert and the time is already past, send them
away,"200 etc. But now after the healing of the deaf and the rest, He takes
compassion on the multitude which had continued with Him now three days
and had nothing to eat. And there the disciples make request concerning
the five thousand;201 but here He speaks of His own accord about the four
thousand.202 Those, too, are fed when it was evening after they had spent
a day with Him; but these, who are testified to have continued with Him
three days, partake of the loaves lest they might faint by the way. And
there the disciples say to Him when He was not inquiring, that they had
only five loaves and two fishes; but here to Him making inquiry, they give
answer about the seven loaves and the few small fishes. And there He commands
the multitudes to sit down or lie upon the grass; for Luke also wrote,
"Make them sit down,"203 and Mark says, "He commanded them all to sit down;
"204 but here He does not command but proclaims205 to the multitude to
sit down. Again, there, the three Evangelists say in the very same words
that "He took the five loaves and the two fishes and looking up to heaven
He blessed; "206 but here, as Matthew and Mark have written, "Jesus gave
thanks and brake; "207 there, they recline upon the grass, but here they
sit down upon the ground. You will moreover investigate in the accounts
in the different places the variation found in John, who wrote in regard
to that transaction that Jesus said, "Make the men sit down,"208 and that,
having given thanks, He gave of the loaves to them that were set down,
but he did not mention this miracle at all.209 Attending, then, to the
difference of those things which are written in the various places in regard
to the loaves, I think that these belong to a different order from those;
wherefore these are fed in a mountain, and those in a desert place; and
these after they had continued three days with Jesus, but those one day,
on the evening of which they were fed. And further, unless it be the same
thing for Jesus to do a thing of Himself and to act after having heard
from the disciples, consider if those to whom Jesus shows kindness are
not superior when He fed them on the spot with a view to showing them kindness.
And, if according to John,210 they were barley loaves of which the twelve
baskets remained over, but nothing of this kind is said about these, how
are not these superior to the former? And the sick of those He healed,211
but here He heals these, along with the multitudes, who were not sick but
blind, and lame, and deaf, and maimed; wherefore also in regard to these
the four thousand marvel,212 but in regard to the sick no such thing is
said. And these I think who ate of the seven loaves for which thanks were
given, are superior to those who ate of the five which were blessed; and
these who ate the few little fishes to those who ate of the two, and perhaps
also these who sat down upon the ground to those who sat down on the grass.
And those from fewer loaves leave twelve baskets, but these from a greater
number leave seven baskets, inasmuch, as they were able to receive more.
And perhaps these tread upon all earthly things and sit down upon them,
but those upon the grass-upon their flesh only-for "all flesh is grass."213
Consider also after this, that Jesus does not wish to send them away fasting
lest they faint on the way, as being without the loaves of Jesus, and while
they were still on the way-the way to their own concerns-might suffer injury.
Take note also of the cases where Jesus is recorded to have sent any one
away, that you may see the difference of those who were sent away by Him
after being fed, and those who had been sent away otherwise; and, as a
pattern of one who was sent away otherwise, take "Woman, thou art loosed
from thine infirmity."214 But further the disciples who are always with
Jesus are not sent away by Him; but the multitudes after they have eaten
are sent away. Likewise, again, the disciples who conceive nothing great
about the Canaanitish woman say, "Send her away, for she crieth after us;
"215 but the Saviour does not at all appear to send her away; for saying
unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith, be it done to thee even as thou
wilt,"216 He healed her daughter from that hour: it is not however written
that He sent her away. So far at the present time have we been able to
investigate and see into the passage before us.
199 Matt. xv. 32.
200 Matt. xiv. 15.
201 Matt. xiv. 15.
202 Matt. xv. 32.
203 Luke ix. 14.
204 Mark vi. 39.
205 ou keleuei alla paraggellei
206 Matt. xiv. 19; Mark vi. 41; Luke ix, 16.
207 Matt. xv 36; Mark viii. 6.
208 John vi. 10.
209 Or, did not mention the occasion of this.
210 John vi. 13.
211 Matt. xiv. 14.
212 Matt. xv. 31.
213 Isa. xl. 6.
214 Luke xiii. 12, Literally `thou art sent away. 0'
215 Matt. xv. 23.
216 Matt. xv. 28.