Shame in the Gospels

The Gospels

Jerome H. Neyrey argues that many of Jesus’ parables cannot be properly understood apart from notions of public shame, which are quite different from judicial or internalized conceptions of guilt.[1] “For example, Jesus employs the social usage of someone experiencing shame in the parable of the dishonest, but shrewd, manager, who acknowledges that he is too ashamed to beg (Luke 16:3), or the person who takes the seat of honor at a wedding feast only to be asked to suffer the humiliation and public shame of being moved to the lowest place because a more distinguished guest has arrived (Luke 14:7-11).”[2] (p87).

Timothy Tennent says that “this latter passage is particularly significant because Jesus deliberately contrasts the two values of shame and honor in his exposition of the parable. In a powerful foreshadowing of the cross, Jesus tells his disciples to act like servants and take the lowliest seat in the house, and then, when the host arrives, he will publicly show honor by moving them to a higher place. Then, Jesus concludes, “you will be honored  [lit., there will be glory, doxa, to you] in the presence of all your fellow guests” (Luke 14:10).” [3]

In subsequent posts, I will be looking a passages from the gospels to identify these important themes of honour and shame. Again we will take testimony from expert theologians and I think we will see that Jerome Neyrey is right in asserting that shame and honour are significant in the life and parables of Jesus.

[1] J. H. Neyrey, “Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew,” (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998). See for example, the man without the wedding garment (Matt. 22:11-15), the wicked servant (Matt. 24:51), or the unprepared virgins ( Matt. 25:12).

[2] Timothy C. Tennent: “Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology;” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007, p87.

[3] Ibid., p87.

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