What has come down as Jesus' teaching were largely oral "sayings", some then integrated into later hagiographies called gospels. The fundamental gospel was that ascribed to Mark, since Luke and Matthew both drew stories from it and from sayings in a Q document. Mark was soon edited and this in a detectably different mood, more critical to disciples and including additional miracles, perhaps to match those of Elija and Elisha. Translators and church doctrines later affected what appears in the canonical versions we now use.
This article discusses the feeding of a large crowd of five thousand men in the original Mark and, in the following inserted section of the editor, the feeding of four thousand. These "feedings" follow the same motif: Late in the day, people need feeding and the small amount of food found available, five loaves and two fishes or seven loaves, is distributed by Jesus and the "fragments" left are gathered into twelve or seven baskets, leaving more after all the eating than could possibly have existed to start with.
John Dart notes in Decoding Mark, with others, how weak the second feeding story is since it appears to merely repeat the previous miracle, in a lesser fashion. However, a day or two after the second feeding miracle, of the 4000, the disciples are worried when they have forgotten to bring any bread for their journey by boat. Jesus says they should "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod … Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?:
8:19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
8:20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
On the surface, Jesus is saying the disciples should know by now that food can come from being with Jesus, but on another level is this incident an example of his teachings use harmonic allusion, a technique found quite widely within both Biblical writings and those of the near east, in which numbers could refer to the harmonic world.
We don’t know exactly how many people there were, only that "they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men." The numbers 4000 and 5000 seem related and centuries earlier, Plato had used vague references to exact numbers in Dialogues written in Greek - a lingua franca in Alexandria and the middle east. If Jesus was the esoteric master he appears to have been, then the harmonic allusion of the ancient near east and eastern Mediterranean would have been an "open book" to him.
One can start by looking at 4000, which has three factors of 5 (32 x 125) and 5000 which has four (8 x 625). Harmonic numbers are best studied using mountians formed of the products of prime number two, three and five - a technique pioneered by Ernest McClain to identify harmonic allusion in ancient texts.
Figure 1 A Mountain Index of Harmonic Numbers between 3125 and 6250, useful for studying numbers around 4000 and "about" 5000, these numbers to be seen top left under the index number, 6250.
One can look down from the top of a holy mountain, whose limit is greater than both these two numbers, namely 6250; which is three to the power five times two (figure 1). Below that "brick" lies our two numbers for the people who were fed, on the left hand edge of the mountain since neither of them have powers of three. Directly below 6250 lies 6000 (24/25 less) and below that 5760 (24/25 less again because vectors on the mountain are musical intervals - here the chromatic semitone). The number 5760 is derived from the harmonic root 45 which is one of the meanings of Adam (1+4+40 equalling 45), 128 x 45 equalling 5760. This number has 5000 in it and the feeding of the five thousand left twelve baskets of "fragments", whilst the patriarchal line from Adam through Abraham to Jacob/Israel generated the twelve tribes of Israel. So let's move to the limit D2 = 5760 as rooted in Adam (figure 2):
Figure 2 The holy mountain (on left) for octave 2880-5760. An early provider of the Chromatic scale (see right hand tone circle) within which Just intonation provides the seven modal scales, known to Greek music, in the mountain's darkened region of reciprocal notes. The core of Pythagorean tones, either side of D, are pentatonic. See also the framework of the Harmonic Explorer web app. see it live!
The darkened bricks mean that those tone numbers are reachable from either end of the Octave D = 2880:5760 and the heading tells us that there are 15 reciprocals and we see that each note class of twelve are realised within the rhomboid of darkened bricks. Thus we can say that this limiting number is able to offer the chromatic scale of twelve note classes, a parallelism with twelve children/tribes of Israel. The harmonic root of Adam as 45 (= 9 x 5) is the smallest root upon such mountains, capable of sustaining chromatism. Ernest G McClain, whose technique this was, proposed that Genesis and Exodus had employed this harmonic allusion to build a suitable prequel to the history of the Jews and their esoteric number sciences.
To the right of 5760 lies 4320 and this number has 4000 within it, and the later feeding of the 4000 had only seven baskets (from seven loaves).
Figure 3 The mountain for a limit of D = 4320, which cannot support 12-note chromatism but instead innovates, at the smallest number possible, the Pythagorean heptatone. see it live!
The limiting number 4320 cannot support chromatism but instead it is the lowest number that can generate (with numbers) the Pythagorean heptatonic, a scale of seven note classes shown in capitals either side of D = 4320 and created purely through successive fifths and fourths. In the pseudo history of ancient musicology, this seven fold scale is Pythagorean because he was mythologised (perhaps at his own command) as preferring the purity of this scale, gleaned from the middle east around 600 BCE.
Firstly, the lowest number able to generate twelve tone chromatism arises from Adam and appears used by Jesus as a harmonic allegory where around 5000 men are fed with 5 loaves (the Pythagorean pentatonic around 5760) plus two "fish" (the chromatic rows above and below that pentatonic). This left twelve "baskets of fragments" where the baskets are chromatic tones and the fragments are the matrix units that make them up.
Secondly, the lowest number able to generate the seven tone Pythagorean heptatonic on the second row of the mountain is here beside 5760 as limit 4320, a number close to 4000 and this appears used by Jesus as a harmonic allegory where about 4000 men are fed with seven loaves (the Pythagorean heptatonic around 4320) but the "fish" are not available since they lack the twelfth note class in reciprocal form. Seven "baskets of fragments" were left over.
If this interpretation is correct, the Editor of Mark was an initiate who was finishing off some of Mark's loose ends, in this case with the second part of a story originally involving the numbers 5000 and 4000. The moral of the story might then be not too far from the notion that "the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod" was a lesser form of musical tuning to that available to Jesus. It is certainly true that the harmonic root of 4320 is 135 and that Jupiter's synod is 13.5 lunar months long, a Pythagorean tone of 9/8 from the 12 month lunar year, which must therefore be two tones left of D, as C in figure 3). "One cannot have two masters" and Jupiter the master of Roman politics, seen as allegorically restrictive of possibilities.
More on this sort of analysis can be found in Ernest G McClain's memorial website at ernestmcclain.net where his articles and books can be downloaded for personal study. Meanwhile, my own book (Harmonic Origins of the World) exploring his work and mine with it, will soon be available to preview at http://www.scribd.com/ITGalleys before it comes off the press for 20th March 2018.