WHEATON COLLEGE GRADUATE SCHOOL

A SABBATH STROLL THROUGH THE GRAINFIELDS WITH THE PHARISEES: AN EXEGETICAL EXPLORATION OF JESUS‟ CONFLICT WITH THE PHARISEES CONCERNING SABBATH REGULATIONS AS RECORDED IN MARK 2:23-28

SUBMITTED TO DR. DOUGLAS J. MOO IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF BITH 645-CANONICAL BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

BY JUSTIN LANGLEY APRIL 21, 2011 CPO 4224

INTRODUCTION

From the beginning, breaking the Sabbath regulations instituted within the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant between Yahweh and the nation of Israel constituted a capital offense.1 The people of Israel understood that the instruction to keep the Sabbath meant to avoid all work on the seventh day of each week. However, concerning what precise activities Yahweh regarded as work they never received specific revelation. Therefore, especially after the Exile, it seems that keeping the Sabbath by not working on this day escalates in importance, perhaps due to the preaching of the prophets, which included both Yahweh‟s specific judgment for not keeping the Sabbath and Yahweh‟s promises of restoration in connection with the people‟s renewed keeping of the Sabbath.2 With this recognition in mind, it seems relatively natural—even if ultimately misguided by a faulty foundation for the fundamental purpose of the Sabbath regulations—that Jewish interpreters of the Mosaic Law would attempt to ensure that the people of Israel would come nowhere near breaking the Sabbath. Indeed, expectations surrounding the nation‟s successful keeping of the Sabbath in connection with the coming of the Messiah eventually escalated to such a degree that at least one rabbi believed that if the whole nation could keep two consecutive Sabbaths perfectly, then the Messiah would come.3

1 2 3

See, e.g., Exod 31:12-17 and Num 15:32-36. See especially Jer 17:19-27. b. Shab. 118b. Cf. Ronald J. Kernaghan, Mark (IVPNTC; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2007), 65.

1

2 The Jewish leaders of the first century probably cultivated this exalted view of the Sabbath, so that, when Jesus steps into public view and begins making lofty claims about himself while at the same time acting in ways that basically disregarded the precautions that their predecessors had established and that they intended to maintain and develop in order to protect people from breaking the Sabbath, they aggressively oppose him.4 Mark‟s Gospel highlights their opposition by narrating in chs. 2 and 3 a series of controversies in which the scribes and/or Pharisees challenge Jesus‟ proclaimed and enacted authority. Their challenges seem to intensify as the narrative progresses: in 2:6-7, the scribes question in their hearts whether Jesus has blasphemed by claiming to forgive a man‟s sins; in 2:16, the Pharisees question his disciples concerning his interactions with “sinners and tax collectors”; in 2:24, they question him directly about his disciples‟ behavior on the Sabbath; in 3:2, they watch him carefully, hoping to find grounds to formally accuse him of breaking the Sabbath; in 3:6, the Pharisees conspire with the Herodians to determine a way “to destroy him”; and in 3:22, some scribes publicly attempt to discredit his authority by accusing him of collusion with the devil. Arguably, Jesus‟ actions on the Sabbath day, along with his justification for those actions, served as the final straw that provoked the Pharisees to judge him as one whom they must silence at whatever cost. Mark‟s Gospel opens with an indication that he has set out to record “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God‟s Son” (1:1),5 which he connects very closely with Isaiah‟s prophecy concerning “the way of the Lord,” (1:2) prepared for by “a voice crying out in the wilderness,” (1:3) which Mark identifies as John the Baptist “preaching a baptism of repentance for the

For a summary of Jesus‟ Sabbath controversies with the Pharisees in the Synoptic Gospels, see Peter Tomson, ‘If This Be From Heaven…’: Jesus and the New Testament Authors in Their Relationship to Judaism (Sheffield: Sheffield, 2001), 152-6.
5

4

All Scripture quotations are my own translations into English.

3 forgiveness of sins” (1:4).6 The narrative then moves quickly through Jesus‟ baptism and temptation and then introduces and summarizes his public preaching, indicating that he preached, saying, “The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the gospel” (1:15). Then, Mark records a series of events that display Jesus‟ authority in various ways. He summons disciples and they abandon everything and follow him (1:16-20); he commands demons to hush and to leave individuals and they obey him (1:21-27); he touches Simon‟s mother-in-law and a fever leaves her (1:29-31); he exercises authority over all kinds of sicknesses by healing many people (1:32-34); he makes a leper clean (1:40-45); he forgives a man‟s sins and then heals him of his paralysis (2:1-12); and he identifies himself as a physician who calls sinners to himself (2:13-17). As Mark unfolds these events, he has perhaps set 2:23-28 to stand as the climax of this series of Jesus‟ displays of authority, as Jesus even claims to have ultimate authority over the Sabbath, which surely goes beyond the self-understanding of the Pharisees, who believed they had the right to impose on people regulations to ensure that no one transgressed the prohibition of working on the Sabbath day.

