Why the Miracle of Feeding the 5,000 with Five Loaves and Two Fish?

by Joshua Tilghman on July 5, 2016

Jesus' Miracle of Feeding the 5000I attended a local church two Sunday’s ago at the invite of some neighbors. The people were very warm and friendly, and we even got a free t-shirt. The service was held in a movie theater and we were able to eat snacks and drink coffee during the sermon. As far as the atmosphere went, it was quite a different church experience. From what I hear, churches are changing like this all across the country. It’s becoming less formal and a lot more social.

The pastor’s sermon was upbeat and full of energy. He did a good job engaging the audience with personal stories that were both humorous and true to all of our everyday lives. That takes a little bit of wit and skill. Then he took those personal stories and tied them into the message about Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew chapter 14.

Let’s do a brief recap:

As it happened, Jesus finds out about the beheading of John the Baptist and then heads out into the desert apart from civilization. But a multitude of people followed him from the cities and came to be healed of sickness. After Jesus heals them the disciples ask Jesus to send them back into the cities to get their own food because the desert had none to support them. But Jesus had no plans to send them back. He was about to perform a miracle instead. He would take five loaves of bread, two fish, and then feed 5,000 men with it.

Biblical scholars have pointed out that women and children would have also been there, so the number was more likely around 20,000. But that’s not really important because as you will see the story is not literal. The message behind this miracle, as always, is about the soul of man.

I was impressed with the pastor’s sermon from one perspective. He pointed out that Jesus is not actually the one who distributed the bread and fish: Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the multitude. The only part Jesus actually played in the miracle was the blessing of it. Then the scriptures state that he handed them the loaves and fish and suddenly there was enough to go around to 5,000 people. What’s going on here? I use to wonder this: when the disciples starting handing out the food, did it just eternally keep getting bigger with every chunk taken apart and handed out? Of course there is something deeper the author of Matthew would like to teach us.

The pastor was right on about one thing. The miracle wasn’t about Jesus. The Bible makes it clear that it was about the disciples. The pastor then stated how this story is really about us, that we need to go out and heal and feed the world with whatever we have to give. Good for him. We should use the resources that we are blessed with to help someone in need. But what the pastor didn’t mention, at least esoterically, is that the allegory is full of symbolism to instruct us about the higher development of our own soul. This is the real reason Jesus isn’t actually performing the miracle.

Remember that Jesus was moved to go into the desert away from civilization after the sorrow of learning that John the Baptist was beheaded. The desert has special meaning. Johannes Tauler, the German Mystic of the 14th century and personal disciple of the Meister Eckhart himself, once stated:

“The hidden God is far above every outward thing and every thought, and is found only where thou hidest thyself in the secret place of thy heart, in the quiet solitude where no word is spoken, where is neither creature nor image nor fancy. This is the quiet desert of the Godhead, the Divine Darkness…”

In other words, the desert symbolizes that place of solitude where the lower mind (ego) can be weaned from the external realities of physical life (the world) and all it contains. The Christ himself did not need to do this, but his act of going to the desert to feed the multitude is wherein the lesson lies. The 5,000, essentially us, need to wean the lower mind of the things of this world in order to unite it with the higher mind and nature. Let’s get into the proof, shall we?

Why five loaves of bread? Although the bread itself is symbolic of the bread of life from above (Jesus breaks it after looking up to heaven), there are five loaves because the story is teaching us that we must consecrate the five senses to a higher calling. We must use them for noble causes, not anything that would be mired by worldly desires: lust, greed, etc. The reason Jesus gave the bread of life, the blessing of heaven, to the disciples to distribute is because the disciples themselves are symbolic of the superior qualities of the soul. These qualities are there to intervene for us when we allow it. Then in turn, when we use the five senses we are blessed with for noble causes the lower mind is lifted and is on route to eventually be united with the higher mind, where it becomes transformed.

The two fishes are symbolic of the senses and perceptions (reinforcing the symbolic nature of the five), which are possible, according to esoteric literature, of the astro-physical body. I have taught more about this on other articles, but in case you haven’t read them, don’t let these terms scare you. They are not New Age. They were around during Plato’s day, and even before. The astro-physical body is just part of the templet of the physical body which allows the lower nature feelings and desires to be. Nothing fancy about it. It’s basically an energetic conduit that the ancients were well aware of.

