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



Dyadic personality in Mark 15

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of dyadic personality.

Mark 15 features Pilate as a dyadic personality checking out his own status both with Jesus and with the crowd in Jerusalem. Pilate is filled with wonderment (probably "confusion" or "frustration") when Jesus does not speak to him (15:5). As a dyadic personality, he wants "feedback" from Jesus as a medium for negotiating with himself his honor status. Pilate seeks and receives feedback from the crowd, which leads him to flog Jesus and send him off to be crucified. Only a significantly "individualist" in Pilate's position of power could have made a decision to release Jesus without punishment. Throughout the chapter, then, the narrative depicts Pilate fulfilling the role of a dyadic personality in a stereotypical manner.

In contrast to Pilate, Jesus' dyadic relationship exists with God rather than humans. Jesus does not seek feedback on his identity and status with other people in the setting. Rather, his interaction is directly with God. He prays to God in Gethsemane (14:36) and cries out to God at his death (15:34). A distinctive aspect of Jesus' activity during the passion, then, is its embedment in a dyadic relation to God rather than to any humans--whether they be his disciples, the crowds of people, Pharisees and scribes, temple leaders, Pilate, soldiers, or centurions. In a previous context, I have emphasized the manner in which Jesus enacts his role without continual conversation with God (1992a: 116-119) and Wayne Merritt has discussed the "autonomy" of Jesus and of Paul in the New Testament (1993: 153-165). From the perspective of social-scientific theory about the first century world of the gospels, autonomy on behalf of Jesus would be a matter of internalizing a dyadic relation to God rather than establishing an "individualist" personality free from concern about the opinions of others. For Jesus, the primary "other" would be his "father God."


From V. K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), p. 78.

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