The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Tracing the Literary Motif of Bread Through the Gospel of Mark

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Tracing the Literary Motif of Bread Through the Gospel of Mark

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Tracing the Literary Motif of Bread Through the Gospel of Mark 150 150 Andrew Hicks

The content of this post came from a research paper I gave for an Advanced Introduction to the New Testament class that I took in Fall 2022 with Dr. Allen Black. The footnotes did not convert to the blog post format so I have left them out. See the downloadable link here to a PDF copy which includes the footnotes. This paper/post is a narrative critical reading of Mark tracing the literary motif of bread and contemplating its theological significance. Fair warning, this is an academic paper and thus will NOT be of interest to many. No hurt feelings if you move on to something else I was just quite pleased with the outcome of the paper and have been fascinated by this motif in Mark for a while now so I decided to share it with any who might care.

Mark is a brilliant author. As is the case with any brilliant author, there are layers and layers of meaning that can be mined by the astute reader. There is much written about the Gospel of Mark using narrative criticism and all of that excellent literature is a part of the method used here. This paper seeks to to trace an example of what David Rhoads has called a “rhetorical device” which uses, “repetition of words to form verbal threads or motifs throughout the story.” Though there are many ways of referring to patterning techniques of brilliant authors, I will use “motif” to describe what I am tracing. The motif of bread (or loafs) is the object of this current paper’s endeavor. I will trace the places where forms of the Greek word ἄρτος are used, showing how the repetition of this word forms verbal threads to create a motif. There are some attempts to trace this motif though Mark’s narrative, but most of them fail to fully trace the thread of the motif. A notable exception is the work of John Drury, though I think his understanding of the motif can be refined to yield a fuller understanding. I am seeking to trace the motif in a similar way to how others have traced the motif of “way” or “‘morning’ and ‘evening.’” After tracing the repetition of ἄρτος, I will propose an understanding of the intended overall meaning of this motif.

Tracing the Bread Motif

Since ἄρτος is commonly translated to refer to general nourishment and not necessarily bread, I begin this tracing of the bread motif with narratival observation about the general act of eating in Mark’s gospel. The peculiar diet plan of John the Baptist is the first mention of food or eating in Mark (1:6). Of note for our particular purposes, Guelich thinks this diet is a way of saying what Luke records Jesus saying (Luke 7:33): “for John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine…” John’s diet is odd enough, but later John’s head is served on a plate at a rowdy banquet which Herod throws (6:28). In the early chapters the stage is prepared for the later feeding miracles of Jesus when Jesus calls two sets of two fishermen brothers (1:16-20) and tells parables concerning grain and seeds (4:1-32). When Peter’s mother-in-law is healed she begins to “serve” Jesus and his upstart crew, presumably with food (1:31). The three central episodes of a concentric structure in 2:1-3:6 all pertain to Jesus’s dinner manners and choice of company (2:13-28; also in 7:2-23 and 7:24-30). Combined with the other two episodes in that structure the ultimate result is the unlikely partnership between Herodians and Pharisees to kill Jesus (3:6). Jesus is bombarded by crowds frequently to the point that he is unable to take a lunch break (3:20; 6:31). After healing Jairus’s daughter the first command Jesus gives is that the daughter be given something to eat (5:43). The 12 apostles are sent out and told to take “no bread” (6:8), presumably in hopes that places which welcome them would also feed them. Jesus feeds the crowds in the two key miraculous feedings out of compassion for their hunger (6:30-45; 8:1-10). A key prophetic sign act is the cursing of the fig tree (11:12-26; 13:28-31) where Jesus speaks to the tree, “may no one ever eat fruit from you again.” The last parable Jesus tells in Mark is about the wicked workers of the vineyard (12:1-12). Jesus rebuked the scribes because they loved to have places of honor at banquets (12:39) and “devour widows houses,” which is a metaphor of consumption. This devouring of the widows would, presumably, include their ability to eat (cf. 12:44). The Passover meal (14:25) of course included much eating, especially of bread (14:22). Finally, Jesus is offered a crude imitation of the Passover cup by his executioners (15:23, 35). 

