Mark 2:25 has Jesus debating the Sabbath with the Pharisees:

καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· «Οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε τί ἐποίησεν Δαυείδ, ὅτε χρείαν ἔσχεν καὶ ἐπείνασεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ μετ’ αὐτοῦ;


He said to them, “Did you never read what David did when he had need and was hungry—he, and those who were with him?

The verb ἀνέγνωτε is the aorist of ἀναγιγνώσκω, which has a variety of meanings. Literally, it means to "re-recognize" or "know very well," with ανα- indicating either repetition or intensification. Homer uses it in this sense (α.216):

οὐ γάρ πώ τις ἑὸν γόνον αὐτὸς ἀνέγνω

For no man knows his own birth.

Here is the LSJ entry for ἀναγιγνώσκω. Their dictionary entries are pretty condensed and cryptic, but it seems that the Attic meaning of reading would apply when the transitive verb is used with written characters as its object, which is not the case here.

So it seems that Mark 2:25 could be translated as "Did you not know..."

I suppose that Attic is closer in time to koine than Homer, so that would argue in favor of the traditional reading as "Did you never read." On the other hand, the object of the verb is not a book or writing, and the second-person aorist seems to be sort of a set phrase. Is either reading ruled out here, or are they both possible?

2 Answers 2


Tony Chan's answer made me realize that it would make sense to look at other usages of this verb in the NT. These seem to fall into various groups.

(1) There is the passage I asked about, Mark 2:25, which is also duplicated in Matthew 12:3 and Luke 6:3. These seem ambiguous to me.

(2) There are a bunch of places where the context makes it clear that someone is reading a written text, e.g., John 19:20 (reading the sign that says "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS") and Acts 15:31 (reading a letter that has just been delivered). These make it certain that at least some usages of the verb in the NT do refer to reading a written text. (a) In John 19:20, nobody is reciting the text of the sign out loud, whereas (b) in most of the other examples someone is reading out loud to other people.

(3) And finally there are some cases where scripture is being recited out loud on the sabbath, such as Acts 13:27 (all translations from WEB):

For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they didn’t know him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

And Acts 15:21:

For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

Luke 4:16:

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ...

The examples in Acts 13:27 and Luke 4:16 describe rabbis reciting out loud to an audience. The audience of Nazarean peasants in Luke 4:16 would have understood only Aramaic, not Hebrew, and likely the same would have been true for the audience envisioned in Acts 13:27. Targums were only oral during Jesus's lifetime -- it was forbidden to write them down. In Luke 4:16, there is a clear implication that the people in the room understood Jesus. So if Luke is accurately describing something that actually did take place, then it seems that ἀναγνῶναι would have to describe something that is not just the idea of someone reading a written text out loud, verbatim. Jesus may be paraphrasing in Aramaic on the fly, and referring to the text to remind himself of what it says. Or possibly he reads the Hebrew out loud, which almost nobody in the room can understand, and then follows up with an Aramaic translation.

So it seems clear to me that the word is used with a variety of meanings in the NT, and that among these meanings are (2a) to silently read a written text to one's self, (2b) to read a text out loud to others, and (3) to remind people of certain words (the literal meaning of ἀνα + γιγνώσκω), in a context where it's not possible that the reminder is a verbatim reading out loud from a piece of writing.


Mark 2:25 New International Version

He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?

“Have you never read
ἀνέγνωτε (anegnōte)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Active - 2nd Person Plural
Strong's Greek 314: To read, know again, know certainly, recognize, discern. From ana and ginosko; to know again, i.e. to read.

While I do not dismiss the usages of the word ἀναγινώσκω outside the Bible, I'd put more weight on the usages within the Bible. Particularly, in this case, the word appears 32 times in the NT.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

  1. to distinguish between, to recognize, to know accurately, to acknowledge;
  2. to read

According to the lexicons, both "know" and "read" are valid. But it is not just a superficial knowing but a deeper one.

Now, let's see the context:

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Jesus is talking about history written in 1 Samuel 21:

1 David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” ...

2David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

5David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

Jesus is asking the Pharisees about their reading of this piece of history.

At https://biblehub.com/niv/mark/2.htm, 26 out of 26 versions translate it as "read". Not one version use "know".

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