Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture, By David A. deSilva
Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity
  • Length: 408 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: October 04, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0385
  • ISBN: 9781514003855

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For contemporary Western readers, it can be easy to miss or misread cultural nuances in the New Testament. To hear the text correctly we must be attuned to its original context. As David deSilva demonstrates, keys to interpretation are found in paying attention to four essential cultural themes: honor and shame, patronage and reciprocity, kinship and family, and purity and pollution.

Through our understanding of honor and shame in the Mediterranean world, we gain new appreciation for how early Christians sustained commitment to a distinctive Christian identity and practice. By examining the protocols of patronage and reciprocity, we grasp more firmly the connections between God’s grace and our response. In exploring kinship and household relations, we grasp more fully the ethos of the early Christian communities as a new family brought together by God. And by investigating the notions of purity and pollution along with their associated practices, we realize how the ancient map of society and the world was revised by the power of the gospel.

This new edition is thoroughly revised and expanded with up-to-date scholarship. A milestone work in the study of New Testament cultural backgrounds, Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity offers a deeper appreciation of the New Testament, the gospel, and Christian discipleship.

"In Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity, David deSilva equips us to interpret the biblical text more faithfully in its historical context and explores the practical significance of these four vital cultural dynamics. In this second edition, his updates are both expansive and insightful. It no doubt surpasses the first edition as the standard for understanding honor, patronage, kinship, and purity in the New Testament world."

Jackson W., theologian-in-residence, Mission ONE

"David deSilva offers readers a thoroughly revised and expanded new edition of his influential and well-received Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity. What makes this book so important and so worth reading is its emphasis on the data that the 'native informants' provide, rather than the theoretical constructs that modern scholars imagine. DeSilva explores the 'social forms and cultural values that pervaded the Mediterranean cultures during the Greek and Roman periods' and how the culture of the New Testament makes sense in their light. It's the right approach and the results are insightful and rewarding."

Craig A. Evans, John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University

"Reading the New Testament is a crosscultural experience. Thankfully, David deSilva is an expert guide, offering insight into four key areas of the wider world of the early Christians. When students ask me how they can learn to read the New Testament with deeper understanding of the context, this is a textbook I am always quick to recommend. A new, expanded edition is very welcome, offering more insight and reflecting the latest scholarship."

Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary

"Great news—the best book about New Testament cultural values just got better! This book has transformed the way so many people, myself included, read Scripture and engage with people in ministry. Reflecting a deep knowledge of ancient texts, deSilva's keen explanations truly unlock the social and cultural world of early Christians. Aha moments fill each page. So if you want to better interpret Scripture and grow communities that embody biblical values, this is the book to read."

Jayson Georges, author of Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures and The 3D Gospel

"Many others have by now written on these essential themes of the culture in which the New Testament arose. Why another? Because deSilva gives careful attentiveness not only to the biblical world but also to today's social-religious issues. Intended for students and church groups, this book is a model of how to be well documented without being overly academic, and of laying out the social models in such a way that current nonexperts can grasp them and find that in the end, we are all pretty much the same."

Carolyn Osiek, professor of New Testament emerita, Brite Divinity School

"Searching through the great moral teachers of the ancient world—from Aristotle to Seneca, from Musonius Rufus to the Wisdom of Ben Sira, and to so many others—David deSilva guides us through the distinct cultural assumptions of antiquity (i.e., honor, patronage, kinship, and purity). With his sharp exegetical mind, deSilva wisely and carefully encourages interpreters to become more sensitive to the social dynamics of ancient cultural assumptions informing the literature of the New Testament. There is no finer contemporary guide to this vital area of research."

Emerson B. Powery, professor of biblical studies at Messiah University and author of The Genesis of Liberation

"Ever since its first publication, David deSilva's Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity has been an essential resource for understanding the New Testament within its cultural and social contexts. This updated edition has only made it stronger. Not only does it engage with recent secondary literature and contain exegetical nuggets that have been unearthed through further years of writing commentaries and monographs, it also provides astute observations concerning how the message of the New Testament is applicable to our present world. I will be using this book in my class."

Te-Li Lau, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"David deSilva's revision of his Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity, is extraordinary! For example, the second chapter gives many theoretical and practical insights into the function of honor in specific New Testament texts and includes suggestions for contemporary pastors. Especially fascinating to me are chapters five and six, which assist readers in understanding differences between ancient Mediterranean cultures and our own, with a conclusion that has enlightening suggestions to contemporary Christians for applying these insights. This book encourages and makes possible a deeper understanding of early Christianity."

David L Balch, professor emeritus, Graduate Theological Union

"To understand the New Testament authors, it is crucial to comprehend how their writings and rhetoric fit within their own cultural framework. David deSilva assists biblical interpreters by illuminating the four central cultural frames expressed in the title of his work. The cultural journey deSilva leads us on spans from Jewish wisdom literature to Greco-Roman household codes to Roman imperial ideology and everything in between. At every turn, he harnesses these cultural frames to help us understand more deeply the New Testament authors and their messages. A must-read for all serious interpreters of the Bible."

Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota

"David deSilva's expanded and updated revision of his classic book highlights for a new generation of readers the sensation created by its original publication. For the first time it contextualized the New Testament documents against four of the driving cultural forces of antiquity (honor, patronage, kinship, and purity), paying meticulous attention to the ancient sources and drawing on modern sociology for further exegetical insights. The reader is swept up by the motivations animating the private and public life of the ancients, thereby exposing the ethical and social challenge posed by the countercultural gospel of the first believers. A masterpiece relaunched."

James R. Harrison, professor of biblical studies and research director at the Sydney College of Divinity

Read an Excerpt


Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition

Introduction: Cultural Awareness and Reading Scripture
1. Honor and Shame: Connecting Personhood to Group Values
2. Honor and Shame in the New Testament
3. Patronage and Reciprocity: The Social Context of Grace
4. Patronage and Grace in the New Testament
5. Kinship: Living as a Family in the First-Century World
6. Kinship and the "Household of God" in the New Testament
7. Purity and Pollution: Ordering the World Before a Holy God
8. Purity and the New Testament

Resources for Further Study
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index
Ancient Writings Index


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David A. deSilva

David A. deSilva (PhD, Emory University) is Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary. He is the author of over thirty books, including An Introduction to the New Testament, Discovering Revelation, Introducing the Apocrypha, and commentaries on Galatians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. He is also an ordained elder in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.