A SABBATH STROLL THROUGH THE GRAINFIELDS (2:23)

Mark sets the pericope up for his readers in a way that mimics the start of narrative pericopes in the Hebrew Bible. Καὶ ἐγέλεην reflects the ubiquitous transitional phrase ‫ ,ויְהִי‬which precedes a ַ more specific time marker.7 The time marker in this case, ἐλ ηνῖο ζάββαζηλ, also presents certain

Recognizing that Mark has conflated at least two passages from the LXX (Exod 23:20; Isa 40:3; possibly, though in my view unlikely, Mal 3:1), his specific mention of Isaiah probably indicates that he intends his readers to view the quotations and the referents involved primarily in light of Isa 40. Cf. Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 17-21.
7

6

Cf. Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1-8:26 (WBC 34A; Dallas: Word, 1989), 29, 119.

4 difficulties. First, Mark does not indicate any more specifically the temporal relationship between this Sabbath day and the previous Sabbath day mentioned in 1:21. Second, why does he use the plural form? Swete points out some of the regular occurrences in the LXX of the formally plural ζάββαηα clearly referring to a single Sabbath day, and indeed this phenomenon occurs fairly regularly in the other Gospels as well.8 On this particular Sabbath day, Mark informs his readers that Jesus went for a stroll through the grainfields with his disciples, and then Mark brings into focus the disciples‟ behavior: “they had begun to make a path as they plucked the heads of grain.” The oddity of the phrase ὁδὸλ πνηεῖλ ηίιινληεο, though surely original, provoked many scribes to suggest various changes. Perhaps to harmonize with this account in Matthew‟s Gospel, some manuscripts simply omit the strange ὁδὸλ πνηεῖλ, and change the participle to an infinitive. Others replace ὁδὸλ πνηεῖλ with either ὁδνπνηεῖλ, which does not occur elsewhere in the NT (or in the LXX), or ὁδνηπνξνῦληεο, which occurs only in Acts 10:9 (in a different form), but would make good sense in this verse, since it conveys the idea of traveling.9 The scribes responsible for these changes seem to have understood that Mark‟s description only intends to convey traveling,10 but with the particular combination of πνηέω and ὁδόο in such an ostensibly awkward way, perhaps Mark has chosen this construction intentionally. This phrase in non-biblical usage may technically convey the paving of a road,11
8

H. B. Swete, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (New York: MacMillan, 1898), 17. Cf. Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark (UBS Handbook Series; New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 44. See also, e.g., Matt 12:11, 12; 28:1; Luke 4:16; 13:10.
9

See BDAG, “ὁδνηπνξέω,” 690.

Matthew C. Williams, Two Gospels From One: A Comprehensive Text-Critical Analysis of the Synoptic Gospels (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), 77. The phrase does appear in Judg 17:8 (LXX) to convey the simple concept of traveling. See also James Hope Moulton and Nigel Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Volume 4: Style (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976), 29, who suggest a possible Latin influence on this phrase, so that it would also convey the basic concept of traveling.
11

10

Cf. M-M, “ὁδνπνηέω,” 438.

5 but it remains difficult to understand Mark describing the disciples‟ actions of going through grainfields with this idiom.12 However, these two terms also occur together in Mark‟s opening quotation of Isa 40:3 (LXX), though not directly connected. They do appear together as a verbobject pair in Isa 43:19 (LXX), with Yahweh stating, “Behold, I am making new things which will now rise up, and you will know them, and I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the waterless place.” Derrett has insisted on maintaining that Mark intends to convey the image of paving a road with the phrase ὁδὸλ πνηεῖλ in 2:23, and he connects this with the right of a king to drive a path through a person‟s field of standing grain when he marches out on a royal expedition.13 Many commentators mention Derrett‟s argument only to dismiss it quickly, 14 but perhaps he has noticed something that resonates with Mark‟s intention to draw on the imagery of Isa 43, for in Isa 43:15 (LXX), just a few verses prior to the occurrence of πνηήζω…ὁδόλ, Yahweh refers to himself as Israel‟s king. Perhaps using this phraseology allows Mark to accurately convey the disciples‟ actions as simply traveling through the grainfields, while subtly communicating to his audience a pointer to the royal status of Jesus. The participle ηίιινληεο simply indicates the action of the disciples that accompanied their traveling through the grainfields, namely plucking free the edible portions of the heads of grain.15

12 13

So also Williams, Two Gospels, 77 n. 36. Cf. Swete, Mark, 47.

J. Duncan M. Derrett, Studies in the New Testament: Volume 1 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 94. The Mishnah records the acceptance of this royal right within Judaism in m. Sanh. 2:4. See also Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8 (AYB 27; Garden City: Doubleday, 1999; repr. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008), 239.
14 15

See, e.g., R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 144 n. 49. See C. Spicq, “ηίιιω,” TLNT 3:379.