That being said, this story is symbolic of feeding the soul, not the body. Five loaves of bread and two fish didn’t really get divided into thousands and thousands of pieces to feed upwards of 5,000 men and an additional 15,000 for the women and children.

So what should we really take away from this story? Mainly that when we use the five senses for the highest of purposes, we honor our true selves, and raise the ego to new heights of spiritual transformation. Thus, even our five senses, which are so often taught to be the root cause of reinforcing the ego, can be part of the blessing from above that helps raise us. When the five senses are used for evil, we regress. But when used as a blessing, we move forward, especially developing the moral nature.

As always, please share your thoughts and any additional things you might have noticed from the passages.

Blessings.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

David E Conolly July 6, 2016 at 4:04 am

Thank you very much, Joshua. It’s been a while since I commented, but I do look forward to receiving your email and the exciting contents. I had some problems with Chrome, but I’m glad to report that it’s fixed.
Thanks again,
With much Love & appreciation,
David..
P.S. This is good what you do, and what you impart..please don’t stop 🙂

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Joshua Tilghman July 6, 2016 at 10:18 am

David, thanks for commenting again. I love doing this and will certainly continue. Blessings.

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Tim July 6, 2016 at 5:01 am

As usual a very good analysis. People tend to think of scripture in the literal sense. In the four gospels there are so many references to food in the spiritual and not the physical sense it makes me wonder how people don’t get it.

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Joshua Tilghman July 6, 2016 at 10:16 am

Tim, you are correct. All of the Gospel references are always teaching us a spiritual lesson with all physical things, which are simply metaphors.

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debbie July 6, 2016 at 6:36 am

Thank you for these spot on interpretations!

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Joshua Tilghman July 6, 2016 at 10:15 am

You are very welcome, Debbie.

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Robyn July 6, 2016 at 10:02 am

Excellent! Well done. I never did understand the bible version and your analysis makes so much more sense. I will definitely focus on using my 5 senses to bless us and raise my moral nature.

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Joshua Tilghman July 6, 2016 at 10:14 am

Thank you, Robyn. At times this is challenging, but in the end the payment is worth it! Thanks for your comment.

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Vern McVety July 6, 2016 at 11:31 am

It’s a wonderful truth to know that our souls is where true discipleship dwells and comes from. We need soul discipline. I’m convinced those words are synonymous. Great lesson Josh. Thanks.

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Joshua July 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Very true words, Vernon. And you are quite welcome.

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Ronny Raye July 18, 2016 at 1:24 pm

It’s always a great blessing to know brother’s like self….willing to put the truth in it’s proper perspective….peace…Keep teaching.

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Robert July 6, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Josh,

I agree with you about the bread and fishes having symbolic meaning and the meanings you offer are a fresh, illuminating esoteric twist to the usual explanations. Funny you should bring up food, since as I mentioned in my comment in the last post that I am struggling in that area of indulgent overeating, which by your definition is not using my sense of taste for noble purposes :).

If I continue reading in the Gospel of John, I discover that after the loaves and fishes in the desert, Jesus and the disciples left and when some of the crowd discovered they were missing, they went looking for them in a nearby town. Not everyone, just the ones who were aware that something changed. When they found them, Jesus rewards their efforts by giving them further instruction, telling them, as you have, that their experience in the desert was not just about physical food. He tells them he is the bread of life come down from heaven from the Father, just like the manna in the wilderness. And so he draws the ones who came seeking him to continue to follow after him and absorb his teachings. He also explains that it was the Father who sent the manna, not Moses. In so doing, he is drawing them beyond the traditional Mosaic customs of their formalized religion they have been used to, into a deeper understanding of their individual relationship to divinity.

The traditional Christian interpretation of what is deeper is that he is drawing them into a personal relationship with God through him, because he says he is the bread of life and that whoever believes in him will never hunger or thirst (for what is more than physical life).

It seems to me that Jesus is using himself as a point of focus in the biblical account, in order to progressively impart spiritual revelation to them which they would not be able to understand all at once or on their own. The more they seek after him, the more is revealed to them.

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Joshua July 6, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Robert, very correct. And I had actually considered doing a part 2 further explaining this. What you and I call God might be a little different when discussing the term in mere semantics, but the essence is the exact same. By using the senses to draw us near to God, we are in effect having a more personal relationship with what I term the higher nature and what you term God. Both ideals are above us, and a blessing beyond measure. Your reference point of Christ as the focal point is also right on! That’s why Christ wasn’t directly involved in feeding the 5000. Good comment.

