Can Mark Richardson prove his allegations about Biblical condemnation of dueling?


Mark Richardson wrote:

Honour isn’t spoken about much anymore in Western cultures, in part because it was embedded most strongly within an aristocratic culture and aristocrats no longer make up the larger part of the ruling class.

Honour does, too, have a negative side. It can make people so conscious of their dignity that they won’t deign to relate to those beneath them; it can encourage people to have such a sense of their own moral worth that they become self-righteous or sanctimonious; and it can make people so self-conscious of their reputation that they will defend it with violence.

Honour at its very worst: the thug who king hits (sucker punches) someone because “they looked at me the wrong way” or the father who kills his own daughter “for besmirching the honour of the family” or (historically) the young men who killed each other in duels because of perceived slights to their reputation.

The Bible very clearly condemns these manifestations of honour. For instance, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, showing that there is no dishonour in serving those beneath his station (this was incorporated into Christian societies – in Austen’s novel Emma the upper-class heroine delivers food hampers to the poor and is rebuked by the hero when she mocks one of the poor women.)

The Bible also tells us to turn the other cheek. There are a number of interpretations of this, but the general sense of the command is that we are not to be easily provoked to violence – hence we are not to turn immediately to violence if we feel that our honour has been slighted in some way.

Richardson clearly understand that the passage he cited is highly ambiguous and many people disagree about what Jesus originally meant.

Jesus’ other comments about violence are even harder to interpret:

However, here is an obvious conflict:

For centuries, Christians knew about the Bible, but practiced dueling.

How were they so incredibly ignorant, and how are modern interpretations known to be better?

If this is just “progressive revelation,” then “progressive revelation” can be stretched to mean “the Bible means whatever we want it to mean.”

Modern Western societies have very little open violence, but a lot of seething rage and hatred and “relational aggression.” I have trouble imagining that civilized duels could possibly be worse.

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