6 THE PHARISEES CRY FOUL: THE DISCIPLES‟ UNLAWFUL BEHAVIOR (2:24)

Mark abruptly introduces the Pharisees onto the scene, even without his customary usage of εὐζύο. He has not informed his readers how they came to encounter Jesus and his disciples at this grainfield; instead, he focuses attention on their accusation concerning Jesus‟ disciples‟ behavior: “Look! Why are they doing on the Sabbath what is not lawful?” Mark does not explicitly clue his readers in on what specific behavior they found objectionable, but clearly it has to do with an activity they perceive as unlawful on the Sabbath day, namely, the plucking of the heads of grain, an action which the Pharisees probably considered as falling under the category of “reaping,” which, by this time, they would have surely considered as prohibited work on the Sabbath day, though this specific prohibition does not appear in the OT.16 This may also illuminate Mark‟s awkward wording in 2:23 describing the disciples‟ actions; by utilizing the participial form of ηίιιω and subordinating it to ἤξμαλην…πνηεῖλ, perhaps Mark subtly implies the innocence of the disciples by focusing attention on their travel rather than their plucking.17 The Pharisees‟ concern to challenge Jesus on this issue probably reflects the heightened significance placed on Sabbath observance during this time.18 The term ἔμεζηηλ occurs in Mark‟s Gospel six times and has to do with whether or not a particular action falls “within one‟s legal rights,” usually, but not always, with reference to the Mosaic Law.19 In light of the fact that a

The prohibition of gleaning on the Sabbath day might be implied by Exod 34:21; on any other day, the activity of the disciples is specifically permitted in Deut 23:25. For a list of the 39 categories of work, which surely developed over a period of time that included Jesus‟ day, see Emil Sch rer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Second Division, Vol. II (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1890), 96-105.
17

16

So also Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 201-2. Cf. Marcus, See comments in the Introduction. Cf. Eduard Lohse, “ζάββαηνλ, ζαββαηηζκόο, Παξαζθεπή,” TDNT 7:8.

Mark, 239.
18 19

H. Balz, “ἔμεζηηλ,” EDNT 2:5. Cf. Douglas J. Moo, “Jesus and the Authority of the Mosaic Law,” JSNT 20 (1984): 3-49; repr. in The Historical Jesus: A Sheffield Reader (ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1995), 95 n. 58. Contra Paul L. Danove, Linguistics and Exegesis in the Gospel of Mark:

7 specific prohibition of the disciples‟ action does not clearly exist within the OT, it seems that the Pharisees considered their expansive definition of what constituted work prohibited on the Sabbath day as rooted in OT law in such a way that it must also carry divine authority.20 Their confrontation of Jesus and his disciples here may also reflect their suspicion of these rustic Galileans, assuming their pathetic ignorance of the subtleties of the implications of the Sabbath laws.21

JESUS STRIKES BACK: I AND MINE GREATER THAN DAVID AND HIS (2:25-26)

Jesus responds to their challenge by appealing to events recorded in Scripture in 1 Sam 21-22, focusing on 1 Sam 21:2-7. He responds to their question about what his disciples were doing with a question about their Scripture-reading habits: “Have you never read what David did?” Mark records Jesus responding to questions from opponents three times with a question concerning a particular passage of Scripture (2:25; 12:10, 26). On this occasion, Jesus does not actually quote the text, but rather refers explicitly to the events described by the text. Both Jesus‟ opponents and Mark‟s readers would surely have known the story well, so we should examine the text of 1 Sam 21:2-7 in order to understand how Jesus appeals to the events described there in order to defend his disciples‟ actions.

Applications of a Case Frame Analysis (JSNTSS 218; SNTG 10; Sheffield: Sheffield, 2001), 124, whether we may further imply the agency of God when this term occurs is less clear, although we may admit that the Pharisees would have assumed that to be the case. See the interesting discussion in James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (JSNT 266; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 161-2.
21 20

R. Alan Cole, Mark (TNTC 2; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1989), 129.

8 1 Samuel 21:2-7

The books of Samuel serve to narrate the establishment of the kingship in Israel, ultimately in the person of David. The people choose Saul as their king, but he finally rejects Yahweh‟s leadership, and Yahweh chooses and sends Samuel to anoint David as the rightful king over Israel. David‟s selection and initial anointing happen while Saul still sits on the throne (1 Sam 16), so Saul spends the rest of his life chasing after David in murderous rage. David‟s close friendship with Saul‟s son Jonathan only infuriates the derelict king further, but Jonathan enables David to flee to safety, when the king chooses to make his opposition to David public and begins a campaign to strike him down (1 Sam 20). Thus, David flees from King Saul, and he heads toward Nob22 to the sanctuary there,23 where Ahimelech and his family served as priests. When Ahimelech meets up with David, he trembles in fear and asks David why he has come alone. The narrative does not provide readers with details about how much Ahimelech knows about David‟s relationship with Saul, but we may surely conclude that he would have perceived the oddity of someone with David‟s status and reputation traveling alone.24 David responds to Ahimelech with a fairly elaborate deception in order to assuage Ahimelech‟s fears and ingratiate him to agree to David‟s request;25 he indicates that King Saul26 has “entrusted him with a matter.”27 He “quotes” the king as

The ‫ ה‬at the end of ‫ה‬ Joüon §93c.
22 23

seems clearly to be the directional marker, though it is pointed unusually. Cf.

The OT does not narrate how the sanctuary arrived at Nob, but rabbinic tradition lists the various locations of God‟s “encampments.” See Pesiq. Rab Kah., Piska 17, Sec. 1.
24 25 26

Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (TOTC 8; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988), 147. So Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 71.

