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Semeia 68: Honor and Shame in the World of the Bible

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Semeia is an experimental journal devoted to the exploration of new and emergent areas and methods of biblical criticism. Studies employing the methods, models, and findings of linguistics, folklore studies, contemporary literary criticism, structuralism, social anthropology, and other such disciplines and approaches, are invited. Although experimental in both form and content, Semeia proposes to publish work that reflects a well defined methodology that is appropriate to the material being interpreted.

Resource Experts
  • Key perspectives on biblical criticism
  • Includes bibliographies and index

Top Highlights

“‘Honor’ is a positive social value. It is the status which a person claims, in combination with the social group’s affirmation of that claim. Conversely, for a person to make a claim of honor and then be rebuffed by the community results in the individual being humiliated, labeled as ridiculous or contemptuous, and treated with appropriate disdain. In other words, honor is not simple self-esteem or pride; it is a status-claim which is affirmed by the community. It is tied to the symbols of power, sexual status, gender, and religion. Consequently, it is a social, rather than a psychological, value.” (Page 83)

“Yet neither makarisms nor reproaches can be properly understood apart from their place in an honor/shame value system, the pivotal values of the Mediterranean.” (Page 82)

“I am arguing here that the terminologies of Hebrew אַשְׁרֵי (‘honorable’) and הוֹי (‘shameful’), and their Greek counterparts μακάριος and οὑαι are part of the larger word-field of ‘honor and shame’ (see e.g., Hebrew בָּרַוּד ‘honor’ and בּשֶׁת ‘shame’; and Greek τιμῆ ‘honor’ and αἰσχύνη ‘shame’). Thus, of those listed above Talbert’s translation is the closest in capturing the sense of honor/shame values.” (Page 87)

“Malina calls honor and shame the ‘pivotal values’ of Mediterranean cultures; and Gilmore refers to ‘honor-and-shame’ as a ‘master symbol’ (1987a:17). That is, they are the values-complex in which all other values are grounded.” (Page 82)

“And in this ancient context, the blessing is not merely a promise, but a formal conferring of favor and an empowerment which cannot be taken back or transferred (see Gen 27:30–40). Like the example from Qumran, this text clarifies that cursing is the reciprocal of blessing.” (Page 87)

  • Don C. Benjamin
  • Dianne Bergant
  • John K. Chance
  • K.C. Hanson
  • Gideon M. Kressel
  • Victor H. Matthews
  • Jerome H. Neyrey
  • Ronald Simkins
  • Gary Stansell
  • Title: Semeia 68: Honor and Shame in the World of the Bible
  • Editors: Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin
  • Publisher: Society of Biblical Literature
  • Publication Date: 1996
  • Pages: 164

Victor H. Matthews is Professor of Religious Studies at Southwest Missouri State University. He is the author of Untold Stories of the Bible, The Old Testament: Text and Context, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament Parallels, and The Social World of Ancient Israel.

Don C. Benjamin teaches biblical studies and religion at Arizona State University in Tempe.


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Print list price: $24.95
Save $19.96 (80%)