Mediterranean Kinship Groups
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Honor and Shame
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Mediterranean Kinship Groups

Eyes of ShameAll Mediterranean kinship groups had a social system of honor and shame. Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch asserted in "Families in the New Testament World - Households and House Churches" that "a common cultural heritage in Mediterranean societies held that the fundamental values of these families revolved around honor and shame in social relationships through sex and gender roles. Accordingly, male and female systems are distinctly different yet totally involved in the kinship groups with each other."

Maintaining Power Status

Kinship in EuropeMale honor in kinship groups consisted in maintaining the status, power, and reputation of the male members over against the threats that may have been thrown against it by outsiders. Each exchange between males of different kinship groups was seen as a contest for honor. Within the kinship group, the absolute loyalty and deference of each male member was expected, according to his proper role in the hierarchy of authority within the family. Aggressiveness, virility, sexual prowess, and the production of sons were important components in Mediterranean society. The crucial thing, both for individual males and for families, was that one's claim to status and power was matched by other's perception. This was the coherence of ascribed and attributed honor. To have claimed greater honor than was recognized by others would have incurred the shame of one who did not know his place in society. The Old and New Testaments emphasize the importance of honor and shame in society. Isaiah 54.4 said, "you will not be ashamed, you will not suffer disgrace." Psalm 62.7 added, "My salvation and honor depend upon God." Finally, Saint Paul added in Romans 10.11, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."

"Honor and Shame"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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