Some interpreters have attempted to conclude that David was not lying here; rather, he was being clever by not specifying the name of the king who had sent him on this secret mission. In doing so, he was actually referring to Yahweh, but he knew that Ahimelech would have understood him to be referring to Saul. For this line of

9 instructing him to tell no one any details of his mission. He adds that he has sent his young men ahead to a place where he will meet them as a way of explaining why he has come alone. The verb in the MT, ‫ ,י ֹודַַ֔ עְתִ י‬may reflect an unexpected root related to the Arabic wāda‘,28 or 4QSamb may preserve the correct reading, ‫ ,יעדתי‬which seems to reflect the LXX δηακεκαξηύξεκαη.29 Either way, David indicates to Ahimelech that he has some young men waiting for him somewhere.30 In 21:4, David makes his request of the priest of Nob: he needs provisions for his journey. We could characterize David‟s verbiage here as stilted, rushed, perhaps reflecting the urgency of his situation.31 He blurts out three idiomatic expressions: “What do you have available? Five loaves of bread? Please give me whatever you can find!”32 Ahimelech responds to David‟s request for bread by indicating that he only has holy bread, set aside especially and exclusively for priests. The rendering of Ahimelech‟s response vividly portrays his thought process: “There is no common bread available, but there is the holy bread—if the young men have been surely kept from women.” Readers can almost visualize Ahimelech‟s thoughts shifting

argumentation, see Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (NAC 7; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 221. Cf. also Rikk E. Watts, “Mark,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 140. While the author of Samuel does use ‫ מלְֶך‬occasionally to refer to ֶ Yahweh (see 1 Sam 8:7; 12:12), it seems too subtle in this context for any readers to make this connection. Moreover, assuming that ‫ מלְֶך‬refers here to Yahweh does not seem to alleviate the difficulties in this passage. ֶ
27 28 29

A.B. Davidson, Hebrew Syntax (3d ed.; T&T Clark, 1902), 109. So David Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 529-30.

So P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., I Samuel (AYB 8; Garden City: Doubleday, 1980; repr. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008), 347. The Hebrew phrase ‫ פְֹלנִ֖י ַאלְמ ֹונ ִֽי‬surely indicates an anonymous place, whereby the narrator is ִ ִ reflecting David‟s secrecy here. Interestingly, the LXX here appears to have transliterated this phrase and considered it an actual place name.
30 31 32

So Alter, Art, 71.

Cf. Roger L. Omanson and John Ellington, A Handbook on the First Book of Samuel (UBS Handbook Series; New York: United Bible Societies, 2001), 456.

10 from, “Sorry, I cannot help you,” to, “Well, this is most irregular,” and finally to, “There might be a way I can help you.” Both the priest‟s question and David‟s emphatic affirmative response involve the collective usage of the singular ‫ה‬ .33 Ahimelech takes David‟s request to envision

taking care of his young men, whom he has alleged he will soon join, and Ahimelech wants to make sure that those who would eat the holy bread have remained ceremonially pure, so that they may “eat bread reserved for Levites…in a Levite-like way.”34 David assures the priest that his young men always abstain from sexual encounters when they go out on an expedition with him in order to maintain their purity, and because of the special nature of this mission, he has considered it even more important that they do this. Thus, Ahimelech agrees to give the bread to David for his young men, ostensibly to provide for their need.35 The narrator summarizes this event in 21:7 and specifies why Ahimelech hesitated to give this “holy bread” to David. Ahimelech gives him the bread of the Presence,36 which, according to Lev 24:5-9, consists of twelve loaves of bread that the priest must arrange and set before Yahweh every Sabbath day. The loaves then sit out before Yahweh all week long, and the priest removes the loaves from the table every Sabbath day. “Once the bread of the Presence enters the sanctuary, its nearness to Yahweh renders it holy. After the high priest removes the loaves from the sanctuary, therefore, he must properly dispose of the holy bread.”37 Lev 24:9

33 34 35

See GKC §123.b. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 222.

Although David does not vouch for his own purity, Ahimelech probably assumed it. This is indeed ironic as David spins this elaborate lie while maintaining a claim to purity. See Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 271. Surely van Iersel is confused to assert that this bread was not the twelve loaves of the Presence. See Bas M.F. van Iersel, Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary (trans. W. H. Bisscheroux; JSNT 164; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 158 n. 63.
37 36

Paul V. M. Flesher, “Bread of the Presence,” AYBD 1:780.

11 specifies that the priests must eat the loaves in a holy place.38 Thus, the Mosaic Law stipulated that only priests could eat this particular bread, but Ahimelech chooses to give it to David for the benefit of himself and his young men.39 Therefore, this narrative portrays an ostensibly acceptable “technical violation of a legal command in order to satisfy human need.”40 After David deceptively receives provisions, including Goliath‟s sword (21:9-10), he flees to the Philistine territory of Gath, feigns insanity, hides in the cave of Adullam, travels to Moab, and settles for a time in the forest of Hereth (21:11-22:5). The narrative does not indicate that David actually had any young men waiting for him at all, unless we should understand “his brothers and his father‟s whole house” as constituting his young men.41 Furthermore, the narrator never informs readers whether anyone actually ate the bread, though we may fairly infer that David ate the bread as he journeyed.42 In 21:8, we also learn of a witness to these events, a servant of Saul, Doeg the Edomite. Saul had begun to seek David openly when Doeg informs him of Ahimelech‟s encounter with David. Saul confronts Ahimelech, who answers him honestly, not expecting that his behavior should provoke a negative response from the king,43 and then Saul has Doeg slaughter all 85 of

