Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.'Chap. 6. Jesus the life in the flesh.
1-15.] Miraculous feeding of five thousand men. Matthew 14:13-21.Mark 6:30-44Mar_6:30-44.Luke 9:10-17Luk_9:10-17,—in each of which compare the notes throughout. Here we have another example of John relating a miracle with the view of introducing a discourse, and that discourse carries on the testimony of Jesus to Himself. In the last, He was the Son of God, testified to by the Father, received by faith, rejected by unbelief: here He is son of man, the incarnate Life of the world, and we have the unbelief of the Jews and His own disciples set in strong contrast with the feeding on and participating in Him as the Bread of Life.
1.] μετὰ ταῦτα gives us no fixed date: see on ch. 5:1. As Lücke remarks, the ἀπῆλθ. πέραν τῆς θαλ.…, if connected with the preceding discourse, would be unintelligible,—and can only be understood by the fragmentary character of this Gospel as relates to mere narration, and the well-known fact being presupposed, that His Ministry principally took place in Galilee.
Matt. gives this passage over the lake in connexion with the execution of John the Baptist: Mark and Luke, with the return of the Twelve from their mission. (The Twelve were probably gathered, or their gathering finished, in the interval since ch. 5:47, during which time their mission also had taken place.)
τῆς Ιʼ. τῆς Τιβ.] The last appellation is probably inserted for the sake of Gentile readers, to whom it was best known by that name: thus Pausan. v. 7. 3, αὐτὸς οἶδα Ἰόρδανον λίμνην Τιβερίδα ὀνομαζομένην διοδεύοντα: but it was more usually called, as by Josephus, Γεννησάρ or Γεννησαρῖτις, 1 Macc. 11:67: Strabo xvi. 2 (Ptolem. v. 15, Lücke).
τῆς Τιβ. cannot mean that He came from Tiberias, however true that may have been. That would have been ἀπὸ or ἐκ Τιβεριάδος. It is possible, though not likely, that τῆς Τιβ. may have been a gloss, and have found its way into the text very early. But at all events we must not adopt the reading of &c., εἰς τὰ μέρη τ. Τιβ.,—for the fact was just otherwise: compare vv. 2 and 23.
2.] It is evident from this that a circuit in Galilee and works of healing are presupposed (see Matt. ver. 13: Mark, ver. 33: Luke, ver. 11).
3.] τὸ ὄρος, perhaps ‘the hill country’ on the shore of the lake = ἔρημον τόπον κατʼ ἰδίον, Matt. The expression is used by John only here and in ver. 15, but no inference can be drawn from that, for this is the only portion of the Galilæan Ministry related by him.
4.] This will account, not for so great a multitude coming to Him, but perhaps (?) for the circumstance that the people at that time were gathered in multitudes, ready to set out on their journey to Jerusalem. We must remember also that the reference of the following discourse to the Passover being so pointed, the remark would naturally be here inserted by the Evangelist: but I would not, with Luthardt (i. 80; ii. 41) insist on this as the only reason for his making it.
5.] Here there is considerable difficulty, on account of the variation from Matt., Mark, and Luke, who relate that the disciples came to the Lord after He had been teaching and healing the multitudes, and when it was now evening,—and asked him to dismiss the multitudes, that they might buy food;—whereupon He commanded, ‘Give ye them to eat;’—whereas here apparently, on their first coming, the Lord Himself suggests the question, how they were to be fed, to Philip. This difference is not to be passed over, as it has usually been by English Commentators, without notice. Still less are we to invent improbable and hardly honest harmonistic shifts to piece the two narratives together. There can be no doubt, fairly and honestly speaking, that the narratives, in their mere letter, disagree. But those who are not slaves to the mere letter will see here that inner and deeper accordance of which Augustine (De Consensu Evang. ii. 46, vol. iii. pt. i.) speaks in commenting on this passage: “Ex qua universa varietate verborum, rerum autem sententiarumque concordia, satis apparet salubriter nos doceri, nihil quærendum in verbis nisi loquentium voluntatem; cui demonstrandæ invigilare debent omnes veridici narratores, cum de homine vel de angelo vel de Deo aliquid narrant.” I repeat the remark so often made in this Commentary,—that if we were in possession of the facts as they happened, there is no doubt that the various forms of the literal narrations would fall into their places, and the truthfulness of each historian would be apparent:—but as we cannot at present reconcile them in this way, the humble and believing Christian will not be tempted to handle the word of God deceitfully, but to admire the gracious condescension which has given us the evidence of so many independent witnesses, whose very difference in detail makes their accordance in the great central truths so much the more weighty. On every point of importance here, the four sacred historians are entirely and absolutely agreed. That every minor detail related by them had its ground in historical fact, we fully believe; it is the tracking it to this ground in each case, which is now beyond our power; and here comes in the simplicity and reliance of faith: and the justification of those who believe and receive each Gospel as they find it written.
