Family Relations in the Gospel of Mark

by Narry F. Santos (Author)
©2021 Monographs XVI, 210 Pages


The social values of honor and shame, which have attracted much research from cultural anthropology and New Testament studies for the past five decades, is the main focus of the book. This book proposes the need to combine major contributions of narrative, rhetorical, and cultural anthropological approaches to trace the development of the twofold honor-shame concept throughout the Marcan narrative—with special attention to family relations. Though adequate social-scientific and socio-rhetorical studies in Mark’s Gospel (even in relation to honor and shame) have been conducted, there are still few scholarly monographs that trace the honor-shame motifs from the start to the end of the narrative through the use of helpful insights from literary methods and heuristic models (e.g., challenge-riposte; patron–client relation). Thus, this book seeks to undertake this kind of research. It argues further that Mark intends to reverse the content of the honor-shame value system of his audience by means of narrative reversal and family relativization. Such dramatic redefinition basically turns this value system upside-down, especially in relation to the natural family and the new fictive family of Jesus. Finally, the book unpacks how Mark persuades his readers to reverse their value system—what they consider as shameful must now be valued as honorable, and what they view as honorable must now be seen as dishonorable. NT scholars, seminary professors, and graduate students will benefit from reading this book, which offers a fresh integrated honor–shame approach in studying Mark’s Gospel from start to finish.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1: Honor and Shame and the Narrative Reversal of Family Relations in the Gospel of Mark
  • Recent Honor and Shame Studies and Integrative Approaches
  • Narrative Reversal of Honor and Shame in the Gospel
  • Chapter 2: Honor and Shame and Family Relations in the First-Century Mediterranean World
  • Overview of Honor and Contests for Honor
  • Overview of Positive and Negative Shame
  • Honor and Shame Embedded in Family, Patronage, and Gender Roles
  • Chapter 3: Honor–Shame Integration and Transformation in the Gospel of Mark
  • Honor–Shame Terms and Related Words, and Jesus’s Names and Titles
  • Challenge–Responses in the Gospel
  • Mark’s Use of Honor from Common Cultural Concepts
  • Honor–Shame Transformations in the Gospel
  • Radical Reversals of Honor–Shame Values
  • Chapter 4: Real Honor and Shame in the New Family of Jesus (Narrative Reversal in Mark 1:1–8:21)
  • Overview of Honor and Shame in Mark 1:1–8:21
  • Call of Jesus’s New Family (1:16–20; 2:13–14; 3:13–19)
  • From First Place to Second Place (3:20–21, 31–35; 6:1–6, 7–31)
  • Chapter 5: Transformation of Honor and Shame in Jesus’s Teaching (Narrative Reversal in Mark 8:22–10:52)
  • Method of Transforming Honor and Shame
  • Overview of Honor and Shame in Mark 8:22–10:52
  • First Honor–Shame Transformed Teaching of Jesus
  • Second Honor–Shame Transformed Teaching of Jesus
  • Third Honor–Shame Transformed Teaching of Jesus
  • Chapter 6: From Jesus’s Shameful Death to Triumphant Honor (Narrative Reversal in Mark 11:1–16:8)
  • Overview of Honor and Shame in Mark 11:1–16:8
  • Predicted Shameful Persecution of the Disciples (13:9–13)
  • Shameful Death Turned into Honor (15:21–39)
  • Chapter 7: Insiders and Outsiders in the Gospel of Mark and Intergroup Boundaries and Conflict with the Marcan Community
  • Summary of the Honor–Shame Narrative Reversal in the Gospel
  • Jesus’s New Fictive Family as Faction
  • Ingroups and Outgroups in the Gospel
  • Social Location and Context of the Marcan Community
  • Group Boundaries and Intergroup Conflict
  • Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Conflict
  • Conclusion
  • Subject Index
  • Scripture Index

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This book project has taken a long journey to be completed. In 2002, I conducted an initial extensive research on honor and shame in the Gospel of Mark during my six-month sabbatical as senior pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship [GCF]–South Metro in the Philippines. This sabbatical at the Tyndale House in Cambridge, England was made possible through a generous grant from the Langham Writers’ Program (LWP) of the John Stott Ministries. I am grateful for the care and support of the then UK LWP Director, Canon Paul Berg, and for the hospitality of Dr. Bruce Winter, the Warden of Tyndale House, at that time. I also extend my thanks to the leadership of the GCF–Toronto (where I later served for seven years as senior pastor) for providing focused time for me to start writing this book in 2012.

After I started serving as seminary faculty at the Tyndale University (Toronto, Canada) in 2017, I had the opportunity to update my research and writing on the same topic. Though much has been written on honor and shame, I discovered that there still remains a need for an integrative approach in the Gospel of Mark to address these two social values, particularly in relation to the cultural concept of family in the first-century Mediterranean world. I am especially thankful to my seminary colleague, Dr. Dennis Ngien, for encouraging me to send this book for publication. Moreover, I am thankful to the editorial team of Peter Lang for ←ix | x→believing in this book and to Dr. Meagan Simpson, the Acquisitions Editor, for her patience and grace throughout the process of revising and editing.

