Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

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Recitation in Mark 2:25-26

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of recitation.

Another form of recitation is to recite a narrative in substantially one's own words. Mark 2.25-26 reads:

And he said to them, 'Have you never read what David did when he and the ones with him were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions'.

Words that occur in 1 Samuel 21.1-6 are in italics. The remaining words are different from the biblical text. A remarkable feature of this recitation is that it does not get the story quite right. There were no companions with David on the occasion, and he did not give any of the bread to anyone else to eat. The priest in the story is Ahimelech, whom the recitation does not mention, and the wording concerning Abiathar in the Markan text makes it unclear whether the statement about him is correct. Abiathar was not highpriest at the time of this event. In addition, the narrator might have used the saying of David, 'Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here' (1 Sam. 21.3), to support the action of plucking and eating grain on the sabbath, but the saying does not appear in the recitation. The function of Jesus' recitation of the story in the context of the Plucking of the Grain on the Sabbath raises fascinating issues (Mack and Robbins 1989: 107-41; Robbins 1993a: 97-105).


From: Vernon K. Robbins (1996) The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, London: Routledge: 105-106.

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