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Maryann July 7, 2016 at 3:51 am

This is an interesting take. But I can’t get past the loafs and fishes part to concentrate on the desert and 5 senses. I always thought that this was a miracle, but you (and the pastor) are saying no. Jesus gave the command to feed everyone and the miracle is that everyone somehow got fed. Did some people have hidden food and they opened up to brotherly love and shared? Maybe others gave other things- and that’s the real miracle? Because that’s the soul Jesus wants us to have?

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Joshua Tilghman July 7, 2016 at 7:55 am

Maryann,

Just to be clear, the pastor did not say that this was not a miracle, only that Jesus presented the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute. It is considered a miracle, I’m just saying that it didn’t literally happen. It’s an allegory. The bread and fish are simply symbols.

Blessings.

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Robert July 7, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Maryann,

There may actually be at least three different points of view regarding accounts of miracles in bible scripture. One is that expressed by Josh, that they did not literally happen, that the account of them is purely allegorical, and that they are symbolic. Another is that that they literally happened as an actual event and are supernatural signs that purposely defied natural expectations in order to get the attention of eye witnesses (and those who will later hear and read their reports) that something extremely special happened. I tend to go with the literal myself, but respect other viewpoints. Another is that the events close to what was described actually happened in a more natural way but the account was embellished or reinterpreted to make it seem more supernatural. I think you proposed something like this by suggesting others brought food that added onto the 5 loaves and shared it so that everyone ate.

The important thing as I see it, and as the pastor brought out according to Josh, is that Jesus’s followers distributed it, however it got to them, and regardless of whether this was an actual event or an allegory. No matter how you want to look at it, the message is that something special happens in the presence of a higher (or divine) nature that is able to dwell in (or be imparted to) people, and that this activates and satisfies something beyond the five senses.

As an aside, it is also significant that according to this account in the Gospel of John, after everyone had eaten, there were 12 loaves left over. One explanation for this is that this was a spiritual provision which included all the 12 tribes of Israel, not just the subset of Jewish people who were loyal to the ruling and corrupted Temple authorities.

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Robert July 8, 2016 at 11:20 am

Ooops. My mistake. There were 12 baskets of food left over, not twelve loaves.

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anny July 7, 2016 at 10:25 am

Hi Josh,

A great article that addresses a lot of aspects. I have never looked at it from this point of view.

Considering the meaning you attribute to everything, how do you interpret the stories of more or less the same phenomenon where Jesus feeds 4000 men with 7 loaves of bread and ‘some’ fishes in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke? They must have some connection.

You also do not mention the left-overs which must have a meaning as well. The 5000 leave 12 baskets full of bread and the 4000 leave 7 baskets.

Twelve and seven of course both share the numbers three (male side; three patriarchs) and four (female side; four matriarchs) and as such spirit and matter.

7 = 3 + 4 and 12 = 3 x 4.

So in seven three and four stand next to each other whereas in twelve they are intertwined. The twelve seems to be further ahead, which the following indicates: In seven they have an outlook on the eight of the eighth day but in twelve they have almost reached thirteen, which is the numerical value of the words ‘echad’, 1-8-4, oneness, unity, and ‘ahava’, 1-5-2-5, love.

Then there is also the Hebrew word for bread, ‘lechem’, 30-8-40, 78. Five loaves of bread stand for 5 x 78 = 390.

This number however is also the numerical value of the word ‘shamayim’, 300-40-10-40, heaven. So the five loaves of bread also stand for heaven.

And it is also the numerical value of the word ‘shemen’, 300-40-50, which means oil, the oil with which the ‘mashiach’, the Messiah, is anointed.

All of it somehow hangs together.

The Hebrew word for fish is ‘dag’, 3-4. So two fish stand for 2 x 7 = 14.

This is already a well-known number, which I have mentioned often. It is the numerical value of the name David, 4-6-4, the symbol of bringing everything into balance.
And it is the numerical value of the word ‘yad’, 10-4, which stands for action.
On top of that the number fourteen figures hugely in the list of the 42 = 3 x 14 generations, leading to the birth of the Christ(consciousness). And in the 42 stages of rising consciousness during the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt (Mitsrayim, 380) to Canaan (190), the Promised Land. The numbers 380 : 190 are like 2 : 1. So the journey from Egypt, the land of slavery, to Canaan, the Promised Land, symbolize the stages from duality to unity.

