Taking Louise Lawrence’s ethnographic study of the Gospel of Matthew as a starting point, this article questions whether the structure vs. agency debate in social theory can be settled by proclaiming (or presupposing) one over the other. Indeed, sociological theory has been moving towards recognizing that society, and alongside it culture, must include both. This theoretical question matters for our understanding of the New Testament world. Can we, for instance, assume a single ratio of structure to agency for the ancient and the modern worlds? I suggest that other aspects of a culture should be brought to bear on this question, namely collectivism and individualism. Surely, a collectivistic culture (the biblical world) will operate with a different degree of structure than will an individualistic culture (North America and parts of Europe).

Additional Metadata
Keywords agency, Gospel of Matthew, honour and shame, individualism, social-scientific criticism, sociology, Structure, VOM
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/0142064X07076306
Journal Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Citation
Crook, Z. (2007). Structure versus Agency in Studies of the Biblical Social World: Engaging with Louise Lawrence. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 29(3), 251–275. doi:10.1177/0142064X07076306