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The verse in question reads as follows:

(John 6:10, ESV) "Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in numbers."

For alternative translations alongside additional context, visit this link.

My question... It certainly seems intentional that John chose the Hebrew equivalent for "person" at the start of the verse, and then "men" for the latter part. Why does he do this? From my brief searching online, I have found -- to my surprise -- that nobody else has really gone into great depth discussing this particular detail (or maybe I'm just bad at finding these things...this is probably more likely).

Thanks all for your time. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your responses. :)

2 Answers 2

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Definitions:

Let's start with the definitions. In this case, the Greek text uses the term “anthrópos” for “people” and “anér” for “men”.

  • anthrópos

    Definition: a man, human, mankind Usage: a man, one of the human race.

    444 ánthrōpos – man, also the generic term for "mankind"; the human race; people, including women and men (Mt 4:19, 12:12, etc.).

  • anér

    Definition: a man Usage: a male human being; a man, husband.


I can think of two specific reasons for this choice in wording:

  1. To differente the crowd: He used “anthropos” (people) at the beginning of the verse as a way to refer to the crowd in general, including men, women, and children. Later, when John uses “aner” (men), he means to specifically counting the adult males in the crowd, which was a common practice in ancient times. Notice that Matthew mentions the feeding of the 5,000 men, not including women and children (Matthew 14:21).

Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Also note what BibleRef has to say:

This verse is very specific that "the men" numbered 5,000. Jesus instructs "the people" to sit down, using the Greek word anthrōpous, which literally refers to human beings—male or female. The phrase numbering the crowd, however, uses the Greek andres, which literally means "males."

  1. To emphasizing the miracle: By first referring to the crowd as “people” and then specifying that there were 5,000 “men”, John is emphasizing the magnitude of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform. Feeding such a large number of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish would indeed be a miraculous event.

While Jesus' feeding of 5,000 people would have been miraculous enough, it's possible that the number gathered around Him at this point could have been as many as 15,000 to 20,000. 4

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  • This reads to be a very satisfying response. So, in short, John wanted to include the number of people involved in the feeding (as a means to emphasize the magnitude of Jesus’ sign), and in order to do this, he provides the total number of men present (i.e. who were to sit down) (as this was the standard way of gathering population data during the time of the Roman Empire). Huh…neat! I’ll take this as the accepted response unless I hear anything better within the next week. Thanks again!
    – JAG131
    Commented May 19 at 14:03
  • @JAG131 No problem!
    – Jason_
    Commented May 19 at 18:11
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The NIV translation of John 6:10 is a little difference to ESV. Let's delve into this;

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).

In ancient times, when events were recorded, scribes often counted men specifically. Women and children were not always mentioned. A typical example can be found in the Exodus, only six hundred thousand men were counted (Exodus 12:37)

However, there could be practical reasons why only men were counted. It's conceivable that crowds were sat down by family units, with men typically taking charge of food distribution, which would then be shared among their wives and children. This could shed light on why when the disciples reported the number of people fed as 5000, it might have been a collective count without specific mention of women and children. Please note that this interpretation is speculative and lacks concrete evidence.

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