Between honor and shame : martyrdom in 2 Maccabees 6–7 within the socio–cultural arena
Hefer, Barend Joachim
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The study, “Between honor and shame: Martyrdom in 2 Maccabees 6-7 within the socio-cultural arena”, presents a look at how the community viewed martyrdom in 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:42 from the perspective of honor and shame. The chief objective is to determine whether or not the community supported or challenged the notion of the martyrs’ death being either honorable or shameful. In order to reach a satisfactory conclusion to this objective, this study set as goals the identification of key themes which shed light upon the views of the community in regard to the martyrs, as well as the investigation of the community’s understanding of honor and shame found in 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:42. This study incorporates a contextual analytical method comprising of an analysis of sociocultural vocabulary, an analysis of the socio-cultural vocabulary within the Greek text of 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:42 and a synthesis of the analysis of both the socio-cultural and the Greek context. As criteria for the study of the socio-cultural context the aspects of sacred-profane, pure-impure, the patron-client relationship and the relationship between individual and group(s) are implemented. Core-findings of this study may be divided into two main categories: evidence in defence of an honorable conduct during death, and evidence in defence of the dishonorable manner of death. Evidence in defence of honorable conduct during death, are: • The martyrs remain completely loyal and devoted to God (their Chief-Patron), His laws and • the customs of the forefathers. • They are portrayed as being bodily whole. • They safeguard their set-apartness. • They remain pure – especially in the ritualistic sense. • As individuals belonging to the collected identity of various groups, the martyrs prove themselves loyal and honorable. Evidence in defence for the dishonorable manner in which the martyrs die, are: • Torture was deemed disgraceful by the community and would therefore degrade honor. • Mutilation went into the very fabric of the wholeness of the body by destroying the bodily unity, thereby disqualifying a person to come into the realm of the sacred. • Certain members of the community would regard the martyrs’ rejection of the lesser patrons’ favor as disrespectful and therefore as dishonorable conduct. Despite this evidence, it is still found that the community could remain undecided on how to judge the martyrs and martyrdom. Therefore, it is proposed, and successfully implemented, that an emotional argument might be the key to tipping the scale toward viewing the martyrs and martyrdom as honorable. It must therefore be concluded that the community would have indeed challenged the notion of martyrdom being honorable, for torture and mutilations in themselves, were regarded as being disgraceful. Yet the community would have been persuaded to accept the honor of the martyrs because of their honorable conduct and the emotional appeal made by the author of Maccabees.
- Humanities