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Scripture & the church

Assessment Item 2

Inspired through the word of God, the Gospels proclaim the good news of the Anointed one. Detailing the life, ministry and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Gospels use the power of the Holy Spirit to capture the Sacred Scriptures. The Gospel of John is believed to have been composed much later than the synoptic gospels, around the turn of the century, with Letters and supporting materials being composed later. (Maloney, & Harrington, 2005, p. 5) Although it was written near the turn of the century, scholars have argued that the Gospel was written over a lengthy period of time, as specific language features have changed. (2007, Briggs Kittredge, p. 189) Scholarly criticism indicates that the gospel of John was written by more than one author; a community of churches guided by one person, as there are some inconsistencies within the gospel. (Blackaby, 2007, p.8) The Fourth Gospel contains no explicit information about its author's identity. Rather than claiming to be a part of Jesus' central people, the author identifies himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2). This phrase is an expression of the great love that the author felt for Jesus. It portrays an image that the author himself was too humble to use his own name, keeping his truth identity hidden within the captivating language of the Gospel (Debono, Sem 1. 2011, Lecture 10) However, the traditional explanation is most likely: John the Apostle, (Jn 21:24) son of Zebedee. (Maloney, & Harrington, 2005, p. 6) Tradition informs us that the place of writing of the Gospel of John was Ephesus, known as modern day Turkey. (Blackaby, 2007, p.8) The very language of the Gospel indicates that it was written for Greek-speaking persons, whether they were Jews or non-Jews, as this was the language most understood. (Williamson, 2004, p.263)

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The Gospel According to John is the Fourth Gospel of the New Testament, recording the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. As the fourth Gospel in the canonical, following the synoptic gospels, Mark, Matthew, & Luke, the Gospel of John takes upon a uniquely different approach being referred as the spiritual Gospel. (Wiles, 2006, p. 11) Full of symbolism moved by the spirit, the historiographical narratives throughout the Gospel of John serves the purpose to reveal the eternal truths, penetrating Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Messiah, both Son of Man and Son of God.  (Jn 20: 30-31) Some scholar's speculate that the gospel of John can be used as a historical account, although these theories have been overruled. In the Gospel of John, the author discloses thematic presentation of the life, light, love, witness, glory, truth, resurrection and ministry of Jesus. (Blackaby, 2007, p.8) Expressing the central theme who Jesus is, through his signs (miracles) and metaphorical identities, the author focuses on the seven I am statements providing a definite claim of His deity as God the Son. (Blackaby, 2007, p.8)

The Gospel according to John is divided into 5 central parts. Each of these sections is used to portray a biblical message through the scriptures. Guided by the Holy Sprit the Gospel of John uses these sections to inform the reader that Jesus of Nazareth is truly God and truly Man, both human and divine. The structural composition of the Gospel can be divided into five key sections, a Prologue, The book of signs, the book of glory, conclusion and the Epilogue. (Debono, Sem 1 2011, Lecture 10) The Prologue (Jn 1:1-18) introduces the theme of coming from his life with the Father. (Maloney & Harrington, 2005, p. 24) The Book Signs (Jn 1:19-12:50) reveals the glory of His father, manifested through the 7 miracles, revealing the life and ministry of Jesus in the world. (Francis, et al, 1998, p. 24) The third sections, the book of glory (Jn 13:1-20:29) records Jesus' return to the father as the hour of glorification come, which consists of his suffering, trials, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and return to the Father. (Maloney, & Harrington, 2005, p. 24) The fourth structural element of the Gospel is the conclusion (Jn 20:30-31). Within this section the evangelist states the purpose for writing the Gospel that Jesus is the Messiah. (Maloney, & Harrington, 2005, p. 24) The final structural element of the gospel is the Epilogue (Jn 21:15-24). In this section the evangelist expresses the further resurrection and appearance of Christ to his disciples. (Francis, et al, 1998, p. 24)

Jn 6:1-15

Feeding the Five Thousands

The Gospel of John “Feeding the Five Thousands” (Jn 6:1-15) recounts the miracle of the bread of life. As one of the only miracles recorded by the four evangelists apart from the resurrection, the sign shows its \influence towards the followers of Jesus. (Elowsky, & Oden, 2006, p. 209) John takes the narrative not as a miracle story, unlike the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), but as a sign; a movement in the revelation of Jesus as the bread giver for the life of the world. (Elowsky & Oden, 2006, p. 209) The evangelist presents us with the motivation of the crowd following Jesus due to his miracles. (Brown & Fitzmyer, 1990, p. 961) Amongst the time of Passover, Jesus satisfies their hunger, multiplying the bread and fish, feeding five thousand.(Jn 6:9) By providing them bread, which acts as a allegory for the restoration of eternal life, Jesus is foreseen as the coming of the Messiah. (Jn 6:15)

