The construction of shame in the Hebrew Bible: the prophetic contribution.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis explores the phenomenon of shame in the context of the Hebrew Bible, focusing particularly on the three major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel), because it is here that shame vocabulary is most prevalent.
Shame is prominently discussed in the literature of psychology and anthropology. In the first chapter psychological explanations for the origins of the apparently universal human emotion of shame are described. In the course of this, phenomenological similarities between shame and guilt, grounded in the shared centrality of negative self-evaluation are outlined. The role of shame in social contexts is described with regard to stigma and, more fully, in the second chapter, in the light of socio-anthropological field studies conducted primarily in the Levant. In the Mediterranean studies shame is usually paired with its binary opposite honour. The honour/shame model is characterised especially by defined gender roles and challenge-ripostes. Shame is associated particularly with women's sexuality; honour with competition among men of relatively equal status.
Although the model has been criticised from within the discipline of anthropology, it has generally-speaking been received with enthusiasm by biblical interpreters. In the third chapter shame studies, most of which apply the honour/shame model, are summarised and commented upon. In the fourth chapter, on the Book of Isaiah, the shortcomings of the model are illustrated and the context of shame discourses discussed. The following chapter, on Jeremiah, describes the implications of ideological influences and the role of shame language in the context of sexual metaphors and anti-foreign polemic. The final chapter, on Ezekiel, compares shame with impurity and focuses on the female imagery of chapters 16 and 23.
The complications of imposing modern socio-critical methods upon ancient literature, the possible infiltration of ideological influences and the fact that biblical texts represent neither psychological case nor anthropological field studies are stressed repeatedly.
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