Even a cursory reading of Mark’s gospel would reveal that eating is prominent in the story whether intentional or not. The lack of food, perversion of food, and priority of food in Mark should make a reader attentive to the way Mark uses food and food language to say something about Jesus. The most prominent and intentional food language in Mark is about the ἄρτος. 

[2:26] The pericope of the first occurrence of the bread motif (2:23-28) is the penultimate pericope in a larger concentric structure in 2:1-3:6. All of the pericopes within this concentric structure deal with controversies between Jesus and religious leaders. On the surface, this pericope seems to be about what is and is not lawful on the sabbath, but on closer examination it is really about the authority of Jesus over that of the Pharisees. 

The reference to bread is specifically a reference to the bread of the presence which was only for priests to eat (Lev 24) yet, Jesus reminds the Pharisees, David and his men entered the sanctuary and ate it (1 Sam 21). Drury points out that this scene sets the stage for the miraculous feeding narratives by way of subtle reminiscence of the number of loaves involved in this story. The bread of the presence would have consisted of 12 loaves arranged in two rows of six (Lev 24:6). Further, David specifically asks for 5 loaves from the high priest which, assuming that is the amount David took, leaves 7 loaves on the table in the sanctuary (1 Sam 21:3). Drury also argues that the leftover loaves would now be defiled and thus unfit for use. He finds this significant since seven loaves play a special role in the second feeding story which is assumed to be Gentile. 

[3:20] This passage occurs at the beginning of the Jesus and Beelzebul controversy (3:19b-30) which is the first part of a typical Markan intercalation: (A) 19b-21 (B) 22-30 (A’) 31-35. In larger context, the consecration of the twelve apostles (3:13-19) has begun the second phase of Jesus’s Galilean ministry in which the lines between those who accept and those who reject Jesus are drawn in sharp contrast. The bread as such does not really play any significant role in the narrative, but links this story to the larger motif by way of verbal threading. This could be a foreshadowing of when Jesus and his disciples will not be able to eat before the first feeding miracle (6:31). 

[6:8, 37-38, 41, 44, 52] The twelve being sent out with no bread in 6:8 can be read as a foreshadowing of the feeding of the five thousand in 6:30-44. They have no bread at first, but then Jesus fed the crowd with enough left over that each of the twelve got their own basket (6:42). It is also ironic that Jesus tells them not to take bread since the disciples will fret over forgetting to bring bread for a boat ride later (8:14). 

The feeding of the five thousand is signaled to be of special importance to Mark by his elaborate introduction to this scene (6:30-34). The pericope of the feeding of the five thousand is closely connected to the pericope about Jesus walking on water. As Mark tells it, the disciples’ hearts are hardened because they do not understand about the loaves (6:52) leaving readers also questioning what they were supposed to understand about the bread and how that relates to Jesus walking on water. 

The “implied YHWH Christology” of Mark’s gospel abounds in both pericopes in the form of OT allusions. Three of these allusions are important to note for the present purpose. First, Jesus’s mention of the bread of the presence (3:26) has already brought to the reader’s memory the story of David taking 5 of the 12 loaves from the sanctuary (1 Sam. 21). That story may again come to readers’ minds since Jesus takes 5 loaves (6:38) to feed the 5,000 and has 12 baskets left over (6:42). This leaves 7 unaccounted for loaves that perhaps are taken up to be used in the second feeding miracle (8:7). Thiering argues the numerology indicates that the first feeding is exclusively to Israel in contrast to the second feeding where he sees the numerology indicating that it is exclusively for Gentiles. This view is a weak attempt to find meaning for the numbers and makes no mention of how this passage might be interpreted in light of passages in the broader bread motif. Second, Exodus imagery dominates the OT allusions in these two pericopes. Much has been written detailing the various allusions, but this falls outside the scope of the current endeavor. Given the existence of the Exodus allusions, the bread here clearly brings to mind the mana in the wilderness (Exod 16) and thus implies Jesus as YHWH, the provider of manna. This clarifies an aspect of the first feeding that many commentators agree on: the five thousand appear to be Jewish. Third, the feeding of the five thousand is clearly cast as a Messianic banquet. 

