Original Research

Exploring similarities between the German and the Dutch ‘ethical’ traditions: Possibilities of the history of religion for a theological approach to Old Testament studies in South Africa

Jan H. Vorster
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 66, No 1 | a428 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v66i1.428 | © 2010 Jan H. Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 October 2009 | Published: 28 October 2010

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Jan H. Vorster, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This article shows how dialectic theology caused a loss of interest in the history of religion, which was seen as out of touch with the current world. The distinction between theology and the history of religion became increasingly vague. The article focuses on the contribution of Rainier Albertz in his two-volume Religionsgeschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit (History of Israelite religion in the Old Testament period), 1992. Albertz proposed that the history of religion should be restored to serve as the ‘more sensible discipline for abridging the Old Testament’. This article points out several advantages to this approach, namely a different kind of Old Testament theology, starting from current theological problems and searching through the thematic segments of Israel’s religious history and that of early Christianity for analogous insights relevant to the problems in question. This article develops the argument that Albertz’s suggestions open up possibilities for establishing a vibrant theological environment in South Africa, where theologians from a diverse society can start from different perspectives on current problems, consider the Bible as part of a uniquely defined set of relevant factors and present a kaleidoscope of cross-balancing ‘African’ theological perspectives. The aim of this approach is to enhance the possibilities of Albertz’s suggestions by relating them, in context, to insights from ethical theology in the hope of reviving the debate regarding repositioning the history of religion in a different kind of theological approach. This debate is long in coming: it may already have lost close to 20 years in deserved attention.


Dialectic theology; history of religion; Rainier Albertz; Israel’s religious history; early Christianity; African theological perspectives


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