[B-Greek] Mark 8:4, TOUTOUS

Ted Blakley jtedblakley at gmail.com
Wed Jul 11 14:18:05 EDT 2007

I am currently working on a PhD thesis that is a narrative-critical reading
of Mark 4:1-8:30, the Sea Crossing movement of Mark's gospel. My thesis
concerns among other things the characterization of the disciples within
this movement. In particular, I am attempting to corroborate and expand a
thesis put forward by Jeffrey Gibson ("The Rebuke of the Disciples in Mark
8.14–21," JSNT 27 (1986): 31-47), which argues that in the final episodic
sea crossing the disciples are not rebuked by Jesus because they lack faith
in Jesus' abilities but because they are exhibiting active, purposeful
resistance to his offering the good news of the kingdom to Gentiles. In
other words, where most scholars have seen a simple lack of understanding or
faith, Gibson has seen purposeful (and so culpable) opposition. My own
research has attempted to corroborate this reading of Mark 8:14-21 by seeing
if there are other examples of such purposeful resistance in this movement,
which I think there are. For example, in the second sea crossing (Mark
6:45-52), I argue that the reason why Jesus must force his disciples to
embark for Bethsaida is because he is actually sending them out a second
time on a missionary tour of duty but this time among and to Gentiles. Their
fundamental opposition to Gentile mission and their participation in that
mission is what accounts for Jesus' forcing as well as their failure to
recognize Jesus when he comes to them walking upon the sea, their fear over
the calming of the sea, the narrator's explanation that all of this was
because they didn't understand about the loaves because their hearts were
hardened, and their failure to actually make it to Gentile Bethsaida but
land instead back upon Jewish soil. I apologize for this long introduction,
but it provides a context for some grammatical questions about Mark 8:4,
which is a question the disciples ask while in Gentile territory just prior
to the feeding of four thousand, which I take to be a Gentile feeding.


Here the disciples' question is generally understood as fulfilling the same
role as the disciples' question in the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:37),
namely, the disciples are expressing incredulity in response to Jesus'
(implied) suggestion that they feed the crowd. Their incredulity is
occasioned by the perceived impossibility of finding enough bread/loaves in
this wilderness setting to feed such a large crowd. This is how the
disciples' question is understood by most commentators and is reflected in
most of the English translations I consulted, and there is certainly reason
to understand it this way. POQEN is understood in its spatial sense (Whence?
vs. How?) and combined with hWDE and EP ERHMIAS suggests that there is an
emphasis upon the wilderness setting as an obstacle to fulfilling Jesus'
request. But the more I read Mark 8:4b, the more I am struck by its sentence
structure. In particular, TOUTOUS continues to capture my attention, making
me wonder whether the disciples' question has a slightly different meaning
than the one generally accorded. In particular, I am starting to wonder
whether the central thrust of the disciples' question has more to do with
TOUTOUS than with the wilderness setting.  So here is my thinking, and I
would appreciate any comments:

First of all, TOUTOUS stands out by the fact that
(1) it is a demonstrative pronoun (instead of a repeat of the antecedent
OCLOS; note that Matt 15:33 reverts to this);
(2) it is at the beginning of the clause
(3) which has been achieved by distancing it considerably from its governing
(4) Moreover, what is striking about 8:4 is the fact that the disciples'
question does not explicitly draw attention to the size of the crowd, to the
amount of resources needed to feed the crowd, or to the limited resources on
hand, which are elements that are present in the disciples' question in all
the other feeding narratives (Matt 14:17; 15:33; Luke 9:13-14; John 6:7, 9).
In short, I would have expected something more than a simple reference to
TOUTOUS, these people, but something like "this many people."