[7:2, 5] The pericope of this occurrence of the bread motif is 7:1-23. It is a lengthy section about a controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees over traditions of the elders prompted by the lack of handwashing on the part of Jesus and his disciples. Just as a few verses earlier the hearts of the disciples were hardened because they did not understand about the bread (6:52), so now the Pharisees and scribe’s hearts are hardened because they do not understand about the eating of the “bread.” As earlier, the bread as such does not play a prominent role in the meaning of the story, but connects through the verbal threading. Perhaps this could be a subtle way of showing the Pharisees as uninvited to the Messianic banquet.

Mark makes an editorial remark near the end of this section that Jesus declared all foods clean (7:19). The interconnectedness of forbidden unclean food and unclean Gentiles is a prominent recurrence in the New Testament (Acts 10:1-33; 15:28-29; Rom 14:1-12; Gal 2:11-14). Given the connection between the unclean food and the unclean eaters (Gentiles) and given that the next pericope is about the syrophoenician woman receiving the children’s bread from the table, maybe Mark is subtly telling his readers that Jesus declared all food and eaters clean. 

[7:27] In the pericope (7:24-30) after the controversy over the traditions of the elder is the story of the faith of the Syrophoenician woman who sought healing for her daughter. Jesus makes a broader statement out of her request about the priority of Israel over the gentiles, who are called “dogs” here. The children’s “food” (ἄρτος in Greek) conjures an image of the manna in the wilderness. Contrary to some opinions, Jesus does not diminish the woman by calling her a dog, but rather is expressing his tender feelings toward her. The word used for dogs – κυναρίοις – is a reference to small household pets who would surely be thought of with warm affection. It is also worth noting that the diminutive is used here – “little dogs” – which connects with the minor detail in the feeding of the four thousand where Jesus multiplied the “little fish.” 

Collins notes that there are literary and grammatical connections between this passage, the argument with the Pharisees over the traditions of the elders, and both the feeding stories. The word “bread” occurs in all and also the verb “to be satisfied” (χορτάζω in Greek) occurs in 3 out of the 4. Thus this story may be read as further discussion of who is and is not invited to the Messianic banquet. The Pharisees were uninvited, but this Gentile woman has been welcomed. Both this pericope and the next about Jesus’s healing of a deaf man (7:31-37) are explicitly said by Mark to be in Gentile territories (Tyre and Sidon – 7:24, 31).

[8:4-6, 14, 16-17, 19] The pericope of the feeding of the four thousand (8:1-10) and the pericope where Jesus warns about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (8:14-21) form an intercalation around the pericope of the demand for a sign from heaven by the Pharisees (8:11-13). It is ironic that Jesus refuses to give a sign to “this generation.” This language surely recalls the generation of complaining Israelites that died off in the wilderness recalling once again the mana. The thrust of this overall section then is ironic because of the references to the miraculous sign of bread before and after the refusal to give a sign. The Pharisees who demand a sign are not seeing the sign that is so obviously before them just as the disciples are not seeing it either. The point John articulates explicitly is the same point that Mark makes implicitly: Jesus is the bread of life that came down out of heaven (John 6:22-59). Just as with the parables, the miracles reveal something about Jesus’s person and work, but only to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Noticeably, the feeding of the four thousand has very few OT allusions in contrast to the dense weaving of allusions into the previous feeding story. Even so, this second feeding miracle still echoes the previous feeding in describing the processes of the feeding (blessing and breaking the bread, baskets leftover, compassion for the crowds, Jesus telling the people to sit). The region they are in appears to be Gentile (8:10) and thus many have taken this to be a Gentile feeding to counterbalance the first feeding taken to be Jewish. Given that the numerology from the story of King David in 2:23-28 this feeding uses the final 7 loaves that were left after the last feeding miracle. The “dogs” got more than crumbs at this meal. 