This has led many commentators, following some rabbis, to conclude that the events of 1 Sam 21 occurred on a Sabbath day, since that is when the loaves are changed out. Two things seem to stand against this conclusion, however. First, the narrator is merely explaining what bread has been under discussion; the last half of v. 7 simply describes the bread of the Presence as that “which is removed from before Yahweh to set hot bread on the day when it is to be taken away.” The narrator does not clearly state that this had just happened. Second, the Law nowhere indicates that the twelve loaves had to be eaten on the Sabbath day. So, perhaps it is more likely that David has arrived at Nob in the middle of the week and he is requesting whatever bread may be left over, understanding that the priests eat the twelve loaves over the course of the week. Contra Eugene H. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 447, this passage should not be read to imply “David‟s priestly prerogatives.” Frank Thielman, The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity (New York: Herder & Herder, 1999), 64.
41 42 43 40 39

38

Cf. Kernaghan, Mark, 66. Marcus, Mark 1-8, 240. McCarter, 1 Samuel, 350.

12 the priests at Nob as well as all the people of the city of Nob. However, one man escapes: Abiathar, one of Ahimelech‟s sons. He flees to David and informs him of what Saul had done and becomes the high priest who serves throughout the rest of David‟s rise to power (22:6-23).

Jesus’ Appeal to the Events Narrated in 1 Sam 21:2-7

Jesus begins commenting on “what David did” by indicating that David “had a need and was hungry, he and those with him” (Mark 2:25). With this comment, Jesus takes on the perspective of Ahimelech the priest, who perceived and responded to the need, though neither David nor the narrator characterizes the situation in just those terms, and who also believed David‟s lie that he sought provisions for his men. Thus, Jesus connects the actions of himself and his disciples with the apparent actions of David and his men by implying that he and his disciples “had a need and were hungry.”44 Jesus then highlights certain details of the story to elucidate further the point he desires to make (2:26). He asserts that David “entered the house of God,” an oblique reference that could refer to any sanctuary, which would include the sanctuary at Nob. The narrative of 1 Sam 21 certainly does not explicitly state that David entered the sanctuary, but it may imply that he stepped inside the outer region of the place; when he asked for a sword from Ahimelech, the priest responded by pointing out Goliath‟s sword, wrapped in a cloth and resting behind the ephod, which may imply that David could see it. Next, Jesus comments that this took place “in the time of Abiathar the high priest.” According to the text of 1 Sam 21, David received the bread and the sword from Ahimelech the
Cf. Francis Watson, Text, Church, and World: Biblical Interpretation in Theological Perspective (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 275. Cf. Matt 12:1. Moulton and Turner, Grammar, 19, suggest that this is an example of Markan redundancy. However, it may be better to understand this as an example of hendiadys, as does Richard A. Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 243.
44

13 priest. Scholars have debated the significance of Jesus‟ reference to Abiathar throughout church history,45 with many opting to accept a factual error in Mark‟s Gospel.46 It seems best, however, to ascribe rhetorical intentionality to Jesus in mentioning Abiathar specifically. Surely, the phrase ἐπὶ Ἀβηαζὰξ ἀξρηεξέωο does mean “in the time of Abiathar the high priest.”47 Perhaps Jesus refers to the time frame of David‟s actions in this way in order to bring to the Pharisees‟ minds the fact that Abiathar became the priest as a result of David‟s encounter with Ahimelech (1 Sam 22:20; 23:6). More specifically, perhaps Jesus intends the Pharisees to realize that their opposition to him resembles Saul‟s opposition to David.48 Then, Jesus indicates that David ate the bread of the Presence, which the narrative of 1 Samuel implies sufficiently enough. He next highlights the point of contact between his conflict with the Pharisees and the situation of David by means of the relative clause, which probably conveys the concessive idea, “although it is not lawful [for anyone] except the priests to eat.”49 The usage of ἔμεζηηλ here links with the specific accusation from the Pharisees. Again, Jesus identifies a point that the narrator of 1 Samuel does not explicitly state, probably picking up on
Perhaps one of the earliest recorded attempts to explain away this apparent mistake, St. John Chrysostom (347-407) suggested that Ahimelech also went by the name of Abiathar, though he cites no evidence. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew XXXIX (NPNF 1:10), 255-6. For an account of the usual range of options for understanding this detail, see William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 11516. And, for the textual history, with the variants resulting largely from scribes probably attempting to correct the perceived mistake, see Williams, Two Gospels, 78-9. By his own account, study of this text drove Bart D. Ehrman to abandon his Christian faith. See Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 8-10. Cf. Peter Williamson, Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (subsidia biblica 22; Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2001), 37. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1947), 603. Cf. James M. Hamilton, Jr., “The Typology of David‟s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel” (a Julius Brown Gay Lecture presented at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 13, 2008; downloaded 18 April 2011; online: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/the-typology-of-davids-rise-topower-messianic-patterns-in-the-book-of-samuel/), 18-19. Cf. Watts, “Mark,” 141. See also N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 393-4.
49 48 47 46 45

So Young, Intermediate, 232.

