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Manna – Bread from Heaven

Jn 6:22-59 in the Light of Ps 78:23-25 and Its Interpretation in Early Jewish Sources


Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

The author presents a new approach to the study of manna, which does not concentrate only on one particular representation of the bread from heaven (especially Ex 16). Additionally, he investigates the interconnections between Ps 78:23-25, Wis 16:20-13; 19:21 and Jn 6:22-59 and he explores the new ideas of each of these texts. He also strongly asserts that Hellenistic Judaism, represented by the Book of Wisdom, is not "a second-class Judaism". This fact is proved with the example of manna as the food of immortality, an idea not introduced by Christians in the Fourth Gospel, but already present in Wis 19:21.

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I. Bread From Heaven in Ps 78:23–25


Psalm 78 is the second-longest Psalm in the Bible.11 Both the Masoretes and the Babylonian Talmud place Ps 78 at the very centre of the entire Psalter.12 Ps 78 also holds the central position in the sequence of the eleven Psalms of Asaph (73–83), in terms of both numerical sequence and length.13 Regarded as a rather complex piece of Hebrew poetry, it describes some noteworthy events in the history of ancient Israel. The concept of manna as presented in vv. 23–25 is hugely significant within the whole structure of the psalm, as can be seen from a detailed analysis.

1. Redaction Criticism of Psalm 78

Some exegetes, such as H. Spieckermann, T. Heike and others argue that the original Psalm 78 was augmented by vv. 3–4a, 6a, 9–11, 19a, 21, 28, 30–31, 40–51, 55c, 59 and 71a.14 They suggest that in the first redaction vv. 3–4a, 6a, and 9–11 were added and directed the reader primarily to the first three books of the Psalter. These exegetes mention parallels here with the Asaph Psalms (cf. Ps 73:16, 22; 79:6; 82:5) and other psalms in the matter of the obligation to tell following generations of God’s wonders (Ps 22:30–32; 44:2; 48:14). These scholars subsequently claim that in the second redaction the whole Ps 78 was revised, and vv. 19a, 21, 28, 30–31, 40–51, 55c, 59, 71 were added. The...

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