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Yahweh, the Ruler of Animals: A Study of a Theological Zoology

Cha-Yong Ku 1

1총신대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The main purpose of this paper is the formulation of theological zoology. Theological zoology is the study of the relationship between God, human beings and animals. Throughout history, the examination of the relationship between humans and animals has been one-sided and, therefore, the results are distorted. Many texts of the Old Testament imply that animals should not only be an object of exploitation for humans. This assumption is based on the two special relationships of animals with God and with humans. In the relationship between animals and God, God is ‘Herr der Tiere’. In the Old Testament, God is the Lord of the animals who feeds all kinds of animals in the world, raises and protects them. And in the relationship between animals and humans, humans and animals not only relate to each other as the ruler and the ruled but they also stand in competition with each other. This paper examines the Old Testament for texts that refer to animals, focusing especially on their relationships with God and with humans. The emphasis lies on the text analysis. The main texts that will be studied can be divided into four themes: 1. As for the Creation of animals with humans, Gen 1:24-30; 2:19; 2. As for the animals receiving God's care, Gen 6:19-22; 9:1-17; Ps 104:10-30; 50:10f; 147:9; Job 38:39ff; 3. As for the animals as human competition, Isa 13:20-22; 23:13; 34:8-17; Jer 50:39; Hos 2:14; 4. As for the animals as a good example for humans, Job 12:7; Prov 6:6-8; Isa 1:3; Jer 8:7. The analysis of these texts will establish a new understanding of the relationship between God, humans and animals. Because of the humans’ sovereignty over the earth, that God has granted them (‘dominium terrae’), until now, the human-centered structure has been represented as a relationship of subordination, that is God - humans - animals. However, it becomes apparent that this relationship is not the only one in the composition of God’s Creation. God created the animals in the same way as the humans and ranked them both as coequal. God distributed the food fairly between them and acknowledged them as the subjects of the covenant. As ‘Herr der Tiere’, He takes care of the animals and sometimes even seems more kind towards them than towards humans. This can be good example for humans as to how they should treat animals. Therein, one can discern the purpose of ‘dominium terrae’. Hereby, in the theological zoology one can add to the subordinated relationship between humans and animals the equivalent relationship between humans and animals under the rule of the Creator. Moreover, this relationship can be further divided into two more detailed structures, namely the structure of human predominance and animal predominance. The discussion about theological zoology is the result of the modern-day interest and commitment to environmental protection. Through theological zoology, the notion of animals being mere subjects of sacrifice needs to be revised. Animals, too, are God’s creatures that ought to co-exist with humans in this world.

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.