14 the significance of the narrator‟s comment in 1 Sam 21:7. Finally, he concludes his re-telling of the events by closing the circle of connections that his situation with his disciples shares with David‟s situation by adding, “and he even gave [some] to those who were with him.” Thus, he repeats the reference to men with David, even though the original narrative clearly does not envision anyone else actually with him.50 Again, this probably reflects Jesus‟ decision to take the perspective of Ahimelech, who chooses to give the bread to David on the assumption that he did have men waiting for him who needed provisions.

The Significance of Jesus’ Initial Reply

Although some modern commentators see in Jesus‟ reference to the events recorded in 1 Sam 21 an attempt to draw a precedent specifically for breaking the Sabbath, the connections Jesus explicitly makes between his situation and the situation of David in 1 Sam 21 lie elsewhere. He highlights the need in both situations, the unlawful nature of the actions of both situations, the connection between David and his men on the one hand and between himself and his disciples on the other, and ultimately the apparent acceptability of both unlawful actions. For several reasons, as many scholars have pointed out, the Pharisees likely would not have accepted Jesus‟ appeal to this event as a valid argument against their accusation.51 Indeed, Jesus himself probably put forth this appeal as only a first step in a cumulative argument, so that each of the following responses escalate his defense of the disciples‟

Cf. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993), s.v. Mark 2:25. See especially Rabbi D. M. Cohn-Sherbok, “An Analysis of Jesus‟ Arguments Concerning the Plucking of Grain on the Sabbath,” JSNT 2 (1979): 31-41; repr. in The Historical Jesus: A Sheffield Reader (ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1995), 132-5. Cf. Guelich, Mark 1-8, 122-3.
51

50

15 behavior.52 Nevertheless, the point carries certain significant points. First, he seeks to adduce a biblical example of a clearly unlawful action that receives no censure because the action served to meet human need, for “if the Pharisees accept that David broke a biblical law then they should find acceptable the actions of Jesus‟ disciples.”53 Second, the story helps establish the rightful relationship the disciples have with Jesus, as he takes responsibility for their actions in a similar way to how Ahimelech recognizes David‟s responsibility for his men.54 And this leads to the third and climactic point of Jesus bringing up this story: Jesus connects himself typologically with David,55 particularly with respect to David‟s authority.56 In Matthew‟s account, the appeal to the events of 1 Sam 21 precedes an argument focusing on “the „defilement of the sabbath‟ by the priests in pursuing their temple duties, on the grounds that ηνῦ ἱεξνῦ κεῖδόλ ἐζηηλ ὧδε,” so that perhaps the “logic of the argument from David implies a parallel ηνῦ Δαπὶδ κεῖδόλ ἐζηηλ ὧδε.”57 This provides a perfect transition into the next stage of his argument.

A REMINDER CONCERNING THE PURPOSE OF THE SABBATH (2:27)

Mark steps into the dialogue at this point with an introductory formula: ηνῦ Δαπὶδ κεῖδόλ ἐζηηλ ὧδε. This has stimulated much discussion in the commentaries, leading many scholars to

52 53

This is noticed, among others, by St. John Chrysostom, Homilies, 256. Cf. Marcus, Mark 1-8, 245.

Crossley, Date, 163. Thus, perhaps Jesus‟ argument could be considered a kind of qal vahomer argument, on the basis of which he grants their accusation of his disciples, but, at the same time, attempts to invalidate it because their accusation is only based on their own extension of biblical law rather than on “the letter of the Law” which David had transgressed in this situation. Cf. Watts, “Mark,” 140, and Watson, Text, 277.
54

Cf. Rod Parrott, “Conflict and Rhetoric in Mark 2:23-28,” Semeia 64 (1993): 121. See also France, Mark, Cf. Hamilton, “Typology,” 26. Thielman, Law, 64-5. Cf. Moo, “Jesus,” 93. France, Mark, 146.

146.
55 56 57

16 conclude that Mark has added the saying introduced here from another setting.58 However, Runge‟s suggestion that Mark has stepped into the narrative at this point and inserted “a redundant mid-speech quotative frame” in order to “slow the pace of the discourse just before a significant pronouncement” makes much better sense.59 So, in Jesus‟ second line of argumentation, he articulates his understanding of the fundamental purpose of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath came for the benefit of people, and not people for the benefit of the Sabbath.”60 God had provided the Sabbath for humanity to enjoy “true rest and restoration,” and now Jesus has come to show his people how that must happen.61 The Pharisees always concerned themselves with defining “work” so as to prevent people from breaking the Sabbath law, but Jesus has come to define “rest” so as to show people how truly to keep the Sabbath.62 Nowhere in this passage does Jesus presume to disregard or abolish the Sabbath law;63 rather, he seems here to claim that he knows the true purpose of the Sabbath and “has the authority to say when one is in a situation when the sabbath‟s purpose is better served and honored by not obeying its Mosaic strictures.”64 He reminds them of the philanthropic purpose of the Sabbath, which they seem to have forgotten in light of the eschatological expectations that had come to surround Sabbath-keeping. Calvin rightly noted that “the Law ought to be

58 59

E.g., Collins, Mark, 203.

Steven E. Runge, A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (Bellingham, Wash.: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010), 191.
60 61

For δηά with the accusative indicating “benefaction,” see Young, Intermediate, 92.

Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 131.
62 63 64

Cf. Thielman, Law, 65. Cf. Crossley, Date, 98. Ben Witherington III, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom (Minneapolis: T&T Clark, 1994), 168.

17 interpreted according to the design of the Legislator.”65 Beyond this, as his argument comes to its climax, he seems to imply that “the kingdom of God would not come at some point in the distant future when all Israel kept the Sabbath perfectly. Ironically, the reign of God was already present, but the Pharisees did not see it.”66 Unfortunately, due to their misunderstanding, the Pharisees “were changing the Sabbath into a cruel tyrant, and man into that tyrant‟s slave…as if God‟s intention had indeed been to make „man for the sabbath,‟ instead of „the sabbath for man.‟”67

SON OF MAN = SABBATH-LORD (2:28)

Commentators continue to debate exactly how 2:28 connects with 2:27. The precise significance of the introductory ὥζηε remains difficult to characterize. The statement this conjunction introduces brings Jesus‟ argument to a breathtaking climax; the silence of Mark here as to the Pharisees‟ response only leaves the reader with the impression that Jesus has rendered them utterly speechless by his final pronouncement. Indeed, we may summarize his response to the Pharisees‟ attack, borrowing Kernaghan‟s language, as escalating from slightly less than “conciliatory,” by subtly appealing to a biblical precedent from 1 Sam 21, to “provocative,” by perhaps implying that their treatment of God‟s anointed one and his followers serves as an antitype of Saul‟s treatment of God‟s anointed one, to “incendiary,” by implying both that they

John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (transl. William Pringle; Bellingham, Wash.: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010), 2:47.
66 67

65

Kernaghan, Mark, 67. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (NTC; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975),

108.

18 have misunderstood the purpose of the Sabbath and that he stands over the Sabbath as its Lord.68 We might catch the rhetorical effect of this final statement, as Mark has fronted θύξηνο for some measure of emphasis, by rendering the claim, “And who is Lord of the Sabbath? The Son of Man is!”69 Though some commentators want to suggest that Mark might have inserted 2:28,70 only Jesus uses the title “the Son of Man,” and he uses it consistently as a self-designation.71 Earlier, in 2:10, he uses the title in claiming to have authority on earth to forgive sins, and it occurs 14 times throughout Mark‟s Gospel.72 On the lips of Jesus, in the actual events Mark narrates, this title carried a certain ambiguity, for people could use the phrase as a generic self-reference. Indeed, it seems that throughout the Gospels, while Jesus alone uses the title for himself, no one accuses him of making a particular claim based solely on this title.73 However, Mark‟s readers have the benefit of Jesus‟ later specific connection of this title to its source, Dan 7:13-14, most clearly in Mark 8:38; 13:26; and 14:62.74 Here, he unequivocally claims to have the authority “even” to define what Sabbath means and how people ought to keep the Sabbath.75 Thus, he repudiates the Pharisees‟ (or anyone else‟s) authority to dictate limitations for how people may
Surely, at a basic level θύξηνο only implies that he “has the right to command” or “has control over” the Sabbath, and this may be all that the Pharisees perceived at the time. See Bratcher and Nida, Handbook, 102. However, for Mark‟s readers, θύξηνο must imply Jesus‟ identification with Yahweh. James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 97. Understanding “the Son of Man” as a self-reference, we might render it even more idiomatically as, “And who is Lord of the Sabbath? Oh yeah…I AM!” E.g., Robert M. Fowler, “The Rhetoric of Direction and Indirection in the Gospel of Mark,” Semeia 48 (1989): 121. Cf. Lane, Mark, 120.
71 72 70 69 68

James A. Brooks, Mark (NAC 23; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 67.

Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 70.
73 74

Edwards, Mark, 79-80.

Marcus, Mark 1-8, 531. Cf. Donald English, The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith (BST; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992), 75. Cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 620.
75

19 or may not behave on the Sabbath, even as he overrules their accusation against his disciples.76 So, within his response to the accusations of the Pharisees, he points to his identity as both Davidic Messiah and Danielic Son of Man.77 Moreover, as David represented the men (supposedly) with him, so also the Son of Man represents humanity; Jesus‟ hearers may have caught this connection, since “a human being” serves as a fundamental layer of meaning for the phrase ὁ πἱὸο ηνῦ ἀλζξώπνπ, as reflected in Ps 8:4. Thus, if he does intend to convey multiple layers of meaning with this pregnant phrase, he may communicate here the idea that he stands as a representative for humanity in his lordship over the Sabbath, vis-à-vis Heb 2.78

CONCLUSION

Jesus apparently experienced several intense encounters with the Pharisees concerning their understanding of the Sabbath. Ultimately, he came and kept the Sabbath perfectly, as God intended it, as a gift to humanity, so that his followers may experience the fullness of the eschatological rest of God by trusting in him.79 When the Pharisees accused his disciples of breaking the Sabbath because they had picked some heads of grain for themselves, Jesus responds by appealing to a comparable situation in the life of David, which provides him the opportunity to connect himself with David and his hearers with Saul in his murderous opposition to David. He highlights the freedom of the priest Ahimelech to set aside the strict adherence to a particular stipulation of the Law in order to enable David to provide for his men‟s needs—even
76 77 78

Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath,” AYBD 5:855. Marcus, Mark 1-8, 246

So Dan G. McCartney, “Ecce Homo: The Coming of the Kingdom As the Restoration of Human Viceregency,” WTJ 56:1 (Spring 1994): 11-12.
79

Cf. A. G. Shead, “Sabbath,” NDBT n.p.

