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Death - the most beautiful human Existence: A Study of Death in the Light of Creation and Wisdom Tradition of the Old Testament

Cha-Yong Ku 1

1총신대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper is intended to show how significant the meaning of death is to man, particularly to his present life, through the creation and wisdom tradition of the Old Testament. Gen 2-3, Ecc 11-12 and Ps 104 are selected for the Text to be analyzed. Among them, Gen 2-3 display the creation of man in subtly structured composition. Firstly, the death of man, at least with regard to his existential basis, is already mentioned before the Fall of man. Secondly, the life and death of man are arranged together in contrasting structure. !gh-#[ lkm(2:16) is an illusion to life and is connected with [rw bwj t[dh #[m(2:17), which clearly symbolizes death. This composition progresses to 2:9 and the verse can be divided into #[ lk as available to man and ~yyxh #[/[rw bwj t[dh #[ as unavailable to man. The unavailable trees, which enable man not only to die but also to live, symbolize the presence and the realm of God. Man is not allowed to invade there. Furthermore the concept of eternal life is characterized differently between the Creator and man. The Creator is immortal, whereas man is able to continue his existence only by the childbirth. It is because man is originated from earth and must return to earth. Thirdly, man was created in two processes. God formed (rcy) the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The first process signifies that man has no qualitative difference from animals and the second one means that God is the Giver of man's life. It is expressed based on the concept of ‘ed’ (da, in 2:6) as well as the description of the river, which flowed from the Garden of Eden and separated into four Headwaters. It was set up in the Garden of Eden that death of man is originated from God, the Creator Himself. Therefore, death is definitive to man. Human's limited capabilities became concrete and man was clearly distinguished from God, the Creator. And such understanding about the human nature is in line with other traditions of the Old Testament, especially the concept of the death of the wisdom literature. In particular, Ecc 12:7 and Gen 2:7 form the beginning and the end of the existence of man on the earth. The instruction to a young man in Ecc 12:1 that he should remember his Creator before the days of trouble can be interpreted as he must seize the present life as being stated in Ecc 11. Ps 104 shows the same concept. Thus, death functions positively there and allows man to recognize not only his own limitations but also possibilities before God's existence, which transcends death. God sends man back to the realm of life and helps him maintain a positive attitude towards life. Therefore, death of a man is the most beautiful human existence in the Old Testament and can be seen as an extremely positive feature.

Citation status

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

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.