Drury points out a small detail that often gets overlooked in the pericope about the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod (8:14-21). He points out that in verse 14 the disciples are said to have no bread and then immediately after are said to have one loaf of bread with them. What some have thought was shoddy patchwork of various redactional layers might actually be superb narrative craftsmanship. What the disciples, and apparently many interpreters, fail to grasp about this peculiar passage is that they have no literal bread with them, but they are in the boat with Jesus and thus they have bread – the bread from heaven. After frequent use of the motif in the early chapters, mention of bread stops after the pericope concerning the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod (8:14-21) until the pericope of the last supper (14:22-25). Tellingly, it is in this pericope where Jesus, finally, explicitly reveals that he is the bread.

[14:22] This pericope (14:22-25) is fresh on the heels of Judas’s betrayal agreement (14:10-11), preparations for the Passover (14:12-16) and the prediction of the betrayal (14:17-21). The next pericope after the institution of the Lord’s Supper is a prediction of Peter’s denial (14:26-31). This little section is primarily to explain and memorialize the death of Jesus for Mark’s readers. 

In the implied context of Passover, Jesus takes and breaks the loaf to give it to the disciples as he says, “take; this is my body” (v. 22). The earlier stories of the feedings and all previous references to the bread motif are echoed in this text. The blessing that was likely said before the bread was broken is the blessing that Jews still invoke over bread at a Passover seder: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” It is not certain if the disciples fully understand the point of the bread or not, but the reader now understands that in eating the bread the disciples are in some way identifying with the body of Jesus even unto taking up their cross to follow him. 

The Point of the Bread Motif

That bread is a motif in the gospel of Mark should be readily apparent after the survey of each reference. The context and comment provided should also have revealed that this motif is important to the overall message and rhetorical effect of Mark’s gospel. It is to the question of that overall message of this bread motif that we now turn our attention. 

The bread motif is used in service to make a larger point about Jesus’s identity as the Messiah. Mark tells his readers from the first verse who he believes Jesus to be: “the Christ, the Son of God,” and he filters this through the lens of the Isaianic New Exodus (INE). This is made apparent by Mark’s only editorial OT quotation (1:2-3). The opening quotation belongs with verse 1 so that there would be no break between verse 1 and 2: Jesus is the messiah and son of God as it is written in Isaiah.  The quotation is ascribed to Isaiah, though it is from three total sources: Isaiah 40:3, Exodus 23:20, and Malachi 3:1. This betrays a part of Mark’s method: there is often more than meets the eye that can only be discerned by the astute reader. Just like the parables of Jesus are often said to do, Mark’s gospel both conceals and reveals. Mark is not secretive in that he tells his readers exactly who he thinks Jesus is, but readers, like the disciples they read about, are baffled by what it means. Mark thinks Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, but what does it mean for Jesus to be Messiah and Son of God? The bread motif helps provide one of his answers to that question. 

The point of the bread motif is to highlight Jesus as a fulfillment of the various manifestations of bread that carried profound meaning in the OT. Specifically, the bread of the presence, the manna from heaven, the food at the Messianic banquet, and the unleavened bread of the Passover celebration are the things Jesus is presented as fulfilling through the bread motif. The bread of the presence was a symbolic representation that YHWH’s presence was with the 12 tribes of Israel. The priests alone were supposed to consume this bread on a weekly interval when they replaced the old bread with fresh bread (Lev 24:8-9). Thus, it was “unlawful” for David and his companions to eat the bread. Though Jesus is making a larger point about his authority as the eschatological Son of Man he may also be hinting here that by way of that authority he will soon allow all to eat the bread of the presence. Just as YHWH was present  to Israel as represented by the bread of the presence, now the bread of Jesus’s body will be representative of his presence with his 12 (Mark 14: 22-25). Perhaps all of this is Mark’s way of nodding towards the priesthood of all believers (Heb 4:14-16; 1 Pet 2:5-9). Some who have sought to understand Mark’s bread motif have practically ignored this reference to the bread of the presence. Attempts to trace the bread motif without appreciating the importance of this first reference fall flat because they try to blend the various “breads” from the OT that Mark wants to show Jesus as the fulfillment of. 

