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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2004

16-09-'04 | C. de Vos- Wilkens

Lament as a eulogy for God from the depths of despair

The individual psalms of lament are a set of texts within the Book of Psalms in which individuals lament their despair to God – straight from the shoulder, describing their distress in a variety of sometimes rather strong imagery and trying in different ways to urge God to solve their worries. People who pray do not tend to be very humble when lamenting to God. They may accuse Him, for example, that ‘Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps’ (Ps 88:6 [KK1] ), the realm of the dead, and point out to God that the dead cannot ‘arise and praise thee’(Ps 88:10). These images appeal to the imagination and are open to various different interpretations, even today. Feelings of despair are existential, be they feelings of stalking [KK2] , guilt, illness, loneliness or doubt. Praying people see only one solution for their problems: they need God to have mercy on them. Everything depends on the presence or absence of God – if God is absent then despair will fall upon us, but if God is positively near then there is no room for doom and distress. People who pray consider themselves to be fully dependent on God’s actions. They remain entirely passive themselves; the only action they take is to lament. This approach to God is based on the fundamental faith that people have in Him. Even the most desperate lament is therefore still an expression of praise and trust in God – be it from the depths of despair. /GG

Christiane de Vos-Wilkens (Reinbek, Germany, 1963) studied theology in Bielefeld-Bethel, Nürnberg-Erlangen, Neuendettelsau and Hamburg. She conducted her PhD research at the Centre for Religious Studies of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen. Until recently she worked as a minister, and she is currently on leave.

Date and time

Thursday 16 September 2004, 1.15 p.m.

PhD student

C. de Vos-Wilkens

PhD thesis

(Subsequently published in Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2e Reihe, 11, Mohr/Siebeck, Tübingen 2005. X + 261 pp.)

Klage als Gotteslob aus der Tiefe. Der Mensch vor Gott in den individuellen Klagepsalmen


Prof. E. Noort and Prof. H. Spieckermann

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