Conflict in Corinth : the appropriateness of honour-shame as the primary social context
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Many recent studies in contemporary social anthropology have noted the vital import of the concepts of honour and shame and how these are able both to generate ideas of social identity within a community, and, in particular, to elucidate patterns of social behaviour. This has been notably evident amongst the communities of the Mediterranean littoral. At the same time, multi-disciplinary research exploring the communities of the Ancient Near East, especially those undertaken by social historians investigating the ancient societies of Israel, Greece, and Rome, have revealed that these, too, lived within the social constraints of honour and shame. These twin concepts are said to have had a profound influence upon such ancient communities, and, for some, are seen to represent the pivotal values of Greco-Roman social life. Unsurprisingly then, these same values are also evident within the narrative discourses of the Old and New Testaments, and a wide number of studies have sought to examine a particular text or social scenario through the lens of honour and shame. But despite having had a voluminous number of monographs and articles written on it, the letter of 1 Corinthians has remained relatively untouched by studies of honour-shame; yet it presents a unique expose of numerous aspects of social life in Greco-Roman first-century CE culture. My aim here is to examine the extent to which the social constraints of honour and shame may have had a direct influence upon the multifarious problems of social behaviour so evident within the community (not least the factionalism and strife which caused so many internal problems). In so doing, it presents a fresh reading of the letter, and the thesis it proposes is that the honour-shame model provides an appropriate and compelling framework within which to view the letter holistically within its social context.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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