Jesus as fulfillment of the manna from heaven is not straightforward. No wonder the disciples did not understand about the bread! The parallel to John’s gospel and the validation in Mark’s account of the last supper make clear that Jesus is the bread from heaven. Yet, Jesus is also clearly portrayed as YHWH providing for his people in the INE. In brief the question is this: Is Jesus the bread or the bread provider? I think Mark’s overall bread motif shows that Jesus is both the bread and the one providing the bread. The bread he provides, whether for the five thousand, four thousand, or for the twelve, is, in some sense, his body. The feedings are often taken as bookends, between which are many more references to bread. This is a helpful explanation, but it does not extend the bookends far enough out. The feeding miracles are intercalated between bread of presence and bread of passover – the first and last example of the bread motif. The bread Jesus gives is bread of presence because of passover. YHWH’s presence is given to both Jews (the five thousand) and Gentiles (the four thousand) in the new community of God. On the other side of the new Exodus the new community is sustained by the bread of Christ’s body just as the original community was sustained by manna in the wilderness after the original Exodus. 

In a similar vein the question of Jesus as the Messiah hosting the banquet versus the food of that banquet comes into view. As with the manna in the wilderness, the answer is that Jesus is both the Messianic host of the banquet and the very contents of that banquet’s feast. This is parodied by John the Baptist’s dark demise at Herod’s dinner party where John’s head is served on a plate (6:21-29). Afterall, it is the sending out of the twelve apostles – sent out with “no bread” (6:8) – that King Herod hears of (6:14) which prompts the recollection of the brutal scene (6:16). And just as John’s body was laid in a tomb by his disciples after being broken and feasted upon at a banquet (6:29) so Jesus’s body will be laid in a tomb by a disciple after being broken and feasted upon (15:42-47). The grisly “breaking” of Jesus’s body is foreshadowed in the recurring “breaking” of the bread (6:41; 8:6; 14:22). This breaking of the Messiah’s body is key for what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah (8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). Just as the disciples did not understand about the bread (6:52; 8:14-21) so they also did not understand about the manner in which Jesus must die in order to be the Messiah (8:32-33; 9:32; 10:35-45). The breaking of the bread at the easchatological Messianic banquet is possible because the bread/body of the Messiah himself was broken on the cross.  

It is surely not insignificant that the final example of the bread motif is the pericope commonly titled by translations as something like “The Institution of the Lord’s Supper.” The beginning of the Passover pericope mentions the feast of “unleavened Bread” (14:12). The word here for “bread” is different and thus not commented on by any others who have traced this theme, but the word is important for Mark’s rhetorical purpose. The word here is the same as used in the Septuagint in Exodus for the unleavened bread of the Passover celebration (Exod 12:8, 15, 18, 20, et al). When Jesus identifies his body with the loaf being eaten during the course of the Passover meal it is the word that we have been tracing – ἄρτος (14:22). Thus the two “types” of bread are equated by the narrative. The bread that is eaten on the day that the Passover lamb is sacrificed is the same bread that is Jesus’s body. 

Mark is a brilliant author indeed. The way he is able to weave a verbal thread like this one through his entire narrative is impressive by ancient or modern standards. This paper has taken a guided tour down the rapids of the bread motif in Mark’s gospel and come out the other side with fresh new insights. Jesus in the other gospels is presented explicitly as “greater than”  two OT characters: Jonah (Matt 12:41; Luke 11:32) and Solomon (Matt 12:42; Luke 11:31). In Mark’s own peculiar way – implicitly – he also presents Jesus as “greater than.” He presents Jesus as “greater than” something instead of someone. To use an old cliche: Mark shows that Jesus is the best thing (“greater than”) since sliced bread (the breads in the OT).


