Sabbatum Excerpt: Richard Rohrbaugh on the Ascribed and the Acquired Honor of Jesus


It is safe to say that in telling the story of Jesus both the ascribed and acquired honor of Jesus were of first priority on the agendas of Matthew and Luke. Both of them wrote for literate, urban audiences who expected to read a story of an honorific person. So how were they to gain a hearing when their story is actually one about a lowly village artisan (Mark 6:3)? Moreover, the actual circumstances of Jesus’s birth were potentially embarrassing. In the audiences of Matthew and Luke a carpenter’s son from a village like Nazareth was the kind of person who should be listening, not speaking.

The strategy both Matthew and Luke follow is to move Jesus as far up the honor scale as possible. Moreover, in attempting to do this they each had two basic options. One would be to address the ascribed honor of Jesus, the other to address his acquired honor. Matthew and Luke actually make bold use of both options, …. We shall describe Matthew’s arguments about Jesus’s ascribed honor and then later Luke’s regarding his acquired honor. Each is key in the respective author’s rhetorical strategy.[1]

[1] Richard L. Rohrbaugh, “Honor: Core Value in the Biblical World” in Understanding the Social World of the New Testament, ed. Dietmar Neufeld and Richard E. DeMaris (London: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group, 2010), 120.

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