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God as Father and Master

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Summary

Every year during Passover Jews commemorate the liberation of their ancestors from Egypt. It was God who ‘broke the bars of their yoke’ and who ‘made them walk erect’ (Lev 26:13). Elsewhere, however, the Torah seems to suggest that the redemption from Egypt’s service was not so much a release from slavery, as it was a change of master (cf. Ex 4:23 and Lev 25:42). This paradoxical way of thinking about slavery is perpetuated by the early rabbis in the midrashic and halakhic literature of the first centuries C.E. By means of a close reading of a parable from Sifre Numbers (chapter 115) I will clarify the early rabbinic perspective on slavery: becoming a slave of God was the ultimate purpose of the people of Israel, while being a slave of Egypt’s ruler formed its ultimate degradation. We will also see that in Sifre Numbers, as in other early rabbinic and early Christian writings, the metaphor of slavery competes with the metaphor of sonship. In Sifre Numbers the metaphor of slavery is preferred over that of sonship, due to the absolute obedience that God expects from his people, an aspect that cannot be sufficiently expressed by the relation between a father and his son. Finally, this paper will also contribute to the way we understand slavery metaphors in the New Testament, especially in Romans 6.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion, formerly known as Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift (NTT), is a leading platform for academic debate in the fields of religion and theology. NTT (Dutch Theological Journal) was established in 1946 and is the oldest journal of its kind in the Netherlands.

    NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion (NTT JTSR) has a broad scope and welcomes contributions from religious studies, theology, and a wide range of disciplines within the humanities and the social sciences which investigate religions and religious phenomena.

    The journal regularly publishes special issues which discuss current topics in the study of religion. Recent special issues focussed on the study of religion today, freedom and servitude in Jewish and Christian Traditions, Paul Tillich: a theology for the 21st century, the contemplative turn in theology, and the future of religious studies and theology in the Netherlands.

    Renowned scholars such as Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, Kocku von Stuckrad, Birgit Meyer, David Chidester, Hans Alma, and Catherine Pickstock have recently contributed articles to this journal.

    Articles are expected to advance scholarship in their respective fields. Highly specialized research will be considered, provided that the Editors consider the contribution to be relevant for a wider audience.

    The journal uses double-blind peer review and accepts original contributions in English, Dutch and German, The journal appears four times a year. In addition, in each issue a broad range of recently published literature is reviewed.

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