Yohanan Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 6
1. Some time later, Yeshua went over to the far side of Lake Kinneret (that is, Lake Tiberias),
2. and a large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miracles he had performed on the sick.
3. Yeshua went up into the hills and sat down there with his talmidim.
4. Now the Judean festival of Pesach was coming up;
5. so when Yeshua looked up and saw that a large crowd was approaching, he said to Philip, “Where will we be able to buy bread, so that these people can eat?”
Judean festival of Pesach. See 5:1N.
Where will we be able to buy bread? Perhaps people had begun to reduce bread supplies in anticipation of Passover (see Mt 26:17N, 1С 5:6-8N). If so, it adds to the drama of vv. 7ff.

6. (Now Yeshua said this to test Philip, for Yeshua himself knew what he was about to do.)
7. Philip answered, “Half a year’s wages wouldn’t buy enough bread for them — each one would get only a bite!”
Half a year's wages, literally, "200 denarii."

8. One of the talmidim, Andrew the brother of Shim‘on Kefa, said to him,
9. “There’s a young fellow here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But how far will they go among so many?”
10. Yeshua said, “Have the people sit down.” There was a lot of grass there, so they sat down. The number of men was about five thousand.
11. Then Yeshua took the loaves of bread, and, after making a b’rakhah, gave to all who were sitting there, and likewise with the fish, as much as they wanted.
12. After they had eaten their fill, he told his talmidim, “Gather the leftover pieces, so that nothing gets wasted.”
According to halakhah, destruction of food is prohibited (Shabbat 50b, 147b). Also, before a meal, if the attendant sweeping the floor "is a scholar, he removes crumbs [of bread] the size of an olive and leaves those that are smaller. This supports what Rabbi Yochanan said: 'It is permissable to destroy wilfully crumbs smaller than an olive."'(B'rakhot 52b)

In other words: waste not, want not: the rule is better thought of as a practical guide for housekeepers than a compulsive legalism. This is Jewish background for Yeshua's command to gather the leftover pieces, so that nothing gets wasted.

13. They gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
14. When the people saw the miracle he had performed, they said, “This has to be ‘the prophet’ who is supposed to come into the world.”
Not just any prophet, but "the prophet" of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. Compare 1:21 &N, 7:40; Ac 3:22-23&N, 7:37; Mt 21:11.

15. Yeshua knew that they were on the point of coming and seizing him, in order to make him king; so he went back to the hills again. This time he went by himself.
They were on the point of coming and seizing him, in order to make him king. The crowd wanted freedom from Roman rule and peace for Israel, and they thought Yeshua was the man for the hour. But his own view was different: "My kingship does not derive its authority from this world's order of things" (18:36). Had they succeeded, they would have nullified God's way of malting Yeshua the Messiah, which was through his being the Suffering Servant dying for the sins of humanity, being resurrected, ascending to God's right hand and returning in future glory to assume the throne. The hope then as now among traditional non-Messianic Jews was for a conquering hero.

The third of Yeshua's miracles reported by Yochanan. ihe feeding of five thousand people, is told in the Synoptic Gospels in essentially the same way (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:32^4. Lk 9:10-17).

16. When evening came, his talmidim went down to the lake,
17. got into a boat and set out across the lake toward K’far-Nachum. By now it was dark, Yeshua had not yet joined them,
18. and the sea was getting rough, because a strong wind was blowing.
19. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Yeshua approaching the boat, walking on the lake! They were terrified;
20. but he said to them, “Stop being afraid, it is I.”
21. Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and instantly the boat reached the land they were heading for.
Instantly the boat reached the land. Another miracle, one not reported by Mattityahu or Mark.
Compare Mt 14:22, Mk 6:45-52.

22. The next day, the crowd which had stayed on the other side of the lake noticed that there had been only one boat there, and that Yeshua had not entered the boat with his talmidim, but that the talmidim had been alone when they sailed off.
23. Then other boats, from Tiberias, came ashore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had made the b’rakhah.
24. Accordingly, when the crowd saw that neither Yeshua nor his talmidim were there, they themselves boarded the boats and made for K’far-Nachum in search of Yeshua.
25. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26. Yeshua answered, “Yes, indeed! I tell you, you’re not looking for me because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the bread and had all you wanted!
Miraculous signs should awaken consciousness of God, but these people are conscious only of their own physical needs.

