Joe Hellerman, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Talbot School of Theology, has done considerable research into the patrilineal kinship group system practiced in that culture. Duane Warden's review of Hellerman's book, Ancient Church as Family, provides a useful summary of Hellerman's findings.
The PKG, characteristic of many societies on the world stage, differs in significant ways from the North American kindred family system. Belonging and interpersonal relationships in the PKG system are determined by descent, i.e. on the basis of shared blood. A kindred family system, by contrast, defines itself in terms of the relationships of members to one another and a single living individual. Descent group families understand marriage primarily in contractual rather than affective terms. The strongest bonds within the descent group are expected to be between siblings, not husband and wife. Members of the PKG perpetuate the family name through inheritance, support one another by sharing material and spiritual resources, function as a producing and consuming unit around a patrilocal residence, and uphold the honor of the family vis-a-vis the outside world even at the expense of truth. Given such values, the needs of the family take precedence over the needs of the individual. The PKG system provides a cultural context in which to understand "brother" in Amos. Because "The strongest bonds within the descent group are expected to be between siblings..." breaking the bond of brotherhood is a particularly heinous act. It goes against the very foundations of human existence and dishonors the highest of human values. In this context, the offenses of Tyre and Edom are particularly contemptible. For the northern kingdom of Israel, the recipient and focus of this prophetic work, these transgressions of brotherhood by Tyre and Edom place their transgressions of the covenant with Yahweh as even more heinous and contemptible. As central as the PKG system was to ANE culture, Israel knew full well that the covenant with Yahweh, the one who delivered them from slavery in Egypt, was even more basic. It was the very foundation of their existence. It was the most central part of their identity that they had scorned and against which they had rebelled. Therefore, punishment was justified and certain.
 Ancient Church as Family, The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Jun 2003 by Warden, Duane
Tag(s): new testament studies old testament studies
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