Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

Religious Sites in Atlanta

Emory Department of Religion

Emory Graduate Division of Religion



Reconfiguration in Mark 15

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of reconfiguration.

A striking feature of Mark 15 is its reconfiguration of scenes and statements of Psalm 22 into a scene of crucifixion. It is even more remarkable that the Markan account presents the scenes and statements from Psalm 22 in reverse order from their occurrence in the psalm. In other words, language from Psalm 22:18-19 occurs first (Mark 15:24), from Psalm 22:7-9 occurs second (Mark 15:30-31), and from Psalm 22:1 occurs last (Mark 15:34). The psalm is reconfigured in such a manner that its rhetoric in reversed. Given the nature of the scenes and the content of Ps 22:1, the reversal of the order produces a reversal of the dynamics and emotions. The psalm presents a sequence in which the sufferer cries out in alienation at the beginning, experiences taunting, humiliation of nakedness, and dividing up of his garments in the middle, and expresses confidence in God at the end. The Markan account, in contrast, begins with the humiliation of nakedness, continues with taunting while he is naked, and ends with a cry of alienation. In other words, Mark 15 reconfigures an account of a suffering person who expresses hope that he will be saved into an account of a crucified person who expresses despair just before he dies (Robbins 1992b: 1178-81). Language in a psalm that moved from alienation through agony to an expression of confidence has been reconfigured into a crucifixion account that moves from agony to alienation to death.


From V. K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), p. 50.

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