Scala/Art Resource, NY
Frequently depicted in early Christian art, the miracle of the loaves and fishes (sometimes called the feeding of the multitude) is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels, reflecting its importance to early Christians. In this story, Jesus divides five or seven loaves and two fish among a crowd of five thousand people gathered to hear him preach; after they eat, the disciples gather up seven or twelve baskets of scraps (Matthew 14:13–21, 15:32–39; Mark 6:30–44, 8:1–10, 14–20; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–15). Many of the catacomb paintings show two fish, five or seven loaves, and twelve baskets of bread, leading some art historians to identify the paintings as references to the feeding of the multitude. However, the catacomb paintings fail to conform to the standard early Christian format for depicting the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, which invariably shows Jesus standing and pointing a rod at bushels of bread at his feet—as on the door from Santa Sabina. Thus, Jensen argues, the catacomb paintings must depict something else.