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Yet in the perception of the ancients, honor, like all other goods, existed in quite limited supply Foster: There was only so much gold, so much strength, so much honor available. When someone achieved honor, it was thought to be at the expense of others. Philo, for example, condemns polytheism, because in honoring others as deities, the honor due to the true God is diminished: "God's honour is set at naught by those who deify mortals" Ebr. When John's disciples lament to their master that Jesus is gaining more disciples and honor, they understand that Jesus' gain must be John's loss.

John confirms this, "He must increase, but I must decrease" John Thus claims to honor by someone will tend to be perceived as threats to the honor of others, and thus needs to be challenged, not acknowledged. Philotimia or love of honor was a powerful driving force in antiquity. We are particularly interested in how this was played out in the rather ordinary circumstances of life.

Honor must be both claimed and acknowledged.

The Gospel of John within Christian Thought - Stirling Theological College

After all, it is the respect one has in the eyes of others. But honor claims are vulnerable to challenge, not acknowledgement. Challenges must be met with an appropriate riposte or honor is lost. All such claims, challenges, and ripostes take place in the public domain, and their verdict of success or failure determines the outcome of these games of challenge and riposte Malina ; Malina and Neyrey a, Claim, challenge, riposte and verdict, then, constitute the formal elements in the endless contests for honor and respect.

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Thus far we have discussed "honor," but we must be equally aware of "shame. The grammar of honor presented above can be reversed to describe "shame. In terms of ascribed shame, a magistrate may declare one guilty and so worthy of public flogging 2 Cor ; a king may mock and treat one with contempt Luke God may declare one a "Fool! Thus elites and those in power may declare one honorless and worthy of contempt: ". Yet shame may be achieved by one's folly or by cowardice and failure to respond to a challenge.

One may refuse to participate in the honor-gaining games characteristic of males, and thus bring contempt on oneself.

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The bodily grammar for honor works also for shame. If the honorable parts of the body, the head and face, are struck, spat upon, slapped, blindfolded or otherwise maltreated, shame ensues. If the right arm, symbol of male power and strength, is bound, tied or nailed, the resulting powerlessness denotes shame. If one is publicly stripped naked, flogged, paraded before the crowds, and led through the streets, one is shamed.

Shame results when one's blood is intentionally spilled, but especially when one is killed by another. Since there are two parties competing in the passion narrative, there are two perceptions of what is occurring. The enemies of Jesus bind, slap, spit upon, blindfold, flog, strip, and kill Jesus; their actions are all calculated to "mock" and "revile" him.

In their eyes they have shamed Jesus. But the gospel, while it records these actions and gestures of shame, tells quite a different story. In the evangelist's eyes, Jesus' shame and humiliation is truly the account of his glory: "Ought not the Christ suffer and so enter into his glory" Luke ; see Acts ; Heb Indeed, in the Fourth Gospel, his death is regularly described as glory and glorification John ; ; ; see Or, to paraphrase Paul, foolishness, weakness and shame in human eyes are wisdom, strength and honor in God's eyes 1 Cor , Thus the story of Jesus' shame is ironically understood by his disciples as his "lifting up," his exaltation, his enthronement, in short, his honor.

The issue might be rephrased: Who gets to judge whether the crucifixion is honor or shame? If the public verdict rests with the Judeans, then Jesus is shamed.


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But if God gives a riposte or if Jesus demonstrates power by his death, then the community of believers renders Jesus a verdict of honor. This ironic perspective is part and parcel of the principle that Jesus constantly narrates, that last is first, least is greatest, dead is alive, shame is honor Duke , Hence, two perspectives need to be distinguished as we read the account of Jesus' crucifixion: in the eyes of outsiders and enemies, his crucifixion is unqualified shame!

But in the eyes of his disciples, it is ironic honor! Let us now take these abstract notions of honor and shame and use them as an exciting and illuminating lens for perceiving the passion narrative of Jesus, the honorable one. Arrest Although capture and arrest normally denote dishonor, this narrative presents a scene of honor both displayed and maintained. First of all, honor means power and control de la Potterie In this regard, when the cohort approaches Jesus, he steps forward to take charge of the events.

By claiming that "Jesus knew all that was to befall him" , the narrator signals Jesus' control of the situation see Moreover, he questions the powerful forces gathered against him: "Whom do you seek? At his remark, "I am he," the soldiers "drew back and fell to the ground" , leaving Jesus standing. Honor is thus signalled by bodily posture. Commentators regularly note that Jesus' "I AM" can be read as the divine name which he is granted to use Neyrey Falling to the ground characterizes human reactions in the presence of the glory of God Ezek ; or at least an honor-bestowing posture in the presence of a superior person Dan ; Rev At a minimum, Jesus enjoys such a prominent and honorable status that armies fall at his feet.

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Even if Dodd is correct that the narrator is drawing on psalms describing how one's foes stumble and fall when attacking Dodd: , nevertheless some vindication or riposte to a challenge is evident. If this language describes Jesus' heavenly status, then he enjoys the same honor as God, an honor which God commands To use God's name, "I AM," might be considered as an act of power; and honor is always attached to power.

