Honor and shame in Scripture: A review of Jackson Wu’s new book, “Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission”

"...as soon as we discover what our Western eyes were missing, we realize that switching prescriptions has the potential to blind us to other realities in the text. Reading the Bible with Eastern eyes is no panacea, for the Bible is neither purely Eastern nor Western." - TGC

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Bert Perry's picture

One thing that is particularly relevant here is the notion of a "high context" culture vs. our "low context" culture.  A picture of this; I texted my daughter one time "it's 11pm", not just telling her the time, but suggesting to her that it was time to get home, and if she was losing track of time, she might want to figure out how to track it better.

You will see this all over all around the Mediterannean, and I've learned it in vivid detail both going to a mostly Chinese-American church for two summers, and in interacting with colleagues in engineering over the past quarter century.  It's worth noting that U.S. engineers like myself can really have trouble with this, as we tend to be "lower context" to begin with since we love our noses in a book or in the lab to begin with, and then we come from a "lower context" culture.  Interacting with engineers from places like India can be quite challenging at first.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

I'm always a bit wary of "Eastern vs Western" dichotomies. Not only because of tendencies toward oversimplifications and sweeping generalizations, but also because often what's really being contrasted are modern vs traditional societies.

Just as one example, if we think that honor/shame have played an insignificant role in Western societies, consider the historical reality of the duel. As recent as our Founding Fathers, people were willing to shoot or be shot for honor/shame.

The radical individualism that characterizes our current society cannot be separated from the technological and social upheavals of the past several generations, so we must be cautious when making East vs West comparisons.

Aaron Blumer's picture


The contrasts can be exaggerated. Still, there are real differences. I appreciate the writer's effort to find value in Wu's analysis yet maintain some caution.

As a committed believer in the superiority of Western culture, I'm biased that way. We've all got biases culturally and I'm happy to own that one.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.