Mosaic located in the Byzantine Basilica of the Multiplying of the Loaves, which has been built over the traditional stone upon which Jesus reputedly blessed the bread and fishes at the time of the miracle. Tabgha, present-day Palestine.

‘We are what we eat’

Bible studies prepared by Andrew
August 2021

Text: John 6

Four levels of interpretation (after Dante Alighieri)

  1. Literal (What is happening in the story?)
  2. Allegorical (What other stories are called to mind?)
  3. Moral (How, then, shall we live?)
  4. Mystical (Which “bread” gives life to the world?)

Read the following comments on John 6:24-35 and assign each to one or more of the “levels”. What further questions might you ask concerning bread, food, health, life, wisdom …?

  1. “I think the true food [Jesus] was bringing was union among all people – love. He wasn’t coming just to multiply the rice and the kidney beans” (Oscar, Gospel in Solentiname).
  2. “Appreciating the riches of the passage aside from a eucharistic understanding does require entering to some extent imaginatively into the symbolic world that it presupposes: God’s provision of the manna to the Israelites in their Sinai wandering (Exodus 16). If the gift of the ‘bread from heaven’ (the manna) showed God’s care for his people in their desert wandering, how much more does the gift of the Bread from heaven in the person of the Son” (Brendan Byrne).
  3. “… the discourse follows the form of a midrashic homily on the text quoted in 6:31 [Exodus 16:4,15; Numbers 11:8; Psalm 78:24; 105:40]” (Brendan Byrne).
  4. “The bread that’s used up is the bread that’s sought selfishly, and the bread that gives life is the bread we seek as a community. That bread produces eternal life because it produces the kingdom” (Olivia, Gospel in Solentiname).
  5. “The gradual revelation of Jesus as the true Bread incorporates both the sapiential and the eucharistic throughout … The one who is “the son of Joseph” from Nazareth is also “the Bread which has come down from heaven” (see Proverbs 9:2-5; Sirach 15:3; 24:21) (Dorothy Lee).
  6. Bread means “the presence of the risen Christ in the life of the community through the life-giving Spirit” (Dorothy Lee).
  7. “Materialistic eschatological concepts involving the renewal of the gift of manna (as in 2 Baruch 29:8) are rejected, and their fulfillment in another key is claimed for the descent of Jesus from heaven. The theme of bread from heaven is used to affirm Jesus’ origin from above and the superiority of the bread Jesus offers (grace and truth) over the bread Moses gave (Law)” (R. Alan Culpepper).
  8. “… the discourse on the true bread develops the relationship between feeding and teaching, bread and revelation” (John Dominic Crossan).
  9. “We see clearly that those signs, feeding or curing, were to make us see how society should be organized. [Jesus] wanted them to learn to perform miracles also, working all together, without exploiting each other, so there would be bread, health, and all the rest” (Alejandro, Gospel in Solentiname).

Read the following comments on John 6:35,41-51 and assign each to one or more of the “levels”. What further questions might you ask concerning bread, food, health, life, wisdom …?

  1. “It’s obvious they didn’t believe in [Jesus], and they didn’t believe because they were expecting some kind of liberation to come from heaven, like something magical” (Felipe, Gospel in Solentiname).
  2. “And above all they didn’t believe in him because he was the son of a workman. They kept rubbing it in that he was the son of a carpenter. If he’d been rich and powerful maybe it would have been easier for them to think he’d come down from heaven” (Gloria, Gospel in Solentiname).
  3. “And the same way now, many religious Christians are waiting for a liberation falling down from heaven and not a liberation that rises up from the people” (William, Gospel in Solentiname).
  4. “I believe all who struggle for liberation, in any part of the world, are also sent by the Father like Jesus” (Myriam, Gospel in Solentiname).
  5. “They killed that body but it goes on living, giving life to the world, and all who live for others are also part of that body, are bread that gives life to the world” (Gerardo, Gospel in Solentiname).
  6. “When we share the bread of the Eucharist, we share in the body of Christ and we unite with the whole people, with whom [Christ] is identified, and with God …” (Ernesto Cardenal, Gospel in Solentiname).
  7. “It seems to me that love is eternal and that it never ends and if you live in love then what you do never ends either. Love has to win out over evil, and therefore love has to lead an eternal life, but evil won’t be eternal; it’s going to end” (Felipe, Gospel in Solentiname).
  8. “Jesus talks a lot about resurrection, which in the language of the Bible is the same as saying ‘wake up’ …” (Ernesto Cardenal, Gospel in Solentiname).