Reading for the dignity of all: Overcoming the troubling legacy of the Old Testament

L Juliana Claassens


In light of the numerous instances in the Hebrew Bible in which the dignity of its characters are threatened, violated or potentially violated, this article seeks to identify a number of strategies that may be used to read the Bible for the dignity of all so overcoming the Old Testament’s troubling legacy. These strategies have been inspired by the work of Martha Nussbaum who, in one of her recent books, The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age, names three principles that may help a society to become more compassionate in nature and to transcend, what she calls, a narcissistic notion of fear: (1) Political (and I would add religious) principles that express equal respect and dignity for all people (2) Rigorous critical thinking that criticizes inconsistencies that may lead to human rights violations (3) Developing an empathetic or participatory imagination, in which one is able to consider how the world looks from the point of view of a person of a different cultural or religious point of view.


Violence in the Old Testament; Compassion; Martha Nussbaum; Old Testament Ethics. Human Dignity

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ISSN 2413-9467 (online); ISSN 2413-9459 (print)

© 2017 Pieter de Waal Neethling Trust, Stellenbosch.

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