Wordplay in Mark's Story: Studies in Mark, Pt. 86

Today, while working my way through Mark’s story, an interesting but simple thought came to mind: Mark’s narrative contains some great wordplay. In this short study / post, I want to share just a few examples of where I think Mark’s wordsmithing shows up (which definitely makes the story more fun to read).

One example is Mk. 1.1. Notice how in this verse, there is a lot of rhyming: του ευαγγελιου ιησου υιυο θεου. Another example stems from that phrase υιυο θεου. Of course, in English that translates to “Son of God”. The phrase appears a number of times throughout the rest of the narrative. Now, I think something interesting occurs when this relationship is underscored in 14.36 when Jesus prays saying αββα ο πατερ (abba ho pater), which, in English, is “Father, my Father” / “Father, the Father”. Of course, “abba” is Semitic and is often appears in context with the word “באר” (bar). “Bar” means “Son”. So, here, we see the relationship between the “Son” and the “Father”. Now, it is right after this (15.7) that Jesus is taken to trial and He as the “Bar Abba” or “Son of the Father” is tried in the place of “Barabbas” (βαραββας) which means “son of a father” or “son of a rabbi”. Nice wordplay!

Another fun example of this, I think, shows up in Mk. 4.24. In Greek, the wording looks like this: εν ω μετρω μετρειτε μετηθησεται υμιν και προστεθησεται υμιν. Notice the three similar words right in the middle of the sentence “metro metreite metethesetai”. While most English translations gloss this over rather heavily making it smoother to read, it should literally be rendered: “With the measure you measure it will be measured unto you.” What an interesting little quip.

Of course, there is much more wordplay that exists in Mark’s story but these are just some examples that I was thinking about today and thought I’d share. Do you know of any others or are there any others in Mk. that you like? Share them with us!

*This post has been added to the "Studies in Mark" page.


  1. Actually, in my sermon preparation for this week, I just noticed another wordplay. In Mk. 11.9-10, the crowds are saying "Hosanna" as Jesus heads up to the Temple. In Hebrew, the word "Hosanna" is: "הושענא". It literally means "save us" and can also mean "blessed be the Lord". In terms of pronunciation, it sounds a lot like Jesus' name in Hebrew "Yeshua" (ישוע) and actually stems from the same meaning (e.g. Savior). So, it could be the case that the two terms, while not rhyming perfectly but rather sharing the same root/meaning, are possible wordplays.

  2. enjoyed reading your observations.

  3. Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate that man. Glad you're reading and commenting.