My suspicions about TOUTOUS seemed to find some confirmation when I decided
to consult what Matthew had done with Mark 8:4, which reads POQEN hHMIN EN
that ERAHMIA has been relocated to the beginning of the question into a much
closer proximity to POQEN, that the reference to loaves has been moved
forward as well and has undergone a grammatical shift. In Mark, ARTWN
the gentive object of CORTASAI but in Matthew it has become ARTOI and now
functions as the subject of an implied verb of being. In addition, Matthew
has replaced TOUTOUS with OCLON and, to both ARTOI and OCLON has appended
the correlative demonstrative pronoun, TOSOUTOS, to underscore the amount of
resources needed and the size of the crowd, details which I noted are absent
from Mark. In the end, the form the disciples question takes in Matthew
15:33 seems to be unambiguously focused upon the wilderness setting, at
least much more so than in Mark 8:4, and so again raises the question of
whether Mark 8:4 is focused upon the problem posed by the wilderness
setting. Now I understand that from a methodological standpoint Matthew's
question does not tell us what Mark's question is intending to convey, I
only use it for the sake of comparison to show that the two questions seem
to have two different focal points. In Matthew, the wilderness setting (POQEN
... EN ERHMIAi), the size of the crowd (OCLON TOSOUTON), and the number of
resources needed (ARTOI TOSOUTOI), are all featured with prominence given to
the wilderness setting. In Mark, the wilderness setting is present, but does
not seem to be as prominent especially in contrast to what appears to be the
prominence given to TOUTOUS.

If it is true, then of course, the next obvious question has to do with why
such attention would be drawn to TOUTOUS. Now, I know that my theory on this
goes beyond the discussion parameters of this list but it does lead to
another grammatical question. My sense is that when the disciples say, "How
is anyone here able to satisfy these people with loaves in the wilderness,"
the TOUTOUS carries a pejorative connotation, which one gets elsewhere in
Mark (cf. 2:7; 6:2a; 6:2b; 6:3; cf. also Luke 7:39; Matt 26:61). Thus, the
TOUTOUS which receives emphasis is an implicit reference to the Gentile
ethnicity of the gathered crowd. Basically, the disciples express
incredulity that these people, these Gentiles, could be satisfied with
loaves, i.e., the food that belongs to Israel. Now, Chamberlain notes that
the demonstrative pronoun sometimes has a note of contempt (Exegetical
Grammar 46-47), but I haven't run across a discussion about this in any of
the grammars I have so far consulted, which may be due to the fact that this
is not strictly speaking a syntactical issue but a semantic issue.

So basically, these are my basic questions that I would value comment upon.
1.  Am I correct in my assessment that TOUTOUS has been purposefully
highlighted by the author/narrator for the reasons given above?
2.  Is it possible (and perhaps probable from the context) that it is being
used pejoratively here?

Also, something I haven't mentioned but relates to the question of whether
ERHMIA  is really the center of attention. I have rendered POQEN in Mark 8:4
as How? which disconnects it some from EP ERHMIAS. At the same time, I have
taken hWDE as modifying TIS and not EP ERHMIAS. Thus, hWDE does not add
emphasis to the wilderness, as in "here in the wilderness" but is asking
about whether there is "anyone here", i.e., anyone present, who can do what
Jesus seems to be asking. So, can hWDE, as it were, modify TIS. I have only
found one other example that seems to match the same construction that is in
Mark 8:4, which is Gen 19:12 (ESTIN TIS SOI hWDE GAMBROI H hUIOI H
I am tempted also to include Mark 9:1 // Matt 16:28 (EISIN TINES hWDE TWN
hESTHKOTWN...) as a match but hesitate because of the participle. So, I
guess, (3) a third question is whether hWDE is best understood as connected
to TIS and not to EP ERHMIAS? If the latter, then why is it so far away?

Well, I appreciate your patience with this long email and would value any
input any of you are willing to offer.

J. Ted Blakley

J. Ted Blakley
Ph.D. Candidate -- New Testament, The Gospel of Mark
University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK

Online CV:        www.blakleycreative.com/jtb
Hebrew 2 Hub:   www.blakleycreative.com/jtb/Hebrew.htm

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