Matthew Chapter Thirteen begins with Jesus speaking the Parable of the Sower to a multitude of people from a boat. In that parable of seeds that represent people who hear the salvation-promising Word of God, only a portion of them are able to understand what they heard, bring it in fullness into their hearts, and maintain it through the tribulations and attractions of the material world. Jesus finishes this parable with an obscure reference to numbers, saying that these will bear fruit, some a hundredfold, others sixtyfold, and yet others thirtyfold. He places no difference in attributes or character among those who produce more fruit and those who produce less.

The only arithmetic relationship that I have found among these numbers that is both simple and meaningful is the partial sums of the arithmetic sequence

K∑Mn=1 (n + (n+1) + (n+2) + (n+3) + . . .)

For the values K = 10 and M = 2, 3 and 4, the corresponding sums are 30, 60 and 100. I presented this pictorially in Part 5, Chapter 2 my book Family of God as four columns of people, where each column consisted of the number of people associated with a particular value of M, and where the top person in the first row bore fruit by passing the Word of God to those behind them, and, if there was an adjacent column, to the top person in the next column. In that pattern, the top person in the column would feed 30 people if there were two columns, 60 if there were three columns, and 100 if there were four columns. In such an arrangement, the amount of fruit that the top person in the first column would bear would be entirely dependent on the number of adjacent columns, which would be beyond his control, and, in fact, something he might not even know if he was able to perceive only his column and the next. I saw in this parable and the associated numbers an intimate connection between it and the accounts of Jesus’ feedings of the multitudes, as both processes resulted in manifold increases. In numerous places, especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly equates bread and eating with Himself as the Word of God. When He was feeding the multitudes He also was delivering the Word of God. The expansion of bread in these acts may be seen as merely symbolic of how the word of God is multiplied through word-of-mouth distribution. In fact, the miraculous element of the feedings was simply the restoration of the broken pieces of bread to wholeness with their transfer from one hand to the next, which is symbolic of the indestructible nature of the Word of God as it is handed from mouth to ear.

If some reasonable assumptions are made beforehand, there is sufficient numerical information in Scripture to calculate the answers to the numbers missing in the feeding accounts and to establish patterns by which the multitudes would have been fed. A vital piece of information beyond the Gospel accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand is the account in 2 Kings 4 of Elijah feeding a hundred people with twenty loaves of bread; another piece of information is the account, in Acts 2, of Peter feeding three thousand with the Word of God.

Picturing the feedings to be a process within an orderly array of people breaking bread, retaining a portion and passing the other to neighbors, I established the following restraints and relationships, particularly the ones that Jesus reminded His disciples about in Mark 8:

For the feeding of the five thousand: 5 thousand, 5 starting loaves given to His disciples to distribute per Matthew 6, 12 baskets of remainders.

For the feeding of the four thousand: 4 thousand, 7 starting loaves given to His disciples to distribute, 7 baskets of remainders.

All the twelve apostles, and only the twelve apostles, would participate in the initial distribution of loaves; thus five apostles would distribute for the five thousand and seven apostles would distribute for the four thousand.

The apostles would give one loaf each to a single company nearest them.

The basic organization of the men would be in companies of 50 and 100 per Mark 6, where the companies, per Elijah’s feeding in 2 Kings 4, would be arranged in a pattern of 20 x 5 for a company of 100, and 10 x 5 for a company of 50.

The collection of leftover bread would be on the basis of individuals rather than companies; each person in the final position would hand his leftover to a collector with a basket.

Performing the required calculations, the relationships were used to solve first the number of remainders per basket from the menfolk. The resulting number of 5 supported the following details:

For the five thousand, there were 5 columns corresponding to the 5 loaves and 5 apostles participating in the initial distribution; the center column consisted of companies of 100; the four outside columns consisted of companies of 50, resulting in 60 columns of individuals and 12 baskets of remainders; there were 17 rows of companies, resulting in 85 rows of individuals and producing 5100 individuals; one company of 100 was subtracted from this array to produce an exact number of 5000 individuals.

For the four thousand, a solution demanded that the orientation of this array be at right angles to that of the five thousand, requiring a substitution of rows for columns. With that orientation, there were 7 rows corresponding to the 7 loaves and 7 apostles participating in the initial distribution; all companies were of 50, resulting in 35 rows of individuals and 7 baskets of remainders; there were 11 columns of companies, resulting in 110 columns of individuals and producing 385 individuals, and leaving a much smaller array of 150 individuals in 3 companies of 50.

These patterns weren’t perfect. Jesus’ two feeding events seemed to generate three arrays rather than two, the largest array had a missing piece, and two of the arrays were at right angles to each other.

Yet the derived numbers matched perfectly with the numbers given in the Gospel accounts, and the patterns described above were the only ones that did so.

I found that once the calculations established the patterns for the feedings, the math was not necessary to verify the satisfaction of all the information in the Gospel accounts. A mere visual inspection of the patterns is all that is needed to confirm that they correctly represent that information. The calculations are presented as appendices in Family of God. A verbal description of the feedings with figures is included in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer as Appendix Two. A strictly verbal description also is given in my novel Cathy.

If there is nothing else to say about the results, it is their proof of the amazing self-consistency of Scripture, even down to the smallest details. Scripture, as the Word of God, is pure truth.

But there is more to say about the results. It turns out that there is a message in the very characteristics that are thought of as imperfections. That will be the topic of the next post.