All this somehow or other plays a role.

The 4000 men are fed with 7 loaves of bread which is 7 x 78 = 546. This is related to the Names of God.

The first Name is the I am, ‘Eheyeh’, 1-5-10-5 = 21. It is the name that God calls Himself by. The second Name is the Tetragrammaton, JHVH, 10-5-6-5 = 26. It is the Name that is used by the world.

When those Names are intertwined, melt together, when I and He are no long distinguishable, then you get 21 x 26 = 546. That is what according to prof. Weinreb these 7 loaves of bread point to. So according to me it also points to the phase where the Christ consciousness and man have become one.

Anny

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Joshua Tilghman July 7, 2016 at 10:46 am

Wow, Anny. I can always count on you to write a separate article on my subjects in the comment section! I love it! You are very good with names and numbers. I am not so good in this area because I am not as analytical. I like to see bigger patterns through wording, but you have given some great additional info that I know readers here will appreciate.

As far as the feeding of the 4,000 goes, I have thought of that and will do an article on it in the future. Thanks again for your comment!

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anny July 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Hi Josh,

Thanks for your reply. I just juggled a little with bits and pieces I remembered, which sometimes leads to new discoveries. This time they remained a bit isolated but still interesting to know.

As I said the information of the last bit was mostly due to professor Weinreb, as I would never have tumbled to the meaning of 546 on my own (21 x 26). I did give my own interpretation however as he looked in other directions sometimes that do not mean too much to me. We must of course remember that there is never just one interpretation of any given bible text.

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Robert July 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Anny,

I think the intertwining that you discuss is also borne out by the theory that the feeding of the 4000 happens after the feeding of the 5000 (both are mentioned in Mark and the 5000 happens first), and in an area less populated and where a large proportion of the inhabitants are Gentiles instead of all Jews. The number 7 for the leftover baskets from feeding the 4000 symbolizes completion or perfection, in this case it could symbolize the eventual intertwining of Jews and Gentiles together as spiritual equals in the assemblies of Jesus’ followers; whereas 12 baskets from feeding the 5000 symbolizes reunited the 12 tribes of Israel. This is further borne out by the word used for basket to feed the 5000 applies to a small basket typically used by Jews; whereas the word used for basket to feed the 4000 applies to a large basket and the same word is used to describe the basket that St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was lowered in to escape persecution.

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anny July 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Robert,

Thanks for your comment and the additional information. It is interesting. Yes, I know 7 is also completion which then leads to another interpretation, which of course is just as valid. I find it interesting to see different interpretations next to each other, which sometimes together may lead to a third interpretation that adds still more.

I did not know that the words for basket in relation to the feeding of the 5000 and 4000 respectively were different. I must confess that I did not check the Hebrew translations in this case. I suppose that must have a meaning as well but I have no idea what that could be.

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Robert July 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Anny,

I only have information on the Greek words used. In Mark 6:43 at the feeding of the 5000, the word “kophinos” is used, which refers to a small shoulder basket used specifically by Jews to carry their food and bedding when travelling. In Mark 8.8, the word “spuris” is used, which means ‘hamper’. (Paul was lowered down the Damascus walls during his escape in a “spuris” – Acts 9.25).

This little detail is of interest to me also because, as I see it, it is a type and a shadow that connects Paul to Jesus, authenticating Paul as being chosen by divine order to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. He is delivered by means of a basket (spuris) to bring spiritual sustenance to the Gentiles, just as fishes and loaves were delivered many years earlier by means of a basket (spuris) to the 4000. To me, this helps dispel the theory that Paul’s Christianity was self-generated and different than that taught by Jesus. Also, because it is such a small hidden detail, it is less likely to have been fabricated by men to make things fit together.

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anny July 9, 2016 at 4:53 am

Hi Robert,

That is interesting information and an interesting conclusion. You may have something there.

I checked the texts you mentioned in my Hebrew New Testament and in all three places the word ‘sal’, 60-30, was used for a basket. It was translated from the Greek text though, so they must not have noticed the difference or the significance of a possibly different meaning of the different words in Greek. I am so sorry to have lost my own Greek New Testament because now I can never check anything there.