πρὸς Φ.] Why to Philip, does not appear; perhaps some reason lay in the πειράζων αὐτόν, which is now lost to us. From his words in ch. 14:8, we cannot infer, as has been done by Chrys. (Hom. xlii. 1, in Joann. vol. viii. p. 249) and others, that he was weaker in faith, or tardier in spiritual apprehension, than the rest. Of all the Apostles who appear in the sacred narrative, something might be quoted shewing equal unreadiness to believe and understand. I would take the circumstance as simple matter of fact, implying perhaps that Philip was nearest to our Lord at the moment. We must not fall into the mistake of supposing that Philip being of Bethsaida the city of Andrew and Peter (ch. 1:45) throws any light on the question: for the Bethsaida near which our Lord now was, Luke 9:10, was another place, see notes there.
πόθεν—whence—‘from what store.’ Hence Philip’s answer.
6.] He knew:—by this St. John must be understood not only to rescue our Lord from the imputation of asking counsel of Philip, but to refer the miraculous act, on His part, to His purpose of exhibiting Himself as the Son of Man the Life of the World in the flesh.
7.] See notes on Mark.
8.] Meyer remarks, that εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ may seem strange, seeing that Philip also was this: but that it has its pragmatic value, seeing that, Philip having been asked in vain, one from among the circle of the disciples answers, and is afterwards specified as having been Andrew.
In the three other Gospels, the loaves and fishes appear as the disciples’ own;—and we have thus a very simple but very instructive instance of the way in which differences in detail arose. They were their own,—but not till they had bought them.
9.] κριθίνους, the usual barley bread of the lower orders.
ὀψάρια = ἰχθύδια, Suidas, but of later Greek usage:—at first used to signify any thing subsidiary to bread as a relish, such as meat of all kinds, and condiments. Later however, from fish being, in the deeply coast-indented country of Greece, the most common animal food, it came to be applied to that alone or principally—(see art. Opsonium in the Dictionary of Gr. and Rom. Antiquities).
10.] χόρτος πολύς, in accordance with the time of year, the latter end of spring, after the rainy season.
On ἀναπεσεῖν see Mark and Luke, who describe the manner.
οἱ ἄμδρες] This is a particular touch of accuracy in the account of an eye-witness which has not I think been noticed. Why in the other accounts should mention be made only of the men in numbering them? Matt. has, it is true, χωρὶς γυν. κ. παιδ., leaving it to be inferred that there was some means of distinguishing;—the others merely give [ὡσεὶ] ἄνδρες πεντακισχ. without any explanation. But here we see how it came to be so—the men alone were arranged in companies, or alone arranged so that any account was taken of them: the women and children being served promiscuously; who indeed, if the multitude were a paschal caravan (?), or parts of many such, would not be likely to be very numerous;—and here again we have a point of minute truthfulness brought out.
11.] On the process of the miracle, see notes on Matt. John describes the διάδοσις as being the act of the Lord Himself, and leaves the intervention of the disciples to be understood.
εὐχαριστήσας here answers to εὐλόγησεν in the other Gospels. It was the ‘grace’ of the father of the family; perhaps the ordinary one in use among the Jews. John seems to connect with it the idea brought out by Luke, εὐλ. αὐτούς, i.e. τοὺς ἄρτους: see ver. 23.
12.] Peculiar to John. The command, one end of which was certainly to convince the disciples of the power which had wrought the miracle, is given by our Lord a moral bearing also. They collected the fragments for their own use, each in his κόφινος, the ordinary furniture of the travelling Jew (“quorum cophinus fœnumque supellex,” Sat. iii. 14), to carry his food, lest he should be polluted by that of the people through whose territory he passed: see note on Matthew 15:32. Observe, that here the 12 baskets are filled with the fragments of the bread alone: but in Mark, with those of the fishes also.
We must not altogether miss the reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, typifying the Church which was to be fed with the bread of life to the end of time.
14.] On ὁ προφ. see note on ch. 1:21,—ὁ προφ. εἶ σύ