20 though David has lied about his true needs. In this way, Jesus emphasizes the purpose of the Sabbath, and indeed all law, as a gift to benefit people. Finally, Jesus reveals his own authority over the Sabbath to determine what it means for people to experience its benefits by “sanctifying it.” Indeed, “the sabbath is not being sanctified if it means hardship for human beings—it is to be a day of joy and rest, and if that means preparing a meal rather than feeling pangs of hunger, so be it.”80 The Sabbath controversies in the Gospels highlight Jesus‟ beneficent lordship, his gracious sovereignty, as he brings to light the true purpose of the Sabbath.

David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2000), 289-90.

80

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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22

Crossley, James G. The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity. Journal for the Study of the New Testament 266. New York: T&T Clark, 2004. Danove, Paul L. Linguistics and Exegesis in the Gospel of Mark: Applications of a Case Frame Analysis. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 218. Studies in New Testament Greek 10. Sheffield: Sheffield, 2001. Davidson, A.B. Hebrew Syntax. 3d ed. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902. Derrett, J. Duncan M. Studies in the New Testament: Volume 1. Leiden: Brill, 1977. deSilva, David A. Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2000. Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. English, Donald. The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992. Flesher, Paul V. M. “Bread of the Presence.” Pages 780-1 in vol. 1 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1996. Fowler, Robert M. “The Rhetoric of Direction and Indirection in the Gospel of Mark.” Pages 115-34 of Semeia 48: Reader Perspectives on the New Testament. Edited by Edgar V. McKnight. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1989. France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. Gesenius, Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. Edited by E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley. 2d Eng. ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1910. Guelich, Robert A. Mark 1-8:26. Word Biblical Commentary 34A. Dallas: Word, 1989. Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Historical Books. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004. Hamilton, Jr., James M. “The Typology of David‟s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel.” A Julius Brown Gay Lecture presented at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 13, 2008. Downloaded 18 April 2011. Online: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/the-typology-of-davids-rise-to-powermessianic-patterns-in-the-book-of-samuel/.

23

Hasel, Gerhard F. “Sabbath.” Pages 849-56 in vol. 5 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1996. Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975. Joüon, Paul and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. subsidia biblica 27. Roma: Editrice Pontificio Intituto Biblico, 2006. Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Kernaghan, Ronald J. Mark. IVP New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2007. Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976. Lane, William L. The Gospel of Mark. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974. Marcus, Joel. Mark 1-8. Anchor Yale Bible 27. Garden City: Doubleday, 1999. Repr., New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008. --------. The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark. New York: T&T Clark, 2004. McCarter, Jr., P. Kyle. I Samuel. Anchor Yale Bible 8. Garden City: Doubleday, 1980. Repr., New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008. McCartney, Dan G. “Ecce Homo: The Coming of the Kingdom As the Restoration of Human Viceregency.” Westminster Theological Journal 56:1 (Spring 1994): 1-21. Merrill, Eugene H. Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006. Moo, Douglas J. “Jesus and the Authority of the Mosaic Law,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 20 (1984): 3-49; Repr. pages 83-128 in The Historical Jesus: A Sheffield Reader. Edited by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Sheffield: Sheffield, 1995. Moulton, James Hope, and George Milligan. Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930. Moulton, James Hope, and Nigel Turner. A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Volume 4: Style. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976.

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The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. 14 vols. Repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994. Omanson, Roger L. and John Ellington. A Handbook on the First Book of Samuel. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 2001. Parrott, Rod. “Conflict and Rhetoric in Mark 2:23-28.” Pages 117-37 of Semeia 64: The Rhetoric of Pronouncement. Edited by Daniel Patte. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1993. Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1947. Runge, Steven E. A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Bellingham, Wash.: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010. Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. Sch rer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Second Division, Vol. II. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1890. Shead, A. G. “Sabbath.” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001. Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. Translated and edited by James D. Ernest. 3 vols. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994. Swete, H. B. The Gospel According to Saint Mark. New York: MacMillan, 1898. Thielman, Frank. The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity. New York: Herder & Herder, 1999. --------. Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. Tomson, Peter. ‘If This Be From Heaven…’: Jesus and the New Testament Authors in Their Relationship to Judaism. Sheffield: Sheffield, 2001. Tsumura, David. The First Book of Samuel. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. van Iersel, Bas M.F. Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary. Translated by W. H. Bisscheroux. Journal for the Study of the New Testament 164. New York: T&T Clark, 2004.

25 Watson, Francis. Text, Church, and World: Biblical Interpretation in Theological Perspective. New York: T&T Clark, 2004. Watts, Rikk E. “Mark.” Pages 111-249 in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007. Williams, Matthew C. Two Gospels From One: A Comprehensive Text-Critical Analysis of the Synoptic Gospels. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006. Williamson, Peter. Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. subsidia biblica 22. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2001. Witherington III, Ben. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. --------. Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom. Minneapolis: T&T Clark, 1994. Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God 2. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. Young, Richard A. Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994.

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