Human dignity in the prophetic traditions: Upholding human worth in a context of dehumanisation


  • LJM Claassens Stellenbosch University
  • M. Juliana



Human dignity, Isaiah, Prophetic literature, Poverty, Justice


This article proposes that the theme of human dignity offers a fruitful avenue to explore the interrelated themes of justice, vocation and human responsibility in the biblical traditions. Human dignity is most evident in the notion of the Imago Dei, i.e., the claim in Genesis 1:26-27 that humans, both male and female, are created in the image of God. This powerful theological claim has led to some rich theological reflection by Christian and Jewish interpreters who have argued for the inherent worth of every human being whose dignity is a gracious gift bestowed by the Creator God. Nevertheless, in the Hebrew Bible there are numerous instances where this dignity of individuals and groups are threatened, obscured and violated. And yet, it is exactly in the midst of these situations of dehumanisation that the conversation on what it means to be human becomes most urgent. For instance, in prophets like Isaiah, it is within the depths of the social justice violations that threaten the well being of the society’s most vulnerable members that one encounters the prophet’s persistent critique that upholds the dignity of each member of the society.






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