Beyond our senses the multiplication of the loaves and fish is truly regarded as a miraculous act of greatness. It is understood that often Jesus went away from the crowds to be alone, needing time to pray to his Father. On this occasion, it seemed that he wanted to meet the crowd. (Brown & Fitzmyer, 1990, p. 961) The multitudes of the crowds expressed through the Gospel are not to inform us of the believers that followed Christ, but they identify the unbelievers that needed to truly witness the signs. (Elowsky & Oden, 2006, p. 210) Jesus' movement up towards the mountain symbolises the distinctive act of authority. (Francis et al, 1998, p. 197) Although this image is clear, it is said Jesus went up towards the mountain to pray and to teach us a lesson, to retire from the confusion of the world. (Elowsky, & Oden, 2006, p. 210) The relevance of the Passover, clearly gives the readers an insight of the time around spring, (Maloney, & Harrington, 1998, p. 200) as Jesus ordered the people to sit on the grass. (Jn 6:10)

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The doubtful response of the disciples “two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread” (Jn 6:7) echoes the events in the Old Testament, of Elisha's feeding of one hundred men in Kgs 4.  (Maloney, & Harrington, 1998, p. 199) The representation of the boy used to gather the loaves and fish, also echoes the same events in Kings 4, however the Evangelist has not indicated the position of the boy, but believe he is a servant. (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213) The allegory of the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish represent significant symbols of the church. The loaves of bread are used to describe the five books of Moses, while the two fish suggest the teachings of the apostles and Evangelists. (Elowsky, & Oden, 2006, p. 212) Furthermore, scholarly criticism suggests that two fish is a clear representation of Old and New Covenant Church. (Brown & Fitzmyer, 1990, p. 961)

The gathering of the fragments after the disciples have ate, twelve baskets can be filled. (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213) The allegorical symbol of the twelve baskets is used to present the twelve apostles. (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213) It is said that the symbols of these baskets is used to inform the people to listen to word of the Apostles, those loved by Christ. Filling the baskets with fragments refers to the Jewish custom. (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213) Scholars have argued the symbolise of this action recalls the theme of abundance (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213)

The Evangelist has used the miracle to echo the actions of the Old Testament, as Moses feeds the people manna guided by the spirit of God to the Promised Land for forty days. This is used to present Jesus as the new Moses, guiding the people to eternal life by nourishing their hunger with the bread of life. (Elowsky, & Oden, 2006, p. 210) The description of Jesus' position back on the mountain after he is proclaimed as the Messiah (Jn 6:15) is used to show the Messiah has come, showing his authority and kingship to the people. (Ridderbos, 1997, p. 213)

The reading from the Holy Gospel of John “Feeding the Five Thousand” (Jn 6:1-15) is the third reading outlined in the Most Holy Eucharist. (Lectionary, p. 1063) The reading is used to portray a message from God; it signifies that he gave the people all they wanted. According to the lectionary the reading from the Holy Gospel of John is read during mass services of the 17th Sunday of the year. (Lectionary, p. 1063) In relevance to the liturgical year outline, “Feeding the Five Thousand” is celebrated in church services during the second week of Easter, a period of Lent when we give thanks to our Lord as he sacrificed his own life for the eternal dwelling of his people. (Lectionary, p. 1063) During this time we give thanks to the Lord by repent our sins through the sacraments of the Eucharist. We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God by accepting his body and blood, whilst remembering his death and resurrection.

Eternal life is something we all aspire to. Through the sacraments of the Eucharist as God's children we repent our sins in order to dwell in the heavenly Kingdom that God dwells in. In the conclusion of Christ's feeding of the multitudes (Jn 6:1-15) is an example for humanity to place their trust within God, as He like every good father know what is rightful for his children. It acknowledges that our trust within God means all things are possible. The Gospel also teaches Catholics to believe in the presence and Word of our Lord, as the Messiah has come to save his people. We acknowledge that we give thanks during this time of forgiveness, in order to take the sacraments of the Eucharist for eternal life. God feeds and nourished people spiritually with the bread of life. The underlining lesson to be learnt through the “Feeding of the Five Thousands” (Jn 6:1-15) implies we too need to be generous with the gifts God has given, since God can make much out of nothing. (Elowsky, & Oden, 2006, p. 209) 

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