The narrator repeats the sequence of events in , which doubles the impression of Jesus' strength and honor. His control of the situation extends even to his command about the safe departure of his disciples: "Let these others go" Weak people do not tell a cohort of Roman soldiers what to do. This proves, moreover, that his word of honor is trustworthy: "This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, 'I did not lose a single one of those you gave me'" Thus the narrator presents Jesus firmly in control: knowing all that will happen, asking questions, controlling events, giving commands, and receiving profound respect from his would-be assailants.

He is without doubt the most honorable person in the situation. Jesus' commanding posture reminds the reader of the Noble Shepherd discourse, where he disavowed that he was a victim and claimed power even over death: "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" Since power is one of the public indices of honor, Jesus' ability to protect his sheep as well as his power to lay down his life indicate that he suffers no shame whatever here.

Nothing happens against his will, so he is in no way diminished. Yet others in the narrative see the scene differently. Simon Peter draws his sword and strikes at one of the arresting crowd, which we must interpret as his riposte to the perceived challenge to Jesus' honor. In other circumstances, his action would be labelled an honorable act, namely, the defense of one's leader against an honor challenge.

Jesus himself states this: "If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I not be handed over to the Jews" Normally failure to respond to a challenge is shameful, but here Jesus explains that it is precisely out of honor that he refuses to resist, that is, out of respect for the will of his Father: "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?

Peter's riposte, then, is unnecessary; for, as obedient son, Jesus' honor is not threatened. Indeed, it belongs to the virtue of andreia or courage to endure what must be endured Seeley: And courage of this sort is an honorable thing.

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Jewish Investigation , Outsiders see only that Jesus has lost power: "The cohort seized Jesus and bound him" His captors take him to the private chambers of Annas, a very powerful enemy, who questions Jesus. Recall that questions are generally challenges. When questioned, Jesus delivers a bold response: "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together" Jesus claims that he has acted as an honorable man, always appearing in the appropriate male space, the public arena, and speaking boldly and clearly.

In contrast, this gospel declares as shameful people who are afraid to speak openly about the Christ ; ; see Phil The narrative interprets Jesus' bold speech as a riposte to Annas' challenging questions. Jesus commands his interrogator, "Ask those who have heard me. They know what I said" This occasions a severe counter-challenge from one of the officers standing by, who "struck Jesus with his hand" v.

The gesture was surely a slap in the face, thus giving an "affront" to Jesus. It is similar to the blows given Jesus according to the synoptic accounts Matt ; Mark ; Luke ; see Matt But Jesus is not silenced or humbled as was Paul, when struck by Annas' servant Acts He gives an appropriate riposte, "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me? Thus he withstands the insult and continues to speak boldly, even having the last word. Roman Trial The very fact of being put on trial can itself be an honor challenge, simply because the accused experience their claims to honor name, worth, reputation to be publicly challenged.

We modern people at times have idealized trials as occasions not only to clear one's name, but to put the system itself on trial, that is, to challenge the challenger. Our judicial process, moreover, functions on the presumption of innocence. Not so the ancients, where guilt was presumed. It was inherently shameful to be seized and publicly charged with wrongdoing, "This man The trial episode can be described as an extended game of charge and refutation or challenge and riposte.

This occurs on several levels. First, those who deliver Jesus engage in their own challenge-riposte game with Pilate. Pilate claims the honor of procurator and magistrate as he questions them "What accusation? They challenge him by asserting their own power "If this man were not an evildoer For the moment Pilate wins, as they are forced to admit their own powerlessness and Pilate's power: "It is not lawful for us This challenge-riposte game between Pilate and the Judeans will continue in and , But the main contest focusses on the formal process of Jesus before Pilate, which is itself an elaborate game of challenge and riposte.

Commentators note the alternation of scenes in the trial from outside to inside, and even the chiastic shape of the narrative. Raymond Brown provides the following arrangement for minor variations, Giblin, Commentators, moreover, are wont to contrast these scenes as "public" outside and "private" inside. And even if the narrative action occurs "within" the Roman compound, it is still a "public" place occupied by Roman soldiers, and not the "private" world of the household cf.

Dodd's remark that there are two stages, "a front stage and a back" 96 , seems more accurate.

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It helps to articulate that all events here are "public" and so honor is always at risk. Yet the narrative distinction between "going within" and "going out" serves to distinguish the various scenes and different audiences. The "outside" public scenes are the honor contests between Pilate and the Judeans.

go to site The so-called "inside" scenes, which comprise the cognitio of the trial between judge and the accused, are also public in that they occur in the public forum of the Roman courtyard or praetorium, whether this be the fortress Antonia Josephus, Ant. The "outside" crowds are informed of the results of the "inside" contest, which affects their challenge-riposte game with Pilate. The honor-shame dynamic, then, occurs on both "stages," but between different sets of contestants.


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