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Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. des. Phillip Lasater (doctorate 2017)
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: October 2011 – September 2014
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Konrad Schmid, Institute of Theology/URPP Asia and Europe
Research Field: Concepts and Taxonomies
This project examines the notions of “fear” (yrʾh) and “fear of God(s)” (yrʾt ʾlhym) in ancient Judaism, each of which modern scholarship has tended to interpret as related to “religion” or “religious experience.” The study begins with a philological overview of yrʾ-derivatives, critiquing previous arguments about the semantics and taxonomic placement of this terminology. Following these conclusions, various conceptions of yrʾh are examined for their role in the anthropologies or moral psychologies discernible in literature from the Second Temple Period. The remainder of the study focuses on texts of diverse kinds (i.e., legal; prophetic; sapiential) and engages in chronologically ordered, close readings to highlight the ways in which Jewish scribes used and understood this fear terminology between the Neo-Babylonian and Hellenistic periods. The project will increase the academic understanding of ancient Judaism and the widespread yet overlooked motif of yrʾt ʾlhym, underscoring its multiple manifestations as well as identifying some common threads among its many usages.