John 6: 1-14 – Multiplication of Loaves

Multiplication of loaves is a tradition common to all the Gospels (Mk 6: 30-44; Mt 14: 13-21; Lk 9: 11-17). The Gospels of Mark and Matthew have also a second narration of multiplication (Mk 8: 1-19; Mt 15: 32-39). But the Gospel of John has re-worked on this tradition, evidently to introduce the Eucharistic theme into it. The background of the feast of Passover is an editorial element. No other evangelist speaks of Passover, as the context of the multiplication of loaves. In the Synoptic Gospels the Passover is the background of the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Since the Gospel of John does not narrate the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper, but present the same tradition in a different way in the discourse in John 6. The background of the Passover is Eucharistic in character. There are other Eucharistic elements too. Such as,

  • The discourse with Philip and Andrew reveals that the human power cannot solve the problem, but only faith in the power of Jesus. Faith is the basis of the Eucharist.
  • Only the bread is blessed. The fish is mentioned in the beginning but later not referred.
  • Barley bread is Johannine speciality. It could be a reference to the bread used for “breaking of bread” in the community.
  • Jesus takes the bread and “given thanks…” The verb eucharisteo is typical word for Eucharist. In the parallel Synoptic traditions we have “blesses” (Eulogeo).
  • Jesus himself directly distributes to the people.
  • Jesus gives an explicit command to collect all the left over fragments.

Hence we could say that the Gospel of John has reinterpreted the miracle of multiplication of loaves in a Eucharistic way.

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