Shame and Honour in the New Testament

2. Honour, shame and holiness/righteousness are significant in different parts of the New Testament. So I’ve made this the second theme relating to shame in the New Testament.

We will return to this theme later, so, just for now, here are a couple of pointers to places where the pivotal values of honour and shame appear:

a) K. C. Hanson demonstrates the honour/shame dynamic behind the ‘makarisms’ of the Gospels, suggesting that honour (Mt.5:3ff) and shame (Mt.23.13ff) bracket the Lord’s ministry. (Hanson: p81ff. – ‘makarisms’ = ‘blessings/woes in Matthew)

b) Halvor Moxnes highlights the themes of honour, shame and righteousness, as an important part of the epistle to the Romans (Moxnes: p61ff). Paul, in Romans, spoke to a society with a strong honour code, which as a result was highly stratified, and had a strong sense of shame. His message to Christians subverted the relationship between honour and shame, in that he juxtaposed shame with ‘holiness’. He challenged Christians to step outside of a dynamic which was endemic in society; to have a separate identity based, not on honour/competition but on holiness/righteousness. He highlighted that the resources available to achieve this came from God and could be experienced in the life of the Spirit.


K. C. Hanson; “How Honourable! How Shameful! A Cultural Analysis of Matthew’s Makarisms and Reproaches”; in Semeia 68; “Honour and Shame in the World of the Bible”; 1996; p81-111.
Halvor Moxnes; “Honour and Righteousness in Romans”; in Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Issue 32, 1988; p61-77.

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