Original Research

Beyond Divine Command Theory: Moral realism in the Hebrew Bible

Jaco W. Gericke
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 65, No 1 | a160 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v65i1.160 | © 2009 Jaco W. Gericke | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 March 2009 | Published: 10 September 2009

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Jaco W. Gericke, North-West University, South Africa

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Philosophical approaches to ancient Israelite religion are rare, as is metaethical reflection on the Hebrew Bible. Nevertheless, many biblical scholars and philosophers of religion tend to take it for granted that the biblical metaethical assumptions about the relation between divinity and morality involve a pre-philosophical version of Divine Command Theory by default. In this paper the author challenges the popular consensus with several arguments demonstrating the presence of moral realism in the text. It is furthermore suggested that the popular consensus came about as a result of prima facie assessments informed by anachronistic metatheistic assumptions about what the Hebrew Bible assumed to be essential in the deity–morality relation. The study concludes with the observation that in the texts where Divine Command Theory is absent from the underlying moral epistemology the Euthyphro Dilemma disappears as a false dichotomy.


Divine Command Theory; moral realism; Hebrew Bible; metaethical refl ection; moral epistemology


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