(D1) Divine Violence: Religious-Historical and Reception-Hermeneutical Analyses of the Images of God in the Hebrew Bible

The discussion of violence of the last few years, conducted in many areas, has brought the realisation that religion in particular contains a high and dangerous potential for violence. It is also uncontested that the images of God in the three monotheistic religions with common religious-historical roots are so strongly impregnated with violence that it must be fundamentally asked beyond all apologetic attempts at explanation, what function the language of divine violence has in their respective symbol systems. Connected to this the question arises of whether and how these religions can develop a potential from within themselves for controlling the systemically immanent violence in such a way that “divine violence” does not become realised as human violence.

The outlined horizon of questions is to be concentrated upon the images of God in the Hebrew Bible and their reception in the New Testament and in Rabbinical Judaism, and is to be constructed in three steps:

  1. The basis is a detailed textual analysis of all sources in the Hebrew Bible that deal with divine violence. The central point is not the question of the historicity but of the exact recording of their semantics and textual pragmatics.
  2. The high proportion of images of God that contain violence in the Hebrew Bible requires a cultural studies and religious interpretation. The functions of these images of violence in the religious symbol system of Israel will be classified and evaluated, also with regard to feminist lines of inquiry.
  3. The complex reception history of divine violence will be traced on the basis of a number of significant patterns of reception in antiquity and in the present era (for example in prayers and hymns as well as political rhetoric) in order to develop from these a hermeneutic of religiously motivated violence and ways of dealing with it. In addition, the theologically and socially explosive question of the explicitly and implicitly violent content in all talk of God will be discussed.