Image of page from the 7th century Book of Durrow, from The Gospel of Mark. Trinity College Dublin
|Book||Gospel of Mark|
|Bible part||New Testament|
|Order in the Bible part||2|
|Gospel of Mark|
Mark 8 is the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It contains two miracles of Jesus, Peter's confession that he believes Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus' first prediction of his own death and resurrection. It is the midchapter and the turning point in Mark between Mark's description of Jesus as teacher and miracle worker to his focus on the role of Jesus' death and the difficult nature of his teachings.
Feeding of the 4000 and the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida
Like Mark 6:30-44 Mark 8 describes Jesus feeding a large crowd with hardly any food at all. He is teaching a large crowd in a remote place, "About four thousand men..." (9) and everyone is hungry but they only have seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus takes the food, gives thanks to God, and the disciples then distribute the food. The text in Greek uses the word eucharistein to describe his actions. After everyone has eaten they find seven baskets of left over food. Matthew also records this in chapter 15:29-39 but neither Luke nor John have this, yet both record the preceding feeding of the 5000. Skeptical scholars have concluded that this is just a doubling of the story in Mark 6 with only a few details, such as the number of loaves and baskets, changed. Luke goes right from the feeding of the 5000 to Peter's confession in Luke 9. However, these skeptics must deal with the (later discussed) passage in Mark 8:17-21 where Jesus actually compares and contrasts the two events as an exercise to teach his disciples.
They leave in a boat and go to Dalmanutha, which is listed in Matthew as Magadan and some early manuscripts of Mark as Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. There Jesus encounters the Pharisees who ask him to perform a miracle for them. "He sighed deeply and said, 'Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.'" 12. Matthew and Luke say only the Sign of Jonah will be given (Matthew 12:38-39, 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-30). See also Signs Gospel. They leave in a boat. On the other side of the lake, presumably the Sea of Galilee, they find they have only brought one loaf of bread. Jesus tells his disciples to be careful and "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." (15) criticizing the Pharisees after his last encounter with them. His disciples think he's scolding them for not having enough bread but Jesus instead scolds them for not understanding him:
- Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" (17-21)
Jesus doesn't explain any further and they travel to Bethsaida where they come upon a blind man. He puts spit on the man's eyes and the man can partially see and then he touches his eyes again and he is totally healed. This miracle only occurs in Mark.
This entire sequence, along with the preceding chapter, shows Jesus' work with Gentiles. Jesus fed Jewish listeners in Mark 6 and he most probably feeds a Gentile crowd here. He refuses to perform a miracle for the Pharisees, who ask for one, but performs miracles for the Gentiles, who don't. Jesus' enigmatic explaining of the meaning of the miracles and the disciple's confusion is contrasted with Jesus restoring a Gentile man's sight, perhaps symbolically showing Jesus' effort, and Mark's, to get his listeners to see what he is trying to tell them. Matthew unambiguously states in 16:12 that Jesus was saying stay away from the teachings of the Pharisees, yet in 23:1-3 Jesus says to do what the Pharisees say because of their authority but still labels them as hypocrites. "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jesus argues the Halakah ["Jewish Law"] was not in so definite a form at this period due to the disputes between those of Hillel the Elder and those of Shammai. The twelve of the first feeding might be a reference to the Twelve tribes of Israel and the seven of the second feeding the seven pagan nations originally surrounding Israel. It is possible that Jesus was also using this to remind his disciples about the abundant care of God as shown by the contrast between the hunger of the disciples, with the abundance of food after each of the miracles.
Peter's confession and Jesus' prediction
Mark begins the second half of his book with Jesus and the disciples traveling to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks them who people think he is. John or Elijah, they reply. Jesus asks them what they think. Peter says he thinks Jesus is "the Christ", the Anointed One. Jesus tells them to keep it a secret.
Jesus tells them that he must be persecuted by the priests and teachers and killed and after three days rise again. Peter rebukes him but Jesus replies "'Get behind me, Satan!...You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'" (33) Peter has just said that Jesus is the Anointed One and then Jesus tells him that he has to die, which Peter cannot believe. Mark then states that Jesus called a crowd to listen to him, which assumes they had arrived at the city, or it may show that Jesus' reply to Peter applies to everyone else, including the reader, as well. He says:
- If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life (or soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels. (34-38)
Peter's rebuke of Jesus and Jesus' answer brings up the issue of a reader's belief or disbelief in Jesus' death and divinity. Mark records Jesus as saying that anyone who loses his life for Jesus or the "gospel" will be saved. Jesus, after Peter has said he is the Messiah, calls himself the Son of Man, probably a quote from Daniel 7:13. This is from a purported prophetic dream that is used elsewhere, such as the Book of Revelation 1:13 and 14:14. Mark is trying to show to the reader that even though they are about to read about Jesus' death, he is still the Messiah and that the Old Testament had foreseen this as well as their own possible suffering as Christians. To "take up one's cross" has been a common idea of Christianity over the centuries. Jesus' claim of divinity is addressed immediately in the following chapter 9 with the Transfiguration.
- Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament Doubleday 1997 ISBN 0-385-24767-2
- Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark Paulist Press 1989 ISBN 0-8091-3059-9
- Mark 8 NIV Accessed 29 November 2005
|Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of Mark