“How many loaves have you?” he asked. “Seven,” they answered.
as a tempted beloved says
I hate it when my word
demands my flesh
that nasty reality
is always popping up
if only we could name
what we don’t have
we could happily snack in the corner
so here’s our final answer
what’s that do among so many
sotto voce to each other
ixnay onyay ethay ishfay
ohyay andyay ethay orbetsay
half-a-truth half-a-truth onward
we’re not new at this rodeo
old soldiers never volunteer
There is some learning that is going on. This is hopeful for ourselves as well as for the disciples. In 6:38 the disciples had to go to find out they had 5 fish and 2 loaves. Here they know their resources—seven loaves.
The question of what resources we have for ourselves and others will keep showing up whether we read Mark as “gospel truth” or follow a “spiritual but not religious” way of being in the world. Are we a keeper of others as well as ourself?
Those who remember the first feeding story may wonder what happened to the fish? They will show up as an afterthought in verse 7. Depending on how you would prefer to reconstruct the storyline regarding the relationship between bread and fish, verses 6 and 7 might well be swapped.
The fish have been relegated to the perimeter of the story. In this, we note the influence of liturgical practice. The tradition in 8:1–9 has been shaped in part by a liturgical setting in which fish were no longer part of the breaking of the bread. This influence, absent from tradition represented by 6:34–44, very likely occurred prior to Mark’s Gospel.
This reminds us of the difficulty of wrestling with the text of any scriptural heritage wherein the etiology of the significance of its details are lost in the murky waters of another time and culture. Is the change in this fishing story significant or just stylistic?