Monthly Archives: December 2013

Matthew 12 (and Luke 13)

Most of the interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees were conducted in public. Both Werner Mischke and Jerome Neyrey (Mischke relying on Neyrey) talk of four steps in what was always a protocol of ‘push and shove’, challenge and riposte:[1]

(1) a claim of worth or value;

(2) a challenge or refusal to acknowledge that claim;

(3) a riposte or defence of the claim; and

(4) a public verdict of success awarded to either claimant or challenger.

Take, for example, Matthew 12:8-16, 23. In this story, we have (1) Jesus claim to honour, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (v8); (2) a challenge to that claim, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Asked so as to open the possibility of accusation! (3) a riposte, in this case in three parts: (a) an indirect response, Jesus paints a picture of a sheep in desperate need, who would not help it, he asks (v11-12); (b) a direct response, “So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (v12); (c) a demonstration of authority, “Then Jesus said to the man [with the withered hand] Stretch out your hand. And the man stretched it out, and it was restored (v13).  The Pharisees lost the contest and this is attested by the response of those present, “And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. … And all the people were amazed, and said, Can this be the Son of David?” (v15, 23).

Mishcke goes comments that “the beauty of the indirect communication, [in this case the story of the sheep] is that it creates space. It allows individuals to save face when giving bad news.”[2] No doubt, it also creates a little breathing space which might allow the protagonist to back down with losing too much face him or herself.

Halvor Moxnes provides an almost identical analysis of a parallel passage in Luke (13:10-17). In Luke the person seeking healing is a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. Nonetheless, the story follows the same structure and Moxnes comments on the same drama of challenge and risposte. He comments that “This is only one of many similar stories about Jesus; throughout the Synoptic Gospels challenge and riposte are a common form of interaction between Jesus and his opponents (cf. Matt 4:1–11; Mark 2:1–12; Luke 4:1–13; 10:25–37).”[3]


[1] Werner Mischke; “Honor and Shame in Cross-Cultural relationships;” p15; Jerome H. Neyrey; “Honour and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew;” p20.

[2] Mischke, op.cit., p17.

[3] Halvor Moxnes; “”Honor and Shame,” in The Social Sciences and New Testament Interpretation, R. L. Rohrbaugh, ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996, p22-23.

N Gauge Loft Layout – Hereford – 2

This next set of photos shows progress after a further year. One control panel (for one of the fiddleyards) has been completed and the wiring is also complete. The second control panel, which controls the station area, is being wired up. About 30℅ of the trackwork is in place. The track is predominantly Code 80, as in some places I have had to use 9″ radius curves and points. Points are a mixture of electrofrog and insulfrog. Virtually all points on the layout will be controlled by wire in tube.
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Matthew 5 and Matthew 23

K. C. Hanson[1] asks us to consider the blessings and woes of Matthew’s Gospel. He comments that the beatitudes (Matt.5:3-12) “are customarily interpreted as Jesus’ authoritative pronouncement of divine blessing on those who embody the listed characteristics. Some scholars have emphasised the eschatalogical nature of these formulas as promises. English translations, however, obscure the linguistic, and therefore the cultural and theological, distinctions between blessings and makarisms.”[2]

Interestingly, in view of our interest in honour and shame, Jerome Neyrey suggests that a better translation of makarioi, traditionally rendered ‘blessed’, or in some recent translations ‘happy’, would be ‘honoured’:

“In Greek the term is “makarism,” which basically means “how honorable” or “how worthy.” It does not mean that this person is “happy” for being thus. Rather the focus is on the approval and worth which Jesus gives to disciples who have had shameful experiences because of him. This may sound strange, but we ought to think of it as Jesus’ validation of and canonization of those who have paid a great price to follow him.”[3]

“Corresponding to the makarisms, the interpretation of the reproaches (or ‘woes’) in Matt.23:13-36 has been similarly misconstrued. Some have/ taken them to be pronouncements of curses or threats, while others treat them as if they were prophecies of judgement or cries of anguish.”[4]

“Makarisms constitute a positive challenge, affirming the honour of another, calling for a subsequent positve response. Reproaches constitute a negative challenge to another’s honour.”[5]  Essentially they are saying, ‘shamed …’ or ‘shameful are they who …’.

Blessings and curses are formal pronouncements by someone in authority, “not only are they formal proclamations, but they are understood as words of power; the words bring the desired result to fruition. … (Numb.22:6).”[6]  “The blessing is not merely a promise, but a formal conferring of favour and an empowerment which cannot be taken back or transferred (cf. Gen.27:30-40).”[7]

Matthew 5:3-10 – The makarisms of Matt.5:3-10 “offer honour … to whomever behaves in like manner. … The second parts identify the grant of honour for those who act appropriately.”[8]

Matthew 23:13-36 – These reproaches or woes “do not include any formal sentence or threat. Their power, therefore, lies in their success at uncovering shameful behaviours, not in legal or theological adjudication. They are implications of shame on specific groups: scribes and Pharisees.”[9]

There are a large number of these ‘makarisms’ throughout scripture and they share a common perspective on honour and shame. [10] What is particularly interesting in Matthew’s Gospel is that Matthew 5:3-10 provides the introduction to Jesus’ public ministry and Matthew 23:13-31 its conclusion. Consequently these makarisms and reproaches form an honour/shame bracket around Jesus’ public teaching!


[1] K. C. Hanson; “How Honourable! How Shameful! A Cultural Anaysis of Matthew’s Makarisms and Reproaches“; in Semeia 68; “Honour and Shame in the World of the Bible“; 1996; pp81-111, cf. Neyrey; op. cit; p164-189.

[2] Ibid., p81.

