Is the “honour/shame” dynamic of the 1st century as foreign to us as it seems?

Chris Hutchison on October 5, 2020

Yesterday we briefly talked about the “shame” mentioned in Matthew 1:19, and how honour and shame were such significant experiences in the culture of the first century.

For many years, it’s been assumed by scholars that while the world of the first century was largely based on honour/shame, and while the same is true of many Eastern cultures in the world today, here in the West we tend to be more concerned about other experiences—like innocence and guilt—more so than honour and shame.

This may have been true in the past, but in recent yers the West appears to be taking on more and more characteristics of an honour/shame culture. Those of you who are familiar with social media know how the experience of “shaming” is so prevalent today, and how people can have their entire careers and public lives “cancelled” if they do or say something outside of the accepted norms.

This is what the experience of “shame” is like in an honour/shame culture, and is along the lines of what being “shamed” could have been like for Mary.

Abdu Murray, a senior VP for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, wrote an excellent article for the Gospel Coalition in which he explains how honour/shame dynamics have taken a hold here in the West, and how we as Christians should respond. I recommend it highly:

Cancel culture is a Western version of the East’s honor-shame culture dynamics. Jesus answers both.


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Chris Hutchison is lead pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Nipawin, SK. Have any feedback or questions about what you've read here? Get in touch at .

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