27. Don’t work for the food which passes away but for the food that stays on into eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For this is the one on whom God the Father has put his seal.”
The food which passes away and the food that stays on into eternal life are opposites and constitute the theme of Yeshua's remarks.

28. So they said to him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?”
29. Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust in the one he sent!”
What should we do in order to perform the works of God? The people are probably not asking how to do miracles but how to please God. Nevertheless Yeshua's answer surprises them.

30. They said to him, “Nu, what miracle will you do for us, so that we may see it and trust you? What work can you perform?
31. Our fathers ate man in the desert — as it says in the Tanakh, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ (Psalm 78:24; Nehemiah 9:15)
32. Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you it wasn’t Moshe who gave you the bread from heaven. But my Father is giving you the genuine bread from heaven;
33. for God’s bread is the one who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”
What miracle will you do? A strange question for people who have just seen him do one (vv. 10-14). But they seem set on diminishing its importance by presenting one equally great or greater: Our fathers ate manna in the desert; see also Exodus 16:4,15; Numbers 11:8; Psalm 105:40. Yeshua corrects his questioners' exegesis of the Tanakh — they think 'lie" refers to Moshe, but Yeshua says its antecedent is my Father, God.

34. They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread from now on.”
35. Yeshua answered, “I am the bread which is life! Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in me will never be thirsty.
36. I told you that you have seen but still don’t trust.
You have seen but still don't trust. For this refusal to trust Yeshua their sin is all the greater; compare 15:24, also 20:29.

37. Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away.
Everyone the Father gives me will come to me... whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away. This is as forthright a statement of the paradox of predestination and free will as can be found. The Father has given certain people to Yeshua. How do I find out if I am one of them? By coming to Yeshua: I have free will and can choose to come, and I have Yeshua's word that he will not turn me away. Some claim that New Testament faith is exclusivist, but here we see that Yeshua is available universally (see also Ro 10:11-13).

38. For I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of the One who sent me.
39. And this is the will of the One who sent me: that I should not lose any of all those he has given me but should raise them up on the Last Day.
40. Yes, this is the will of my Father: that all who see the Son and trust in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day.”
41. At this the Judeans began grumbling about him because he said, “I am the bread which has come down from heaven.”
Judeans in sense (3)(c) of Lowe's classification (see 1:19N); likewise at v. 52. Alternatively, loudaioi means something like "unbelievers" in these two verses. The questioning has now escalated to grumbling.

42. They said, “Isn’t this Yeshua Ben-Yosef? We know his father and mother! How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Yeshua Ben-Yosef... his father. See 1:45N.

43. Yeshua answered them, “Stop grumbling to each other!
44. No one can come to me unless the Father — the One who sent me — draws him. And I will raise him up on the Last Day.
No one can come to me unless the Father... draws him. Another insight into the framework of free will (see v. 37&N).

45. It is written in the Prophets, 'They will all be taught by Adonai' (Isaiah 54:13). Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
46. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God — he has seen the Father.
47. Yes, indeed! I tell you, whoever trusts has eternal life:
48. I am the bread which is life.
49. Your fathers ate the man in the desert; they died.
50. But the bread that comes down from heaven is such that a person may eat it and not die.
51. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. Furthermore, the bread that I will give is my own flesh; and I will give it for the life of the world.”
52. At this, the Judeans disputed with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53. Then Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves.
54. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life — that is, I will raise him up on the Last Day.
55. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.
57. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live through the Father, so also whoever eats me will live through me.
58. So this is the bread that has come down from heaven — it is not like the bread the fathers ate; they’re dead, but whoever eats this bread will live forever!”
59. He said these things as he was teaching in a synagogue in K’far-Nachum.
A synagogue in K'far-Nachum. Yeshua spoke here on another occasion; see Mk 1:21-29.

60. On hearing it, many of his talmidim said, “This is a hard word — who can bear to listen to it?”
61. But Yeshua, aware that his talmidim were grumbling about this, said to them, “This is a trap for you?
62. Suppose you were to see the Son of Man going back up to where he was before?
Compare 1:51, 3:13, 17:5.

63. It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life,
The flesh is no help. This is not a downgrading of the body in some Greek dualistic sense, but rather a typically Jewish assertion that without the Spirit of God the physical things have no value of their own.

