In the Mentionables Conference of 2018, Mentionable Nick Peters delivered a brilliant talk about how the understanding of the Bible is greatly clarified if one understands the culture out of which it sprang. His specific claim was that, from Genesis to Revelation, the cultural perspective was one of Honor or Shame versus a more modern understanding of Guilt or Innocence.
That is to say that, in the culture of the time, one would accrue honor through one’s deeds and associations. In the same way, one would bring shame upon themselves. Of course, the desire of each person was to maximize honor and minimize shame.
With this understanding, it is easy to see how each individual in scripture worked for honor or for shame.
One particular aspect of this honor/shame culture was that of association. The reader can easily see how individuals would align themselves with gods and kings whom they thought were the most honorable, and how, often, they labored to bring shame upon kings and gods that opposed their chosen alignments.
An easy example might be the ten plagues of Egypt, each of which was calculated to shame one of the many gods the Egyptians worshiped. The Nile, itself, was a god to the Egyptians, and so turning it to blood shamed this god. Another god of the Egyptians was a frog-entity, and so the plague of frogs showed that Yahweh was in control of even these beasts. And on it goes.
So far as kings and princes go, one may see this honor/shame dynamic in how people would grovel before the king of their choice – as offering the king your honor was sure to bring honor upon yourself by association. Whereas in battle one may often see the winning king capturing and humiliating the losing king – thusly bringing shame upon the kingdom itself.
This exact dynamic of honor/shame is still understood to some extent in modern culture. After the American election of 2016, the slogan of “Not My President,” was a very common. Why? Because a significant portion of the country was deeply ashamed of the candidate that had won, and wanted to disassociate themselves from him. It was understood that the words and deeds of this (or any other) president reflected upon the country and every individual calling themselves Americans.
This understanding of honor and shame through association goes a long way toward answering a festering question directed at Christendom. That question being: why would God judge me for the sin of Adam? Why am I responsible for some other person’s actions?
As the honor/shame dynamic suggests, the shameful actions of Adam bring shame to the human race by way of association. So long as one chooses allegiance to Adam, they inherit the shame associated therewith – just as those born Americans might bear shame by way of association with a shameful government.
The solution to this problem is as simple as saying “not my president.” One renounces one’s association with Adam and, instead, associates themselves with a governor who brought honor upon himself. The Biblical suggestion is that this person is Christ Jesus.