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Analysis

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Bread

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Way back in Exodus, God gave the people bread when they were starving out in the desert, and now we eat it with peanut butter and fluff and a tall glass of milk. Yep, bread has been around for quite a while, and the Gospel of John doesn't forget it. In fact, God is feeding people here, too—with Jesus.

That's right. Bread = Jesus:

  • Jesus tells us that he is "the bread of life" (6:48). He is spiritual food for everyone who takes him in. No one who believes in Jesus will ever hunger again.
  • He also compares himself to the manna from heaven that God gave the Jewish people, saying that he is "the true bread from heaven" (6:32). We demand a taste test.
  • Then Jesus takes things a step further and says that whoever eats the bread (i.e., him) will live forever (6:51). Um, gross.
  • Jesus feeds the crowd from just a few pieces of fish and bread (6:11).
  • He eats bread and fish with the disciples after his resurrection (21:13).
  • Jesus also uses bread to indicate who will betray him. He dips a piece in a dish and hands it to Judas, as if to say, My body is in your hands now (13:26). Judas, who clearly didn't read this Shmoop guide, runs out into the night without ever understanding all this bread talk.

Our Daily Bread

Literature loves it some bread. Examples? Why, of course:

  • A special bread, called lembas, sustains the hobbits throughout their long journey in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (although Gollum chokes when he tries to eat it).
  • In The Hunger Games, Peeta is the son of a baker, and once saved Katniss and her family from starvation by giving them bread to eat. 
  • In the Holocaust memoir Night, bread is used cruelly as the German soldiers toss it into the train cars filled with starving prisoners from the concentration camps and watch as they brutally fight with each other to get a piece.
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