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POPULAR MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE MIRACLE OF FEEDING.
Discourse, and then after the defection of some of His former disciples. But we can only suggest such an arrangement, since it would have been quite consistent with Jewish practice, that the greater part should have taken place in the Synagogue itself, the v. 61-65 Jewish questions and objections representing either an irregular running commentary on His Words, or expressions during breaks in, or at the conclusion of, His teaching.
This, however, is a primary requirement, that, what Christ is reported to have spoken, should appear suited to His hearers : such as would appeal to what they knew, such also as they could understand. This must be kept in view, even while admitting that the Evangelist wrote his Gospel in the light of much later and fuller knowledge, and for the instruction of the Christian Church, and that there may be breaks and omissions in the reported, as compared with the original Discourse, which, if supplied, would make its understanding much easier to a Jew. On the other hand, we have to bear in mind all the circumstances of the case. The Discourse in question was delivered in the city, which had been the scene of so many of Christ's great miracles, and the centre of His teaching, and in the Synagogue, built by the good Centurion, and of which Jairus was the chief ruler. Here we have the outward and inward conditions for even the most advanced teaching of Christ. Again, it was delivered under twofold moral conditions, to which we may expect the Discourse of Christ to be adapted. For, first, it was after that miraculous feeding which had raised the popular enthusiasm to the highest pitch, and also after that chilling disappointment of their Judaistic hopes in Christ's utmost resistance to His Messianic proclamation. They now came seeking for Jesus,' in every sense of the word. They knew not what to make of those, to them, contradictory and irreconcilable facts; they came, because they did eat of the loaves, without seeing in them "signs. And therefore they came for such a sign' e ver. 26 as they could perceive, and for such teaching in interpretation of it as they could understand. They were outwardly-by what had happened-prepared for the very highest teaching, to which the preceding events had led up, and therefore they must receive such, if any. But they were not inwardly prepared for it, and therefore they could not understand it. Secondly, and in connection with it, we must remember that two high points had been reached-by the people, that Jesus was the Messiah-King ; by the ship's company, that He was the Son of God. However imperfectly these truths may have been apprehended, yet the teaching of Christ, if it was to be pro
a St. John vi. 25-29
gressive, must start from them, and then point onwards and upwards. In this expectation we shall not be disappointed. And if, by the side of all this, we shall find allusions to peculiarly Jewish thoughts and views, these will not only confirm the Evangelic narrative, but furnish additional evidence of the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
1. The question : Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?' with which they from the eastern side greeted Jesus, seems to imply that they were perplexed about, and that some perhaps had heard a vague rumour of the miracle of, His return to the western shore. It was the beginning of that unhealthy craving for the miraculous which the Lord had so sharply to reprove. In His own words: they sought Him not because they saw signs,' but because they “ate of the loaves, and, in their coarse love for the miraculous, ' were filled.'! What brought them, was not that they had discerned either the higher meaning of that miracle, or the Son of God, but those carnal Judaistic expectancies which had led them to proclaim Him King. What they waited for, was a Kingdom of God-not in righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost, but in meat and drink-a kingdom with miraculous wilderness-banquets to Israel, and coarse miraculous triumphs over the Gentiles. Not to speak of the fabulous Messianic banquet which a sensuous realism expected, or of the achievements for which it looked, every figure in which prophets had clothed the brightness of those days was first literalised, and then exaggerated, till the most glorious poetic descriptions became the most repulsively incongruous caricatures of spiritual Messianic expectancy. The fruit-trees were every day, or at least every week or two, to yield their riches, the
fields their harvests ; b the grain was to stand like palm trees, and to Shekal. vi. 2 be reaped and winnowed without labour. Similar blessings were to
visit the vine; ordinary trees would bear like fruit trees, and every produce, of every clime, would be found in Palestine in such abundance and luxuriance as only the wildest imagination could conceive.
Such were the carnal thoughts about the Messiah and His Kingdom of those who sought Jesus because they'ate of the loaves, and were filled. What a contrast between them and the Christ, as He pointed them from the search for such meat to 'work for the meat which He would give them,' not as merely a Jewish Messiah, but as the Son of Man.' And yet, in uttering this strange truth, Jesus could appeal to something they knew when He added, for Him the Father hath sealed, even God.' The words, which seem almost inexplicable in
b Shabb. 30 b; Jer.
c Chethub. 1116
I Canon Westcott notes the intended realism in the choice of words : • Liter
ally, were satisfied with food as animals with fodder "'-_xoptáo onte,
IN THE SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM.
this connection, become clear when we remember that this was a well-known Jewish expression. According to the Rabbis, “the seal of God was Truth (AeMæTH),' the three letters of which this word is composed in Hebrew (nox) being, as was significantly pointed out, respectively the first, the middle, and the last letters of the alphabet. Thus the words of Christ would convey to His hearers Jer. Sanh. that for the real meat, which would endure to eternal life--for the R. ei better Messianic banquet—they must come to Him, because God had impressed upon Him His own seal of truth, and so authenticated His Teaching and Mission.
In passing, we mark this as a Jewish allusion, which only a Jewish writer (not an Ephesian Gospel) would have recorded. But it is by no means the only one. It almost seems like a sudden gleam of light-as if they were putting their hand to this Divine Seal, when they now ask Him what they must do, in order to work the Works of God? Yet strangely refracted seems this ray of light, when they connect the Works of God with their own doing. And Christ directed them, as before, only more clearly, to Himself. To work the Works of God they must not do, but believe in Him Whom God had sent. Their twofold error consisted in imagining, that they could work the Works of God, and this by some doing of their own. On the other hand, Christ would have taught them that these Works of God were independent of man, and that they would be achieved through man's faith in the Mission of the Christ.