[3] Jerome H. Neyrey; “Year A: The Gospel of Matthew;” Univeristy of Notre Dame, 7th March 2011. Web. 28th November 2013. http://www3.nd.edu/~jneyrey1/Matthew-a.html.

[4] Hanson., op. cit., p82.

[5] Ibid., p84.

[6] Ibid., p85

[7] Ibid., p87

[8] Ibid., p100

[9] Ibid., p102

[10] Ibid., p104

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.

N Gauge Loft Layout – Hereford – 1

This the first in a series of posts about the N Gauge layout which I have been building in the Vicarage loft.

My first task was to create a room in the loft which was properly insulated. The room is about 14 ft long and takes up about 2/5ths of the length of the loft. Once constructed and insulated with a good electrical supply and lighting, I could begin constructing the layout boards. These have been made in sections that will fit back through the  loft access if needed in the future.

The pictures below show the layout boards taking shape.

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Herefordshire Railways

My interest in full scale railways centres round the railways of Hereford and the county of Herefordshire. The picture above is taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereford_railway_station and shows a 2-6-0 on pilot duty at Barrs Court Station in Hereford in 1959.

Here are a few links that provide an insight into the railways of Herefordshire from the 1850s to the present day:

http://www.bosci.net/LOWV/LOWV%20history%20railways.htm

http://www.archive-images.co.uk/index.gallery.php?gid=39

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/herefordandworcester/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8683000/8683231.stm

http://www.kingslandlife.com/Pages/Village%20History/Railwayhistory.html

https://www.facebook.com/OldHerefordRailwayPhotographs

http://oldherefordpics.blogspot.co.uk/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railways_in_Hereford

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereford_railway_station

https://www.flickr.com/photos/midlandexplorerboy/sets/72157624307645770/

http://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/605.aspx

http://herefordcityheritage.info/html/railway.html

I have been building an N Gauge model of Hereford Station and MPD in the loft of the vicarage. I hope to share more about this in due course.

Luke 8

A while back I came across some notes on Luke 8. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of where I found them. I suspect I was reading a Grove booklet at the time, but I don’t know which one. Perhaps someone will let me know if they recognise the notes below. This is another passage where the dynamics of Shame are central!

All the accounts of Jesus’ meeting with women affirm the value of womanhood to him. The passage in Luke 8 is no exception.

For the wounded one, who has thought her womanhood was a liability or nothing more than a source of shame, this acceptance is in itself a healing.

Enclosed in the story of Jairus’ daughter, this account of the woman who bleeds speaks directly to her sense of shame. Stigmatized and excluded by her embarrassing and uncontrollable state, she comes to Jesus from behind, where he cannot see her, and touches the fringe of his clothes. She does not want to be noticed because in her experience notice usually leads to further shame and rejection. Her condition means that she will make him ritually unclean by her touch, and there is nothing she can do about that, but he still represents hope to her – maybe her last hope.

Who knows what she felt about the fact that she was suffering from this humiliating condition. Did she question God, like job, in the long hours of loneliness? Did she rail against him, or shrug her shoulders in resignation? Was it the will of God that she should suffer this? Or was it her own fault -some past transgression the cause of her present trouble?

She had had ten years to reflect on it – years maybe of bitterness and resent­ment, of physical pain and exhaustion. Years of anger at her helplessness, despite having done all she could to get rid of her shame, despite having given all her money to those who claimed to be able to cure her, but who were in reality just as powerless as she was herself. Perhaps now she had moved beyond all of it, to a place of no feeling at all and no hope, deadened within, until another healer comes to town. And he – what does he do? Does he draw her to one side, as he does with some others who come for his heal­ing, knowing how ashamed she feels? Does he sit down quietly with her alone, to answer her questions and enfold her in a new awareness of the love of God?

The wounded one sees it all in her mind’s eye – sees herself as the shamed woman, cut off from others by the unspeakable things that have happened to her and then sees the Christ turn to the woman, demanding that she be exposed for all to see. There was to be no more hiding away, no more pre­tence that all was well, really. There was to be no collusion between the Anointed One of God, and the religious and social attitudes that kept her isolated and increased her shame. He insisted on bringing her out onto cen­tre stage, into the gaze of all those who had shunned her with their remarkable lack of compassion. His action meant that her shame, the shame of humilia­tion not of penitence, was no longer to be the controlling force in her interior life. The power has gone forth from him, to heal her physical state, drawn forth perhaps by the silent pleading of her heart, but that is not enough for him. She must own her actions, be a grown-up, acknowledge how it is with her – and hold her head up high. The wounded one knows that if he had let the woman remain hidden then the spiritual dis­ease, the shame of humiliation, would have remained untouched and unhealed. While the shame of penitence leads to release, the shame of humiliation can only lead to continued captivity Uncomfortable though it was, it was his love which had restored the woman to wholeness. He knew her concealment was important without being told, he cared enough to do something about it, and he had the power and the desire to do so.

The story offers the wounded one the first hint of the possibility of resurrec­tion – of a new life in which the experiences of the past are not forgotten or discarded, but which might be filled now with the presence of Christ. She opens her heart to the movement of the story, to the movement of Christ within. She hears his word to her of deliverance from shame. The past be­comes charged with life not death. The remembrance of hurt and humiliation is no longer empty of love. It is lit from within by Jesus. Memory now holds the possibility of further healing and of a greater restoration to life. It is more than a simple restoration though, for in this new life she will begin to know herself and God more fully than ever before, and already there is a joy that contrasts completely with her earlier experience. Through the story of the humiliated and rejected woman, Christ himself has touched her wounded place and begun the process of healing. Christ himself is present within the wounded place at last.