Original Research - Special Collection: James Alfred Loader Dedication

Fear as dread of a God who kills and abuses? About a darker side of a key, but still forgotten biblical motif

Pieter G.R. de Villiers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a2018 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.2018 | © 2013 Pieter G.R. de Villiers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 June 2013 | Published: 07 October 2013

About the author(s)

Pieter G.R. de Villiers, Department of New Testament, University of the Free State, South Africa


This article investigates the motif of fear of God in biblical texts and contexts by discussing its use to indicate dread and by analysing the implications and consequences of such a reading of this key motif. After a brief overview of research on and contextual information about fear of God, it investigates fear as an intense and extreme human emotion and considers the reason why the motif is used by biblical authors in their discussions of the divine-human relationship, especially in the light of the fact that dread of God implies that God is a threatening force and dangerous power. It then evaluates how biblical authors embed fear within a configuration of thought that contains crucial themes of justice and holiness, without moving beyond this dimension of dread. Finally it investigates some hermeneutical considerations to cope with the challenges that an understanding of fear of God as dread brings with it.


Fear of God; dread of God; awe of God; violence; biblical hermeneutics


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