Moreover, grateful acknowledgement is made to the following for granting permission for the reuse of my previous copyrighted publications: (1) Slave of All: Paradox of Authority and Servanthood in the Gospel of Mark. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, © by Bloomsbury, 2003. Reprinted by permission of the publisher; (2) “Paradox of Authority and Servanthood in the Gospel of Mark.” BibS 154 (1997): 452–60 and “Jesus’s Paradoxical Teaching in Mark 8:35; 9:35; and 10:43-44.” BibS 157 (2000): 15–25, ©1977, 2000 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Reprinted by permission of the publisher; and (3) “Family, Patronage and Social Contests: Narrative Reversals in the Gospel of Mark.” SI (2008): 200–24, ©2008 by Trinity Torch Graduate University. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

The three people who sacrificed greatly so that I can write this book are Hazel (my precious wife), Eirene and Kaira (my two lovely daughters). They have been my inspiration to give my best for what God has called me to do. I am utterly honored to be the recipient of their love. To them I give my heartfelt gratitude. Finally, I thank God for giving me wisdom and strength to complete this book and for providing me the privilege to serve him now as full-time faculty in seminary and part-time pastor in two local churches (GCF Peel and GCF York), which Jesus has taught me to love as his honorable fictive family.

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  Honor and Shame and the Narrative Reversal of Family Relations in the Gospel of Mark

The social values of honor and shame have been considered the “core”1 or “pivotal values of first-century Mediterranean world.”2 These twin concepts are so prevalent throughout the Gospel of Mark that an investigation of their development and dynamics needs to be conducted. This study proposes that the Gospel radically redefines the value system of its readers through the narrative reversal of honor and shame in the context of family relations. The narrative reversal seeks to persuade the readers to view as honorable what they have valued as shameful and to regard as dishonorable what they have viewed as honorable.

After presenting a boundary-crossing and integrative method for narrative reversal (Chapter 1) and the first-century Mediterranean concepts of honor and shame and family relations (Chapter 2), this book will discover how the Gospel incorporates and transforms these two social values (Chapter 3) and will trace how the Marcan narrative reversal unfolds from beginning to end, in light the new fictive family of Jesus (Chapters 46). Finally, this study will conclude with a description of the insiders and outsiders in the Gospel as a representation of the Marcan community and reflection of intergroup boundaries and conflict with this community (Chapter 7). Before going through this investigation, we will first overview recent research on honor and shame and various academic methods of study.

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Recent Honor and Shame Studies and Integrative Approaches

For the past fifty years, honor and shame have received focused attention from a number of classicists,3 cultural anthropologists,4 Old Testament5 and New Testament6 scholars. Certain studies have ventured to show the observable presence of honor and shame within the Mediterranean cultures7 of the first-century Greco–Roman world8 and the applicability of exploring honor–shame concepts to biblical studies. Picking up from the insights of cultural anthropology, a group of New Testament scholars9 have applied studies of the honor–shame cultural system to entire New Testament books10 or key passages.11 Later, more biblical scholars have explored the links of the honor–shame values and the biblical texts using social-scientific criticism12 as a tool to bridge the cultural and New Testament worlds. The social-scientific approach has also been used to investigate biblical texts13 and socio-cultural topics aside from honor and shame.14

Recently, efforts to understand the cultural and literary influences of the Greco-Roman world in relation to the New Testament have been undertaken through socio-rhetorical criticism.15 This socio-rhetorical approach has put together the contributions of ancient rhetoric,16 insights from Greco-Roman literature, and cultural values of the Mediterranean society. In addition, the use of the honor discourse in New Testament books has been proposed,17 in order to appreciate the embedded value and influence of honor and shame within the family system.

Integrative Approaches on Honor–Shame Studies

Literary, rhetorical, and cultural anthropological tools have been used to help nuance studies on honor and shame.18 Horrell stresses the need for bringing together historical or social-scientific study with literary methods: “Such attempts to integrate social-scientific and literary methods are important and timely, and point the way to an important direction for continuing research.”19 Gowler concurs with the method of joining rhetorical and social-scientific approaches: “We share a common vision: that New Testament narratives must be read in the context of the literary, social, and ideological environments of the ancient Mediterranean world.”20 Moreover, Barton upholds that social-scientific criticism offers the possibility of enlarging our understanding both of the world behind the text and the narrative world within the text, as well as of ourselves as culturally-embedded interpreters of the text.21


XVI, 210
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 210 pp., 1 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Narry F. Santos (Author)

Narry F. Santos is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Intercultural Leadership at Tyndale University (Toronto, Canada). His PhDs are in New Testament (Dallas Theological Seminary) and Philippine Studies (University of the Philippines); his numerous publications include a monograph on Mark’s Gospel (Slave of All).


Title: Family Relations in the Gospel of Mark
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