64. yet some among you do not trust.” (For Yeshua knew from the outset which ones would not trust him, also which one would betray him.)
65. “This,” he said, “is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has made it possible for him.”
See vv. 37&N, 44&N; also compare 2:25.

66. From this time on, many of his talmidim turned back and no longer traveled around with him.
Yeshua succeeded in winnowing out those who were not sincere or who found too high the cost of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Compare Lk 14:25-33, also addressed to a crowd.

The bread that I will give is my own flesh, and I give it for the life of the world.... Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you (vv. 51, 53). Because of what Yeshua said here the grumbling (v. 42) quickly became disputing (v. 52), then a hard word they couldn't bear to listen to (v. 60), and finally an insuperable barrier for many of his talmidim (not merely his casual hearers), who turned back and no longer traveled around with him (v. 66).

The most literal sense of the text implies cannibalism, which, were it what Yeshua meant, would certainly be an insuperable barrier to faith in him. But even a high view of the inspiration of the Bible does not require the elimination of metaphorical and symbolic language. Although Yeshua's particular hearers may have been either shocked at what he said or seeking an excuse for not obeying his call to repentance and loyalty, not every Jewish audience would have reacted that way. For the same kind of metaphor is used in the Midrash Rabbah to Ecclesiastes 2:24 ("There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink"). The Midrash quotes rabbis from the 3rd-4th centuries C.E.:

"Rabbi Tanchuma said in the name of Rabbi Nachman ben-Rabbi Shmu'el ben-Nachman, and Rabbi Menachma said (according to another version Rabbi Yiriniyahu and Rabbi [Y'hudah HaNasi] said in the name of Rabbi Shmu'el ben-Rabbi Yitzchak): 'AH references to eating and drinking in the book of Qohelet [Ecclesiastes] signify Torah and good works.' Rabbi Yonah said, 'The clearest proof for this is Ecclesiastes 8:15, "A man has no better thing under the sun than to eat, drink and be merry, and thai this should accompany him in his labor." The word for "his labor" is " 'amah," but it should be read " 'olamo" ("his world"), that is, in this world. The verse continues. All "the days of his life"; and that alludes to the grave. So are there food and drink in the grave that accompany a person to the grave? Of course not. Therefore "food and drink" must mean Torah and good works.'"

The point is that Jewish understanding allows for symbolic interpretation of "food and drink." To eat the flesh of the Son of Man is to absorb his entire way of being and living. The Greek word "sanr" ("flesh") is also used to refer to human nature in general, to the physical, emotional, mental and volitional aspects of human existence. Yeshua wants us to live, feel, think and act like him; by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh he enables us to do so. Likewise, to drink his blood is to absorb his self-sacrificing life-motivation and indeed his very life, since "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11). Jews and Gentiles open to the truth of who Yeshua is will find this interpretation acceptable.

This passage in Yochanan and the statement of Yeshua about the matzah at the Last Supper (Mt 26:26), "This is my body," have led to much theologizing about the nature of the identification between the bread and Yeshua's body. But even the Roman Catholic doctrine of "transubstantiation" of the bread, which says that it "becomes" his body, is not meant to be taken in the crude sense of transformation of one physical substance into another. While it is true that the language of such theologizing is alien to Jewish ears, as, for example, when it speaks of the "real presence" of Yeshua's body in the bread, still the overall intent of the discussion is not distant from what was said in the paragraph quoted from the Midrash. And despite academic debate over what is meant by the "real presence," none would assert Yeshua's "real absence" from believers and the bread they eat at the common meal.

67. So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “Don’t you want to leave too?”
68. Shim‘on Kefa answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life.
69. We have trusted, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Сравните исповедание веры в Йешуа, произнесённое Кефой. Мат. 16:16, Map. 8:29 и Лук. 9:20.
Kefa's confession of faith in Yeshua may be compared with Mt 16:16, Mk 8:29 and Lk 9:20.

70. Yeshua answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is an adversary.”
An adversary, Greek diabolos, which gives us the English word "devil." See Mt 4:1N. Yet this is remez, not p'shat (Mt 2:15N) — Yeshua does not simply equate Y'hudah from K'riot (v. 71) with Satan.

71. (He was speaking of Y’hudah Ben-Shim‘on, from K’riot; for this man — one of the Twelve! — was soon to betray him.)
The attitude of the crowd generates Yeshua's lengthy discourse.

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