When a Basket Is Not Just a Basket

Mark 6 and 8 tell two stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes with what seem to be impossibly limited supplies.  In both of these stories we are told that the disciples are instructed to collect the leftovers so nothing will be wasted.  In the Mark 6 account it states that “they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.” and the Mark 8 account of the second feeding states, “and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.”  Pretty straightforward right?  Nothing to notice here except some baskets.  Enter the Greek.

In Mark 6 the word for basket is kofinos.  This is the word used in the telling of the feeding of the 5000 in each of the gospels.  Apparently everyone saw the same thing at this event.

In Mark 8, the feeding of the 4000 (a different event) the word for basket is spyris and, for the record, Matthew uses the same term in his account of this event Mt. 15:32-39. Again, indicating that everyone saw the same thing.

So what is the difference between kofinos and spyris?  It’s the difference between a lunch box and and a toy box!  The kofinos is a small basket easily carried around while the spyris is a large, man-sized, basket.  The spyris was the type of basket used to lower Paul over the wall in Acts 9:25.  Pretty significant wouldn’t you say?