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Egalitarian Christian Alliance » General » Biblical Equality Discussion (Moderators: TL, JLP, Dawn Wilson, ruudvermeij, KR Wordgazer, Larry S, Don, Larhanya, Marg) » Honor and Shame in the New Testament

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Offline KR Wordgazer

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Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« on: August 10, 2010, 05:53:34 PM »
Here is an excerpt from a very informative essay I found regarding the cultures of the New Testament as cultures of honor and shame.  Many of the passages on women in the Gospels and Epistles reflect this idea, and an understanding of honor and shame is very important in understanding how truly radical Jesus' relations with women were.   (Whenever He spoke to a woman in public, He was deliberately going against this honor-shame culture.)  Also the verses on head coverings and on women's silence in the churches, however interpreted, must be seen as being rooted in this honor-shame dichotomy:

The reason for this relegation of women to private or nonmale areas
is rooted in the ancient conception of a woman’s place in the world.
She is not seen as an independent entity or agent but as embedded in
the identity and honor of some male (her father, if she is unmarried,
her husband after she marries). If she fails to protect her honor, for
example by engaging in extramarital intercourse or by displaying
“looseness” by providing males outside her family with her company
or her words, she actually brings shame upon her husband or father. A
daughter or a wife was regarded as a point of vulnerability in the
man’s rearguard against disgrace. It is for this reason that Ben Sira
considers the birth of a daughter a liability (Sir 42:9-14) and offers
such strong words about the potential loss incurred through women
(Sir 26:10-12).
Despite the progressiveness of the New Testament authors with
regard to attacking the distinction between Jew and Gentile that was
central to Jewish identity, and despite Paul’s conviction that even the
distinctions between male and female, slave and free, are valueless in
Christ (Gal 3:28), we do find a good deal of space given over to promoting
(or simply reflecting) the larger society’s view of female honor
within the pages of the New Testament. Thus 1 Corinthians 11:2-16,
where Paul attempts to convince the Corinthian Christians that
women must pray with their heads covered, also reflects the view that
female honor is embedded in male honor in naming the husband as
the “head” of the wife, who is incorporated conceptually into his
“body.”


Here's the link to the whole essay:

http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/1572-1.pdf
« Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 06:15:44 PM by KR Wordgazer »
It's a sad sort of manhood that feels diminished by a woman simply being herself.

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Offline KR Wordgazer

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2010, 06:14:14 PM »
I also wanted to add that this idea throws a whole new light on "man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man."  This has nothing to do with "glory" as in "splendor" or "shining light."  It is not about the woman reflecting the image of God in a lesser way.  No, the word "glory" in the Greek is "doxa," which has at its root the idea of "good opinion."

Looked at in terms of the honor-shame culture, what the passage is saying is that the man is a source of God's good reputation (doxa, or "glory"), and the woman is a source of a man's good reputation (doxa, or "glory").  Unfortunately, in that culture the woman was not viewed as a source of God's good reputation-- the misogynistic tendency of society seeing the woman as a "necessary evil" created by God for the purposes of offspring, but having little or no value in herself.   :'(  This is a reality Paul has to deal with as far as the reputation of young churches is concerned.

The context of 1 Cor. 11 is the keeping of "the traditions," which are born of this honor-shame value in the society.  (A good Jew or Greek didn't think of good or bad deeds in terms of "right and wrong" but in terms of "honor or dishonor.")  The appearances of things are very important in such a society for the maintaining of a good reputation.

Paul goes on from there to talk about head coverings, and his language is full of words like "proper," "dishonor," and "disgrace."  Woman as the "glory" of man has to be seen in this light.   A Christian man can enhance God's reputation with his good works; but the larger society is most likely to see a woman's good works as enhancing only her husband's reputation.  Paul does not say the woman is the "image" of man-- he would hold to the Genesis teaching that both woman and man are the "image" of God-- but the man is a source of good reputation for God insofar as he is God's image, and for the woman in that world, this truth was obscured.  She was the "glory" of the man with whom she was associated.

Harsh as this reality is, it is very much embedded in that culture and is not an ontological statement-- nor was it meant to be.  Paul was not talking in terms of the nature of the male and the female at all.  We can be comforted that in this day and age and in Western culture, women are no longer seen only as extensions of men-- and thus we, too, are both the "image" and "glory" of God.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 06:20:04 PM by KR Wordgazer »
It's a sad sort of manhood that feels diminished by a woman simply being herself.

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Offline Hannah Thomas

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2010, 01:46:42 AM »
That would make sense, because it seems today that 'shame-honor' dynamic is still present in that area of the world.

I'm sure missionaries that serve there could agree with this.

We hear it today more from the Muslim point of view in that area of the world now - due to the happenings there of course.  From what I have read the Jewish culture also still deals with the shame-honor dynamic as well.

Thank you for sharing!  I love those types of history findings!  :thumbsup:
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Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2010, 03:29:12 AM »
I agree with the statements about honor and shame being important in the 1st century culture.
I disagree with the analysis of 1 Cor 11.

