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The life of people with disabilities in the Old Testament and an Attempt towards a theology of people with disabilities

Unha Chai 1

1한일장신대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

This study is to explore the life of people with disabilities in the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus and of the disabled prince, Mephibosheth and to establish a theology of people with disabilities. The people with disabilities in the Old testament times as well as in modern days have been discriminated and oppressed because of their physical or mental disabilities. Surprisingly there were no concrete laws to protect their human rights and social welfare to improve their quality of life in the Old Testament. We hear that it is repeated in the Bible that the social weak like widows, orphans and foreigners including wanderers should be protected and given shelters. The best examples of what the life of people with disabilities were like in the Old Testament are the case of Jonathan's crippled son, Mephibosheth. He was at best an object of charity and sympathy because he was the King David's best friend, Jonathan's son. However, his status, dignity and human rights were never considered while he was alive. The priests with disabilities were neither allowed to perform the animals' sacrifice before God nor to approach towards even their altar. It is the general picture of people with disabilities in the OT. However, we could reread the Old Testament in new prospective with bias and discrimination-free dimension for people with disabilities. Every human beings, whether they are abled or disabled, are given God's image and breath. We hear about Isaiah's suffering servant who atones for the others. We know that Jesus was once disabled for others. This can be used as a new hermeneutical way to reread the Bible in terms of people with disabilities. So far it seems that to establish a theology of people with disabilities has a long way to go because we lack the positive biblical texts for them in our hands. I feel that we need to find out other ancient Near Eastern texts in comparison to the Bible and their social settings to achieve it. This will be the next task to establish a theology of people with disabilities.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.