Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

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Patron-client contract in Mark 15:1-16:8

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of patron.

The major patron-client relations enacted in Mark 15 appear to be between Pilate and various people. Pilate treats the soldiers under him as clients who are obligated to reciprocate for benefits they receive from him as long as they are under his charge. The soldiers take special benefits for themselves as clients of Pilate, to which they are probably entitled, when they divide Jesus' clothes among themselves (15:24). Joseph of Arimathea approaches Pilate as a client when he requests the corpse of Jesus from him. Pilate proves to be an honorable patron of those who honor Jesus when he allows Joseph to give Jesus an honorable burial.

Perhaps a patron-client relation is present between God and Jesus in Mark 15-16. In Mark 14:36 Jesus addresses God as "Abba father" and requests that the ordeal of the crucifixion be removed. Nevertheless, Jesus accepts the will of God, the patron benefactor of all, including Jesus. In return for his willingness to die a humiliating death on the cross, God transforms Jesus' corpse into a body that can rise up from death and be absent from the tomb.


From V. K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), pp. 79-80.

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