What I do is start with the pericope (1 Cor 11:2-16) and then scan through it multiple times, picking up things that make sense each time based on what was discerned before and bypassing the confusing parts temporarily.  If you try to go from start to finish in 1 pass, the logic is so different from what we think today, it makes it harder to follow.  Once one is done, one can do a final 1 pass thru it, but not when starting out.

When I do that, at first 2 things stand out:
1. A man is NOT to do the head "thing" whatever it is. (1 Cor 11:7a)
2. A woman has authority to choose whether to do the head "thing" whatever it is. (1 Cor 11:10 but some translations add text such as "a symbol of")

That is, this is a one of the few pericopes that teach gender differences AND the man is restricted while the woman is not restricted.  However, many translations add to the text so this can be obscured and it is seldom taught that the man is restricted, a teaching often just concentrates on what a woman can and cannot do.

So the puzzle is to figure out WHY a man would be restricted (has less freedom) but a woman gets to choose (has more freedom).
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2010, 03:36:46 AM »
The next questions I ask are:

Who is in the image of God?

Who is the glory of God?

The answers I get from the Bible are

All humans are in the image of God.

All believers (those acting in faith) are the glory of God.

If you do not know this going into the text, you might think Paul is carving things up along gender lines.

And then, finally, in a honor/shame society, a wife is the glory of her husband.  This is the additional kicker that explains why a woman can choose where a man need to not do something with his head.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2010, 03:51:01 AM »
I disagree with the paper that Jesus violated the Torah prohibition of work on the Sabbath. 
As Jesus himself points out, the Father does such redemptive acts on the Sabbath.

Joh 5:15  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Joh 5:16  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.
Joh 5:17  But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."
Joh 5:18  This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline KR Wordgazer

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2010, 07:05:07 AM »
Don,

I didn't see the paper as saying that Jesus violated the Torah so much as that he was perceived as violating the Torah.

Can you show me Scriptures that say all believers are the glory of God?  This would be very helpful in an exegesis I'm doing right now.

Do you agree that the way Paul is using "glory" in 1 Cor 11 is in terms of reputation and not ontological status?  In other passages, where all believers are shown to be the "glory" of God, is it meant in this same way?

As for a woman being able to choose about the head-thing, I agree.  But what I read Paul saying is that a woman "ought to" have authority to choose-- but nevertheless, choosing against a head covering is shaming her husband, which she shouldn't do.  He's making a distinction between the way things ought to be and the way they actually are.
It's a sad sort of manhood that feels diminished by a woman simply being herself.

My blog: Wordgazer's Words

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2010, 07:53:32 AM »
2Co 3:7  Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,
2Co 3:8  will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
2Co 3:9  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
2Co 3:10  Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
2Co 3:11  For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

2Co 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2Co 4:17  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
2Co 4:18  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2Co 8:23  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.

Recall that 2 Cor was written AFTER 1 Cor, but we get to "cheat" and read it to help us understand 1 Cor.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2010, 07:56:46 AM »
From the paper top of its p. 30

Jesus’ violation of the prohibition of work on the sabbath day suggests
to the synagogue leader that Jesus claims to be “above the law” (specifically,
Torah) on account of his power to heal.

I agree that this is the way the Pharisees saw it, but it was not a violation of Torah.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 08:06:03 AM »
The head thing, either head covering or hair style, is such that a man should not do it, as it brings dishonor on his head, which is God.
So if a woman would do it, it would bring dishonor on God, but if she does NOT do it it would bring dishonor on her husband.
So she is caught in a bind, whether to do it or not.  It is a pickle, she would not want to dishonor anyone, but due to the culture may find she cannot.

So I think it is headcovering, which was needed by a married woman in a public place to show she was married.  But she could take it off at home.
But in Jewish thinking I think a headcovering was used to show one was sinful, that is, wearing it has negative connotations, so Paul says a man should not.

So what is a church meeting in a home, is it public or private?  What if the home church is welcoming strangers?  It is a quasi-private, quasi-public meeting.
If she is among known friends, she is free to remove her headcovering.  If there is a reason she might want to cover, Paul says she can cover.
A stranger seeing a woman's hair was considered a sexual come on in pagan society.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline KR Wordgazer

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 08:51:29 AM »
Don, it looks to me like except for 2 Cor 8:23, Paul is talking about a different kind of "glory" in the 2 Corinthians passages.  Those passages seem to me to be talking about God's splendor/divine glory, which all Christians partake of.

I think "glory" in 1 Cor 11 is talking about earthly, temporal reputation, in terms of the honor-shame culture of the time.  Do you agree?
« Last Edit: August 11, 2010, 10:24:39 AM by KR Wordgazer »
It's a sad sort of manhood that feels diminished by a woman simply being herself.

My blog: Wordgazer's Words

Offline Don

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2010, 09:45:52 AM »
Yes, with the husband/wife relation, that is honor/shame.  A wife can bring shame to her husband.

With believers, they would be saying something with the head thing that is not true, a false witness in the meaning of that time.
My translation of Eph 5:21-22 ... mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

Offline Larhanya

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Re: Honor and Shame in the New Testament
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2010, 10:08:17 AM »
Interesting conversation. Nothing useful to add, just  :thumbup: :thumbup:
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