Abstention from food which has been, and remains, a widespread religious obligation; it accompanies prayer, and is a sign of human humility. Fasting among the Hebrews (Judg. 20: 26) became formalized during and after the Exile, and the Day of Atonement was established as a national day of fasting. The prophets (e.g. Jer. 14: 12) protested that the mere act of fasting, without repentance, did not bring results. Jews fasted in NT times on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16: 29) and Pharisees also on two days each week (Luke 18: 12); Jesus fasted (Matt. 4: 2), and the early Church practised fasting (Acts 13: 2). Paul fasted before he was baptized (Acts 9: 9), and this became a common practice in the Church, e.g before baptisms at Easter. It would seem that the interesting passage in Mark 2: 18 ff. reflects the Church's practice of fasting, which was out of step with what was remembered about Jesus, whose disciples were accused of not fasting (Mark 2: 18) unlike those of John the Baptist. The reply in Mark (2: 19–20) is that Jesus' disciples will fast ‘when the bridegroom is taken away’. But bridegrooms are not normally ‘taken away’! Nor did the Pharisees have disciples (2: 18). It does look as if an original saying about the joy in the presence of Jesus, like that of a marriage feast, has been expanded by the Church to defend itself in the course of current controversy with Jewish opponents.