SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.24 número2"I sought him, but found him not" (Song 5:6) - Public space in the Song of SongsThe role of historical-critical methodology in African Old Testament studies índice de autoresíndice de assuntospesquisa de artigos
Home Pagelista alfabética de periódicos  

Serviços Personalizados



Links relacionados

  • Em processo de indexaçãoCitado por Google
  • Em processo de indexaçãoSimilares em Google


Old Testament Essays

versão On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versão impressa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.24 no.2 Pretoria  2011


Ancient Israelite perspectives on the meaning of life



Jaco W. Gericke

North-West University





Old Testament theologians have discussed a myriad of topics related to ancient Israelite religion. Yet perhaps the one question that haunts everyone who grapples with the world in the text is usually never asked, i.e., what is the meaning of life? In this article I attempt to answer it historically by looking at ancient Israelite perspectives on the meaning of life. After some remarks about the place and meaning of the question in contemporary philosophy, an introductory discussion on the biblical assumptions related to the matter is offered to inspire further research. The focus of the inquiry is moreover not only on Yahwistic assumptions about the meaning of human life but covers all forms of existence acknowledged by the Old Testament authors. The presentation closes with the suggestion that this topic can become the new "centre" for post-realist axiologies of the Old Testament.



“Full text available only in PDF format”




Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan Books, 1979.         [ Links ]

Audi, Robert. "Intrinsic Value and Meaningful Life." Philosophical Papers 34 (2005): 331-55.         [ Links ]

Auge, Mark. Non-Places: Introduction to the Anthropology of Supermodernity. Translated by John Howe. London/New York: Verso, 1995.         [ Links ]

Baggini, Julian. What's It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. London: Granta Books; 2004.         [ Links ]

Baier, Kurt. Problems of Life and Death: A Humanist Perspective. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1997.         [ Links ]

Barr, James. The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality. London: SCM Press, 1992.         [ Links ]

Belliotti, Raymond A. What Is the Meaning of Human Life? Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001.         [ Links ]

Belshaw, Christopher. 10 Good Questions about Life and Death. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005.         [ Links ]

Benatar, David, ed., Life, Death & Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004.         [ Links ]

Copan, Paul. "Morality and Meaning without God: Another Failed Attempt." Philosophia Christi Series 2/6 (2003): 295-304.         [ Links ]

Cottingham, John. On the Meaning of Life. London: Routledge, 2003.         [ Links ]

Cupitt, Don. The Way to Happiness. Santa Rosa: Polebridge, 2005.         [ Links ]

_____, Impossible Loves. New York, Polebridge Press, 2007.         [ Links ]

Heinegg, Peter, ed., Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books; 2003.         [ Links ]

Klemke, Elmer Daniel, ed., The Meaning of Life. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.         [ Links ]

Markus, Arjan. "Assessing Views of Life, A Subjective Affair?" Religious Studies 39 (2003): 125-43.         [ Links ]

Martin, Michael. Atheism, Morality, and Meaning. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2002.         [ Links ]

Metz, Thaddeus. "The Meaning of Life." Cited 21 March 2011. Online: <>         [ Links ].

Metz, Thaddeus. "Could God's Purpose be the Source of Life's Meaning?" Religious Studies 36 (2000): 293-313.         [ Links ]

_____. "The Concept of a Meaningful Life," American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (2001): 137-53.         [ Links ]

_____. "The Immortality Requirement for Life's Meaning," Ratio 16 (2003a): 161-177.         [ Links ]

_____. "Utilitarianism and the Meaning of Life," Utilitas, 15(2003b): 50-70.         [ Links ]

Miller, Patrick D. Ancient Israelite Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000.         [ Links ]

Mitchell, Craig Vincent. Charts of Philosophy and Philosophers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2007.         [ Links ]

Rowe, William. "Divine Freedom." In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. No pages. Cited 13 February 2010. Online:         [ Links ]

Runzo, Joseph, and Martin, Nancy M, eds. The Meaning of Life in the World Religions. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2000.         [ Links ]

Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms. Translated R. J. Hollingdale; London: Penguin, 1973.         [ Links ]

Thomas, Laurence. "Morality and a Meaningful Life." Philosophical Papers 34 (2005): 405-27.         [ Links ]

Thomson, Garret. On the Meaning of Life. South Melbourne, Wadsworth, 2003.         [ Links ]

Trisel, Brooke A. "Futility and the Meaning of Life Debate." Sorites (2001): 70-84.         [ Links ]

Wikipedia contributors. "Hypermodernity." No pages. Cited 16 Jan 2010. Online:         [ Links ]

Wisnewski, J. Jeremy. "Is the Immortal Life worth Living?" International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 58 (2005): 27-36.         [ Links ]

Young, Julian. The Death of God and the Meaning of Life. New York: Routledge, 2003.         [ Links ]



Dr. Jaco W. Gericke
Senior Lecturer, Subject Group Theology
School of Basic Sciences, Faculty of Humanities
North-west University (Vaal Triangle Campus)
P.O. Box 1174, Vanderbijlpark, 1900