What are some given commands from God

Faculty of Theology

Your father taught the Old Testament in Zurich. Did you grow up with Adam and Abraham, so to speak?

Konrad Schmid: No. As a child I was by no means more brilliant than my schoolmates with a knowledge of the Bible.

How did you come to follow in your father's footsteps?

As a high school graduate I slowly discovered what my father actually does. And that interested me. Perhaps it helped me with my decision that I already learned Hebrew in high school.

Didn't the negative image of the Old Testament that Cain kills his brother Abel at the beginning put you off?

Such stories didn't bother me at all. The story of Cain and Abel says nothing else than that God is free in his dealings with people. God is just God who eludes our imagination. I would have been irritated if the Bible had been a picture book of an ideal world. Even as a child I would have quickly realized that this has nothing to do with the world we live in.

Many children's Bibles exclude fratricide as glorifying violence.

That's strange. Because of their media consumption, adolescents and children can easily deal with violence, even critically. I find the stories that trigger religious debates in the family enriching.

Negative things should also be discussed?

For sure. Then one is confronted with the fundamental question: How should one actually imagine that God creates not only salvation but also disaster, as the Bible itself says (Is 45: 7)? Because calamity cannot be separated from God if one wants to understand God as the all-determining reality.

But stories like the one about the sacrifice of Isaac can only be outrageous?

If you read this story as an invitation that fathers should kill children at God's command, then I would say with Immanuel Kant: No, definitely not. But the fact that this story is interpreted in this way has, in my opinion, to do with its enlightening reception. Because the enlighteners want to be ethically instructed by the biblical stories. The Bible, however, is not a moral guide, but a hermeneutical book that seeks to understand life. For your concrete ethical instructions it should be considered: The Bible is over 2000 years old. We know many things better today.

Even if some horror scenarios prove the opposite, it is ethically clear today: on God's command we do not kill!

As for the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, I believe that this story can only be told by a specific father and son. Over ten chapters, from Genesis 12 to 21, Abraham is promised that he will soon have a son by his side and that this will result in a huge offspring. As soon as the longed-for son is there, he is to be sacrificed. Behind it is that Isaac is the link between Abraham and the promise given to him. This shows: Even the ancestor Abraham was confronted with the theological problem of obscuring the promises of God and had to prove himself in it.

In my religion class, the story was interpreted as the replacement of human sacrifice by animal sacrifice.

A widely used explanation. In terms of religious history, it is not tenable because there were no human sacrifices in Israel. In addition, the story itself assumes that sacrifices are animal sacrifices: while climbing Mount Morijah, Isaac asks his father about the missing sacrificial lamb. Finally, Abraham is explicitly praised for having been willing to sacrifice his son.

Abraham and Isaac are often equated with God and his son Jesus. Is it legitimate to interpret the Old Testament as a text that leads to the New Testament?

Historically, it was a wise decision of early Christianity to allow the Old and New Testaments to stand side by side. The two writings are in a dialogical relationship to one another. So it is legitimate to draw lines from the Old to the New Testament. Conversely, the New Testament is also to be read from the old. Because the Old Testament offers fundamental statements about the world or human understanding, without which the New Testament could easily be misunderstood.

The dialogue between the two scriptures comes to mind with the last words of Jesus on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" strikingly opposite.

This quote shows a common basic trait: Old and New Testaments do not want to sell us a success story. I believe this is ultimately why Judaism and Christianity still exist at all. Because we only know many religions of the ancient Orient with their deities subscribed to victory from the museum. But the orientation of the Bible to authentic experiences has made it the most widely read book of mankind.

So it is crucial to focus not on the triumphant Jesus Christ but on the tortured Jesus?

This is precisely the achievement of the Gospels, which not only preach the risen Christ, but also depict the historical Jesus in all his contention. And the fact that Jesus prays Psalm 22 on the cross is by no means theologically just a testimony of God's forsakenness: The psalm is divided into three parts: lament, petition and praise. Psalm 22 implicitly suggests a horizon of salvation.

The Christian Bible adopted the Old Testament from the Jews, but arranged the books differently. Why?

The change was made to create a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Christian Bibles place the books of the prophets at the end of the Old Testament. Behind this is the view that the prophets' prophecies point to Jesus.

You once said: God must not be misunderstood as the "servant of righteousness". Didn't the reformers with their ethos of righteousness prey on God?

No, the fundamental discovery of the Reformation was that God's righteousness was not legal - everyone gets their own - but theological thinking: God gives people his righteousness and makes them just without them having to do it for themselves. Precisely in this new understanding of justice - God makes just and does not simply take justice as a standard - God is not misused as an end.

Did Zwingli see it similarly?

Zwingli emphasized the divinity of God very strongly: "But what God is, we know from ourselves just as little as a beetle knows what man is."

Despite the insurmountable gap between man and God, Zwingli warned the Zurich council that the reflection of the divine order should shine through in human justice - a great difference to the German governmental Reformation.

That cannot be denied: Zwingli and Calvin have strongly based on the Old Testament from a social and ethical point of view. Today we see this critically: Anyone who wants to shape society according to the biblical model, i.e. an ancient book, receives an authoritarian and patriarchal system.

That's where the liberal theologian speaks.

Yes, liberal theology is not a weakened form of theology, on the contrary: it is allergic to all forms of religious charlatanism and defends itself against biblicism and dogmatism. So no one can claim to speak in the name of God.

Interview: Delf Bucher

Source: reformed