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Honoring Parents in Jesus’ Time: Putting Together Part 2 of My Dissertation

Photo courtesy of The Houses of Ancient Israel at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East

Part 2 of my dissertation is titled: The Period of the New Testament Formation (see the rest of the Table of Contents HERE). The excerpt that follows speak of my basis in putting together the contents of [my] Part 2.

Terms used in the excerpt below:

The Elterngebot is the biblical commandent on parents, in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.

The Apocrypha (as called by the Protestants) is the Deuterocanonicals (as called by the Catholics and Orthodox).

The Pseudepigrapha are writings that are in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, done before 200 BC) and the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible, first done before 400 AD) but are not in the Protestant canon of the Bible.

To ask how the theme of honoring parents stood during the people’s daily life in the New Testament period is different from asking how it was dealt with in the New Testament.

Within the New Testament writings, the Elterngebot is quoted in Mt 15:4 and 19:19; Mk 7:10 and 10:19; Lk 18:20. Its theme can also be discerned from passages that are concerned with an adult child’s dealings with parents, like Jesus’ statements in Mt 12:48 or Mk 10:29. To ask about the Elterngebot, or its equivalent theme of honoring parents, during the New Testament period involves looking at writings that are contemporaneous with the New Testament literature.

This means that not only are the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings relevant but also those of the earliest Church Fathers. Furthermore, these writings are historically situated within the Greco-Roman world—of the Hellenistic rule that ended in 135 BC in Palestine, of the Hasmonean dynasty that came after, and of the centuries of Roman rule that started in 64 BC. These writings are related through the common denominators of the Yahwist-Jewish foundation and the Greco-Roman setting.

Moreover, Hengel says: “Not only the Jews of the Greek-speaking Diaspora but also Judaism in the Palestinian motherland since the Ptolemaic rule in the third century BC may be called ‘Hellenistic Judaism,’ and this is even more true for the Roman era since Herod […] Therefore it is misleading to distinguish fundamentally between a ‘Palestinian Judaism’ in the motherland and ‘Hellenistic Judaism’ in the Diaspora as is still usual.”[1]

After having seen how paramount the act of honoring parents in the Old Testament is, it may be possible to determine as to what degree the Elterngebot has remained important after many centuries since the settlement of early Israel in Canaan, and after being influenced by foreign cultures for decades, by looking at a few New Testament narratives. Such a discussion requires taking a glimpse first at the social conditions during Jesus’ time in Israel.

[1] Martin Hengel, “Judaism and Hellenism Revisited,” in Hellenism in the Land of Israel [Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, vol. 13], ed. John J. Collins, & Gregory E. Sterling (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), 7.


Siacor, Mona Lisa. The Significance of the Elterngebot (Iloilo City: CPU Press, 2017), at the end of Part 1.

Photo courtesy of The Houses of Ancient Israel at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East

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