I have been comparing and contrasting the two feedings of the multitudes. I’ve observed that the term “Apoluo” or “send away” is used 4 times between the two feedings.

  • Mark 6:36
  • Mark 6:45
  • Mark 8:3
  • Mark 8:9

As I understand this term, “Apoluo” means “to loose away” or “to free fully” but it carries the idea of being released from something obligatory.

My question then is what exactly are the multitudes being released from? Is it Christ Himself? or the feeding?

My mind leans towards the feeding itself, but I would like to understand what the grammar necessitates. I know nothing about Greek grammar so maybe someone can lay it out for me.

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    The crowd is being dismissed. (Or, being 'dispossessed'.) Apoluo does not mean 'loose away'. It is a much broader concept. 'Dispossess' is closer to the broad usage of the word in the Greek language. It takes several pages to explain all the texts involved. See 'Redemption and Restoration' Belmont Publications for the precise details. PDF download is free of charge and free of any registration.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 21:40
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    BTW, since you are a new contributor, welcome to the Group. Please take the Tour (menu at bottom left of the page) if you haven't done so yet. As for "what are they being released from"... the word can mean send away so no need for a "release" except in the sense that the crowd might feel an obligation to stay out of respect, so they are being released from their duty of attendance. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 22:11
  • Thank you for your reply. I am no student of Greek. I read in my Strong’s definitions that the word is compromised of “Apo” meaning “off” or “away”, and “Luo” meaning to “loosen”. I read further in some of the back and forth that it carries the idea of release from something as it would for example when when Barabbas was “released” from custody or in Mark 10 when it is translated “divorce”. If I am in error maybe you can help me understand. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 22:29
  • I will clarify my intentions on the matter as well. I believe that the two feedings possess an allegorical meaning as well as the plain meaning. I ask in an attempt to understand the word usage better seeing it is a comparable item in both passages. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 22:34
  • U should always quote the verses
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 2:56

2 Answers 2


BDAG lists six shades of meaning for the verb ἀπολύω (apoluó)

  1. to grant acquittal, set free, release, pardon, eg, Matt 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:16-25, etc
  2. to release from a painful condition, Luke 13:12
  3. to permit or cause someone to leave a particular location, let go, send away, dismiss, eg, Matt 14:15, 22, 15:23, 32, 39, Mark 6:36, 45, 8:3, 9, Acts 15:30, 33, 19:40, Luke 18:38, 14:4, 22:68, Heb 13:23, etc.
  4. to grant a request and so be rid of a person, satisfy, Matt 15:23
  5. to dissolve a marriage relationship, to divorce, Matt 1:19, 5:31, 19:3, 7-9, Mark 10:2, 4, 11, Luke 16:18, etc
  6. (middle voice) to make a departure from a locality, go away, Acts 28:25, Heb 13:23.

Thus, the simple answer to the OP's question is that in Mark 6 & 8, ἀπολύω (apoluó) simply means to leave the location and go home, ie, "dismiss the crowd" as many versions have it.

  • Thank you. So it can simply mean to depart a locality. I imagine then that it’s use would be determined by it’s context correct? Would you then suppose that it’s potential interpretation could possibly differ if the text in question possessed an allegorical usage as well? Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 22:48
  • @solidhollow - as best I can determine, the word is never used metaphorically nor allegorically. See the list of meanings from BDAG. However, if one wishes to make theological overtones from the story, that is a separate theological matter outside the scope of the question and this site.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 22:52
  • Sorry my curiosity is simply about interpretive potential. Let me ask this way: If any given text in scripture possessed a plain meaning alongside of an allegorical meaning (supposing that to have been the author intention) would ambiguous Greek terms have the potential to be interpreted distinctly from the context of the plain meaning as apposed to the context of the allegorical? Seeing as how an allegorical meaning is representative of something, it seems it would have potential to alter the qualities of what would govern the usage of the word. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 23:18
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    @solidhollow - that is a curious hermeneutic to force two meanings onto a passage. The "problem" in Mark 6 & 8 is that they a rather simple historical narratives and not loaded with metaphoric overtones. Thus, the meaning (short of reading secondary meanings into everything as did Origen causing many problems) should be understood as the simple natural meaning - Jesus simply dismissed the crowd and sent them home. He did not want to be crowned as an earthly king. He was the king of heaven.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 23:22
  • @solidhollow - if one wished to force a "spiritual" meaning on the narrative, one might assert that, following Jesus giving the bread of life to the people, He sent them away to their homes to dispense the truth to others in parallel with Matt 28:19, 20. However, that becomes a very theological understanding that is not part of this site.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 23:36

Send Them Away The answer to this Question is simply found in the narrative (the verses themselves).

And when the day was now far spent, His disciples came unto Him, and said, "This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed; send them away that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat. (Mark 6:35-37)

There is no allegory or hidden meaning here, just practical advice because of the time of day, and environment.

And straightway He commanded His disciples to get into the ship, and go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while He sent away the people. And when He had sent them away, He departed into a mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46)

Jesus was just letting the crowds know that the teaching session was over, and it was time to go home. He was not "freeing them" from anything, just sending them away to go back home.

The references, Mark 8:3,9, refer to the same type of logistics, and same type of miracle...after which He sent the multitudes away home.

In hermeneutical research and word study one must not parse the original words too much. While the individual parts of a word may have had a certain meaning originally, when combined, the new word often takes on a new meaning or variant of the old parts. And further, combo-words do change in their meanings, over time as well, as cultures progress.

So it is best to stick to the usage of the word in its plain, simple meaning as used by the hoi polloi at the time of Christ.

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