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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.22 n.2 Pretoria  2009


Knowledge of God: The relevance of Hosea 4:1-3 for a theological response to climate change



Gunther Wittenberg

University of KwaZulu-Natal





Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges for Christianity today. If we adequately want to meet this challenge we need to develop a new vision of our human relationship to nature (Conradie). Can the Bible serve as a basis for such a new vision? Or is it part of the problem? This has been maintained by numerous critics particularly with regard to the Old Testament. Especially serious has been the claim that the fight against idolatry by the prophets has led to a "desacralisation" of nature, turning it into dead material to be used at will (Roszak). The main culprit in this regard is considered to be Hosea (Lang). Concentrating on Hosea 4:1-3, I will try to show in this article that Hosea, far from being a problem, can indeed present helpful tools for the theological response to climate change. Hosea 4:1-3 (not the marriage metaphor in chapters 1-3) is taken as the hermeneutical key to understanding the message of Hosea. Hosea's critique is seen as being directed not against the Canaanite fertility cult, the dominant reading of most Hoseanic scholarship, (based on the assumed dichotomy between the pure Yahwist religion of the desert with Yahweh as God of history and the depraved Canaanite nature religion of Baal) but against the perverted Yahwist state cult. Corruption emanating from the priesthood, the monarchy and the ruling elite is undermining the moral fabric of society. The priesthood is responsible for the lack of knowledge of God and his commandments. This is leading not only to the downfall of the Northern Kingdom, but to ecological disaster as well. In conclusion, the paper will seek to draw some conclusions for a theological response to climate change.



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Prof Gunther Wittenberg
(emeritus), School of Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209

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