Verse  Greek Text (NA28) Translation (NRSV)
2:26 πῶς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἀβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως καὶ τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως ἔφαγεν, οὓς οὐκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἰ μὴ τοὺς ἱερεῖς, καὶ ἔδωκεν καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ οὖσιν; He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”
3:20 Καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς οἶκον· καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν [ὁ] ὄχλος, ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς μηδὲ ἄρτον φαγεῖν. and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.
6:8 καὶ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδὲν αἴρωσιν εἰς ὁδὸν εἰ μὴ ῥάβδον μόνον, μὴ ἄρτον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ εἰς τὴν ζώνην χαλκόν, He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;
6:37-38 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· ἀπελθόντες ἀγοράσωμεν δηναρίων διακοσίων ἄρτους καὶ δώσομεν αὐτοῖς φαγεῖν; ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς· πόσους ἄρτους ἔχετε; ὑπάγετε ἴδετε. καὶ γνόντες λέγουσιν· πέντε, καὶ δύο ἰχθύας. But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
6:41 καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν καὶ κατέκλασεν τοὺς ἄρτους καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς [αὐτοῦ] ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἐμέρισεν πᾶσιν. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.
6:44 καὶ ἦσαν οἱ φαγόντες [τοὺς ἄρτους] πεντακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
6:52 οὐ γὰρ συνῆκαν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις, ἀλλ’ ἦν αὐτῶν ἡ καρδία πεπωρωμένη. for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
7:2 καὶ ἰδόντες τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὅτι κοιναῖς χερσίν, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἀνίπτοις, ἐσθίουσιν τοὺς ἄρτους they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.
7:5 καὶ ἐπερωτῶσιν αὐτὸν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς· διὰ τί οὐ περιπατοῦσιν οἱ μαθηταί σου κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, ἀλλὰ κοιναῖς χερσὶν ἐσθίουσιν τὸν ἄρτον; So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
7:27 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ· ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα, οὐ γάρ ἐστιν καλὸν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
8:4-6 καὶ ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι πόθεν τούτους δυνήσεταί τις ὧδε χορτάσαι ἄρτων ἐπ’ ἐρημίας; καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτούς· πόσους ἔχετε ἄρτους; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· ἑπτά. καὶ παραγγέλλει τῷ ὄχλῳ ἀναπεσεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν…. His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them…..
8:14 Καὶ ἐπελάθοντο λαβεῖν ἄρτους καὶ εἰ μὴ ἕνα ἄρτον οὐκ εἶχον μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ. Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
8:16-17 καὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχουσιν. καὶ γνοὺς λέγει αὐτοῖς· τί διαλογίζεσθε ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχετε; οὔπω νοεῖτε οὐδὲ συνίετε; πεπωρωμένην ἔχετε τὴν καρδίαν ὑμῶν; They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
8:19 ὅτε τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους ἔκλασα εἰς τοὺς πεντακισχιλίους, πόσους κοφίνους κλασμάτων πλήρεις ἤρατε; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· δώδεκα. When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
14:22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου. While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”




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Burkill, T. A. “Mark 6:31-8:26: The Context of the Story of the Syrophoenician Woman.” In The Classical Tradition: Literary and Historical Studies in Honor of Harry Caplan, edited by Luitpold Wallach, 329-344. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966.


Calef, Susan A. “Bread Episodes: One Loaf for the Many.” In The Catholic Study Bible, 3rd Edition, Edited by Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, RG 435-436. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 


Collins, Adela Yarbro. Mark: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. 


Culpepper, R. Alan. Mark. Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2007. 


De Campos, Mateus F. “The ‘Sign From Heaven’ and the ‘Bread From Heaven’ (Mark 8,10-13).” Biblica 98.2 (2017): 234-256.


Derrett, J. Duncan M. “Crumbs in Mark.” The Downside Review 101 no. 346 (Jan. 1984): 12-21.


Dewey, Joanna. Markan Public Debate: Literary Technique, Concentric Structure and Theology in Mark 2:1-3:6, SBLDS, 48. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980. 


Donahue, John R., and Daniel J. Harrington. The Gospel of Mark. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier, 2012. 


Dowd, Sharyn. Reading Mark: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Second Gospel. Reading the New Testament. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2000. 


