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The Feeding of the Five Thousand

After this[a] Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias).[b] A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick. So Jesus went on up the mountainside[c] and sat down there with his disciples. (Now the Jewish Feast of the Passover[d] was near.)[e] Then Jesus, when he looked up[f] and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?” (Now Jesus[g] said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.)[h] Philip replied,[i] “200 silver coins worth[j] of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little.” One of Jesus’ disciples,[k] Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good[l] are these for so many people?”

10 Jesus said, “Have[m] the people sit down.” (Now there was a lot of grass in that place.)[n] So the men[o] sat down, about 5,000 in number. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to those who were seated. He then did the same with the fish,[p] as much as they wanted. 12 When they were all satisfied, Jesus[q] said to his disciples, “Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves[r] left over by the people who had eaten.

14 Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus[s] performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet[t] who is to come into the world.”[u] 15 Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone.[v]

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  1. John 6:1 tn Again, μετὰ ταῦτα (meta tauta) is a vague temporal reference. How Jesus got from Jerusalem to Galilee is not explained, which has led many scholars (e.g., Bernard, Bultmann, and Schnackenburg) to posit either editorial redaction or some sort of rearrangement or dislocation of material (such as reversing the order of chaps. 5 and 6, for example). Such a rearrangement of the material would give a simple and consistent connection of events, but in the absence of all external evidence it does not seem to be supportable. R. E. Brown (John [AB], 1:236) says that such an arrangement is attractive in some ways but not compelling, and that no rearrangement can solve all the geographical and chronological problems in John.
  2. John 6:1 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. Only John in the New Testament refers to the Sea of Galilee by the name Sea of Tiberias (see also John 21:1), but this is correct local usage. In the mid-20’s Herod completed the building of the town of Tiberias on the southwestern shore of the lake; after this time the name came into use for the lake itself.
  3. John 6:3 sn Up on the mountainside does not necessarily refer to a particular mountain or hillside, but may simply mean “the hill country” or “the high ground,” referring to the high country east of the Sea of Galilee (known today as the Golan Heights).
  4. John 6:4 sn Passover. According to John’s sequence of material, considerable time has elapsed since the feast of 5:1. If the feast in 5:1 was Pentecost of a.d. 31, then this feast would be the Passover of a.d. 32, just one year before Jesus’ crucifixion.
  5. John 6:4 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
  6. John 6:5 tn Grk “when he lifted up his eyes” (an idiom).
  7. John 6:6 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  8. John 6:6 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
  9. John 6:7 tn Grk “Philip answered him.”
  10. John 6:7 tn Grk “200 denarii.” The denarius was a silver coin worth about a day’s wage for a laborer; this would be an amount worth about eight months’ pay.
  11. John 6:8 tn Grk “one of his disciples.”
  12. John 6:9 tn Grk “but what are these”; the word “good” is not in the Greek text, but is implied.
  13. John 6:10 tn Grk “Make.”
  14. John 6:10 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author (suggesting an eyewitness recollection).
  15. John 6:10 tn Here “men” has been used in the translation because the following number, 5,000, probably included only adult males (see the parallel in Matt 14:21).
  16. John 6:11 tn Grk “likewise also (he distributed) from the fish.”
  17. John 6:12 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  18. John 6:13 sn Note that the fish mentioned previously (in John 6:9) are not emphasized here, only the five barley loaves. This is easy to understand, however, because the bread is of primary importance for the author in view of Jesus’ upcoming discourse on the Bread of Life.
  19. John 6:14 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  20. John 6:14 sn The Prophet is a reference to the “prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:15, by this time an eschatological figure in popular belief.
  21. John 6:14 sn An allusion to Deut 18:15.
  22. John 6:15 sn Jesus, knowing that his “hour” had not yet come (and would not, in this fashion) withdrew again up the mountainside alone. The ministry of miracles in Galilee, ending with this, the multiplication of the bread (the last public miracle in Galilee recorded by John) aroused such a popular response that there was danger of an uprising. This would have given the authorities a legal excuse to arrest Jesus. The nature of Jesus’ kingship will become an issue again in the passion narrative of the Fourth Gospel (John 18:33ff.). Furthermore, the volatile reaction of the Galileans to the signs prepares for and foreshadows the misunderstanding of the miracle itself, and even the misunderstanding of Jesus’ explanation of it (John 6:22-71).