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The ancient Mediterranean values of honour and shame as a hermeneutical procedure: A social-scientific criticism in an African perspective

E. Mahlangu

Verbum et Ecclesia; Skrif en Kerk: Vol 22, No 1 (2001), 85-101. doi: 10.4102/ve.v22i1.625

Submitted: 11 August 2001
Published:  11 August 2001


The life of modern people evolves around economics and all that goes with it, such as labour, production, consumption and possessions. These things do not only motivate many peoples' behaviour, but claim most of their energy and time. Therefore, the organising principle of life of people today is instrumental mastery - the individual's ability to control his or her environment, personal and impersonal, to attain a qualityorientated success: wealth, ownership, "good looks" proper grades, and all countable indications of success. But, in the first century Mediterranean world, economics was not the be-all and end-all. People worked primarily to conserve their status and not to gather possessions. Thus, the pivotal values of the first century Mediterranean world was honour and shame. This article looks at how social-scientific critics have attempted to show how the understanding of these values would lead to an understanding and interpretation of the New Testament. In this article the author approaches this paradigm from an African perspective. It is shown that the African interacts and transacts with the New Testament with his/her own value system in which these values are also encountered. This, therefore, makes the reading of the Bible in an African context possible.

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Author affiliations

E. Mahlangu, University of Pretoria, South Africa



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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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