What is a Pericope?

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I was looking around in some files on my computer and found one that contained the phrase: “Pericopes in Mark” in the title. This is a word that non-Bible-scholars might have difficulty recognizing. Since I wanted to post the file that I found because I thought it would be useful to those who might be studying the Book of Mark, I thought I might first search around to see if I could find a good definition of PERICOPE. I think Adam Thomas did a pretty good job with the word in a rather humorous way…

Biblical scholars have an especially silly sounding word they use for “passage from the Bible.” It is pericope, and if you type this into Microsoft Word, Bill Gates will try to change the word into periscope, because (apparently) the latter is much more frequently used. ‘Pericope’ may look like a three-syllable word (like periscope without the ‘s’), but it has four syllables and rhymes with calliope.* If you are at a Bible study and drop the word ‘pericope’ your companions will probably stare at you and wonder how you got your hands on the Anchor Bible Commentary.

Pericopes are important because they define the amount of text you are going to study. The word is a mash-up of two Greek words meaning “to cut around,” so when you pick a pericope you are figuring out how much text you want to swallow at one go. If you pick too little, you may be in danger of ignoring the context of the bit you pericopized.** If you pick too much, getting your head around it all may be a difficult task.

If you want to impress someone, you will surely want to learn how to pronounce PERICOPE. That can be accomplished by clicking H-E-R-E.

The file that I found is a listing of all of the pericopes of the New Testament Book of Mark as seen in the New King James Bible. These are especially helpful because they also include references to parallel accounts in the other three accounts of the life of Christ. If you are studying the Book of Mark, this file should be a big help. You can find it by clicking H-E-R-E.

Author: David Lemmons

Preacher for Maple Hill Church of Christ near Benton, KY. Married to Diane for 44 years. Father of Heather, Aaron, and Rachel. Grandfather of Maverick, Serenity, and Cannon.

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