Matthew 15:38

And they that did eat were four thousand men, besides women and children.
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
De Cons. Ev., ii, 50: Surely it will not be out of place to suggest upon this miracle, that if any of the Evangelists who had not given the miracle of the five loaves had related this of the seven loaves, he would have been supposed to have contradicted the rest. But because those who have related the one, have also related the other, no one is puzzled, but it is understood at once that they were two separate miracles. This we have said, that wherever any thingis found done by the Lord, wherein the accounts of any two Evangelists seem irreconcilable, we may understand them as two distinct occurrences, of which one is related by one Evangelist, and one by another. ...

Glossa Ordinaria

AD 1480
Ap. Anselm:. It should be noted, that the Lord first removes their sicknessess,and after that feeds them; because sin must be first wiped away, and then the soul fed with the words of God. ord.: The seven loaves are the Scripture of the New Testament, in which the grace of the Holy Spirit is revealed and given. And these are not as those former loaves, barley, because it is not with these, as in the Law, where the nutritious substance is wrapped in types, as in a very adhesive husk; here are not two fishes, as under the Law two only were anointed, the King, and the Priest, but a fewer, that is, the saints of the New Testament, who, snatched from the waves of the world, sustain this tossing sea, and by their example refresh us lest we faint by the way. Or, they sit down there Baskets are usually woven of rushes, or palm leaves; these signify the saints, who fix the root of their hearts in the very fount of life, as a bulrush in the water, that they may not wither away, and retain in the...

Hilary of Poitiers

AD 368
As that first multitude which He fed answers to the people among the Jews that believed; so this is compared to the people of the gentiles, the number of four thousand denoting an innumerable number of people out of the four quarters of the earth. Or, they spend the whole time of the Lord’s passion with the Lord; either because when they should come to baptism, they would confess that they believed in His passion and resurrection; or, because through the whole time of the Lord's passion they are joined to the Lord by fasting in a kind of union of suffering with Him. The multitudes sit down on the ground; for before they had not reposed on the works of the Law, but they had supported themselves on their own sins, as men standing on their feet. ...

Jerome

AD 420
Christ first took away the infirmities of the sick, and afterwards supplied food to them that had been healed. Also He calls His disciples to tell them what He is about to do; “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude.” This He does that He may give an example tomasters of sharing their counsels with the young, and their disciples; or, that by this dialogue they might come to understand the greatness of the miracle. Sup. c. xiv, 15: As we have spoken of this above, it would be tedious to repeat what has been already said; we shall therefore only dwell on those particularsin which this differs from the former. For these are not five, but four thousand; the number four being one always used in a good sense, and a four-sided stone is firm and rocks not, for which reason the Gospels also have been sacredly bestowed in this number. Also in the former miracle, because the people were neighbours unto the five senses , it is the disciples, and not ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Hom., iii: For the multitude when they came to be healed, had not dared to ask for food, but He that loveth man, and hath care of all creatures, gives it to the m unasked; whence He says, “I have compassion upon the multitude. "That it should not be said that they had brought provision with them on their way, He says, “Because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat.” For though when they came they had food, it was now consumed, and for this reason He did it not on the first or second day, but on the third, when all was consumed that they might have brought with them; and thus they having been first placed in need, might take the food that was now provided with keener appetite. That they had come from far, and that nothing was now left them, is shown in what He says, “And I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint by the way. "Yet He does not immediately proceed to work the miracle, that He may rouse the disciples’ attention by this questioning, and that t...

Remigius of Rheims

AD 533
Or, because correcting by penitence the sins that they have committed, in thought, word, and deed, they turn to the Lord. These multitudes the Lord would not send away fasting, that they should not faint by the way; because sinners turning in penitence, perish in their passage through the world, if they aresent away without the nourishment of sacred teaching. ...

Theodore the Stratelates

AD 319
He does this not only once but also a second time, in order that we should know his strength. This strength by which he feeds the multitudes when he wishes and without bread finds its source in his divinity. He does this in order to bring them to believe that he himself is the one who earlier had fed Israel for forty years in the wilderness. And Jesus not only fed them with a few loaves of bread, but he even produced a surplus of seven baskets, so that he might be shown as incomparably surpassing Elijah, who himself also caused a multiplication of the widow’s small quantity of oil and flour. Nevertheless, when Jesus produced a multiplication of seven baskets from seven loaves, he did not go beyond what was needed, lest the difference between these miracles should again be forgotten by the disciples. ...

Theophylact of Ochrid

AD 1107
. He teaches frugality by having them sit on the ground; and He teaches us to give thanks before eating by Himself giving thanks. Do you ask why it is that when there were five loaves and five thousand being fed, twelve baskets [kophinoi] remained, but here where there are more loaves and fewer people only seven baskets [spyrides] were left over? It could be said either that spyrides were a larger type of basket than kophinoi, or that He did not wish the numerical equality of this miracle with the previous one to cause it to be forgotten. For if on this occasion, too, twelve baskets [kophinoi] had been left over, because of the numerical equality they would have forgotten that He performed the miracle with the loaves a second time. But you, O reader, must also know this, that the four thousand, that is, they who are perfect in the four virtues, are fed with seven loaves, that is, with more spiritual and perfected words, for the number seven is a symbol of the seven spiritual gifts. The...

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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