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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2009

11-06-'09 | W.A. Lategan

The theological dialectic of Creation and death in Hebrew Bible wisdom traditions
PhD student

W.A. Lategan

Date and time

11 June 2009, 1.15 p.m.

PhD thesis

The theological dialectic of Creation and death in Hebrew Bible wisdom traditions


Prof. E. Noort


Dr J.T.A.G.M. van Ruiten

Dr M. Popović

Creation and death in Hebrew Bible wisdom traditions

Werner Lategan investigated how the themes of Creation and death are theologically related within the Hebrew Bible wisdom traditions, focusing in particular on a selection of extraordinary texts: Psalm 104, Job 3 and Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8. The crucial factor in the research is the relationships between the various texts and their attitudes towards Creation, death, God and man, and how this diversity can be meaningfully expressed in a biblical theology based on dialogue. All attempts to integrate the various theological positions within the wisdom tradition into one framework are therefore dismissed. The proposition in this PhD thesis is that the theological potential of the Hebrew Bible lies in its theological diversity.

Lategan’s thesis consists of two parts. The first part discusses the role that death plays within Creation and towards God as the Creator in Psalm 104, Job and Ecclesiastes (Qohelet) on the basis of detailed exegesis and thematic discussions. This results in a variety of theological attitudes towards death within the framework of the Creation and towards God as Creator. In the second part, Lategan argues that the various theological standpoints indicated in the first part cannot and should not be brought in line – diversity should prevail. The second part of the problem definition is mainly discussed in the concluding chapter, which consecutively deals with the themes of Creation, Creator, death and the relationship between Creation and death, and the most important points from the standpoints of the three texts are emphasized.

Werner Lategan (South Africa, 1975) studied theology at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and conducted his PhD research at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies with an Uboo Emmius grant. He currently works at the University of Stellenbosch.

The wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Bible is consistent in its portrayal of death as final. This notion is expressed in a variety of ways, as exemplified by the analysis of specific texts, namely Psalm 104, Job 3 and Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8. The analysis of these texts illustrates that the wisdom tradition allows for a diversity of responses to the question concerning the place of death in Creation and death’s relation to the Creator. Privilege should be given to this theological diversity, rather than incorporating these diverse responses within an all-encompassing framework. The wisdom tradition is also persistent in directing attention to life in the present and does not entertain the notion of a meaningful existence after death, or that of a future bodily resurrection coinciding with divine judgment. Such a persistent focus on life Diesseits illustrates the non-eschatological basis of hope in the wisdom tradition. Such a pre-eminence of life in the present places an ethical imperative on faith communities to contribute to the dissemination of justice and human dignity in the present. In this regard the open-ended and dialogical nature of the wisdom tradition points to alternative avenues for contemporary theological reflection, resisting the modernist quest for absoluteness, and keeping theological debate honest and relevant.


Werner Lategan, + 27 021 808 32 66,


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