2. As it impresses itself on our minds, what now follows took ost. John place at a somewhat different time-perhaps on the way to the Synagogue. It is a remarkable circumstance, that among the ruins of the Synagogue of Capernaum the lintel has been discovered, and that it bears the device of a pot of manna, ornamented with a flowing pattern of vine leaves and clusters of grapes. Here then were the outward emblems, which would connect themselves with the Lord's teaching on that day. The miraculous feeding of the multitude in the desert place the evening before, and the Messianic thoughts which clustered around it, would naturally suggest to their minds remembrance of the manna. That manna, which was Angels' food, distilled (as they imagined) from the upper light, “the dew from above'-miraculous food, of all manner of taste, and suited to every • Yoma 75 v age, according to the wish or condition of him who ate it, but bitter- «Shem. R. ness to Gentile palates--they expected the Messiah to bring again from heaven. For, all that the first deliverer, Moses, had done, the
1 Comp. Sketches of Jewish Social Life,' pp. 256, 257.
a Midr, on Eccles. i. 9
second--Messiah-would also do. And here, over their Synagogue was the pot of manna-symbol of what God had done, earnest o what the Messiah would do: that pot of manna, which was now among the things hidden, but which Elijah, when he came, would restore again!
Here, then, was a real sign. In their view the events of yesterday must lead up to some such sign, if they had any real meaning. They had been told to believe on Him, as the One authenticated by God with the seal of Truth, and Who would give them meat to eternal life. By what sign would Christ corroborate His assertion, that they might see and believe? What work would He do to vindicate His claim ? Their fathers had eaten manna in the wilderness. To understand the reasoning of the Jews, implied but not fully expressed, as also the answer of Jesus, it is necessary to bear in mind (what forms another evidence of the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel), that it was the oft and most anciently expressed opinion that, although God had given them this bread out of heaven, yet it was given through the merits of Moses, and ceased with his death." This the Jews had probably in view, when they asked: What workest Thou?'; and this was the meaning of Christ's emphatic assertion, that it was not Moses who gave Israel that bread. And then by what, with all reverence, may still be designated a peculiarly Jewish turn of reasoning—such as only those familiar with Jewish literature can fully appreciate (and which none but a Jewish reporter would have inserted in his Gospel)—the Saviour makes quite different, yet to them familiar, application of the manna. Moses had not given it—his merits had not procured it—but His Father gave them the true bread out of heaven. "For,' as He explained, the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Again, this very Rabbinic tradition, which described in such glowing language the wonders of that manna, also further explained
its other and real meaning to be, that if Wisdom said, “Eat of my • Prov. ix. 5 bread and drink of my wine,'' it indicated that the manna and
b Targ. Pseudo-Jon. on Deut. xxxiv.8; Taan. 9 a
the miraculous water-supply were the sequence of Israel's receiving the Law and the Commandments for the real bread from heaven was the Law.e 2
d Shem. R. 25
Chag. 14 a
i Not as in the A. V. of ver. 33: He Which cometh down from heaven. The alteration is most important in the argument as addressed to the Jews; the one they could understand and would admit, not so the other.
2 In the Midrash on Eccl. ii. 24; iii. 12; viii. 15, we are told, that when in Ecclesiastes we read of eating and drinking, it always refers to the Law and good works.
THE BREAD FROM HEAVEY.
b ver. 41
It was an appeal which the Jews understood, and to which they could not but respond. Yet the mood was brief. As Jesus, in answer to the appeal that He would evermore give them this bread, once more directed them to Himself—from works of men to the Works of God and to faith-the passing gleam of spiritual hope had already died out, for they had seen Him and “yet did not believe.'
With these words of mingled sadness and judgment, Jesus turned away from His questioners. The solemn sayings which now followed a St. John could not have been spoken to, and they would not have been understood by, the multitude. And accordingly we find that, when the conversation of the Jews is once more introduced, it takes up the thread where it had been broken off, when Jesus spake of Himself as the Bread Which had come down from heaven. Had they heard what, in our view, Jesus spake only to His disciples, their objections would have been to more than merely the incongruity of Christ's claim to have come down from heaven.'
3. Regarding these words of Christ, then, as addressed to the disciples, there is really nothing in them beyond their standpoint, though they open views of the far horizon. They had the experience of the raising of the young man at Nain, and there, at Capernaum, of Jairus’ daughter. Besides, believing that Jesus was the Messiah, it might perhaps not be quite strange nor new to them as Jews--although not commonly received that He would at the end of the world raise the pious dead. Indeed, one of the names given to the Messiah—that of Jinnon, according to Ps. lxxii. 17 —has by some • Sanh. 98 6 been derived from this very expectancy. Again, He had said, that Midrash on it was not any Law, but His Person, that was the bread which came Pirke de R. down from heaven, and gave life, not to Jews only, but unto the Lemb. p. 39 6 world—and they had seen Him and believed not. But none the less would the loving purpose of God be accomplished in the totality of His t.ue people, and its joyous reality be experienced by every individual among them: “(The) All [the totality, tây ő] which the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me [shall reach Me 3], and him that cometh unto Me (the coming one to Me] I will not cast out outside.' What follows is merely the carrying out in all directions, and to its fullest consequences, of this twofold fundamental principle. The totality of the God-given would really reach Him, despite all
" After having arrived at this conclu- general, see vol. i. p. 633, where the quession, I find that Canon Westcott has ex- tion of Jewish belief on that subject is pressed the same views, and I rejoice in discussed. being fortified by so great an authority. 3 So Canon Westcott.
: But not here and there one dead. In