The Multiplication of Loaves and Fish

Daniel Santos

Among the most amazing miracles associated with Jesus is His multiplication of loaves of bread and fish. Among Islamic scholars, Mohammed seemed to have replicated this in the battle of the trench during the siege of Medina. However Islamic accounts are usually confabulated and are partially covert, akin to the works of a magician unlike those of Jesus which are done openly; sometimes, in witness of thousands, and this is no exception. These miracles seemed to have happened, at least, twice according to the accounts made by the evangelists St. Matthew and St. Mark.

The first miracle of the loaves involved at least 5,000 people and are all told in the four gospels. St. Matthew’s account even claimed that the count did not include even women and children and therefore could have more. (Matthew 14:20-21, Mark 31:44, Luke 10:12-13 and John 6:11) this happened in the hillside of Tiberias, in the lonely place (Matthew 14:15, Mark 31:31, Luke 10:13-17and John 6:11) where they would like to be by themselves as in Bethsaida but the people followed them there. There was a question of whether they could buy bread for the people which involved St. Phillip where in his opinion 200 denarii worth of bread will only provide small pieces which will not satisfy the people ( John 6:5, Mark 31:38-41). However, there were five loaves of bread and two fish reported (Mark 31:38-41, Luke 10:13-17) which St. Andrew said a child brought (John 6:9-10) to feed and these the Lord blessed and multiplied to feed the 5,000 men (Matthew 14:20-21, Mark 31:44, Luke 10:10-11 and John 6:11) grouping them into 100s and 50s ( Mark 5:38-41, Luke 10:13-17) with 12 basketfuls of left-overs left of mixed bread and fish (Matthew 14:20-21, Mark 31:44, Luke 10:13-17).

The second miracle of the loaves involved at least 4,000 people and are also told in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark (15:34-35 and 8:1-6 respectively). The left-overs were seven basketfuls of loaves and fish combined. Now, these miracles occurred in deserted places where the multitudes followed the Messiah whose compassion manifested in His concern for their hunger as some of them have already followed Him for three days already and He didn’t want to send them away hungry as they might collapse on the way home. ( Matthew 15:31-32) Notice that in our initial comparison, Mohammed has the imperative to feed his men or he might lose the battle and even get captured and worst, be killed himself. Jesus Christ does not have such imperative, for the apostles have already suggested that they can just dismiss the people and therefore no longer be responsible for them. But God, the Son has compassion for His people and besides this is a foretaste of the Eucharist in the New Testament as the manna was in the Old Testament.

In this exegesis, I do not want to just show witness to the order of the Gospels but would also relate them with the other hidden meanings as has been suggested already by the preceding sentence. I want us to focus once more on the bread and the fish specifically the left-overs. Nothing was recorded about the scraps but since they were blessed, I don’t believe that they will just be thrown as waste as some rich men, even nowadays, are bent on doing. I am sure that the apostles themselves can consume some of them and give the rest to the poor. But let me ask the question, why twelve baskets or hampers during the first miracle and why seven during the second?

Well, not only Pythagoras of the Greeks used gematria or the use of numbers to convey messages. Even Israeli or Jewish rabbis did and still do until now. Remember the bible code wherein a certain formula of numbers occurring in the Torah are used to discover hidden prophecies. But I would like to make clear that we are not using Gnosticism here for the significance of the numbers are too obvious to be dismissed as unrelated. For instance, the 159 big fish caught in the dragnet caught by the apostles as instructed by Jesus had long been given interpretation. Although, we are to assume that the fish caught were the famous St. Peter’s fish (tilapia akin to the tilapia niloteca species which came to the Philippines in 1954), the number 159 would represent the number of fish species only known universally at that time. Hence, in antiquity, it is interpreted that the universal church will have all kinds of people, as the apostles were fishers of men. Moreover, the Lord only wanted the tame fish for the hostile others were only for the vast sea.

Why the five loaves of bread? Well, the Pentateuch has the five Mosaic books. And the two fish, we have the two testaments. We should not forget that both the bread and the fish represent Christ. In fact, the consecrated holy bread represents His Real Presence, till the end of time in the Church He established and the Greeks, the first gentiles to recognize Him, even as early as the Pentecost in Jerusalem kept their secretive belief in Him covert to the persecuting Romans by using the fish as His symbol. The 12 baskets therefore not only represent the twelve tribes of Israel but the Church He established with the apostles. And the seven baskets represent the Gentiles who joined this Church beginning eminently during the Pentecost which is also represented by the multiples of fifty when the people were fed.

The twelve tribes are easy but then, the seven could be a little problematic if they were to represent the Gentiles. Then let me help you by naming the pagan tribes conquered by Joshua which included Jericho, Ai, Jerusalem, Ebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. Then also the people of the Old Testament times namely: the Philistines, Phoenicians, Arameans, Bashan, Gilead, Ammonites and Moabites that will also be seven. Then St. John wrote about the seven churches in Asia. And conversely, if the two tame fish were Israel and Judah then we allude to the Gentile cities of St. Paul which were five and enumerated as follows: Rome, Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth and Ephesus. The twelve tribes could be easier to handle as the apostles were probably meant for the spiritual governance of each tribe but the gentiles are the harder lot as it needed the coming of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the twelve some more on Pentecost. This would now need the help of the seven who stand before the Lord God.

But if still you are baffled by these mysteries perhaps there is no need for you to know them. And yet the Seat of Wisdom is always there to assist you now that the paraclete wants to teach the complete truth.

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