Hearing kyriotic sonship : rhetoric and the characterization of Mark's Jesus.


Access rights

Worldwide access.
Access changed 7/31/20.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study utilizes a host of tools, from ancient rhetoric to modern cognitive science, in order to best approximate the diverse audience reactions to Mark’s Jesus within a hypothetical first-century audience present at a public reading of the entire Gospel. In order to delimit the scope of the study, I focus particularly on those episodes that prime or activate scripts from cultural memory grounded in the LXX, which hearers may associate with David and God. These two figures have often been downplayed in recent research because they do not receive much explicit attention in the Markan narrative itself. However, I demonstrate that the rhetorical culture of the first-century Mediterranean world prized what I have termed the “rhetoric of inference,” that is, those figures that lead audience members to making inferences and judgments that go beyond what is made explicit by the text itself. After grounding the rhetorical, performative, and cognitive aspects of this study in ancient and modern research, I trace the characterization of “kyriotic sonship” over the course of the entire Gospel. Kyriotic sonship refers to the characterization of Mark’s Jesus vis-à-vis assimilation to David and the God of Israel. This complex portrait, overlooked by modern readers (though not, it seems, by Matthew and Luke), is gradually and carefully unfurled over the course of the narrative, from prologue to passion, in a way that allows each audience member to join the perspective of the Gospel in her or his own time. In many ways, this study sets out to explore the Markan question, “If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his ‘son’?” (Mark 12:37). The answer, I argue, lies in the use of the rhetoric of inference to prompt audience members to infer that Mark’s Jesus is the kyriotic Son, the one who is portrayed as a figure as Davidic as he is divine, as one who is ultimately enthroned upon the cross and then at God's right hand. Someone greater than Solomon is here...



Characterization. Gospel of Mark. Rhetoric. Performance. Cognitive science. Jesus. Christology. Early Christianity. Synoptic Gospels.


Whitenton, Michael R. Hearing Kyriotic Sonship: A Cognitive and Rhetorical Approach to the Characterization of Mark's Jesus. Boston: Brill, 2017.