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 middle chapter of the gospel but its significance is variously understood: for example the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary calls it a "section of miscellaneous matter"  whereas many commentators treat it as a turning point where Mark's description of Jesus as teacher and miracle worker gives way to his focus on the role of Jesus' death and the difficult nature of his teachings.
The New King James Version organises this chapter as follows:
- Mark 8:1-10 = Feeding the Four Thousand
- Mark 8:11-12 = The Pharisees Seek a Sign
- Mark 8:13-21 = Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod
- Mark 8:22-26 = A Blind Man Healed at Bethsaida
- Mark 8:27-30 = Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
- Mark 8:31-33 = Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection
- Mark 8:34-38 = Take Up the Cross and Follow Him
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, "about four thousand men", in a remote place, and everyone is hungry; they only have seven loaves of bread and an imprecise number of small fish. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks to God, and breaks the bread and the disciples then distribute it. The text in Greek uses the word ευχαριστησας, eucharistesas, to describe his actions. He also blesses the fish and commands that these be set before the crowd. To theologian John Gill, "it looks, by this account, as if the fishes were blessed, and brake, and distributed separately, alter the blessing, breaking, and distribution of the bread; and so the Syriac version renders it, 'upon whom also he blessed'; and the Persic thus, 'and he also blessed the fishes'". After everyone has eaten they fill seven baskets of leftover 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. Luke progresses straight from the feeding of the 5000 to Peter's confession. Skeptical scholars have concluded that this is just a doubling of the story in Mark 6 with only a few details changed, such as the number of loaves and baskets. However, these skeptics must deal with the subsequent passage in Mark 8:19-20 where Jesus refers to both 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 to "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 is 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 does not explain any further, and they travel to Bethsaida where they come upon a blind man. He puts spittle 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 is only related 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 do not. Jesus' enigmatic explaining of the meaning of the miracles and the disciples' 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 the Baptist or Elijah, they reply. Jesus asks them what they think. Peter declares that Jesus is "the Christ", the Anointed One. Jesus tells them to keep this a secret.
Jesus tells them that he must be persecuted by the priests and teachers and killed, and after three days rise again. Peter takes Jesus to one side and begins to rebuke him; Jesus turns back to look at his disciples and rebukes Peter in return (both verses 32 and 33 use the Greek: ἐπιτιμάω, epitimaó, "to rebuke" ):
- Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
Peter has just said that Jesus is the Anointed One and then Jesus tells him that he has to die, which Peter cannot believe.
Instructions for followers
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)
- Saint Peter
- Other related Bible parts: Matthew 15, Matthew 16, Luke 9
- Take Up Thy Cross, The Saviour Said, based on Mark 8:34
- Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Mark 8, accessed 11 June 2017
- Wilmhurst, Steve, A Ransom for Many: the Gospel of Mark Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series), 2011, chapter 12; Oke, D., The Gospel of Mark, The Living Word Library, accessed 11 June 2017
- Mark 8:34-38
- Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Mark 8, accessed 11 June 2017
- Luke 9:12-21
- Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament on Mark 8, accessed 26 November 2017
- Mark 8:33: King James Version
- Ellicott's Commentary for Modern Readers on Mark 9, accessed 13 June 2017
- 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
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Gospel of Mark