Drury, John. “Understanding the Bread: Disruption and Aggregation, Secrecy and Revelation in Mark’s Gospel.” In “Not in Heaven”: Coherence and Complexity in Biblical Narrative, edited by Jason P. Rosenblatt and Joseph C. Sitterson, Jr., 98-119. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1991.


Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. 


Fowler, Robert M. Loaves and Fishes: The Function of the Feeding Stories in the Gospel of Mark. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series, 54. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981.


France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. 


Geddert, Timothy J. “The Implied YHWH Christology of Mark’s Gospel: Mark’s Challenge to the Reader to ‘Connect the Dots’.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 25.3 (2015): 325-340.


Guelich, Robert.  “‘The Beginning of the Gospel’: Mark 1:1-15.” Biblical Research 27 (1982): 5-15.


______________. Mark 1:1-8:26. Word Biblical Commentary, 34A. Waco, TX: Word, 1993. 


Gundry, Robert. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. 


Henderson, Suzanne Watts. “‘Concerning the Loaves’: Comprehending Incomprehension in Mark 6:45-52.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 83 (2001): 3-26. 


Hooker, Morna D. The Gospel According to St. Mark. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991. 


Horsley, Richard. Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark’s Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.


Iverson, Kelly R. and Christopher W. Skinner, eds. Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.


Kim, Sun Wook. “The Wilderness as a Place of the New Exodus in Mark’s Feeding Miracles (Mark 6:31-44 and 8:1-10).” Biblical Theology Bulletin 48 no.2 (2018): 62-75.


Lane, William. Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974. 


LeDonne, Anthony, ed. Christology in Mark’s Gospel: Four Views, Critical Points Series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2021. 


Liu, Rebekah. “A Dog Under the Table at the Messianic Banquet: A Study of Mark 7:24-30.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 48 no. 2 (Autumn 2010): 251-255.


Marcus, Joel. Mark 1-8. Anchor Bible, 27. New York: Doubleday, 1999. 


__________. Mark 9-16. Anchor Bible, 27A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. 


Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002. 


________________. Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004.


New Revised Standard Version Bible. National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1989. 


Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th rev. ed. Edited by the Institute for New Testament Textual research Munster/Westfalen, under the direction of Holger Strutworld. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012. 


Ortlund, Dane C. “History’s Dawning Light: ‘Morning’ and ‘Evening’ in Mark’s Gospel and Their Eschatological Significance.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 61.3 (2018): 493-511. 


Ossom-Batsa, George.“Bread for the Broken: Pragmatic Meaning of Mark 14:22-25.” Neotestamenica 40.2 (2006): 235-258. 


Oyen, Geert Van. “Repetitious Style and the Interpretation of the Gospel of Mark.” In Repetitions and Variations in the Fourth Gospel: Style, Text, and Interpretation, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium CCXXIII, eds, G. Van Belle, M. Labahn, and P. Maritz, 109-125. Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2009.


Pennington, Jonathan T. Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.


Rhoads, David, Joanna Dewey, and Donald Michie. Mark As Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. 3rd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012. 


Rhoads, David. “Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark: A Narrative-Critical Study.” Currents in Theology and Mission 47:4 (October 2020): 36-48.


____________. “Narrative Criticism and the Gospel of Mark.” The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 50 no. 3 (Sep 1982): 411-434. 


Silva, Moises. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. 


Stein, Robert H. Mark. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. 


Strauss, Mark L. The Gospel of Mark. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. 


Swartley, Willard M. “The Structural Function of the Term ‘Way’ (Hodos) in Mark’s Gospel.” In The New Way of Jesus: Essays Presented to Howard Charles, edited by William Klassen, 73-86. Newton, KA: Faith and Life Press, 1980. 


Synge, F. C. “Common Bread: The Craftsmanship of a Theologian.” Theology 125 no. 621 (March 1972): 131-135. 


Thiering, B. E. “‘Breaking of Bread’ and ‘Harvest’ in Mark’s Gospel.” Novum Testamentum 12 no. 1 (Jan 1970): 1-12. 


Watts, Rikkie E. Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. Biblical Studies Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997. 


____________. “Mark.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, 111-249. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. 


Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. 

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