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



Social intertexture in Mark 15

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of social intertexture.

In Mark 15, social roles or identities appear with the chief priests, elders, and scribes (15:1, 3, 11, 31), a prisoner (15:6), an insurrectionist (15:7), a murderer (15:7), king (15:9, 12, 18, 26, 32), Jews (15:9, 12, 18), soldiers (15:16), Cyrenian (15:21), bandit-robbers (15:27), and centurion (15:39, 44-45). The narration does not designate the social identity of Pilate (15:1-15, 43-45), but research outside of the Gospel of Mark indicates that he was a Roman prefect (Vardaman 1962). Social institutions appear with the council (15:1), the battalion of soldiers (15:16), and the temple (15:38). Crucifixion is a practice of the Roman government as an institution, adopted from the Carthaginians during the Punic Wars (Hengel 1977).

Social codes appear in terms of honor throughout the chapter. Country in relation to city appears in 15:21. Gender is an issue with the appearance of the women in 15:40-41. For an exploration of these codes, see the discussion of social and cultural texture below.

Social relationships appear in the form of enemies (15:11-14), kinship (father and sons: 15:21; mother and sons: 15:40), and friends (15:40-41, 43-46, 47).

All of these phenomena in the text raise the issue of social meanings which interpreters investigate by means of data outside the Gospel of Mark. Meanings of these social roles, identities, institutions, codes, and relationships are appropriately explored with the aid of texts, inscriptions, archeological data, sculpture, paintings, etc. outside the Markan text. These phenomena, then, provide a rich social intertexture for the discourse of the Gospel of Mark. Research in social phenomena outside Mark sheds important light on the nature of this social intertexture.


From V. K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), pp. 62-3.

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