From the Hebrew word ‘sal’ however we can derive a totally different explanation which is also important. Its numerical value is 90, which stands for birth after a long process. It is the process of eating and digesting the ‘lechem’, the bread that contains yeast and is swollen by it, and the fish, that both symbolize the ego and emotions. And then, after that processing, the birth of the Christ consciousness takes place. For both groups equally, as in this respect there is no difference between them.

Remember that the name Beth-lechem, the birthplace of Christ in the nativity stories, tells the same story of the processing of the ‘bread’.

These two meanings do not contradict each other all. They can stand side by side. Even the difference between Greek and Hebrew in describing the baskets serves a purpose!

I agree with you that hidden details are much less likely to be manipulated by man, which is why it is so important that many hidden meanings are hidden within the words or characters themselves and not in the stories.

Robert July 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Anny,

You can have free online access to a Greek -English interlinear translation at http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm.

Robert July 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Anny,

There is also a free online Greek-Netherlands interlinear at http://www.scripture4all.org/pdf_interlinear/

I like the additional information about the bread, fish, and new birth. And Beth-Lechem (house of bread), what a connection.

I was thinking that many scholars believe the earliest versions of the Gospels may have been written in Aramaic, but only the Greek translations we have now survived. Along the lines that you mentioned, the Hebrew translations of the English or Greek New Testament made in recent times may not be as accurate in the details. As far as know, there are several of them by different authors, and they may differ slightly.

anny July 11, 2016 at 6:48 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the links you sent. I looked at them both and they look interesting but I do not think that I could work with this kind of thing. First of all the Greek script is different from what I was used to. They are all capitals and those were the type of letters that we used least of all. Besides that they are a different type of lettering altoghether that to me looks even a little like Russian letters. But more important, I am looking for a whole text in Greek and not for separate words. But thanks for taking the trouble to look these up for me.

I am glad that you like the additional information.

It is true that there are scholars who think that the earliest versions of the Gospels may have been written in Aramaic, or in Hebrew. It is also true that the Hebrew translation of the NT that I have is not the only one, and of course is only a translation. However, also the Greek texts may be a translation, if what you write (and I agree with) is true. And even if they are not, there are so many variant readings of them that it is impossible to know what the original text might have been.

Because of that I think we must not take any text of the New Testament too literally in any case.

Robert July 12, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Anny,

Check out this website link. I have it set up so you go right to Matthew chapter 1 with the Greek on the left and the English on the right. I know enough about Greek that I can say that only the beginning of the sentences are capitalized, the rest is lower case. But I don’t know if it is in a familiar font you are used to. The lower case looks like the Greek symbols I used to use in mathematics. Check it out. If you like it, you can do all kind of things with it. It is supposed to be linked somewhere to Strongs. If this does not work, I’ll keep looking.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/parallel-bible/passage/?q=matthew+1&t=sblg&t2=niv

anny July 15, 2016 at 8:34 am

Hi Robert,

Scrolling down the comments once more I see that I missed the one of July 12th. with the link to a Greek New Testament with an English translation side by side.

This one I can use and it is in the script I am familiar with (more or less: it has been half a century since I was actively engaged with it).

Thanks a lot. I bookmarked it so I can use it whenever I need.

Michele July 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Thank you Joshua,

Always looking forward to your email!

Very appreciative of your interpretations and believe that your posts are helping me spiritually.

Wondering what your thoughts are on this: http://simonarich.com/christ-letters

Kind regards,
Michele

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Joshua Tilghman July 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Michele,

I enjoy doing the articles and you are very welcome. As far as the link that you left is concerned: first off, wow, what a gem on the net. I went through Simona’s site today and she has done some excellent work! The exact article that you speak of was new to me. I had never heard of letters of Christ written by a female whose name was never mentioned. But I enjoyed the article and found a lot of truth within those letters. They are most likely Gnostic in origin. I will have to do some further research. In the meantime, I will visit Simona’s site from time to time and keep up with what she is doing.

Blessings.

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Bill July 28, 2016 at 12:37 am

You are seriously a short-sighted numbskull … obviously you haven’t participated in many miracles. get the hell out of your own way and go into a country where they have nothing … except faith … and pray and fast and watch miracles like feeding 2500 ppl in Hong Kong with only 20 turkeys and some bread and EVERYONE got fed and there were left overs … if you DARE !!!

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